The Los Angeles Lakers are trending in the wrong direction in terms of their chances to land a top pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Combined with the current struggles of the Charlotte Hornets and the Lakers winning back-to-back games, they now find themselves moving back up the standings. On Tuesday, they draw a tough task, heading on the road to face an Oklahoma City Thunder team still jockeying for playoff position.
While the Lakers have picked up two wins in a row, the Thunder have dropped two straight and are looking to avoid the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. They’re currently tied with the San Antonio Spurs for that spot and a potential first-round matchup with the Golden State Warriors.
As for the Lakers, they’ll again be shorthanded in this game, but could be without Kyle Kuzma as well, who missed the last game with a left foot injury. We’re going to evaluate Kuzma’s status and the impact it could have on the team’s roster and starting lineup.
Kyle Kuzma’s Injury Status & Impact if Sidelined
UPDATE: Kyle Kuzma has been ruled out.
After missing the game against the New Orleans Pelicans, it wouldn’t be overly surprising to see Kuzma sit once again. The Lakers have nothing to play for at this point, and would actually benefit from going into tank mode a bit. As SB Nation’s Harrison Faigen pointed out, Kuzma is questionable with tendinitis in his left foot while Tyson Chandler has been ruled out.
With Kuzma potentially sidelined this would likely mean big minutes for Mortiz Wagner, who logged 29 last game even while picking up four fouls. Beyond that, we saw Mike Muscala (19 minutes) and Johnathan Williams (15) see decent playing time off the bench.
Lakers Roster & Starting Lineup vs. Thunder
*Notates expected starters
C: JaVale McGee*, Mike Muscala
PF: Moritz Wagner*, Johnathan Williams,
SF: Lance Stephenson*, Isaac Bonga
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope*, Reggie Bullock (P), Jemerrio Jones
PG: Rajon Rondo*, Alex Caruso
LeBron James has already been shut down for the year, and there are a few spots worth monitoring here. While the Lakers split minutes up quite a bit during that win over the Pelicans when both James and Kuzma were out, they also won by 28, which likely impacted the playing time.
Lance Stephenson logged just 16 minutes after struggling from the field and shooting 0-for-7. If he remains in the starting lineup, it’s expected that his minutes should be up from that mark. As long as the game against the Thunder stays close, each of the starters could realistically see 30-plus minutes here.
Two names who have thrived for the Lakers down the homestretch of the year have been JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. McGee is averaging 14.6 points and 10.0 rebounds per game while shooting 67.1 percent from the field through the month of March. In the past seven games, he’s logged 27 or more minutes and posted five double-doubles.
Caldwell-Pope has played well in the past 11 games, scoring 16-plus points seven times, including four games with 24 or more. He’s also knocked down 36-of-90 (40 percent) from beyond the arc during that stretch.