Have you heard about the debate regarding Anthony Davis and the starting center position for the Lakers? If not, then you obviously haven’t been paying attention to Lakers coverage this summer. The topic has basically been the headliner for Lakers news this offseason, something that’s truly impressive (or sad depending how you look at it) considering the team traded for Russell Westbrook. But still, this conversation may have such vitriol due to Westbrook, as Davis starting at the five would solve a lot of spacing and shooting issues for head coach Frank Vogel.
There’s always the idea of flip-flopping Davis between the four and five positions of the starting lineup, depending on who might be injured on the team at the time or even the matchup of that night’s game. Although Frank Vogel does entertain the idea of changing things depending on who they’ll be playing that evening, he downplays the idea of constant changes in the lineup (h/t Jacob Rude of Silver Screen & Roll).
“It’s been different every day,” head coach Frank Vogel said after practice on Tuesday. “We’re trying to play those three guys as much as possible early in camp while they haven’t been playing the games. Just trying to get as many minutes together as we can with that. We look at a different combination every day. There’s a lot to learn about every group that you see whether we’re playing a big alongside AD or playing AD at the five.”
“I don’t want to get into a situation where we’re changing lineups on a regular basis,” Vogel said. “I think hopefully when we start the season we can settle into our base look and audible time-to-time if needed, but I don’t want to be changing every other game.”
If Davis ends up starting at the four for most of the season, Dwight Howard or DeAndre Jordan will start at the five. With their current talent and athleticism levels deep into their careers, those two centers are more appropriately slated as backup options. However, sometimes you have to give some players more minutes when constructing a team of three superstars on massive deals with nearly everyone else on the team with veteran minimum contracts.
Of course, if Davis starts at the four, that doesn’t mean he will only play the four during games. He played 40% of his minutes in the 2019-20 season at the five despite starting at the four for every single regular season game he played in. However, he was used sparingly at the five last season with only 10% of his minutes coming there (statistics via Basketball Reference). Although it seems like the Lakers are trying to return to their championship season ways (this is glaringly obvious from the style of the roster that Pelinka constructed even if you just look at them bringing back two members of the championship team in Howard and Rajon Rondo), they might have to play AD at the center even more than back then given the spacing issues they will have with Howard or Jordan on the court at the same time as Westbrook. For what it’s worth, Davis said on media day that he will be playing the center more this season despite recent trends the seem to point towards Davis starting at the four (another h/t to Jacob Rude and Silver Screen & Roll).
Either way, we’re 11 days away from opening night against the Warriors. We’ll soon find out what Frank Vogel wants to do with the starting lineup to start. Expect a lot of pissy Lakers fans if AD is at the four when the season tips off.