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Amidst a season full of roster challenges, the Los Angeles Lakers have unlocked a lineup that has optimized the current personnel.

With Anthony Davis nursing an MCL injury and DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard not meeting expectations, the Lakers have turned to LeBron James to play at center.

James used to play the 5 mid-game during certain rotations, but he’s started at center in two recent games: against the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers.

The Lakers have lost six of their last eight games, but those two games resulted in victories, and James’ play was an important factor.

For example, the lineup of Russell Westbrook, Malik Monk, Avery Bradley, Stanley Johnson and James has posted a plus-29.4 in 51 possessions these last few games.

Head coach Frank Vogel analyzed how James has done in that role.

“We can talk about the space all we want, but, I mean, he lit up Memphis with Dwight (Howard) screening for him, too,” Vogel said. “This is just a LeBron James thing and playing at a superior level more than it is about the environment around him…While AD is out, he is intent on doing everything he can to pile up some W’s and obviously playing at an extremely high level.”

Vogel continued about the pros of James at the 5 with Carmelo Anthony operating at the 4.

“It’s huge. It really is. We’ll see how our season evolves. I think the Indiana (Pacers) game is the game that stuck out for me, we may have done it prior to that, but (James) playing alongside ‘Melo in a centerless lineup during that stretch really showed us that this could be something that makes the game easier for him,” Vogel said. “He’s not wrestling so much, there’s more space for him to be a roller, there’s just a lot of positives to that and can we get away with it against certain matchups on the other end.”

Vogel added the small-ball lineups should continue even after Davis returns.

“Obviously when AD comes back, he’s going to play a lot of minutes at the 5, and then we can play the smaller lineup as well,” Vogel said. “So, it is a direction that we’re taking our team.”


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