If any Lakers news this offseason deserved a Woj Bomb, it was Mark Stein’s report that the Lakers covet a “difference-making playmaker who would allow James and Davis to spend more time at power forward and center.”
This is blockbuster news for the Lakersverse. If true, Stein’s report basically says the Lakers are considering abandoning what has been a two-year campaign to accommodate Anthony Davis’ preference not to play the five. While Davis’ best position is the five and the Lakers’ best lineups are with him at the five, Los Angeles finally appears to be ready to commit to James and Davis playing the 4 and 5 in both the regular season and the playoffs.
So why the change in strategy, a move that obviously has to have LeBron James’ and Anthony Davis’ approval as well as the Lakers’ front office and coaching staffs, and how will that impact the team’s offseason moves?
WHAT POSITIONS HAVE LEBRON AND AD BEEN PLAYING?
If Mark Stein’s report proves to be correct, moving LeBron James to the 4 and Anthony Davis to the 5 represents a dramatic and stunning strategic change in how the Lakers will utilize their two superstars next season.
In his three Lakers seasons, James has spent 43% of his regular season minutes and 46% of his playoff minutes at point guard with only 11% of his regular season minutes and none of his playoff minutes at power forward. Davis meanwhile has played 71% of his regular season minutes and 47% of his playoff minutes at power forward and just 29% of his regular season minutes and 53% of his playoff minutes as a Laker playing center.
The Lakers are now considering making a radical lineup change for the upcoming NBA season by having LeBron James move from point guard to power forward and Anthony Davis move from power forward to center.
WHAT’S BEHIND THE SUDDEN CHANGE IN STRATEGY?
After spending most of last regular season and playoffs actively avoiding LeBron at the four or AD at the five, what happened to suddenly cause the Lakers to decide to change course and embrace a James/Davis four/five?
The easiest explanation is the Lakers know they do not have the cap space or trading chips to transform the current roster to championship caliber so they smartly decided to take best advantage of the personnel they currently have. The James/Davis small ball lineup is clearly the Lakers best lineup. They just need to add an elite point guard so LeBron could move to the four and rethink how to prevent AD from getting injured so he can play the five.
The Lakers know small ball is the future of the league and moving LeBron to the four and Anthony to the five will optimize their superstars andmake it easier for them to add the shooters and defenders they need to win the title.
HOW WILL THE CHANGE IMPACT LAKERS’ OFFSEASON?
The biggest challenge the Lakers will have converting to a James/Davis small ball lineup for next season is finding a ‘difference-making playmaker’ to replace LeBron James at point guard so he can move to power forward.
A starting lineup with LeBron at the four and AD at the five also opens up an opportunity for the Lakers to add a bigger 3&D wing player like PJ Tucker, who can shoot the corner three and defend high-scoring twos and threes. Tucker would be the perfect player for the Lakers to target as their starting three. Signing him would give the Lakers three starting front court players who could guard all five positions at all three levels of the court.
Finally, whom the Lakers start at shooting guard will depend on whom they acquire to start at the point. If they acquire a point guard who’s a volume deadeye 3-point shooter, then they might survive with THT at the two.
WHY WILL THE LAKERS SMALL BALL LINEUP BE BETTER?
By redeploying their two superstars, the Los Angeles Lakers found a path to rebuild their roster to championship caliber despite not having open cap space for free agents or trading chips to pull off mega deals for elite players.
Starting James at the four and Davis at the five not only takes advantage of the front court pairing the Lakers used to win their 17th NBA championship in the bubble last year but opens up opportunities for more 3-point shooting. The Lakers have a better chance of finding an elite 3&D wing to start at the three alongside LeBron and AD at the four and five than finding a center to play alongside Davis that wouldn’t be played off the court in the playoffs.
By committing to the James/Davis front court that won the championship, the Lakers have given themselves a chance to roll out their best potential lineup with both of their superstars finally playing their ideal positions.
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