Throughout the playoffs, much has been made about Miami Heat sharpshooter Duncan Robinson's spectacular rise from Division III basketball to playing a key role in the NBA Finals. On the other side, there's a similarly impressive story in Alex Caruso. Though he didn't play D-III ball, he did go undrafted and had to grind through multiple G League stints before he earned his place in the league with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Now, all the hard work has truly paid off. Caruso will be in the starting lineup on Sunday night for Game 6, taking the place of Dwight Howard, the team announced prior to the opening tip. Frank Vogel's decision to move Caruso into the starting lineup comes nearly a year to the day that he gave the swingman a DNP on the opening night of the season.
Caruso really hasn't done that much off the bench for the Lakers in the series, but he's a 3-point threat, and a solid defender who can switch and guard multiple positions. More than anything, the move is about making the Lakers' starting lineup more versatile by inserting a wing for a big man.
In addition, the swap means Anthony Davis will shift to center, something the team has been reluctant to do for much of the season. Long-term, that was a wise strategy because it spared Davis a lot of physical punishment. As it is, he's already playing through a number of minor issues, including a heel contusion that he re-aggravated in Game 5.
But with a maximum of two games left, and the chance to clinch the title on Sunday night, there's nothing to save Davis for anymore. Lineups with Davis at center give the Lakers tremendous flexibility on both ends of the floor and have been a huge success so far in the playoffs, where they've outscored opponents by a margin of 12.5 points per 100 possessions.