The trade deadline came and went, and the Los Angeles Lakers surprisingly stood pat, not making any moves. Their arch-rivals did however bring in added fire power in the wing position with the acquisition of Marcus Morris Sr., the Clippers only had to give up Moe Harkless and Jerome Robinson.
Los Angeles’ two teams are the favourites to get out of the Western Conference playoffs and into the NBA Finals, so how do their rosters lineup against each other? Are the Lakers balanced enough to defend the Clippers? Can the Clippers cope with the Lakers size? Let’s examine the roster of both teams, their play styles and then compare to see how each team should fair come playoff time.
This Lakers roster might have the weirdest combination of quality NBA players in awhile.
They have one true point guard in Rajon Rondo, one very good shooting guard in Danny Green and three decent shooting guards in Avery Bradley, Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
In the small forward and power forward positions they have Lebron James and Anthony Davis, after those two they only really have Kyle Kuzma that can fill either of those roles. At center they have a great tandem of Javale McGee and Dwight Howard.
The Lakers do play a lot of these guys out of position to facilitate different lineups, such as playing Danny Green and KCP at small forward or playing LeBron James at point guard.
Overall this roster is imbalanced in terms of the five positions, especially on defense, but they have smart basketball players that can fill roles with great competence.
The Clippers roster is jam-packed with 6’8” wing players capable of guarding multiple positions.
With their new addition of Marcus Morris Sr. their starting lineup should now feature three players at around 6’8”; Morris Sr. (6’8”), Kawhi Leonard (6’7”) and Paul George (6’8”). These players are complimented by young center Ivica Zubac at center and Patrick Beverly at point guard.
In terms of depth they have Lou Williams and Landry Shamet for the guards and Montrezl Harrel for the center/power forward, that’s about it really. After those three players their depth drops off dramatically, their third string guard is Amir Coffey and their backups for their forwards are Rodney McGruder, Patrick Patterson and JaMychal Green.
This team is filled to the brim with wing players that are great defenders and great offensive players.
On offence this roster has all the necessities, shooters, facilitators, inside threats, and LeBron James.
On defense they lack the ability to match up with small ball lineups, only Avery Bradley and Danny Green have quality defensive ability against guards. If Javale McGee, Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis and LeBron James can learn the lost art of footwork down low then there should be no excuse for not getting a bucket every time down the floor.
Another issue on the floor is that only Rajon Rondo and LeBron James can’t throw consistent post entry passes. Rondo doesn’t play enough, and James should be one of the players in the post. Obviously, James is usually the primary ball handler, which puts a lot of pressure on Davis to consistently be the best power forward/center in the league.
If this top-heavy team re-learns the basics of post play, then they will be unguardable.
Doc Rivers is a great coach and has this team playing great basketball. They play with screens, hand offs, pick and pops, pick and rolls and when all of that doesn’t work, they have great players that can score on their own.
While their bench is exceptionally deep, their playstyle allows them to rest both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George at the same time as everyone on the Clippers roster knows their roles on offense and defense.
They also have great shooters in PG, Kawhi, Lou Will, Landry Shamet and Morris Sr. which opens the floor up for their offensive sets to really be effective. The Clips really don’t need to adjust anything they do on offense and, defensively, they are a cohesive unit for most games.
There is still some inconsistency on the defensive end of the floor, but when they get it right, they are by far one of the best defensive teams in the league.
After the trade deadline has passed there still isn’t much to separate these two great teams.
Even before the trade deadline the Clippers had the better matchups against the Lakers, and now with the introduction of Morris Sr., the Clippers now have one of the toughest rosters to guard.
The Lakers will have trouble with matchups on the defensive end, especially with how fluid the Clippers are on offense, but the Lakers will have their own match up favours when they’re going down the court.
While the Clippers do have a large lineup, it isn’t as big as the Lakers.
The Lakers should be able to overpower the Clippers, the Clips do have great individual defenders, but they can’t guard LeBron and AD at the same time. Two offensive players with diverse abilities to score, a dogged-determined center and the shooting of Green, Bradley or KCP on the perimeter can tear their cross-town rivals apart.
Unfortunately for Lakers, fans it’s still unclear if they can play that style when it matters most. Look at the Rockets game this week where the Rockets went incredibly small and they consistently failed to take advantage.
The Clippers won the trade deadline as they added a great piece to their roster, but even with that addition they will have a tough time getting past a team as talented as the Lakers. Right now it looks like the Clips have a slight advantage overall, and with their coaching they should beat the Lakers come postseason time.
Riley Fussell is a Journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto Canada. Riley is originally from a small town on Vancouver Island on the west coast of Canada, he is a passionate writer that takes interest in nearly all sports, but especially Basketball. Riley played Basketball all through high school and being from the west coast he was able to watch two games nearly every night. He is a big fan of the Toronto Raptors even though Damian Lillard is his favourite player to watch.