Veteran NBA coaches always like to keep a few promising lineups, special plays, or unexpected offensive moves hidden during the regular season so they can spring them on unwary opponents once the playoffs begin.
Here are four surprise offensive moves head coach Frank Vogel could be saving for unsuspecting Lakers’ playoff opponents, like the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, and Milwaukee Bucks:
1. LeBron and AD Pick–and–Rolls.
This is something the Lakers have rarely used in the regular season but should become an offensive staple in the playoffs, especially with a trio of three-point shooters positioned on the weak side to keep defenses honest. Isolating LeBron and AD in a two-man game on one side of the court would make it difficult for other defenders to help. Lakers’ foes should expect to see a steady diet of LeBron and AD pick-and-rolls to close out games
This should become the Lakers’ go-to play to get the ball to Anthony Davis via pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop, taking advantage of LeBron’s unmatched playmaking and AD’s elite ability to finish at the rim and shoot the three.
2. LeBron James Matchup Hunting.
This is another tactic we haven’t seen often from the Lakers so far this season, with the exception of the last Clippers game, where LeBron James relentlessly hunted and took advantage of switches with Lou Williams. What makes this strategy so difficult to defend is James’ superior passing ability, which makes it tough for teams to double him and forces the defender who was hunted and switched to try to defend LeBron 1-on-1.
The bonus of the matchup hunting strategy is it forces the opposing team’s best offensive guard to use valuable energy at the defensive end and risk getting into foul trouble. It’s an ideal strategy against players like Lillard.
3. Five-Out Shooter Lineups.
This is a lineup the Lakers have only shown a few times during the regular season but could be extremely difficult to defend when Kyle Kuzma comes into the game for JaVale McGee and Anthony Davis is moved to the five. Imagine defending LeBron, AD, Kuzma, Waiters, and Caruso one-on-one in a five-out set and trying to keep them from attacking the basket. It would be a nightmare scenario for the defense with no rim protection in the paint.
Five-out shooter line-ups would be especially potent against teams with traditional defensive centers who like to clog the lane playing drop coverage and could end up forcing those teams to go small and bench their centers.
4. Kuzma at Shooting Guard.
If you believe the position a player can play is the position he can defend, Kuzma at shooting guard could be a future lineup weapon that enables the Lakers to play LeBron, AD, Kuzma, as well as a center at the same time. While it’s just an experiment at this time, the potential for the Lakers and Kyle Kuzma are eye opening. If he shows he can defend guards and shoot lights out from deep, he could become impossible to defend as 6′ 8″ guard.
The Lakers’ experiments having Kuzma playing shooting guard have so far been defensively oriented but Kyle’s ability to shoot the three and attack the basket when challenged could make playing the two a dangerous weapon.
Watch for the Lakers to specifically make extensive use of ‘LeBron and AD Pick-and-Rolls’ and ‘LeBron James Matchup Hunting’ as major strategies in each playoff series to optimize the production from their two superstars. ‘Five-Out Shooter Lineups’ and ‘Kuzma at Shooting Guard’ will likely be surprise moves Vogel will deploy at key moments during series when the matchups are right or the Lakers need something to change momentum.
Possessing a repertoire of offensive adjustments like these four moves could give Frank Vogel and the Lakers an advantage that could transform a tight series into a rout and propel the team to win their 17th NBA championship.