The Los Angeles Lakers suddenly find themselves with a difficult decision. How do they solve their need for a second playmaker when LeBron James sits? With Rajon Rondo struggling mightily, the team standing pat at the trade deadline, and Darren Collison surprisingly reversing himself and deciding he was not going to unretire, the Lakers’ options are limited. Fortunately, they just might have an ideal solution already on the roster.
While putting the ball in Anthony Davis’ hands when LeBron James is on the bench might seem counter intuitive, AD is already the team’s third best playmaker, averaging a career best 3.3 assists per game. The strategy would be out-of-the-box and require the Lakers to go small with Davis surrounded by a quartet of elite three-point shooters who could stretch the defense and open the floor for him to attack the rim or hit open shooters.
Unlike the current rotation when James rests, the Lakers would surround Davis with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green, Jared Dudley, and Quinn Cook, the team’s four highest percentage three-point shooters with non-threats JaVale McGee, Dwight Howard, and Rajon Rondo on the bench. This would open the floor for AD to attack the rim or pass to open three-point shooters if the defense collapsed or tried to double him.
Defensively, Dudley could guard the opposing team’s center to keep Davis from having to bang in the post and allow him to roam as the team’s rim protector. A lineup of Davis, Dudley, Caldwell-Pope, Green, and Cook would be excellent defensively. While Dudley and Cook haven’t played big minutes, they currently have the top two defensive ratings on the team, while Davis, Green, and Caldwell-Pope are proven elite defenders.
KCP or Cook could easily bring the ball up the court and either give the ball to Davis at the top of the key or on the left wing where he often likes to start. With McGee or Howard and Rondo on the bench and surrounded by four dead-eye shooters, Anthony Davis would finally have a wide open floor in which to operate and display his offensive repertoire and playmaking abilities. It’s the solution that would unleash his All-World abilities.
The Lakers are close to an unbeatable team when James and Davis are on the court together. They’re also dominant when LeBron James plays without Anthony Davis. They only struggle when LeBron sits, primarily because they don’t have a trustworthy second playmaker. But they can solve that problem by jettisoning the traditional lineups with Rondo at the point and McGee or Howard at the five and playing small ball.
And they don’t have to sacrifice defense or force Anthony Davis to play the five. They don’t even have risk their great team chemistry by cutting one of their essential role players for an unproven player from the buyout market. All they have to do is embrace analytics and deploy the same tried and tested formula of surrounding Anthony Davis with four elite shooters and show everybody what life will be like for the Lakers without LeBron James.
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