The Los Angeles Lakers can’t seem to catch a break on the injury front currently, and they may once again be rolling out a new-look starting lineup on Friday. When the team welcomes the New York Knicks to town, they’ll be without multiple key pieces of the roster and possibly one new name on the injury report.
Both LeBron James and Rajon Rondo remain out due to injuries and there’s no exact timeline set for their return. Along with that, the Lakers were dealt a tough blow when Kyle Kuzma suffered a back injury against the Oklahoma City Thunder last game. While he was forced from the game after just 16 minutes, Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times revealed Kuzma’s MRI showed a lower back contusion. In turn, the young forward is questionable for Friday’s game.
If Kuzma is forced to join James and Rondo on the sidelines, along with Michael Beasley who is out due to personal reasons, the Lakers would be incredibly thin against the Knicks. Let’s take a look at the latest on their projected roster and starting lineup for this game.
Lakers Roster & Starting Lineup vs. Knicks
*Notates expected starter
C: JaVale McGee*, Tyson Chandler, Ivica Zubac
PF: Kyle Kuzma* (questionable), Moritz Wagner
SF: Brandon Ingram*, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Michael Beasley
SG: Josh Hart*, Lance Stephenson, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
PG: Lonzo Ball*, Isaac Bonga
This is approaching tough territory here, but with Kuzma listed as questionable, it certainly leaves the door open for him to play. If he’s unable to go then the Lakers may opt to get a bit unique with their starting lineup. They could either choose to move Brandon Ingram to power forward and play a small-ball lineup against the Knicks or give Moritz Wagner the nod.
As the South Bay Lakers revealed, the Lakers have recalled three rookies in Wagner, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Isaac Bonga for this game and each player will be available.
I also had to get a bit unique at small forward, as Ingram doesn’t technically have a full-blown backup at this point, but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope could step into the spot potentially. Lakers coach Luke Walton could go a variety of ways with his lineup and rotations, so but much hinges on the status of Kuzma.
*Note: Lauren A. Jones of The Los Angeles Sentinel revealed Michael Beasley is back with the team and may see a few minutes if Kuzma is unable to play.
Lakers Set to Rely on Young Players to Step Up
If Kuzma is forced to sit this game out, it will open up quite a few minutes to be spread around. This could lead to the likes of Wagner, Mykhailiuk and Bonga all seeing some amount of playing time. Beyond that, the starters in Ball, Hart and Ingram could potentially push 40 minutes while both Caldwell-Pope and Lance Stephenson would be busy as well.
Offensively, the heavy lifting would be done by Ball and Ingram, with both Hart and McGee stepping up for the first unit. There’s a chance Stephenson may potentially play one of his largest roles of the season and we know he’s capable of producing when his number is called. For good measure, he’s always enjoyable to watch on the floor as well.
While the immediate outlook for the Lakers roster is bleak and the injury concerns remain high, it is positive that Kuzma’s injury didn’t prove to be anything serious. With that being the case, he’ll almost certainly be back on the court sooner than later.