Since Anthony Davis joined the Lakers in 2019, one of the questions Rob Pelinka and the Lakers organization have had to answer is who is playing alongside Davis.
Sometimes, that meant bringing in a center so Davis could play his preferred role as a four like they did with the addition of DeAndre Jordan in 2021. Or they’ve added depth with a big playing a limited role, ala JaVale McGee back in 2020.
This season, the Lakers solution was to bring in Christian Wood on a veteran minimum and Jaxson Hayes as a player coming off his rookie contract looking to prove himself.
In both instances, the Lakers appear to have hit their mark.
Wood has excelled giving the Lakers a big who can stretch the floor, shooting 36% from deep. This is particularly valuable given head coach Darvin Ham’s desire to play more five-out basketball.
However, it’s Hayes that Davis pointed out after Tuesday’s win versus the Memphis Grizzlies as excelling in his role.
“The presence he has at the rim, altering shots and blocking shots, and then his insane athletic ability to run the floor like he did and get the lob, most guys his size are not doing what he’s doing,” Davis said. “We’re glad to have him.”
Hayes’ stats back up Davis’ praise of him.
He’s scoring at a high efficiency, shooting 60% from the field and putting in work defensively, blocking 1.3 shots a game and collecting one steal a night.
In the fourth quarter on Tuesday, Hayes put the exclamation point on a historic scoring night from the Lakers by slamming home a difficult lob that, honestly, could’ve been placed better by Austin Reaves.
Davis was the first to celebrate the lob, jumping with jubilance in the air with his teammate and discussed the play in his postgame presser.
“That was very impressive,” Davis said. “I mean, he jumps way higher than I do so you just throw it to the rim. That’s what I try to tell our guards, ‘Just throw it. We’ll save you.’ Obviously, we’re able to get behind the defense a lot and they are able to throw the ball up and our job is to catch it and finish it, catch it and come down and make a play or whatever. His ability to get behind a defense, his ability to leap just makes it easy for us to just throw the ball up and he’ll go get it.”
If Davis says you jump way higher than he does, your athleticism must be through the roof. Hayes does have the spring and bounce in his step that only youth can achieve and has demonstrated it along with the best-case scenario fans envisioned for him at the start of the season.
If Hayes can continue being the cliche ‘star in his role,’ perhaps he can follow Davis’ career trajectory to a tee and go from the New Orleans Pelicans to winning a title with his first season as a Laker.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.