Los Angeles Lakers big man Anthony Davis has long resisted a move to the center position, generally feeling more comfortable at power forward.
Because of that, the Lakers have done all they can to give Davis minutes where he prefers to play, only putting him at center in emergency situations. One of those may be on the horizon against the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals.
In the Lakers’ 20 most used lineups during the regular season, Davis played center in just eight of them. However, only one five-man combination with Davis at center ranked in the top seven of their most frequent lineups.
That grouping — featuring Davis, Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo and Kyle Kuzma — shared the court for just 71 minutes during the entirety of the regular season.
However, it appears change may be on the horizon for L.A. with regard to Davis’ minutes, as he might be ready for bigger minutes at center against a small-ball Rockets team, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:
Lakers star Anthony Davis is not fond of playing center, but he wouldn’t be going up against a traditional big in this matchup. Davis is willing to slide up from power forward in this series, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
We’ve already started to see this shift in the postseason. L.A. has used just 10 lineups for seven or more minutes during the playoffs, with five of them sporting Davis in the center position.
And although it’s a small sample size over just six games, the Lakers’ best lineup appears to be one with Davis at the 5. The combination of Davis, Caruso, Kuzma, Danny Green and LeBron James has a ridiculous 37.4 net rating. Per 100 possessions, the lineup scores 117.4 points while giving up a measly 80.
For some reason, those five have played only nine minutes together in the Lakers six playoff games thus far. However, if the Lakers want to win games, it may be that lineup that will get the job done.
Davis signaling he’s ready to take on a larger center role could serve as a major turning point for L.A. However, it also will mean the Lakers’ lone big man will be pulled away from the rim, which could further open up the paint for James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
Davis emphasizes spacing, movement
Regardless of which position Davis plays, he will be guarded by a defender smaller than him. The Rockets often doubled Davis and prevented him from establishing position deep in the post throughout Game 1.
“They try to keep me away from the rim. We tried to get me off screens and things like that, but that’s their defense. Even when I’m there, they’re fronting the post and then they’ve got guys on the backside to try to cover up,” Davis explained after the loss.
“I think if we make a couple more shots it kind of opens it up. When I catch it down there I’m getting the looks that I want. At the same time, I think we’ve got to do a better job with our spacing and cutting, so if they are fronting, flashing a guy and working on counters to make sure we make them pay for the defense they’re trying to play.”
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!