Could Myles Turner Be Key to Lakers Unleashing the Best of Anthony Davis?
Let’s start with the assumption the Los Angeles Lakers will need superstar Anthony Davis to remain healthy and have a career best season to have any chance at winning their league best 18th NBA championship this season.
With Father Time limiting 38-year old LeBron James, the Lakers realize any future championships are going to need superstar Anthony Davis to make the proverbial next leap and take the baton as the best player on the planet. Darvin Ham, the Lakers’ new coach has said as much: “I would say he’s (AD) the biggest factor,” Ham said. “I’m looking forward to him having a huge year this year. I know the way we’re going to play is going to benefit him.”
Ham’s strategy is to replicate the offensive and defensive schemes the Bucks used to win the 2022 NBA championship with Brook Lopez playing the five, Giannis Antetokounmpo at the four, and Khris Middleton playing the three. Right now the Lakers’ plan is to start Damian Jones or Thomas Bryant at the five, Anthony Davis at the four, and LeBron James at the three. The big weakness in the plan is that neither Jones or Bryant are Brook Lopez.
While the Lakers still hope to be able to trade for Kyrie Irving, there are strong arguments to be made that the smartest move Rob Pelinka could make right now would be to trade for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield.
1. Trading for Myles Turner Will Help Anthony Davis Stay Healthy
After winning the 2020 NBA championship in the bubble, the Los Angeles Lakers and their fans thought superstar Anthony Davis was on the verge of taking the baton from LeBron James as the best player on the planet.
Unfortunately, the last two seasons featured Davis and James both taking major steps backward with multiple injuries that limited the games they played with the team losing in a first round exit and missing the playoffs. While much blame for the last two seasons has to go to injuries, the Lakers front office also did a poor job constructing the roster around LeBron and AD, leading to their playing a position up against bigger players last season.
Last season, an undersized Lakers front court struggling to stay healthy, with Davis playing center 76% of the time but missing 42 games to injury while James played center 50% of the time while missing 26 games to injury. While it’s hard to pin Davis and James’ injuries to playing up a position, there’s no question the undersized Lakers lost any positional size advantage they once had and were destroyed on the boards and points in the paint.
The Lakers biggest weakness now is not having a starting quality modern center who can fill the role Lopez filled for the Bucks. Trading for Myles Turner would go a long way to preserving Davis and James.
2. Trading for Myles Turner Will Create Spacing for Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis’ dream is to play the three, where he can face up and use his point guard handle and quickness to beat his defender off the dribble and attack the paint for easy layups, dunks, floaters, and step-back jump shots.
The key to optimizing Anthony Davis’ skillset is making sure he is getting the ball where he has a clear advantage over his defender. The reality is he is better off playing in space as a stretch four than in the post as a five. Since the Lakers traded for Davis, they have failed to pair him with a modern center like Turner, who could not only create space for him with his 3-point shooting but also allow him to roam more as a help defender.
During the three seasons Davis has played for the Lakers, the only time he was paired with a stretch five center was in 2020–21 when he played 30 games and 471 minutes with Marc Gasol and posted an 11.1 net rating. Marc Gasol shot 41% on 2.3 3PA per game during that season. To compare, Myles Turner shot just 33.3% on 4.4 3PA per game while Damian Jones shot 34.5% on 0.5 3PA per game and Bryant shot 28.6% on 1.6 3PA per game.
Bottom line, neither Jones or Bryant have enough 3-point gravity to create needed spacing for Anthony Davis and LeBron James. If the Lakers want spacing for AD and LeBron, then they need to trade for Myles Turner.
3. Trading for Myles Turner Will Give Lakers Elite Rim Protection
Turner has averaged 2.3 blocks and 0.7 steals per game over his seven seasons with the Indiana Pacers. He led the league in blocked shots the last two seasons, posting 2.8 blocks last season and 3.4 blocks the previous year.
When you combine Turner’s and Davis’ stats, they have 5.3 blocks per game last season and 5.0 blocks per game the previous season. No duo on the same team in modern pro basketball history has averaged over 5.0 blocks. The combination of Turner and Davis would enable the Lakers to put a lid on the basket when both were on the court and have elite rim protection for 48 minutes per game by making sure Turner or Davis was on the court.
While the value of centers in the NBA is at an all-time low because teams can play them off the floor by going small, the Lakers with Anthony Davis on the roster are the perfect NBA team to start Myles Turner at stretch five. The versatility of having Turner and Davis to anchor the defense would make the Lakers the toughest defensive team in the entire league, which is the key to the purple-and-gold winning their 18th NBA championship.
Myles Turner on the roster gives the Lakers the ability to play big or small with a lethal jumbo lineup to go with their deadly small-ball-on-steroids lineups with Anthony Davis at center that was dominant in the bubble.
4. Trading for Myles Turner Lets Anthony Davis Be Wing Stopper
The biggest advantage of trading for Myles Turner to play center full-time would be freeing superstar Anthony Davis to become the Lakers’ lock down wing stopper on defense, filling the team’s need for a big wing defender.
There’s no question Anthony Davis can guard all five positions at all three levels of the court: in the post, in the midrange, and beyond the arc. Trading for Turner finally allows the Lakers to best utilize superstar Anthony Davis. With Turner playing the five, LeBron James and Anthony Davis can then play the three and four. The problem is the last thing the Lakers want is for 38-year old LeBron James to be chasing after wing scorers off of screens.
The smarter move is to have James and Davis swap positions. Let the younger Davis be the bigger wing defender the Lakers desperately need while allowing the older and slower LeBron to save energy at the four. Basically, trading for Turner enables the Lakers to move Davis to the three to take advantage of his elite 1-on-1 individual defense while keeping 38-year old LeBron James at the four to prevent more wear-and-tear.
Dedicating Anthony Davis to become the Lakers wing stopper would plug a major hole in the Lakers defensive strategy and would enable AD to make the leap to replace LeBron James as the Lakers #1 player and top superstar.
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