With the Lakers still not sure if Dwight Howard will join them at Disney World when the NBA resumes play there at the end of this month, some have begun to guess how the team would fill the void if he did sit out. The most popular option has generally been to play Anthony Davis at the five more often, something many fans want to see anyway.
During his Zoom call with reporters on Thursday, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel was asked about the possibility of seeing Davis at center more if Howard sat out. He didn’t exactly give a ringing endorsement of that option:
“I’m hopeful not to do it any more than we were doing prior,” Vogel said. “I’ve always felt that Dwight and JaVale (McGee) could handle the load of both center responsibilities. We were using them as center by committee, and I think playing between 12-16 minutes, roughly, per game. I feel like both of those guys could handle playing more than that. Playing 20, 24, 28 minutes a game if needed. So if Dwight is not out there for any type of stretch, we could do that with JaVale.
“And we also have two young two-way guys, Devontae Cacok and Kostas Antetokounmpo that could buy us some minutes there as well, and then there’s a number of options where AD may be out there, but a Jared Dudley, or Markieff Morris or Kyle Kuzma is considered the five. So there’s a lot of different ways we can go with that. My hope is to still use Anthony around the same balance that we used him prior to all this, which is mostly at the four, sliding over to the five when needed.”
There was (predictably) a lot of freaking out in my mentions when I tweeted a paraphrased version of that quote, but let’s unpack this a bit, shall we?
Davis has made it clear since before he played a game for the Lakers that he doesn’t want to play center, and the Lakers have let it be known that they don’t expect him to do it much. He’s said he’s willing to do it when necessary, but from the first day he was introduced as a Laker, it’s been obvious that he doesn’t really want to.
Davis has done it plenty anyway, playing 38% of his minutes this season at the five, according to Basketball-Reference. That’s the second-lowest percentage of his career at the position, but still nearly half of the time he’s been on the floor. So while yes, I know the idea of Kuzma playing the five after how poorly that went last season is enough to make any Lakers fan start speaking in tongues, that was literally the last name Vogel mentioned as an option — after even the two-way guys — and it’s not like they haven’t been playing Davis at the five at all.
And even with Davis saying he feels “100 percent” right now, Vogel and the Lakers may not want to overburden him with that kind of banging in the post while everyone is more prone to injury due to the league’s rapid ramp-up period. Especially right before Davis makes his upcoming free agency decision this offseason. Just saying. Hint hint.
There is also the reality that even if Vogel was planning to play Davis exclusively at the five in Orlando, he has literally zero incentive to tell the media that now. I’m not accusing him of lying, I’m just being real that he was asked a question about a hypothetical scenario, and has no logical reason to let teams know to start preparing for Davis at the five more. I’m not saying that’s what he’s planning, just that he probably wouldn’t tell us if he was, or even have any reason to say if he was planning to play him there more. If things change, he can always say his original hopes weren’t possible.
And until we learn for sure whether or not Howard will join the Lakers in Orlando — Vogel said he hadn’t heard about any change in Howard’s status, and the center is currently at his home in Atlanta and may or may not join the team at Disney World — this is all a bit of a moot point, and definitely not worth freaking out over. Yet. At least not until he actually plays Kuzma at the five. Because seriously, with all due respect to Kuz, that was a complete disaster last year. Let’s never talk about it again.