The Los Angeles Lakers have settled on a starting lineup of Russell Westbrook, Kent Bazemore, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and DeAndre Jordan for opening night against the Golden State Warriors, Yahoo’s Chris Haynes reports. The Warriors, meanwhile, will use Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney as their starting five, per The Athletic’s Anthony Slater. Both sides are still dealing with injuries as we get set to tip off the NBA season. The Warriors are without Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman and, of course, Klay Thompson. The Lakers, on the other hand, are missing Trevor Ariza and Talen Horton-Tucker. Malik Monk, Wayne Ellington and Kendrick Nunn are also dealing with minor injuries.
Those injuries, to an extent, have forced the Lakers into a decision they might not otherwise have made. When they acquired Russell Westbrook, there was quite a bit of speculation that it meant they would move Anthony Davis to center full time to make up for the spacing lost by playing a non-shooter in the backcourt. The trouble with doing so was that the Lakers needed a defensive-minded forward to play alongside Davis to make up for that lost size and rim protection.
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Ariza likely would have been that forward. Now he’s out and the Lakers don’t have many other options in that slot. Carmelo Anthony fulfills the size requirement, but he is a very poor defender at this stage in his career. The Lakers might have gone all-out for offense with Monk or Nunn in place of Ariza, but with both of them banged up, the Lakers had little choice but to play big with Jordan at center. In the past, Davis has indicated that he prefers to play power forward. JaVale McGee started for an entire season for that exact purpose. But Jordan’s preseason struggles and the makeup of this current roster suggest that the optimal version of the Lakers is one in which Davis primarily plays center.
Golden State’s situation is a fair bit simpler. Thompson will almost certainly return to the starting lineup when he is healthy, but for now, preseason standout Poole should be able to keep his seat warm. The real question for the Warriors, like with the Lakers, is how they plan to dole out center minutes. When it counts, Green typically plays the position for the Warriors. He played it quite a bit down the stretch last season, but in order to preserve his body, the Warriors might be a bit hesitant to give him big minutes at center early in the season. Looney is the starter for now, and Wiseman will get minutes when he returns, but the Warriors are at their best when they are at their smallest. That means Green at center.
Overall, neither set of lineups is particularly surprising. If both teams were healthy they would be different, but under the circumstances both teams are playing through, these were the likeliest starting lineups for each side.