Oh, how it must feel to have a competent guard play in Los Angeles if you’re a Lakers fan. For the majority of this season, Los Angeles touted a backcourt rotation that featured Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverly, Dennis Schroder, Lonnie Walker, and Austin Reaves. They’ve since upgraded that rotation to D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Austin Reaves, and Dennis Schroder, with Walker falling out of the rotation.
To say it’s been a revelation might be an understatement. The Lakers have won 7 of their last 10 games. They have the 3rd-best defense post-All-Star break. They’re finally beginning to shoot the ball with commendable efficiency. And they’re right in the mix to at least compete in a play-in game this April, even with LeBron James out for an extended period of time.
The play of Anthony Davis has been absurd since the unofficial midway break of the season, averaging 25.3 points on 62% true shooting, nabbing 13 rebounds, and blocking over 2.5 shots a game. Jarred Vanderbilt has been remarkably effective at being Jarred Vanderbilt since being acquired by the Lakers. That is to say, a long, defensive-minded, rebounding-machine, weak-side deterrent, who is going to try and guard your best player on the court, Jarred Vanderbilt. And Rui Hachimura has been a solid contributor, feasting on a healthy diet of mid-range jumpers and playing commendable defense.
But without the new-and-improved Lakers guard rotation, those three would be lost in the wind. To widely varying degrees, all three of Davis, Vando, and Hachimura serve as play-finishers for these revamped Lakers. But the Lakers’ guards allow for their ecosystem to flourish. Beasley as the incumbent floor-spacer. Reaves and Schroder as secondary creators and connectors. And perhaps most importantly, the floor managing and pick-n-roll play of D-Lo.
In the end, it all comes down to space.
I recently watched the Bill Russell documentary on Netflix (would recommend it if you like hoops history as I do) and among the many things the great Russell understood, particularly on a basketball court, was that the game was simply… geometry.
More space means more room to operate. Better for offenses. At its core, that’s what these new Lakers guards provide.
Russell is shooting 47% from behind the arc on 6 attempts a night. Malik Beasley is having a down year knocking down only 33% of his threes but he’s a career 38% shooter who will get his fair share of respect from defenses. Reaves is hitting 38% of his threes this season on low volume and has been hitting 46% of them since the All-Star break.
You have to respect these guys as shooters and so, it’s much easier, geometrically, to run a pick-n-roll between Davis and Russell than it is with Westbrook in Davis’s role.
For example, a side PnR with Westbrook and Davis from February.