Ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers’ first-round series against the Phoenix Suns, Frank Vogel is faced with the difficult task of figuring out the team’s center rotation. Last season, he was very bold in his decision-making, opting to bench his two centers outright against multiple playoff opponents.
However, this season is different, as he has three centers in Andre Drummond, Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell outside of Anthony Davis who all bring completely unique skills to the table. However, the Suns play a much different, guard-centric style of basketball, which is usually the type of series that would lend itself to all three centers being played off the floor.
Still, Vogel said he’s going to try multiple different looks to get Gasol, Drummond and Harrell playing time. “Yeah, we’re going to look at everything,” Vogel said. “One of the games that we played Marc [Gasol] and Trezz together against Phoenix and they had some success.
“Obviously, we looked at some things defensively that were a concern as well, but everybody has to stay ready, including being able to use lineups at the five and we’ll do everything we’ll be able to do to win that game and like I said, everybody’s staying ready for when their number is called.”
If it turns out that the Lakers simply can’t afford to have anyone but Davis at the center position, then Vogel appears unafraid to make that adjustment for the second straight year. “For me it’s just about whatever it takes to win that game. We coach to win. We set that tone with our group at the beginning of the season every year and our guys understand that some nights they’re gonna play more than others and we’re gonna put the guys out there that are gonna help us win that game.
“I put a great deal of thought into how a game can play out and what impact certain guys will have on that game and obviously the coaching staff does a great job making group decisions with me in-game to help us feel that stuff out. It doesn’t always play out well, but it’s one of those things where you just study relentlessly to be as prepared as possible and make the best decisions that you can.”
For the minutes that DeAndre Ayton is on the court for the Suns, having a traditional center might be a benefit. However, the Suns do not have another traditional big outside of Ayton, generally opting to play Dario Saric at the center position otherwise.
If that’s the case, it’s unlikely that any one of the three centers will be able to get minutes, perhaps with the exception of Harrell, who has shown an ability to dominate against the Suns during the regular season.
Davis discusses defensive plan of attack for Suns mid-range game
Given that the Suns focus much of their offense around their guards, it’s no surprise that they feature a heavy mid-range game. Davis spoke about how the Lakers plan to manage that. “It’s different for our scheme because we like to allow guys to play in that mid-range and we try to take away the paint and the threes knowing that the league has become a 3-point shooting league,” explained Davis. “So we try to take that away but this team thrives on mid-range field goals. So it’s a little different for us but we know we can do it.
“We can adjust, for sure. But this team is a great shooting team, not just from the mid-range. They can also spread it out and hit a three as well. So it’s puts us in a little bind but our job is to just make them all contested and make them tough shots and we know they’re gonna make shots. They have some big-time shotmakers, big-time players. So we can’t hang our heads down when they make tough shots, whether it’s a two or a three. What we can do is get the ball out and run right back at them or like I said, contest all shots and if they make it then tap them on the ass and just get back down the floor.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!