AD Must Play Five to Close Games!
While the Lakers may not want Anthony Davis to play big minutes at the five, they’ll need him at least to play center to close out games
The Lakers can open games with JaVale McGee, Dwight Howard, or Joakim Noah at center but they’re not going to win an NBA championship unless Anthony Davis is willing to play the key minutes to close games at the five.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel is going to have walk a load management tightrope this season to make sure to limit the minutes Anthony Davis has to play center while making sure he closes games with his best five players. At stake are the Lakers’ present in the form of their chances to win an NBA championship this year and future in the form of their odds to convince Anthony Davis to re-sign when he becomes a free agent this summer.
Even though Davis told Vogel in his press conference: “If it comes down to it, coach, and you need me to play the 5, then I’ll play the 5,” he’s also made it clear he prefers “playing the 4” and doesn’t “really like playing the 5.” After DeMarcus Cousins tore his ACL, NBATV’s Jared Greenburg reported “a high ranking member of the Lakers tells me that they do not expect nor do they want Anthony Davis to play ‘big minutes’ at center this season.”
The key word in that statement is “big.” The last thing the Lakers want is to give Anthony Davis a reason not to re-sign with team this summer after trading most of their young core and four first round picks to acquire him. That’s why they’re looking to sign another center to replace DeMarcus Cousins and why their likely game plan is to limit the time Anthony Davis has to play the five to closing out games during the regular season.
Limiting Anthony Davis’ minutes at center to closing games would likely mean he would play power forward about 75% of the time and center 25%, which should be a reasonable compromise Davis would be willing to make. It’s a plan that makes sense in this era of load management to keep him fresh and reduce wear and tear over the long regular season by limiting the minutes he has to bang against other centers on defense and the boards.
We’ve all heard the cliché NBA games are decided in the fourth quarter. NBA League Pass even sells special tickets to allow fans to watch only the fourth quarters of games with the idea that’s when games are actually won. Regardless of whether that’s true, it makes sense for teams to put their best five players on the court to close games. For the Lakers, there’s no question their best five players are Bradley, Green, James, Kuzma, and Davis.
The Lakers should also limit the total number of games LeBron James and Anthony Davis play, especially when the schedule is heavy or loaded with back-to-back games. A good target would be limit each to 70 to 75 games. Load management has become an absolute necessity with the NBA’s grueling and prolonged 82-game regular season schedule, not counting the brutal challenge of possibly playing another 28 games during the playoffs.
Limiting AD to the last nine minutes of each game would be a smart move. It would recognize how important it is to respect Davis’ preference to play the four while acknowledging the Lakers’ need to have him play the five.
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