The Los Angeles Lakers will attempt to snap a two-game losing skid when the Chicago Bulls visit the Staples Center on Tuesday. Without LeBron James, coach Luke Walton’s squad has slid out of the Western Conference Playoff picture. After a loss to the cellar-dwelling Cavaliers, the LeBron-less Lakers have lost seven games since December 27. In an effort to shake things up, Walton will insert guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and veteran center Tyson Chandler into the starting lineup.
Outside of the recent lineup changes, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram have emerged as reliable producers with James sidelined. Kuzma, a second-year forward out of Utah, has averaged 21.6 points over his last eight games. Closely behind Kuzma is Ingram, who is averaging 18.7 points on 46.2 percent shooting from the field since late-December. If the Lakers’ young duo performs to expectations, they are likely to secure a victory over the 10-33 Bulls.
Josh Hart & JaVale McGee Replaced in Starting Lineup
Both JaVale McGee and Josh Hart will be demoted to the second unit for Tuesday’s contest. Hart, who was selected No. 30 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft, is enduring a rough shooting stretch. The second-year guard is shooting a paltry 36.2 percent from the field in his last 10 games.
With the alterations, the Lakers’ starting rotation will consist of the following players:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Kyle Kuzma
C: Tyson Chandler
McGee, who was replaced by Chandler, has already made 37 starts for the Lakers. Like Hart, McGee’s production has stalled in January. In his last eight games, McGee’s scoring output and efficiency have declined significantly compared to his season-long averages. His normally superb shooting percentage dipped to 47.7 percent over that stretch.
Chandler, known for his interior defense, will bring veteran guidance to a young starting lineup that has struggled with consistency. The Lakers’ defense has maintained a solid defense rating with LeBron out of action. Offensively, it has been a completely different story Walton’s squad. Despite strong contributions from Kuzma and Ingram, the Lakers have the lowest offensive rating in the NBA for the month of January. It is unlikely that Chandler, who is currently averaging 3.7 points per game this season, will add much to the scoring lineup. However, his presence could hold his younger teammates accountable.
LeBron Connecting on 3’s in Shootaround
After sustaining a groin injury on Christmas Day against the Warriors, it appears the LeBron is on his way to returning to the court. Prior to Tuesday’s contest against the Bulls, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk recorded the Lakers star shooting three-pointers.
Including Tuesday’s contest, LeBron has been sidelined for 10 games. Prior to injuring his groin, he was averaging 27.3 points per game in his first season in Los Angeles. Along with his scoring output, the four-time NBA MVP was producing 7.1 assists and 8.3 rebounds per game. If the Lakers hope to secure a favorable postseason seed, they will need LeBron at his best during the final stretch of the season.
After Tuesday, the Lakers will travel to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder on Thursday.