In filling out their roster around LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers seemingly focused on adding several wing players to the fold. JaVale McGee was the lone true center signed, and he’s poised to begin training camp as the likely starter at the position.
Behind McGee are Ivica Zubac, who’s coming off a down season, and rookie Moritz Wagner. If there’s a position of weakness for the Lakers, it would appear to be in the middle. However, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson hardly views the situation as such.
“We’re very happy. Again, you know the game has gone to there’s not a true center playing back [to the basket],” he said at UCLA Health Training Center. “We feel we have two players at every position; a starter and then a backup to that person. You’ll see Luke use different combinations, but again, I can’t tell you that. That’s up to him.”
Johnson is particularly bullish on the dynamic McGee brings to the team. “Man we haven’t had a player like JaVale for a long time around here. The guy is just blocking shots. It’s just unbelievable to see how active he is,” Johnson said.
“Also, our pick-and-roll changes, too. You can throw the lob up to him.”
For all the praise Johnson heaped on the Lakers’ new center, he stopped short of predicting or demanding McGee play significant minutes on a nightly basis. “That’s not my decision,” Johnson said, deferring to Lakers head coach Luke Walton.
While the Lakers roster may be a bit thin on true centers, general manager Rob Pelinka is confident they have the necessary players to mitigate that. “We have seven or more guys that are 6’9, 6’10 or above. I think that’s plenty of size and versatility for today’s game,” he said.
“As the game is moving to be more positionless, we don’t even talk about center and point guard. It’s a positionless game and we have a versatile, long roster and adequate size.”
Among those who may be relied upon to fill minutes at the center position is Michael Beasley in a small lineup. Although he’s not necessarily the first to come to mind, Johnson championed Beasley as being able to play “multiple positions.”