Of the many flaws currently plaguing the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the most glaring is a rotation that is in perpetual flux.
Mike D'Antoni still hasn't honed in on a consistent rotation, or even a starting lineup for that matter. Metta World Peace comes off the bench for a stretch. Two point guards open the game together. Antawn Jamison disappears for a couple weeks. Jodie Meeks goes from playing 32 minutes one game to six the next. Devin Ebanks makes seemingly random appearances every now and then.
Yes, injuries have played a key role in the instability of the rotation, but consider this: The Lakers don't have a single five-man lineup that has shared even 200 minutes together. Through 35 games, they don't have even one five-man unit that has appeared in more than 15 different games together.
That's insane. A firm substitution pattern is crucial for building team chemistry. You have to find lineups that function well as a unit. Role players need to know what their roles actually are.
As the Lakers have proven thus far, there are no quick fixes. But here are three rotation moves that D'Antoni should look into.
1. Start Metta World Peace and play him big minutes
Metta World Peace has bounced back in a big way this season. He's having his best season as a member of the Lakers, and he's contributed just as much to the team as anyone not named Kobe.
When World Peace is on the court, the Lakers' offense has improved by about three points per 100 possessions, which would put them in the top three in the NBA. Meanwhile, their defense holds teams to almost three fewer points per 100 possessions, a difference which would boost their standing from 21st to 11th in defensive efficiency.
However, with World Peace on the sideline the Lakers completely fall apart. They score at a bottom-five rate and allow more points per 100 possessions than the worst defense in the league.
Overall, the Lakers are more than 20 points per 100 possessions better when World Peace is playing than when he is sitting (stats courtesy of NBA.com).
Why is it important to start him? Well, because the combination of him and Kobe Bryant playing together has been great for the Lakers so far. Per NBA.com, when the two share the floor the Lakers outscore their opponents by more than eight points per 100 possessions.
When Bryant plays without World Peace—as is the case when he is in the starting lineup and MWP is not—the Lakers get outscored by more than four points per 100 possessions.
2. Keep Darius Morris on the sidelines
Steve Blake can't come back soon enough.
After playing a grand total of 169 minutes as a rookie, Morris has been pressed into a much larger role this season due to the health issues of L.A.'s point guards. Suffice it to say he's been a tad overwhelmed.
Morris has the worst PER of any Lakers regular. He also has the largest negative differential between offensive rating and defensive rating, as well as the fewest win shares per 48 minutes, according to Basketball-Reference.
The Lakers are trying to use Morris as a sort-of "point guard stopper" in order to hide Steve Nash on defense, but the truth is Morris hasn't handled opposing points any better than Nash has.
Meanwhile on offense, Morris contributes almost nothing. He shoots terribly from the field and the free-throw line. His three-point percentage is solid at 39.2 percent, but he doesn't take enough threes to have a meaningful impact.
The most helpful attribute a point guard can have on offense is to be able to penetrate the defense for layups or kick-outs. Morris is good at neither. He shoots an abominable 42.1 percent in the paint, per NBA.com, and boasts the lowest assist percentage of the four point guards the Lakers have trotted out this year.
All in all, the Lakers are better off without Morris, even if that means more of Chris Duhon until Blake returns from injury.
3. Find playing time for Earl Clark
Small sample size caveats apply, but Earl Clark has shown that he's deserving of more minutes.
Over the past two games, Clark has seen at least 20 minutes in each thanks to all the injuries in the Lakers' frontcourt. He hasn't disappointed.
He brings the young legs, youthful energy and athleticism that this team glaringly lacks. He's a versatile forward who can score in a variety of ways, defend well and hit the boards. In his last game against the Spurs, he was arguably the best player the Lakers had on the floor, scoring 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting while snagging 13 rebounds.
Overall on the season he has posted an offensive rating equal to Kobe Bryant and a defensive rating that is better than every Laker except Dwight Howard. His 17.7 PER is better than league average and well above the marks posted thus far by Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace.
Again, it's been a tiny, tiny sample size (all of 85 minutes), but Clark has earned a longer look at a steady rotation spot. Per 36 minutes, he's averaging 15 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks. Those are the type of numbers that show he has the potential to morph into a poor man's (OK, maybe homeless man's) Shawn Marion under coach D'Antoni.
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