LeBron James: Last Year’s Lakers Starting Lineup With Jarred Vanderbilt ‘Works Well’ Together
LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Jarred Vanderbilt, Lakers
(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James recently praised head coach Darvin Ham for stabilizing his lineups and rotations, which has led to five wins in the team’s last seven games.

A big reason for the Lakers’ struggles this season has been the constant changing of starting lineups and rotations. Injuries have been the reason for that, but in recent weeks, the team has finally started getting healthy which has allowed Ham to stick with the same group.

Perhaps one more change is necessary, however. The starting lineup that Ham has been going with includes Taurean Prince alongside James, Anthony Davis, Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell.

The team has fared much better with Jarred Vanderbilt in Prince’s spot though, which is the starting lineup that Ham went with down the stretch of the 2022-23 season and in the playoffs when the Lakers made a run to the Western Conference Finals.

That group has hardly played together this season, logging just 30 total minutes with 19 of them coming in Saturday night’s double overtime victory over the Golden State Warriors. They have a plus-30.3 net rating together, which is the highest net rating by far of any Lakers lineup that has played a minimum of 30 minutes together this season.

When asked about that lineup after the win over the Warriors, James spoke to the chemistry they have built up from last year as why it has worked so well, via Spectrum SportsNet:

“We just have chemistry. We have a lot of minutes logged together so we know what we want to do as a team that went to the Western Conference Finals last year and missed some plays in the second round and things of that nature with myself, AR, Vando, DLo and AD. We know where everybody is at. We work well together.”

Despite all of the lineup changes Ham has made this season, Prince starting has been one of the only constants. So while it’s hard to envision Ham shifting Prince to the bench in favor of Vanderbilt, players like James speaking up about how much they like that lineup could change the head coach’s mind.

With the Lakers currently sitting at 24-23 on the season, they will need to go on some sort of run if they want to avoid the Play-In Tournament. With Vanderbilt finally healthy and playing at a high level, now might be the time to make a change in hopes of starting that run sooner rather than later.

Darvin Ham explains why last season’s Lakers starting lineup has hardly played together

Given how much success they have had together over the last 12 months, it is a bit strange that the lineup of James, Davis, Vanderbilt, Reaves and Russell have only played 30 minutes together this season.

Ham was recently questioned on why that is the case and if there is a specific reason he has stayed away from it.

“Not really. I think it’s just the way things have shaken out,” Ham said. “Taurean has been one of our most durable guys and one of our better 3-point shooters. With LeBron and AD playing the brand of basketball they play, even this morning we were showing a clip where AD was playmaking from the post and had three guys on him. So as much spacing and shooting that you can put around them, the better.

“But having said that, it was unfortunate that Vando had to miss the time that he missed at the outset of the season and it’s been a whole entire process getting him back healthy, just now getting him back into game shape. As you saw, he went crazy on the offensive glass for us last game against the Clippers, and some of the plays he’s been making in the passing lanes and deflections and switching on different perimeter threats, interior threats, he’s rounding back into form. So you never know. You just got to take things day by day. It’s good to know though that we have that option should we want to push that button.”

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