On Thursday, word got out that Los Angeles Lakers center DeMarcus Cousins suffered a torn ACL in a private pickup game earlier this week. Cousins, who had spent most of the last season rehabbing a torn Achilles and a ruptured quad, was expected to man the center position for the Lakers in conjunction with JaVale McGee.
Now, with Cousins out for most, if not all, of the year, the Lakers have a hole at the center position. McGee will likely start but power forward Anthony Davis has made it clear he does not want to play the center position in order to prevent wear and tear on his body. Even after news of the injury, the Lakers seem to be moving forward under that same assumption, according to NBA TV’s Jared Greenberg:
In the wake of the DeMarcus Cousins news a high ranking member of the Lakers tells me that they do not expect nor do they want Anthony Davis to play “big minutes” at center this season @NBATV
— Jared Greenberg (@JaredSGreenberg) August 16, 2019
There is some room for interpretation in this report. What constitutes “big minutes” for Davis at center?
McGee has always had questions about whether he can play heavy minutes. He started off last year doing just that at a very high level. But a long bout with pneumonia made it impossible to evaluate whether that was a feasible option for an 82-game regular season. Still, the Nevada product ended up averaging 22.3 minutes per game over the course of the season. If he could increase that to closer to 30 as a starter, would Davis be willing to play the remaining 18 minutes at that position?
What seems more likely is that the Lakers will use their final roster spot, which they had previously hoped to hold open until the trade and buyout markets took shape during the season, on an emergency center. The list of names still available is not encouraging (Joakim Noah may be the best option) but there are several free agents who could play 10 to 15 minutes a night, leaving Davis just crunch time minutes to play the center spot.
The Lakers have a bit of time to decide what they want to do. The probable course of action, despite a need for another big wing, is to sign a center now and cut a player later if the buyout market shapes up as they hope.