Anthony Davis’ desire to play power forward instead of center is the only thing that could prevent him from joining Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Wilt Chamberlain and becoming the next great Lakers’ center.
Anthony Davis is a enigma in that he’s a basketball player who does not want to play center, the position at which he’s arguably the best at in the world. He believes playing power forward is better for his game, career, and longevity. The truth is center is Davis’ best position and more that he plays center, the better the Lakers become as a team. AD always said he would play center when needed and did so for 50% of his minutes in last year’s playoffs.
Since signing Davis, the Lakers have worked hard to accommodate their superstar’s preference not to play the five. They’ve tweaked their roster so he’s only had to play center 7% of the time this season versus 25% last year. The Lakers also signed 27-year old center Andre Drummond from the buyout market to play big minutes in these playoffs and protect Davis from having to spend half his time at center like he did in the playoffs last year.
Coming off a calf injury that cost 2 months and 30 games, Davis and the Lakers will both be looking for ways to continue limiting his minutes at center in the playoffs, though that might not be the smartest thing to do.
THE MODERN PROTOTYPE CENTER
Anthony Davis is the prototype modern NBA center, a gifted physical big with the skills and tool set of a guard. He’s a superstar who can score and defend buckets at all three levels: at the rim, from midrange, or from three
A modern center trapped in a world where positionless basketball has made traditional low post centers close to obsolete, Anthony Davis’ unprecedented skills on offense and defense have freed him to redefine what centers can do. Not limited to simply scoring and defending in the paint, Anthony’s range enables him to extend his skill set to the full court, making and blocking shots at the rim or taking and challenging jumpers from midrange and three.
While Davis is the ultimate unicorn in game of basketball, his preference to play power forward rather than deal with the physicality and banging of playing center full time has dominated the Lakers’ roster building efforts. From last year’s tandem of JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard to this year’s hybrid duo of Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell and recent signing of Andre Drummond, the Lakers have struggled to find a center to pair with Davis.
Rather than trying to accommodate his preference to play power forward, maybe the Lakers should focus on figuring out how to optimize Anthony Davis superstar potential by empowering him to play center all of the time.
EMPOWERING DAVIS TO PLAY CENTER
Is Davis not wanting to play center blasphemous or simply recognition centers in the modern NBA have evolved into a multi-positional players who have to be versatile enough to able to play and defend the four and the five?
Let’s be honest. It’s not that Anthony Davis doesn’t want to play the five. He just doesn’t want to be tied down to playing ‘old school,’ low post basketball where he doesn’t have freedom to utilize his full skill set as a modern center. He just doesn’t want to have to bang in the paint and defend bigger physical centers, which is something the Lakers could address like they did in the playoffs last year when Davis played the five and Markieff Morris the four.
If center is Davis’ best position and the Lakers are at their best when he plays center, shouldn’t the top priority then be to figure out how to make that work rather than futilely chasing different options to replace him at center? Traditional centers who clog the paint on offense and lack the mobility to switch and rotate on defense are not the answer as the Lakers have found with McGee and Howard last year and Drummond, Gasol, and Harrell this year.
The Lakers’ goal should be to free Anthony Davis to play the five. The only ways to unleash his potential is to go small and pair him with a stretch 4 power forward who can defend like Markieff Morris or even LeBron James.
AD MUST PLAY CENTER IN PLAYOFFS
Regardless of the addition of Andre Drummond and the desire to limit AD’s minutes at the five, the Lakers are going to need Anthony Davis to play the center close to half of the time if they hope to repeat as NBA champions.
The Lakers’ likely playoff opponents are the Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, LA Clippers, and Brooklyn Nets, which means Anthony Davis’ likely center opponents are Nikola Jokic, Rudy Gobert, Ivica Zubac, and Blake Griffin. None of these are centers whose brute physicality and banging in the post should deter Anthony Davis from defending them and all of them are centers who’ll struggle mightily to defend Davis outside of the paint or from deep.
Anthony Davis and the Lakers need to realize that limiting the minutes that he plays center is the last thing they should be doing in the playoffs. They need to be strategizing how to get Davis more minutes at center not less. Playing Davis at the four with Drummond, Gasol, or Harrell at the five only weakens the Lakers defensively as none of their three centers are elite rim protectors and Drummond and Harrell lack the ability to space the floor.
Going big doesn’t work when none of your bigs can protect the rim or rotate quickly enough to play the aggressive defense Vogel prefers. The Lakers need to change gears and look to go small in the playoffs with AD at the five.
The Lakers efforts to accommodate Anthony Davis’ desire to play the four are threatening to undermine the Los Angeles Lakers’ chances to repeat as NBA champions because none of the centers on the roster complement AD.
If the Lakers are going to win the championship, they need to abandon the mistaken idea that Andre Drummond, Marc Gasol, or Montrezl Harrell will be capable of giving them what they need from the center position to win. Anybody watching this team can tell you right now that Drummond, Gasol, and Harrell don’t have the defensive mind set or skill sets the Lakers need. Anthony Davis is going to have to play center if the Lakers want to win.
While Anthony Davis may not want to play big minutes at center, the Lakers are going to need him to do that in the playoffs this year just like last year. The sooner they realize this and make the necessary adjustments, the better. Should that mean that the Lakers go small with Davis at the five and James, Morris, and/or Kuzma at the four, then so be it. The Lakers are not going to win the championship with Drummond, Gasol, or Harrell at the five.
Anthony Davis playing center is the key to the Lakers winning their 18th NBA championship and Davis joining Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Wilt Chamberlain and becoming the next great Lakers’ center.
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