Los Angeles Lakers’ forward, Larry Nance Jr., has been cleared to return to practice. Nance underwent surgery in November after breaking his thumb the day before. Team doctors assigned a four-to-six week timetable for his return to action.
The third-year player suffered the injury November 2 against the Portland Trail Blazers. He was officially diagnosed with a fractured second metacarpal in his left hand. The surgery was performed November 3 by Dr. Steven S. Shin. Shin is an orthopedic surgeon for Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in California.
According to Bill Oram of the Orange County Register, Nance’s cast was removed on November 14. The exact date that Nance will be able to suit up for the Lakers again has not been determined.
Larry Nance Jr.’s cast came off on Nov. 14. But will he have a starting role when he returns? https://t.co/QWPs1gUdfh
— Bill Oram (@billoram) November 18, 2017
Prior to his injury, Nance was on pace to having a career season. He had averages of 10.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. He was also one of the team leaders in steals with 1.4 per game. In his first season as a consistent starter he was performing well above expectations. He was getting after the ball defensively and crashing the boards. He achieved this while only logging 23.1 minutes per game.
The injury came at a time where Nance started to mature within his skill set. To his advantage, the injury occurred in his non-shooting hand. The injury should not affect his shooting percentage due to how he scores. He scores off of screens, in transition, and on tip-ins. He is not the type of player that can create his own shot.
In the absence of Nance, the Lakers have posted a sub .500 record, which is not much of a step back. The most impressive victory came against the Memphis Grizzlies on November 5, the second game without Nance. The emergence of Kyle Kuzma and the efficiency of Julius Randle allows the Lakers to remain competitive. Shooting has been the main concern for the team, but Nance has little to do with improving those numbers. He is more of an inside scorer and rarely steps beyond the arc.
Kuzma has played outstanding basketball since being placed in the starting lineup. As a starter, he has contributed 17.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. His averages as a reserve were not much different. He tallied 15 points and 4.8 rebounds coming off of the bench. He can score in a multitude of ways. He plays well on the perimeter and can put his back to the basket and score in the post.
The power forward position is the deepest on the Lakers’ depth chart. With three players who have their own niche in the team’s offense it will be difficult to determine who will become the starter and who will be last in the rotation. It was mentioned before the season opener that Julius Randle would be one of the leaders on the bench. The question now is who will start and who will be behind Randle in the rotation.
Luke Walton will have to assess Larry Nance Jr.’s health upon his return before deciding who will start. Lakers’ fans have seen what Kuzma is capable of doing when he plays more minutes. Per 36 minutes Nance would give the Lakers 16.5 points per game whereas Kuzma would provide close to 19. However, Nance would have the upper hand on the glass with 11.7 rebounds per game.
Who is more deserving of the starting nod will be determined once Nance is fully recovered. The numbers show that each player has their strengths that they can provide the team. The battle for the power forward position will be for years to come as long as both players are under contract.
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