After losing both Julius Randle and Brook Lopez in free agency, the Los Angeles Lakers don’t have a bonafide starter at the center position. While most fans look at that as a serious hole in the roster, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are concerned with their depth up front.
In fact, they could not be more thrilled with what they have.
“We’re very happy,” Johnson said of the team’s situation at center. “You know the game has gone to ... there’s not a true center playing backup, and we’ve got one of the best that’s going to be there. But I’m going to let Luke [Walton] do all of that, he’s the decision maker. We’re excited.”
Johnson mentioned Michael Beasley as someone who could spend some time playing center. He also praised JaVale McGee’s elite shot-blocking ability, saying the Lakers “haven’t had a JaVale for a long time around here.”
“The guy is just blocking shots,” Johnson said of McGee. “Kuz thought he had one today and he said ‘Mm, mm.’ And I’m talking about, he came from the corner to get it, he wasn’t just sitting down. He went and grabbed that shot and it’s unbelievable to see how active he is.
“We’re not sitting her saying JaVale’s got to play 30 minutes, but I don’t know how many minutes he’s going to play because that’s not my decision.”
Both Johnson and Pelinka seemed to make a conscious effort to make it clear that Walton would be making all coaching decisions, but Pelinka did chime in on the Lakers’ need for a back center, or lack thereof, saying the team has “seven or more guys” that can spend some time at the center position.
“We have plenty of size and versatility for today’s game,” Pelinka said. “As the game is moving to be more positionless, we don’t even really talk about center or point guard or two guard. It’s a positionless game and we have a versatile, long roster and adequate size, for sure.”
This idea that teams don’t need a true center is one that has gained steam in the past few years, and rightfully so. The Golden State Warriors showed how valuable going small can be in the playoffs, but that only works if the team has the right personnel.
For example, a large reason the Warriors were so successful with their “death lineup” in 2015 was because their players were capable of guarding multiple positions. In other words, playing Draymond Green at center or is a lot different than playing Michael Beasley or Kyle Kuzma at center.
But the front office’s head is in the right place, and hopefully that leads to Walton experimenting with smaller lineups as the season progresses. If it turns out to be a dumpster fire, expect the Lakers to target a center either at the trade deadline, or in free agency.
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