The Los Angeles Lakers have a lot of centers on their roster. That was true before they signed Andre Drummond on Sunday, but with the two-time All-Star now in the mix, they have four centers on their roster, including Montrezl Harrell, Marc Gasol and Anthony Davis, who played a sizable chunk of his minutes at center in the playoffs last season.
The Lakers’ depth at center will force Frank Vogel to make some tough decisions and according to a report from Jovan Buha of The Athletic, he’s already made one of them:
Drummond is expected to start over Marc Gasol, the incumbent starting center, according to league sources.
Gasol, who signed a two-year contract contract with the Lakers for the veteran’s minimum in November, has started all 38 games he’s been available for this season. In those games, Gasol’s averaged just 4.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.2 blocks per game, a far cry from the 17.5 points. 13.5 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks per game Drummond averaged as a starter with the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this season.
But the lack of awe-inspiring numbers in Gasol’s stat line doesn’t mean he hasn’t been impactful this season. In fact, the five-man unit of Dennis Schröder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, LeBron James, Davis and Gasol has posted a net rating of +13.9 in 280 minutes this season. Of lineups that have played at least 250 minutes together this season, that lineup ranks third in net rating. So why would the Lakers change it?
In the short-term, Drummond provides more individual offense than Gasol does at this stage of his career, and if there’s anything the Lakers have needed in the absence of James and Davis, it’s been individual offense. Granted, he isn’t a particularly efficient post-up scorer, as Nekias Duncan of Basketball News recently pointed out in his breakdown of Drummond’s first with the Lakers, but his aggressiveness would be a breath of fresh air in the starting lineup in spite of that, especially when compared to Gasol’s aggression (or lack thereof).
When James and Davis return to the starting lineup, the case for Drummond is harder — at least right now — because of how successful Gasol was with them. In the 346 minutes that James, Davis and Gasol have played together this season, they’ve posted a net rating of +14.
The hope is, though, that Drummond solidifies himself as the starting center, regardless of the situation, in the games leading up to James and Davis’ return — and if he can do that, there’s no telling what the Lakers can accomplish when they’re fully healthy.