The preseason opener for the Los Angeles Lakers last Saturday might have been a perfect storm for a purple and gold win given the team it was playing and how banged up an already small Golden State Warriors frontcourt was, but it was damn near impossible not to notice how imposing the new L.A. frontline with LeBron James and Anthony Davis appeared to be.
The Lakers started with a forward-center combination of James (6’8”, 250 pounds), Davis (6’10”, 255) and JaVale McGee (7’, 270). Each guy has a wingspan longer than their height and are elite athletically. And when McGee goes to the bench, in comes Dwight Howard — only one of the most intimidating physical presences and talents the NBA has ever seen.
So yeah, they’re big. Very big.
D’Angelo Russell noticed, and after that game said it’s almost surreal to see that frontcourt — mainly Davis and James — out there at the same time:
D'Angelo Russell on watching the LeBron/AD Lakers: "It's different. It's different seeing all those big guys on the floor at the same time. LeBron playing point alongside those dudes. It's cool. It looks like a fantasy team or something."— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) October 6, 2019
I agree, D’Angelo. It is indeed “cool.”
What makes this frontcourt unique is that the pieces all fit at least fairly well. James is skilled enough to facilitate for both Davis and either center if they’re in the game. Davis can handle the short roll about as well as anyone should an additional pass be needed as he comes out of the pick-and-roll. Howard and McGee can both finish around the rim, and if the games thus far are any indication, they’ll feast on open dunks throughout the season.
Oh, and if a team wants to go small, James can slide down to the four and Davis can slide down to the five, where they’ll both bully undersized players at that position in what will likely be some of the Lakers’ best lineups.
It’s fascinating to watch the Lakers develop this identity of such a physically dominant team given what most people usually think about the organization and the city (we’re sorry we’re not sorry our weather is better than yours, Jim Boylen).
Now, there are obviously questions about the spacing in all this. Davis has yet to make a three this preseason and will have to if the Lakers want to offer enough room for James to operate at an optimal level. That’s even before you consider either Rajon Rondo or Avery Bradley being in the backcourt for large chunks of the game, which will even further limit the team’s spacing. But if Frank Vogel is able to find enough spacing around James and Davis, it’s just impossible to figure out how anyone will be able to defend that combination.
Cool indeed, Russell. Cool indeed.