17 Aug

Purple & Bold: Could the Lakers make a ‘Death Lineup’ with Anthony Davis at center?

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersThere have been numerous admissions on that front lately that are on the record. Coach Frank Vogel admitted his gut instinct was to play Davis at center more because it can be “so lethal.” LeBron James, who is usually very good about calling Davis a “power forward,” had to acknowledge after that win against Utah that lanes opened for guards and himself. Guard Danny Green said it made rotations faster and better, and it allowed the Lakers to play another 3-point shooter on the edge.Davis made a convincing case in his 40-point, 20-rebound performance against Memphis that he’s a pretty good power forward, too. But the circumstance that actually might bring all of this to a head might just be the return of Kyle Kuzma.The Lakers have sorely needed an extra body on the wing, and Kuzma’s blend of size and scoring is something that the Lakers miss when Davis and James are forced to stagger their minutes in lineups – the Lakers haven’t really been able to keep up in minutes where neither one of them play.Kuzma could change all that. But more critically, he might change how the Lakers view their optimal lineups, and there could be more of a shift to close with Davis at center and Kuzma at power forward. That could be a “Death Lineup” for the Lakers – the term popularized by the Warriors’ closing group in recent years with four All-Stars and Andre Iguodala.The concept is an overwhelming group that can close games on both ends. And all of the principals on the Lakers seem to buy into that idea. Vogel said he’d play Kuzma some minutes alongside Davis as a center. This seems to be how Kuzma envisions his most useful role.“I think me and him going to work out well,” Kuzma said on Thursday. “If you look back at the Pelicans days when he was there, he played his best basketball when (Nikola) Mirotic was at the four and he was at the five. I’m kind of similar in that aspect, spacing the floor and giving him space to operate down there. You can’t really double him when me, ’Bron and him are on the floor. It’s going to be exciting.”Analytics back Kuzma’s point: During the 2017-18 season as the Pelicans made a playoff push, Davis and Mirotic played 557 minutes together and had a plus-10.9 rating, which is spectacular. There are some differences in context: Mirotic is a better 3-point shooter and rebounder than Kuzma, who is a more versatile scorer and playmaker. But it’s an intriguing comparison.Even more interesting is that Davis himself seems excited about that possible pairing. No one asked him about lineups with him at center on Thursday, but he brought it up himself.“Lineups can look a little different now,” Davis said. “We could go with a tall lineup where we have me, ’Bron and Kuz on the floor three, four, five with like Danny and Rondo, whoever else would be at the point. So we have a lot of options now that we have Kuz and we can switch things up, and that’s the most important part.”If you’re wondering if a super-tall lineup is possible, with a center, Davis, Kuzma and James, it’s probably unlikely. If the Lakers were to play Danny Green, for example, that would force James to guard one of the opposing guards, which is a tough assignment in the Western Conference. The only way the Lakers can realistically play all three of their best scorers at once is by moving Davis to center and allowing Green and Bradley (or whoever they think is most prepared for the defensive responsibility) to take on the guards.The last week has re-enforced, however, that keeping Davis at power forward does have a meaningful purpose: keeping him healthy. The Lakers would prefer not to subject their star to the physicality of opposing centers every night – a week against Rudy Gobert and Jonas Valanciunas only hammered that home. Davis’ mysterious shoulder pain didn’t keep him from playing well on Tuesday night, but it was a bit of a wake-up call that so much hinges on his health.But for those waiting to see the potential “Death Lineup” of the Lakers, the moment is nearly at hand. And it seems even Davis is willing to put personal preference aside to find out if it can live up to its potential.OLD-TIMEY RAPPORTWhen you deal with NBA stars, a lot of strange folks come into orbit.On Friday afternoon at shootaround, one of these oddballs, a caricature of a 1920s reporter called “Scoops Callahan,” who is played by Dallas-area radio host Tom Gribble, made an appearance. This gimmick has been around for nearly 15 years, but I have to admit that I was unaware of the bit.So imagine my surprise when during LeBron James’ media scrum a man’s voice rises above the din like a whipcrack. I offer the transcipt below:SCOOPS: “Champ, let me ask you about tonight: How do you and your hard-boiled cagers from Lakerland plan to put their lid on Luka Doncic and his razzmatazz skiddly-doo on the money-making end of the court?”JAMES: “Uhh, I don’t know if we can stop the razztazz skididdy-doo, but we can just make it tough on both of them, two great talents and hopefully we come through with a victory.” …SCOOPS: “Champ, did you know after your first 76 throwdowns, you and the Doncic both put 21 bushels in the basket per game and six dimes in the purse? Why, to this reporter that’s the bee’s knees!”JAMES: “That is the bee’s knees. You know, it’s good company. Good company. To be young in this league and to be able to have similar numbers after 76 throwdowns, I think it’s a pretty cool thing. So, he’s a great talent – Doncic – and hopefully, I was a great talent throughout my first 76 throwdowns too. Appreciate you.”James, of course, handled the questions without cracking like a pro. This reporter, however, might have lost some composure and might have had a few tears of laughter in his eyes.— Kyle GoonEditor’s note: Thanks for reading the Purple & Bold Lakers newsletter. To get the newsletter in your inbox, sign up free here.Dia Links MuertosPlaying hurt vs. playing smart – Anthony Davis clearly wants to show his toughness, but teammates aren’t pushing him to push himself too far.Kyle Kuzma to return – The Lakers are very excited for the third-year forward to hit the floor.A spotlight for himself – The look-back at the Brow’s big night against Memphis.History by the numbers – Mirjam dove into how impressive A.D.’s performance was historically.Dunked on – It would feel wrong if I didn’t share Bill Oram’s video of me challenging A.D. on his love for Jared Leto’s Joker portrayal – and his utter indifference to that discussion. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img Editor’s note: This is the Nov. 1 edition of the Purple & Bold Lakers newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.Maybe I’m just hooked.I’ve devoted a lot of space both in our publications and this newsletter to the question of what is Anthony Davis’ best position. He’s made it clear from the beginning that his preference is power forward, but as the NBA’s emphasis is pushed toward perimeter play, trends suggest he’s a center. The ongoing ideological struggle – along with Davis’ contract leverage over the Lakers this season – is a fascinating topic.However, we might be at a turning point: I’m not sure how many people on the Lakers even believe that their best lineups feature Davis at power forward.last_img read more