The Future of the Los Angeles Lakers' Frontcourt

Towards the end of the 2016-2017 regular season, Lakers’ Head Coach Luke Walton deployed a variety of lineup combinations as he searched for the best way to use his young big men. Neither Julius Randle nor Larry Nance Jr. posses the size to effectively guard the center position, yet there were several games in which they both started alongside each other in the frontcourt. As it became clear the Lakers were tanking, playing time for young players evolved into much more of a priority than winning defensive battles or individual matchups. Walton is a coach that is known for favoring veteran players over younger ones, but he became increasingly open to giving Nance, Randle, and Ivica Zubac extended run over the second half of the season. 

The increased minutes had to come at the expense of someone. Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng were phased out of the rotation by mid-year, despite signing fairly large contracts in the prior offseason. Other than Randle and Nance, Zubac entered the frontcourt picture as well. Although the 7’1” Croatian played sparingly, he had moments where he flashed potential. Zubac’s best game of the season came on March 13th against the Nuggets, as the teenager showed off an impressive skill set around the basket. Zubac would celebrate his 20th birthday five days later, but not before he left Denver with a double-double and a career-high 25 points. Zubac looked extremely impressive, stuffing the stat sheet and filling the highlight reel: