It’s been no secret that the Lakers have been at their best the last two seasons with LeBron James and Anthony Davis as the frontcourt without a traditional center on the floor. While Davis has long made it known that he does not prefer playing that position during the regular season — leading to signings like DeAndre Jordan — he has also shown a willingness to play that position when it matters.
The problem is that the Lakers are by far at their best when he’s the center, leading to a constant tip-toeing battle of asking Davis to play center at various moments while allowing him to be a power forward through much of the regular season.
The acquisition of Russell Westbrook, though, swayed the debate toward Davis playing more center to make the partnership work. In fact, Davis and James themselves reportedly agreed to play the four and five next season to help make the transition for Westbrook easier.
Adding more fuel to that fire was a report on Wednesday from Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer. In a conversation with our own Harrison Faigen on the Halftime app, Fischer reported that Klutch Sports’ Rich Paul — agent to both Davis and James — had told team personnel around the league while at the NBA draft combine that James and Davis would be sliding to the four and five this season (h/t LakersSupply/Twitter).
Davis and James taking spots in the frontcourt creates all sorts of ripple effects. First, it opens up another spot in the starting lineup on the perimeter to provide more spacing, the ultimate goal of starting Davis at center. Could Kent Bazemore start at small forward alongside a guard like Malik Monk, Kendrick Nunn or Wayne Ellington?
It also shortens the playing time at the center position for players not named Davis. Dwight Howard seems like the most likely to be the backup center, which could lead to fewer minutes for DeAndre Jordan despite Davis recently thanking general manager Rob Pelinka for signing him.
Overall, though, it would mean the Lakers’ best lineup would be on the floor for more minutes during the regular season. That would lead to more wins, in theory, and more minutes together to build chemistry heading into the playoffs.
While the Lakers found success turning to the lineups with Davis at center in the 2020 playoffs, having more time together certainly can’t hurt, especially for a roster that had as much turnover as the Lakers did this offseason.
In the end, all the reports could indicate something but until Davis does it on a game-to-game basis or confirms it himself during the preseason, it’ll continue to be a debate for Lakers fans to toil over as relentlessly as they always do.
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