By just about all statistical measurements, teams are better around Anthony Davis when he plays center. The problem is: He doesn’t seem particularly fond of the wear and tear banging bodies with other traditional centers around the NBA causes. He’s been very clear on the position he’d rather play for the Lakers this season — power forward — but said during media day that he’s still willing to do what is best for the team.
In an interview with James Worthy, Chris McGee and Allie Clifton of Spectrum SportsNet, Davis was asked about playing the five, and according to him, he and Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel are on the same page:
“Me and coach have had conversations and I said, ‘Coach, listen here. It’s not that big of a deal. I played the five in New Orleans for several years and whenever you need me at the five, I’m ready to play. Because, if you look at it now in this game, there’s not a lot of traditional fives. The fives are the fours, so that doesn’t make a huge difference. But I think I’ll be better at the four and that’s why we got JaVale (McGee) and Dwight (Howard).”
It should be pointed out that Davis was laughing when he said that last sentence. Here’s the video:
AD on playing center: pic.twitter.com/EabGQOf03u— Anthony F. Irwin (@AnthonyIrwinLA) September 27, 2019
Honestly, this is all we needed to hear. We’ll see how things go when situations arise that call for him to play center and whether he’ll be a man of his word, but for right now, this should allow for a sigh of relief.
As Davis points out, he has spent the bulk of his minutes over the last couple years in New Orleans playing center. By NBA standards, he is a center just based on sheer size. And to further his point, there really are only a handful of traditional bigs left in the league as teams have moved toward prioritizing pace and space over physicality.
That said, some of the stiffest competition the Lakers will face this year for a championship do feature some big centers. In Denver, Nikola Jokic might be puffy, but he’s plenty physical. The Utah Jazz have Rudy Gobert. Sixers star Joel Embiid is about as intimidating a physical presence as the league has ever seen. How the Lakers handle those matchups will be interesting to see.
But for the most part, if Davis does slide down to the five, he’ll be facing off against another power forward who has transitioned to center in order to help their team spread the floor. Davis should dominate most of those matchups.
Now, remember, LeBron James hinted that he would be open to playing the five last year and, well, we saw how that went — aside from a fun Instagram post, it didn’t happen. Davis is a more traditional center and doesn’t seem as stubborn as James, though, so hopefully he’ll come closer to fulfilling this kind of promise, and allow the Lakers to reach their full potential as a result.