Anthony Davis explains defensive difference between playing power forward or center

Anthony Davis
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

One of the biggest question marks surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers this season is Anthony Davis’ position.

The superstar has been averse to being a full-time center throughout his career though he has repeatedly said he is willing to do so in playoff situations. This summer, the Lakers made roster changes that seemed to point to year where Davis would move primarily to the center position, a decision that most believe would be beneficial to the team.

Still, on opening night, Anthony Davis started as a power forward alongside DeAndre Jordan once again. His rotation seemed similar to that of two seasons ago when the Lakers started him alongside JaVale McGee with Dwight Howard coming off the bench.

The offensive ramifications of AD playing power forward or center are pretty obvious. As a center, AD can spend more time around the rim where he is a dominant finisher and foul drawer. Also importantly, he would create more spacing without another big man sitting in the paint on every possession.

Defensively, the impact is less clear. After practice on Thursday, Davis spoke at length about what changing his position would do for both his individual defensive responsibilities and the team’s progression on that end of the floor.

AD played about 20 of his 37 minutes on Tuesday at center. About 10 of his 17 minutes alongside another big came in the first half and none came in the fourth quarter.

The big man was dominant on both ends of the floor regardless of which possession he played, finishing the game with 33 points, 11 rebounds, a steal and two blocks. The Lakers were outscored by two points when AD took the floor as a center (impacted largely by a -13 when surrounded by the defensively challenged lineup of Russell Westbrook, Malik Monk, Rajon Rondo, and Carmelo Anthony) and were a net neutral when he was a power forward.

All of these numbers of course come as a tiny sample. As Davis explained, it will take time to find the units that work and how the star can be optimized and the team maximized.

So far, it looks like Frank Vogel is trying to maintain similar rotations as that of two seasons ago with the ability to adjust one way or another depending on matchups and the flow of games. That’s probably a fair compromise but the team should keep a close eye on the starting lineup and how it performs with AD, Jordan, and Westbrook crowding the paint. So far, the starters are +2 in 13 minutes but should that number slowly diminish or the Lakers come out with slow starts to games, Vogel will have to make a decision that he is probably not too comfortable with at the moment.

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