Backcourt pairings starting to take shape

The Los Angeles Lakers could deploy a veteran and young guard at all times, something previewed in their second preseason game.

There are no positives when a player is injured and is a question mark for the beginning of the regular season, but Lonzo Ball not being rushed back to the lineup has opened up possibilities for the Los Angeles Lakers. One of the looming rotation questions with this team was who will start at point guard, Lonzo or Rajon Rondo.

The Lakers have played two preseason games as of Oct. 4 and Rondo has started both of them, dishing out 11 assists in the opener and 11 points and seven assists in the second contest. He looks like a natural fit with the Lakers’ up-tempo system and having him share the court with LeBron James gives them two of the most cerebral players in the NBA running their team.

Rondo is doing typical Rondo things. He’s finding JaVale McGee on alley-oops, knowing when to push the pace or slow it down and set up the half-court offense, barking out orders on defense and taking his hand going over plays with teammates on the bench. It’s only preseason, but Rondo will be difficult to keep off the court.

His backcourt mate in the starting lineup has differed in each game with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope getting the nod in the first game before making way for Josh Hart in game two. This battle for the secondary guard starting spot should continue throughout preseason, but the Rondo-Hart pairing looks much better for team purposes.

Hart is a better scorer than KCP, and more importantly, more advanced attacking the basket off aggressive closeouts. Hart’s a better ball-handler in the open floor with the ability to take it coast-to-coast and finish through contact. I like KCP’s game in terms of shooting and defense, but Hart claiming the starting spot seems inevitable.

(Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

This is where Lonzo comes into the mix. Lonzo is such a good teammate and passer that he fits in almost any lineup. He can play with KCP or Hart, and even share the court with Rondo in dual point guard sets.

Lonzo will likely come off the bench as he eases into the season and regains full strength in his left knee after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on it. A strategy that makes sense is to stagger the guards minutes by keeping the Rondo-Hart backcourt starting and pair Lonzo with KCP as your bench guards.

This puts a veteran, established guard with a young guard in both settings. There would be little drop-off from the starting pair to the bench unit, something most NBA teams would love to have. Both units have their floor leaders to play the offensive system that Luke Walton desires.

These are solid defensive pairings, staggers the team’s 3-and-D guards (they can do more, but fit the archetype of 3-and-D) and they fit with the rest of the projected rotation. While the benefits of Rondo were spoken about earlier, bringing Lonzo off the bench puts him with Kyle Kuzma, which is a match made in heaven on the basketball court.

Lonzo orchestrating a bench unit of himself, KCP, Lance Stephenson, Kuz and whoever they throw at the 5 would provide pace, multiple ball-handlers and shooters, athletes everywhere and it’d make Kuz the go-to scorer in the half-court. Ball will log plenty of minutes with LeBron and Brandon Ingram, but the idea of the second-year guard leading that previously mentioned unit is intriguing and makes sense on the court.

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The beauty with this situation is the Los Angeles Lakers have so many options with their rotation this season, something that hasn’t been said in years. All four of these players could share the court together with LeBron and Ingram is more than capable of running the offense, but it makes a lot of sense to stagger their veterans and young guards by starting the season with Rondo-Hart and Lonzo-KCP being the backcourt pairings.

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