When Rob Pelinka spoke during Las Vegas Summer League about how the Lakers wanted to play more two-big lineups this season, it was easy to read his comments as not just praise of Jaxson Hayes, but a recruiting pitch to two different seven-footers: Anthony Davis (who the Lakers still wanted to extend in the weeks to come, and has long preferred to play alongside another big man) and Christian Wood (who was looking for a role to set him up for a hoped-for payday next summer).
In the wake of both signing on the dotted line, though, it sounds like those lineups won't necessarily be the Lakers' first priority. Jovan Buha of The Athletic reported in the aftermath of the Lakers agreeing to terms on a minimum deal with Wood that the "early expectation" within the team is that Wood will come off the bench:
The early expectation is that Wood will come off the bench with Rui Hachimura the likely frontcourt starter next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, according to team sources. At a minimum, Wood will be the primary backup center behind Davis while occasionally teaming with him in two-big lineups. He should average around 20 minutes per game when everyone is healthy.
This makes a lot of sense as the way to go, at least initially. Not only does it likely push a weaker big player (Hayes) out of the rotation in favor of stronger wings and guards, but it also allows the Lakers to roll with a group of four players who worked wonders alongside each other in the playoffs — LeBron James, Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura and Davis — while then allowing Darvin Ham to have D'Angelo Russell and newcomer Gabe Vincent battle in training camp for the fifth spot.
Will he be more OK with that than he was with his role in Dallas? One would assume he wouldn’t have signed if he wasn’t, so despite his reputation, it’s worth giving him the benefit of the doubt that he knows what to expect and is all right with it.
And hey, perhaps Wood is so good in camp that the Lakers elect to move Rui back to the bench. But after watching the latter slim down this summer following his big contract, it makes sense to initially stick with him, James and Davis and see if that can work over the course of the regular season, even if Wood’s fit alongside Davis also intrigues and is worth experimenting with in doses to see how well it can work in practice rather than theory.
The other thing worth acknowledging here is that, obviously, this is just one report. And for as plugged in as Jovan is, even he says it's just the initial vibes around what the plans are. Plans can change. But for now, this makes sense as a plan, and we (and the Lakers) will see if Wood can throw himself all the way into a bench role on a winner and prove he can impact a playoff team as a super sixth man, or even make the case to start.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.