What Does Running Lakers’ Offense Through Anthony Davis Really Mean?
During a meeting between the Lakers and Klutch Sports, Lakers’ head coach Darvin Ham proclaimed he planned to ‘run the Lakers’ offense through Anthony Davis’ this coming season, a move approved by LeBron James.
This would be a major change for any LeBron team much less a Lakers team that’s relied upon the ball being in James’ hands since he signed as a free agent four years ago. Whether Ham can accomplish this is uncertain. What Ham’s proclamation and James’ approval signal is a recognition that it’s time for Anthony Davis to take the baton as the face of the franchise and for the Lakers to begin limiting the workload on 37-year old LeBron James.
The Lakers’ major offensive challenge has been creating spacing to prevent teams from packing the paint and forcing LeBron James and Anthony Davis to settle for outside jumpers rather than attacking the paint and the basket. Darvin Ham’s pitch to the Lakers’ front office was that the 4-out offense he ran on the Bucks with Antetokounmpo, Lopez, and Holiday could create the spacing needed by the Lakers’ big three of James, Davis, and Westbrook.
Let’s look at why Darvin Ham’s 4-out offense should give LeBron and AD more spacing than last year’s 5-out sets, where James and Davis play in the new offense, and what it means to run the offense through Anthony Davis.
Why Do 4-Out Sets Provide Better Spacing Than 5-Out Sets?
The above is the Milwaukee Bucks practice court with five blue rectangles head coach Mike Budenholzer had drawn on the court to show his players where they should be in the 4-out offense to create the best spacing.
Before changing to a 4-out offense two years ago, Budenholzer had been running 5-out sets but had been frustrated how, even with all five players spaced outside the 3-point line, defenders were still close enough to help. Switching to 4-out sets where first player down the court fills the dunker slot and the next two the corners pins three defenders to the baseline to give the remaining two offensive players the maximum possible spacing.
Budenholzer’s goal in evolving from a 5-out offense to a 4-out offense was to increase the space between defenders so that it become more difficult for defenders to help or stop scoring wings from attacking the paint and rim. Obviously, Pelinka and the Lakers’ front office are betting the spacing from Darvin Ham‘s’4-out offense can do for LeBron James and Anthony Davis what it did for the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.
In today’s NBA, the prevailing theory is 5-out sets maximize spacing. While 5-out sets spread defenses and force every player to defend the 3-point line, 4-out sets give elite perimeter players more space to attack defenses.
Where Do LeBron James and Anthony Davis Play in 4-Out Offense?
Unlike Frank Vogel offense, Darvin Ham’s 4-out offense is a positionless system. Players take spots on the court based on the order they arrive in the front court rather than the position in the lineup they play.
In Darvin Ham’s 4-out offense, the first player down the court takes the dunker spot, in this case Brook Lopez. The second and third players down the court — Bobby Portis and Grayson Allen — go to left and right corners. Assuming no early offense, the fourth and fifth players down the court — Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton — become the wings with potential help defenders too far away to keep them from penetrating.
The Lakers will be actively looking for early offense opportunities, either a pass to AD or another defender who leaked out after challenging a 3-point shot or to the second and third players who filled the left and right corner. While the Lakers new offense is positionless, LeBron James and Anthony Davis will often wind up being the two wings at the top of the key with the other three players and their defenders lined up along the baseline.
While there will be matchups where the Lakers’ superstars post up, James and Davis will usually be positioned on the wings above the break with the greatest possible space between help defenders on the left and right.
What Does Running the Offense Through Anthony Davis Really Mean?
Running the offense through Anthony Davis really means featuring him as the Lakers’ primary offensive weapon, the superstar whom the team relies upon to lead in scoring and get them a bucket when desperately needed.
The last three years, LeBron James remained as the Lakers’ leading scorer, averaging 25.3, 25.0, and 30.3 points per game versus 26.1, 21.8, and 23.2 points per game averaged by Anthony Davis during the same three years. When it came to total shot attempts, LeBron James averaged 19.4, 18.3, and 21.8 shot attempts per game the last three years versus 17.7, 17.0, and 17.4 shot attempts per game for Anthony Davis over the same three years.
If the Lakers want to compete for an NBA championship, they’re going to need both LeBron James and Anthony Davis to stay healthy all season and perform at the same heightened level they played to win in the bubble. Realistically, if the Lakers run their offense through AD, he should be expected to lead the team with 20 shot attempts and 30 points per game with LeBron backing him up with 15 shot attempts and 25 points per game.
The Los Angeles Lakers are at a critical crossroads and desperately need to find out whether Anthony Davis can take the baton from LeBron James and become the lead superstar through whom they can run their offense.
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