The Los Angeles Lakers have removed Avery Bradley from the starting lineup for Saturday’s game against the New York Knicks. In his place, the red hot Malik Monk will start at shooting guard. While this may seem like a minor change, especially in light of LeBron James returning to the floor for a marquee game against a big-market opponent, this decision could well go down to be the most significant development of the night for a reeling Lakers team.
Bradley has largely struggled this season. The Lakers have been outscored by 4.4 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor. That is worse than any player still in the Laker rotation, yet Bradley had remained in the starting lineup for 40 of the 45 games he’s started this season. He is no longer the tenacious point-of-attack defender that he was at his peak, but he at least managed to contribute to the Lakers by making his shots earlier in the season. He’s shot just 36.3 percent from the field in his last 12 games, though, and despite Frank Vogel’s affection for the tone he sets defensively, Bradley has seemingly lost his stranglehold on the starting shooting guard job.
Monk didn’t join the starting lineup until Christmas, but once he did, he became one of the most reliable Lakers. He has averaged just under 17 points per game since then on over 49 percent shooting from the field and 45 percent from behind the arc. He became a starter largely due to other injuries, though. The last time James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook were healthy, for instance, came against the Brooklyn Nets on Jan. 25. Bradley started over Monk in that game.
But Monk has now seemingly supplanted Bradley in the rotation. Now Bradley will have to hold off another standout, undrafted rookie Austin Reaves, for further minutes in the backcourt. The rotation is still fluid, but Vogel has finally pulled the plug on a starter that simply hasn’t lived up to the role for most of the season.