The same news cycle kicks off each season for the Los Angeles Lakers. The previous season, Anthony Davis began as power forward, but this may be the year he switches to center full-time. The Lakers started the season with DeAndre Jordan at center even the year before, when the addition of Russell Westbrook at point guard called for smaller lines with a greater emphasis on space.
Davis has publicly said that he prefers to play power forward. In an effort to protect Davis, the Lakers added Damian Jones and Thomas Bryant this offseason. Yet, with just one week till the start of the season, Lakers coach Darvin Ham brought up the subject on Monday.
At Monday’s practice, Ham stated that “AD (starting) at the five is under significant consideration.” The fact that this occurs the day after Davis started at center in a preseason game and put up 28 points in 21 minutes may not be a coincidence. All four of the Lakers’ exhibition games have featured a different starting center, with Damian Jones, Thomas Bryant, and Wenyen Gabriel all receiving consideration.
Davis has historically fared better for the Laker lineups with him at center than those with him at power forward. That makes sense, in a way. When surrounded with shooting that is unlikely to come from a traditional center, big men typically find it simpler to attack.
Even when he is the only big man for the Lakers, Davis’ defensive prowess has allowed them to maintain their advantage in that area of the court.
The potential trade-off is that Davis is prone to injuries. A heavier physical toll is incurred when playing center than when playing power forward. At least in part because of this, Davis seemed to enjoy playing alongside another big man. If Davis is unable to participate in lineups with him at center, it makes no difference how well they do.
The Lakers are attempting to strike this balance this year. They must make the most of their personnel, but not at the expense of increased injury risks. Davis has typically started games at power forward and switched to center only when the situation calls for it. Maybe Ham will come to that conclusion, or maybe the coach will opt to permanently transfer him to center.