The Los Angeles Lakers went through a serious personnel overhaul in the offseason, bringing back just three players from last year’s roster for the 2021-22 campaign. Notably, the team’s front office and the coaching staff decided to build the team’s frontcourt using the blueprint drawn during the title-winning 2019-20 season — where Anthony Davis plays the jack-of-all-trades role.
Many expected the Lakers to play Davis at the center position on a regular basis during the upcoming campaign, with big rim protectors Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan supporting the 28-year-old All-Star from the bench. However, as head coach Frank Vogel explained recently, playing a small-ball line-up has its implications, particularly on the defensive end.
Davis has said he has been involved in many conversations with his frontcourt partners — Howard, Jordan and Carmelo Anthony — figuring out their defensive responsibilities. Those vary a lot, he points out, depending on whether he plays as the forward or center.
“I think last year, a little bit I was kind of anchoring the defense but I was playing the four, so I’m usually in actions guarding the perimeter,” Davis said. “Now at the five guarding the bigs, I get to see everything on the floor and able to anchor the defense and talk to the guys.
“So that role is a little different but I think me and Melo have had the biggest communication on the defensive end trying to figure out our 4-5 pick-and-rolls, are we switching, are we chasing over? We messed up a couple times and we both get frustrated because we want to do the right thing. But I’m still there trying to talk to everybody out there on the floor and figure out what we can do to be better defensively.”
The loss of Trevor Ariza, who was tipped to play as the primary wing defender with Davis deployed as the center, might force the Lakers to use small-ball lineups less frequently in the first weeks of the season. In the lead-up to the Oct. 19 tip-off, Vogel has used both small-ball formations as well as line-ups with a traditional big — starting Jordan at the five — in the preseason.
James wants Lakers to establish a go-to starting lineup
LeBron James has said L.A. boasts a deep and versatile roster that allows the coaching staff to play many different line-ups. However, the four-time NBA champion hopes the Lakers will come to the point when they have a well-established starting unit.
“Obviously, we want to get to a point where we have a starting lineup in place where you have those minutes and then we have a rotation in place where guys know when they’re coming in,” James said.
“You have these minutes with these guys. You work up that chemistry on the floor, you work up the camaraderie until you know like what’s going on the floor. So guys know where guys are going to be because you worked and logged enough minutes. It’s up to the coaching staff what they feel best fits our ballclub and we’ll go from there.”
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