Dwight Howard or Avery Bradley deciding not to play in Orlando because it would distract from the Black Lives Matter movement could ironically end up helping the Los Angeles Lakers win their 17th NBA championship.
Before you throw your hands up in frustration, let me first say I don’t expect either player to decide not to play because playing would ultimately provide a better platform for them to support Black Lives Matter than not playing. Dwight and Avery both understand this and will likely not want to let down their teammates, especially 35-year old LeBron James, who took the mantle from Kobe Bryant and desperately wants to win his first title as a Laker.
However, the reality is there are reasons why Dwight Howard and/or Avery Bradley deciding not to play could make the Lakers a more dangerous team come the playoffs due to the changes and moves they would have to make. Howard or Bradley opting not to play would give the Lakers an open roster spot to add DeMarcus Cousins, something that would otherwise require them to waive somebody, most likely talented rookie Talen Horton-Tucker.
Adding Cousins is a move the Lakers need to make to give them the stretch five center they need to open up the paint for LeBron and AD to attack the rim and to keep Boogie in the fold and guarantee his return next season. He’s the center Anthony Davis loves and wants to play with because he can stretch defenses with this three-point shooting, handle the banging in the post, and enable AD to play his preferred power forward position.
The Lakers’ strategy has always been to limit Anthony Davis’ regular season minutes at center but unleash him as their small ball five for the playoffs, especially against teams who clog up the paint like the Clippers and Bucks. Even if Howard and Bradley opt to play in Orlando, the Lakers will likely waive Horton-Tucker so they can add Boogie. If Cousins is healthy, I would expect he and Davis to cover the majority of available center minutes.
Howard’s minutes would likely be limited if he decides to play and Cousins is healthy enough to play. Signing Boogie could signal the Lakers might be moving on from Dwight, who’s due a big raise as a free agent next season. Bradley not playing would be a bigger loss could also open the door for KCP to to start and get more minutes or even for wildcard Dion Waiters to get an opportunity to earn playing time with his ability to create his own shot.
While Dwight Howard and/or Avery Bradley deciding not to play could hurt the Lakers’ depth, the moves shouldn’t hinder the team’s strategy to replace traditional center minutes with Davis or Cousins playing stretch five. Ultimately, a Lakers team with five players who can shoot the three ball would make the Lakers a more dangerous team, especially against their main competitors the Los Angeles Clippers and the Milwaukee Bucks.
Thus, Howard and/or Bradley not playing could end facilitating the Lakers’ shift from lineups with a traditional low post center to small ball and stretch five lineups that could help the Lakers win their 17th NBA championship.
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