On Saturday the Lakers faced the possibility of another key injury. They’ve already been without LeBron James and Rajon Rondo, leaving them fairly thin with regards to ball-handlers. Then Lonzo Ball went down with a scary looking ankle injury against the Rockets and had to be helped off the floor by his teammates.
The last thing the Lakers needed was to lose their young point guard, that in flashes has shown promise, for a significant portion of time. Lucky for them, the X-rays on Ball came back negative. How long he’ll be out is still a bit of an unknown, but the Lakers aren’t in a place to afford losing any of their playmakers.
James took over as a point forward in November. Rondo and Ball are their best “pure” point guards and each have taken turns with the starting unit. Without any of them the Lakers options for a primary ball-handler are slim.
With Ball out, the Lakers will look towards the return of Rondo and James. The team is hoping they will soon be back at practice, but it’s unlikely they’ll be back in time for Monday’s showdown against the Warriors.
The Lakers have a few options at playmaker. They can always go with the young Josh Hart. He was recently moved to the bench in place for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but after Ball went down a lot of his minutes ended up going to Hart. Caldwell-Pope also saw minutes increase following Ball’s injury, staying on the floor for 40 minutes in the overtime loss to Houston. The Lakers could also go with Lance Stephenson, but that should be a last resort option. Stephenson is a creation type player, but he’s better at attacking for himself than creating for others.
Breaking this down to a very basic level, the Lakers best option is go with Hart. He has a 2.1 positive net rating this season, one of the few players on the Lakers with a net rating of +2 or higher. KCP has a rating of .5 and Stephenson is a -1.6. Obviously, there’s a lot of noise and context in this stat, but it would fit how Luke Walton chose to approach his minutes once Ball went out injured.
The Lakers don’t have too many options here. They’ll need to hold on as best they can until James and Rondo come back, but who knows when that could be. Neither veterans is going to rush back from injury, but as long as Ball is out the Lakers lack of playmakers is going to be exposed.