With the rise of the Golden State Warriors, the league has shifted from skilled, back to the basket big men to smaller, versatile forwards that could play both power forward and center in recent years. While that’s still prominent in the NBA, some teams have decided to zig while others zag, including the Los Angeles Lakers.
This past summer, the Lakers added two shot-blocking big men in Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard, who are both listed as 6’10. They also re-signed 7-footer JaVale McGee to a two-year deal worth $8.2 million.
After the Lakers’ 120-94 win over the Warriors on Wednesday, head coach Frank Vogel talked a bit about why he doesn’t think his team will play small-ball as much as other teams in the league and, unsurprisingly, it starts with Davis.
“Well, we’re playing big because we have the luxury of having Anthony Davis at the power forward position,” Vogel said. “I feel like the way the league has transitioned, the center position has not gone away. I feel like the non-dominant power forward is the position that has really fallen off. You can’t have a non-shooting power forward in today’s NBA if he’s not dominant, but Anthony gives us the option of having that elite offensive player, defensive player.”
Vogel also said that having two athletic centers in Howard and McGee make his job easier.
“Then you still have two centers out there who can really hold the fort down on the defensive end and be dominant down there. Those guys being lob threats, providing the vertical spacing is every bit as important as another shooter on the floor. You have to guard those guys at the rim. It is a little bit counterintuitive to today’s NBA, but not a lot I don’t think. I think most of the teams are still playing with a true center, and Anthony just gives us the ability to do that,” Vogel said.
Through 11 games, the Lakers are tied for firs place in points in the paint (54.9) with the Memphis Grizzlies. The difference between the Lakers and the Grizzlies, though, is that Los Angeles is ranked fourth in the league in 2-point field goal percentage, while Memphis is ranked No. 11.
Teams may exploit the Lakers’ size in the front court the future, but for now it’s working for them and as long as Davis is on the team, they’ll have no reason to play small-ball.