NBA fans are set to see a very different version of the 2018-19 Los Angeles Lakers for the foreseeable future. When the team continues its current stretch of games, it was known that star forward LeBron James would be out with a strained groin. But earlier this week it was revealed they’ll also be without one of their veteran leaders in Rajon Rondo.
As Lakers reporter Mike Trudell revealed, Rondo is dealing with a Grade 3 sprain to his right ring finger and missed Thursday’s game against the Sacramento Kings.
While The Athletic’s Shams Charania revealed that James is currently day-to-day after the MRI on his groin injury came back clean, the outlook for Rondo was less-than-ideal as well. As Charania reported, Rondo has a four-week timetable after undergoing surgery on his injured right hand.
Let’s take a look at the expected roster and starting lineup for the Lakers moving forward.
Lakers Roster & Starting Lineup
*Notates expected starter
C: Ivica Zubac*, Tyson Chandler (JaVale McGee questionable)
PF: Kyle Kuzma*, Moritz Wagner, Johnathan Williams
SF: Brandon Ingram*, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
SG: Josh Hart*, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso
PG: Lonzo Ball*, Lance Stephenson
The good news is that the Lakers could get JaVale McGee back soon, as he’s battling a respiratory infection, but Ivica Zubac has played well as of late. As Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports revealed, McGee traveled with the team to Sacramento Thursday but was unable to go. Unfortunately, this is probably the position they need the least amount of additional depth at currently.
It’s worth noting that as the South Bay Lakers detailed, both Alex Caruso and Johnathan Williams, who are two-way contracts, were brought back to the team. This will provide some much-needed depth at power forward and the guard spots.
While Tyson Chandler is currently battling a sore back, Zubac had a strong run before cooling off Thursday against the Kings. In the three games prior, he averaged 17.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game.
Lakers’ Injury Impacts on Lonzo Ball & Others
The latest injuries mean the Lakers will likely rely heavily on Lonzo Ball to run the show at the point with Brandon Ingram or Lance Stephenson seeing an increase in ball-handling duties. Ball had started to hit a bit of a stride, but following Rondo’s return from a previous hand injury saw his minutes and production take a big hit. In the two games prior to James and Rondo’s injuries, Ball scored just 10 total points with six assists in 27 and 24 minutes.
He bounced back in a big way against the Kings, though, scoring 20 points with 12 assists and nine rebounds while shooting 8-13 from the field. He also played 37 minutes, the third-most on the team behind Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram.
As for Stephenson and Ingram, both players should benefit from expanded roles. In a three-game stretch during mid-December, prior to Rondo’s return, Stephenson played 23 minutes in three consecutive games while scoring in double figures each time. He saw 19 minutes in the first game without James and Rondo, scoring 10 points with three assists and two rebounds.
Ingram may benefit more from James being out than Rondo but will see increased opportunity across the board. The 21-year-old has flashed upside at various points throughout his young career. And even while taking a backseat for the most part offensively, has averaged 15.5 points per game this season. Ingram scored 22 points in Thursday’s loss to the Kings.