While the absence of Anthony Davis was never going to be a good thing for the Lakers, the team may have found a way to be better in the long run for it. Necessity is the mother of invention and the Lakers being without a playable center forced head coach Frank Vogel and his coaching staff to adapt on the fly.
The result was the small ball style that the Lakers executed to varying levels of success overall. Offensively, though, is where the biggest strides were made as the team was able to turn a five-out offensive style into a viable weapon built around LeBron James’ brilliance.
Now, with Davis back in the fold, on paper, the team could take a step forward in that regard with the big man able to anchor the defense like few others can in the league while still playing in that small ball philosophy.
To do the latter, though, Davis would have to slightly adjust his game, which is something he discussed doing following his return to the court on Tuesday against the Brooklyn Nets.
“The way we were playing offensively, we’re really good,” Davis said. “The things we were doing, the adjustment that we made playing the five-out offense and guys running to screens – Bron and Melo – it kind of confused people so I tried to do the same thing. First game back, I wasn’t trying to get into too many isos or force up shots. Trying to screen, roll and put guys in position where the entire team can be successful. I was able to do that tonight, we were able to do that tonight which led us to a win.”
While Davis was sidelined, the Lakers continued to hold their own offensively, ranking 11th in the league in that span in offensive rating at 112.4. Defense is where the team struggled, which is an area that will naturally improve with Davis’ return. When he’s been on the court this season, the Lakers have had a defensive rating 107.7, a mark that would rank in the top ten in the league overall this season.
The changes would have to come offensively, and it’s not like Davis would have to entirely change his offensive game. One of the more agile, athletic big men in the league, Davis would really only need to do many of the things he mentioned himself: screening, moving and avoiding ball-stopping isolation possessions.
While much has been made about the Lakers’ small ball offense, effectively, it’s just an offense based around ball movement and cutting with five players capable of playing on the perimeter. Davis has been able to do that his whole career and brings the added bonus of being one of the game’s best defenders as well.
If he can adapt his talented skill set to the Lakers philosophy that produced so many positive results in his absence while also helping steady the team defensive, Davis could become the x-factor in unlocking the Lakers the second half of this season.
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