The Lakers' newest point guard says he intends to start, and it could create an awkward lineup dilemma

Mark J. Terrill/AP ImagesDennis Schröder.
  • Newly acquired point guard Dennis Schröder told reporters that he plans to start for the Los Angeles Lakers.
  • It could create awkward lineups for the Lakers, as LeBron James started at point guard last year.
  • To start both, the Lakers may have to bench a wing player, sacrificing spacing and defence.
  • The Lakers may choose to start Schröder to lighten James’s load after a championship run and shortened offseason.
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The Los Angeles Lakers were one of the winners of the NBA offseason, but they still have work to do in figuring out their reshaped roster.

On Monday, newly acquired point guard Dennis Schröder told reporters he intends to start for the Lakers.

“I did this off-the-bench stuff already in two years with OKC,” Schröder said. “I think I try to move forward, and I think with [Anthony Davis] and LeBron [James], I can be helpful as a starter in the PG position.”

Schröder came off the bench in 63 of 65 games last year and averaged 18.9 points on 47% shooting, with 3.6 rebounds and 4 assists per game. He also shot a career-high 38% from three.

While Schröder is not a bad fit in the Lakers’ starting lineup, it could create some tough rotation choices.

The Lakers already have a starting PG — LeBron James

James played point guard full-time last season for the first time in his career, and he led the league in assists. At 6-foot-8, his size allowed the Lakers to play a massive starting lineup that overwhelmed opponents.

If the Lakers start Schröder, they may either have to move a wing in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Wesley Matthews to the bench. Doing so hurts their spacing and perimeter defence. Schröder, James, Davis, and Marc Gasol (assuming he starts at centre) are all capable-to-good three-point shooters, but none of them terrify opposing defences. Most defences would likely invite them to shoot threes, rather than attack the paint.

The Lakers could keep Matthews and Caldwell-Pope in the starting lineup by moving Davis to centre, but Davis has resisted playing big minutes at centre throughout his career. It would also create a logjam of bigs off the bench with Gasol and Montrezl Harrell.

Bringing Schröder off the bench balances the Lakers’ ball-handling a bit. Last season, Rajon Rondo and Alex Caruso handled ball-handling duties off the bench. With Rondo now gone, that would leave only Caruso, who is not a natural lead ball-handler.

Schröder could lighten the load on James

Lebron jamesMark J. Terrill/AP ImagesLeBron James.

Given James’ age (36 in December) and the Lakers’ shortened offseason after their championship run in the bubble, starting Schröder and playing him heavy minutes, even with the second unit, may make sense to lessen the work James has to do in the regular season.

The Lakers’ starting unit would be light on shooting, but Schröder and James’ ability to drive will create open shots, as would Davis’ all-around versatility.

Preserving James will be key this season for the Lakers. James played a career-low 34 minutes per game in the regular season and 36 per game in the playoffs. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Lakers try to play him even less, perhaps with games off, this season.

Schröder appeared to be a targeted acquisition for that reason. He can function as a lead ball-handler and scorer in small doses, and at 28, can still play heavy minutes if needed. The fit may not be perfect with the Lakers’ projected starting lineup, but they Lakers might prefer he take on some of James’ role.

“I can bring it up, call a set play or whatever and put [James] in a position to score,” Schröder said on Monday. “I think him to play off-the-ball, I mean, is I think great. I think that’s the reason why they brought me in.”

Of course, the question becomes more pertinent in how the Lakers will close games. Will Davis have to play centre? Doing so will bench Gasol and Harrell, their two big free-agency acquisitions. If Davis closes games at the four, then the Lakers may have the same spacing issues mentioned before.

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