Anthony Davis’ reluctance to play center — specifically in the regular season — has been a talking point for Lakers faithful from seemingly the day he arrived. And while it has shaped the way the Lakers have built their roster, it also hasn’t been a big issue in the postseason, as he plays the position whenever necessary once the playoffs come around.
Still, for the majority of 82 regular season games, Davis plays alongside a big man as a way of protecting himself from the wear and tear of banging with centers throughout the year. When the Lakers won the title in the 2019-20 season, it was Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee that served as the pairing to help keep Davis fresher, a decision that eventually led to an all-time performance from Davis during the postseason.
During that regular season, Davis played 60% of the minutes at power forward, according to Basketball-Reference. Once the postseason came around, it was an exact switch, as 60% of his minutes came at the center position.
After a season in which the Lakers went away from the strategy of big, bruising centers alongside Davis by employing Montrezl Harrell and Marc Gasol, the Lakers shifted back to their prior ways, signified by signing DeAndre Jordan after a buyout with the Nets.
Not surprisingly, that move was one appreciated by Davis as revealed during Jordan’s introductory interview with Chris McGee and Spectrum Sportsnet.
McGee: “AD actually thanked Rob (Pelinka) when you guys walked by. I mean listen, you’ve been in the league a long time, you have a lot of accolades, but it still probably feels good when superstars from another team are excited to have you.”
Jordan: “Yeah, it feels good, man. Like I said, just to be in a situation where it’s beneficial, I’m super excited about it, being able to play with these guys with this caliber of talent, who have been in this league for a long time and who have won. I’m really excited to be a part of this and not only be teammates, but not have to guard these guys anymore (laughs). It’s just an exciting time.”
While Davis’ desire not to play minutes at the center during the regular season does require the Lakers to build their roster in a specific way, he also rewards the Lakers with elite play on both ends of the floor regardless of what position he plays. Look no further than the title the Lakers won in 2020 following this same path. It may have worked again, too, had Davis not been uniquely affected by the short turnaround the following year.
Being welcomed in by Davis will also give a boost to DeAndre Jordan’s confidence. He comes into a situation now where he is welcomed, and while that was the case originally in Brooklyn alongside friends Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, his role quickly diminished on the court during his tenure, leading to him asking out.
Pair Davis’ excitement for Jordan’s arrival with Jordan’s excitement to play in Los Angeles once again, and the Lakers seem to have a frontcourt enthusiastic to compete alongside one another. That may not solve every potential fit question, but it’s a start.