Best Westbrook Trade Should Unleash Both LeBron James & Anthony Davis!
Injuries to their superstars not only helped derail the Lakers’ championship hopes the past two seasons but may also have caused them to forget just how great they can still be as a team with a healthy, rested James and Davis.
Has the Lakers’ front office forgotten that LeBron and AD led them to their league best 17th NBA championship in the bubble less than two years ago? Or that there’ s no better duo than LeBron and AD when they are healthy? Have they forgotten how difficult it was to surround three superstars with rotation players when all you’re able to pay is the league minimum or how lack of depth doomed the Lakers when hit with untimely injuries?
Right now, the Nets’ Kyrie Irving is the Lakers’ Plan A and the Pacers’ Myles Turner and Buddy Hield their Plan B. The only question is whether the Lakers are making a mistake by once again going for a Superstar Big Three. There appears to be disagreement in the front office whether the Lakers should trade point guard Russell Westbrook for another third superstar like Kyrie Irving or opt for depth via multiple rotation players.
There’s no question a healthy Kyrie Irving would make the Los Angeles Lakers a championship contender on the court if his off-court pyrotechnics and personal idiosyncrasies didn’t get in the way of his playing every game. The issue is whether the Lakers might be smarter trading Westbrook for multiple legitimate starters and rotation players who could unlock and unleash LeBron and AD rather than costing them critical touches and shots.
There’s a strong case trading Russell Westbrook to the Indiana Pacers for Myles Turner and multiple legitimate rotation players could be the Lakers’ smartest move as it could unleash untapped greatness in LeBron and AD.
Myles Turner Unleashes LeBron James and Anthony Davis
Myles Turner is the floor spacing, shot blocking modern center the Lakers need to make Darvin Ham’s 4-out offense and drop coverage defense work and free LeBron James and Anthony Davis to become their best versions.
If the Lakers want to have success offensively, they need a center who can stretch the floor and create spacing with his 3-point shooting and setting screens, and being a force in the paint for easy lobs, dunks, and put backs. While Turner is 26-years old, he’s made 391 out of 1,121 for 34.5% from deep in 7 years in the NBA. The Lakers’ only other stretch center, 25-year old Thomas Bryant, only made 92 out of 263 for 35.0% from deep in 5 years.
Besides being the proven stretch center the Lakers need offensively, Turner’s also the league’s top shot blocker and rim protector, averaging 2.3 blocks per game for his career and leading the league in blocks last 2 years. There’s discussion with the Lakers brain trust right now whether Turner’s defensive impact alone could even be more important for the Lakers than Irving’s shot creation and scoring. L.A.’s rim protection would be elite.
But even more important than the direct impact Turner will have on the Lakers offense and defense is the impact he will have in transforming and unleashing the games of the superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Starting Turner at center allows the Lakers to move James and Davis down a position, giving them a positional size advantage over the player they’re matching up against and giving L.A. the versatility to play both big or small.
Unlike Kyrie, who would take touches and points away from LeBron and AD, Myles Turner with his ability to stretch the court and protect the rim unlocks and unleashes superstars James and Davis to become their best.
LeBron James Conserves Energy As Lakers’ Stretch Power Forward
One of the biggest advantages of the Lakers trading for Myles Turner is it allows Darvin Ham to move both LeBron James and Anthony Davis down a position so they have a significant size advantage at their new positions.
The Lakers commitment to starting two bigs raises the question of where LeBron James and Anthony Davis play? While both can play either forward position, the Lakers should play James at the four to conserve his energy. Chasing bigger wing scorers around picks as a three is the last thing the Lakers want LeBron James doing in the season he turns 38-years old. The time has come for LeBron to become the Lakers’ stretch four or point four.
While the Lakers don’t want LeBron wearing himself out on defense, they do want the ball in his hands a lot on offense. With Westbrook playing point last season, LeBron saw his assists fall to 6.2 per game, lowest in 10 years. This season, expect LeBron to have the ball in his hands a lot more than last season as he continues to evolve into a point four who leads the team in assists and a stretch four who’s an NBA top-ten volume 3-point shooter.
One of the major changes in the Lakers roster this season is going to be a premium on size. While the NBA is increasingly turning to small ball, the Los Angeles Lakers have clearly zigged while everybody else was zagging. While the Lakers will start games with a front court of 6' 11" Myles Turner at the five, 6' 9" LeBron James at the four, and 6' 10" Anthony Davis at the three, they may close games with a small ball lineup with AD at the five.
Darvin Ham’s challenge is not just to find the best position for each player personally but the best position for each player that makes the team better. For the Lakers, point four and stretch four is that position for LeBron James.
Anthony Davis Becomes Lakers’ Leading Scorer and Wing Defender
While rim protection remains a major defensive goal, the most important defender in today’s game is probably the 6' 7" to 6' 10" 3&D wing defender who’s responsible for guarding the opposing team’s leading wing scorer.
One of the benefits of trading for Pacers center Myles Turner is it allows the Lakers to dedicate Anthony Davis to become the bigger wing stopper on defense that the Lakers and every single other NBA team desperately needs. The lack of a quality 6' 7" to 6' 10" wing defender to guard bigger scorers like Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Luka Doncic, Khris Middleton, and Paul George has been one of the Lakers major weaknesses the past 3 seasons.
Anthony Davis is one of the few two-way superstars in the NBA today. He can literally play and defend all five basketball positions on the court at all three levels, including the paint and low post, midrange, and 3-point line. With Turner and James protecting the rim, Davis can lock down the opposing team’s best bigger wing scorer and force him to give up the ball or take a contested shot against one of the best 1-on-1 defenders in the league.
Offensively, Davis will also be able to dominate smaller defenders by taking them into the post or midrange for easy turn around jumper. Playing the three, he will be able to face up and beat his defenders off the dribble. The spacing provided by surrounding Anthony Davis with two bigs and two guards who are all excellent 3-point shooters will enable Anthony Davis to have the greatest season of his career and maybe his first DPOY as a Laker.
With Turner as their stretch five and James their stretch four, the Los Angeles Lakers can play Anthony Davis at the three, where he can be the team’s leading scorer, defensive wing stopper, and face of the franchise.
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