When the NBA restarts in Orlando, Florida on July 30, the Los Angeles Lakers will be without one of their starters. Avery Bradley has decided to skip the remainder of the season, citing family concerns.

Bradley played 49 games—he missed 13 straight games with a sprained ankle—and made 44 starts before the season was suspended indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic. The guard is averaging 8.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 0.9 steals in 24.2 minutes per game.

Although not a star like LeBron James or Anthony Davis, Bradley was a contributor to the Lakers’ success. He scored 24 points and shot 6-12 from three-point range in a victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on March 8 that arguably established the Lakers as the team to beat in the entire league.

Los Angeles has the NBA’s second-best record and is virtually guaranteed to be the No.1 seed in the West playoffs.

Where will the Lakers make up Bradley’s minutes? A few guards should see increased playing time in the veteran’s absence.

Alex Caruso might be the biggest beneficiary of Bradley’s decision. Caruso has made one start in 58 games, averaging just 17.8 minutes and 5.4 points per contest. The 26-year-old has been productive when given the chance to play. He has the potential to be an important role player in the postseason, especially on the defensive end.

Despite ranking ninth on the team in minutes, Caruso is fourth on the Lakers with 1.0 steals per game. Caruso is 20th in the entire league in Defensive Real Plus-Minus, putting him ahead of defensive stalwarts like Chris Paul and Jimmy Butler. 

“I think he’s elite,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said of Caruso early in the season. “When you study him on tape or just watch him in summer workouts, you see he has pretty good feet and good length. But there are a lot of 6’5 defenders that you think should be great defenders, but they’re not good defenders — but Alex is. He has great instincts and that’s the biggest thing with him.”

James is listed as a forward but is really the team’s unofficial starting point guard. Caruso is one of the few Lakers that can handle the ball and create shots for others. In his limited playing time, Caruso is fourth on the team with 1.8 assists per game, averaging more dimes than Bradley, Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Rajon Rondo might replace Bradley in the starting lineup. The veteran is averaging 7.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game.

Quinn Cook is another candidate to get more playing time. The guard is averaging 4.8 points and 10.8 minutes in 38 games. 

Cook has been the Lakers’ second-best three-point shooter, making 37.9% of his attempts behind the arc. The 27-year-old is a career 41.2% three-point shooter. 

Cook has experience playing in big games. He played in 34 playoff games with the Golden State Warriors from 2018-2019. Cook averaged 4.8 points in 14.8 minutes per game during last year’s NBA Finals.

Neither Dion Waiters nor J.R. Smith has suited up for the Lakers, but the guards might get a chance to play for Los Angeles in the NBA’s Disney “bubble.” Waiters signed with the team shortly before the season was suspended. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Smith is the leading candidate to replace Bradley on the roster.

Waiters averaged 9.3 points in three games for the Miami Heat this season. After multiple suspensions from the team, Waiters was sent to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of a six-player trade and ultimately released. The shooting guard averaged 12.0 points in 44 games last year and was James’ teammate with the Cleveland Cavaliers for a half-season.

Smith played with James in Cleveland from 2015-2018, making 60 playoff starts. The veteran last played an NBA game on Nov. 19, 2018.

alex-caruso Alex Caruso celebrates after hitting three-point shot Photo: CBS Sports