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Lakers could reportedly start Jaxson Hayes at center to open season

After a season in which he played almost exclusively as a center for the Lakers, Anthony Davis may make way in the starting lineup for a center once again.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Los Angeles Lakers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

After years and years of fans campaigning for him to do so, Anthony Davis finally embraced the center position and played there almost exclusively last season. According to Cleaning The Glass, 99% of Davis’ minutes last season were at the center position, by far the most in his career.

Hopefully, Lakers fans enjoyed that, because it might be short-lived.

This offseason, the Lakers signed Jaxson Hayes to a two-year veteran’s minimum deal. While he certainly was depth at the center position, he may have an even bigger role than that.

In an appearance on The Lowe Post, Dave McMenamin of ESPN talked about the Lakers’ offseason and mentioned that he could see Hayes starting at center this season alongside Davis.

“It would not shock me if we saw Jaxson Hayes as a starting center to open up the season to see how that looks. But that doesn’t mean that you’re not going to see Anthony Davis playing center in the fourth quarter. That’s winning time.”

First, it should be noted that there isn’t any reporting in this statement. He’s not saying that people within the organization are telling him Hayes will start. It’s also mid-July and those within the franchise don’t have ironclad plans yet but ideas of what could play out.

But even speculation from McMenamin carries some weight. And it isn’t baseless. There is plenty of logic to his reasoning, which he also provided in greater detail in the same podcast.

“Anthony Davis has been pounding the drum ever since he arrived in LA that he doesn’t like to max out his minutes at the five. His body takes a beating. He likes having a big next to him for rim protection purposes...The team not only listened to him in the acquisition of Jaxson Hayes but made sure it was known that they listened to him. In the comments made by Darvin Ham and Rob Pelinka to various reporters and various outlets that this was wanting to replicate the lineup they had in 2020 in order to appease Anthony Davis and make him feel good.”

Davis has been open about his desire not to play center. He’s said he’s going to play center and then hasn’t done it. He basically said nothing about it last year, and then played center all season. And in his defense, he was excellent at it this season.

But he was also excellent in the 2019-20 season playing alongside another big man. That year, again according to Cleaning The Glass, he played 60% of his minutes at the four.

Basically, either option seems like a viable one, and it’s fair for the Lakers to be exploring the idea of Hayes starting alongside Davis. There’s an even greater discussion to be had on Hayes’ fit with Davis, which has lots of positives with Hayes’ skillset and experience playing alongside other bigs.

But it’s July, and there’s going to be time to dive into those details later. Effectively, all this does is open up the possibility of it happening.

You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.

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