The Lakers lost more than a game to the Blazers on Thursday night, they lost their starting power forward too. Larry Nance Jr. broke his hand when committing a foul on Portland big man Caleb Swannigan.
Correction from the Lakers re: Larry Nance, Jr.: “X-rays were positive for fracture of the 2nd metacarpal – left hand.”
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) November 3, 2017
What exactly is a fracture of the 2nd metacarpal? I’m not a doctor, but google and Webmd allows me to play one on the internet. Basically, the 2nd metacarpal is the bone that connects the finger to the wrist. It’s unclear if Nance will need surgery, but he’s out indefinitely regardless and, similar to his hand fracture he suffered in July 2016, a (totally speculative) timetable for recovery would be 6-8 weeks.
In the meantime, this is really going to impact the Lakers rotation. While we can debate whether Nance or Julius Randle should have won the starting PF job out of training camp, Nance has played quite well in that role and has been a plus contributor early this season. His defense, rebounding, and hustle plays have been key factors in the team’s surprisingly strong showing on defense in the early stages of the season.
The obvious question, then, is who should replace Nance in the starting lineup? Many will point quickly to either Kyle Kuzma or Julius Randle and with good reason for either.
Kuzma’s scoring and offensive versatility would be a good addition to a starting group that is struggling to score. He can space the floor, be another drive a kick player, and bring another dimension defensively with his versatility as a someone who can switch. As for Randle, he’s had a such a good start to the year and brings countless dimensions as an offensive player who can also create shots for himself and others, bring a combination of switch-ability and paint protection defensively while also being a plus rebounder.
All that being said, as Pete mentioned in our most recent podcast, do not rule out Luol Deng being inserted into the starting lineup. For one, as Walton proved last season that his preference is to not disrupt his rotations. If you recall, when D’Angelo Russell got hurt, Walton went to his 3rd string PG in Calderon and Huertas to start rather than inserting Lou Williams or Jordan Clarkson.
Second, if there’s a player who best approximates the skill set that Nance brings to the team it would actually be Deng. Luol is a low usage offensive player who is a good help defender. He’s a willing passer, a good cutter, and is much more of a “5th option” type of guy. That is very much like Nance’s profile even if the skill set Deng brings varies quite a bit from the one Larry does.
In any event, we’ll find out soon what Walton decides and how it plays out. After all, Nance will (likely) be out for a good while. And, while some of these solutions can end up being good in many ways, he will be missed. Get well soon, Larry.