Anthony Davis reportedly told Lakers he wanted to play less center this season

2023 NBA Playoffs – Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers are walking a fine line.

On the one hand, Anthony Davis is one of the best centers in the NBA — he averaged 25.9 points and 12.5 rebounds a game last season, is one of the best defensive centers in the league, and the Lakers were 7.8 points per 100 possessions better last season when he was on the court. He has leaned into playing to his strengths (fewer 3-pointers) and if he plays 65 games this season with the majority of his minutes at the five, Davis is very likely an All-NBA center.

On the other hand, Davis doesn’t want the wear and tear of playing at the five that much — and he told the Lakers that directly, reports Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

Sources told ESPN that Davis made it clear to the organization he wanted to have more support at center so he wouldn’t have to play so much 5 during the regular season.

Davis played 100% of his minutes at center last season according to Basketball-Reference (Cleaning the Glass said “only” 99%). This year, the Lakers added some depth at the five, signing the athletic Jaxson Hayes and the offensive-minded Christian Wood to play center this season. Those are solid players who can help keep Davis’ minutes down, maybe let him play some four, and most importantly not see a massive drop off in the games Davis does miss.

However, to close games — and likely to start them, as Jovan Buha noted at The Athletic — Davis will be at center. The reason is defensive. If, for example, Hayes started at center, it would slide Davis to the four where he would be matched up with smaller, quicker athletes on the perimeter more often, and he gets pulled away from the rim. More importantly, that lineup has LeBron James guarding threes, and as impressive a player as he is at age 38 (turning 39 in December), he is not consistently going to stay in front of small forwards over the course of 82 games. It’s a bad matchup.

Still, the Lakers have found a way to get Davis’ minutes at the five down. It’s part of a solid offseason by the Lakers that built on what they did at the trade deadline. Gabe Vincent will help at the point and the UC Santa Barbara product showed with the Heat he can be trusted in the playoffs. Cam Reddish provides depth on the wing. Austin Reaves has impressed with Team USA and looks ready for a step forward. Rui Hachimura will be back.

And then there are Hayes and Wood. They provide depth up front and hopefully can give Davis something he wants this season, a little less time at the five during the first 82 so he is ready for the second season of the playoffs. Because that’s where the Lakers will be judged.

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