Los Angeles Lakers big man Anthony Davis wants to play less center next season, according to ESPN's Dave McMenamin. The ESPN story, published Thursday, suggests that this is one of the reasons they signed Christian Wood this week. It also cites Cleaning The Glass data, which estimates that Davis spent 99% of his minutes last season at center (and 29 total possessions at power forward, next to Thomas Bryant).
Davis is a at Davis' introductory press conference in Los Angeles, general manager Rob Pelinka said that the front office had signed JaVale McGee and DeMarcus Cousins in order to honor Davis' request to play next to centers with size, adding, "Having him bang against the biggest centers in the West every night is not what's best for his body, or for our team or the franchise." Wood, however, is not like McGee or Cousins. He's an inch shorter and listed at 39 pounds lighter than Davis, and he's far less equipped to defend physical centers. (Jaxson Hayes, the team's other new big, is similarly slight.)because he'd prefer not to deal with the league's biggest, most physical players during the regular season. In 2019,
In other words, if the Lakers wanted to protect Davis from a physicality perspective, they should have signed someone like Bismack Biyombo, who is one of the best rim protectors and rebounders in the league and remains a free agent. If they decide to take Davis off of Nikola Jokic the next time they see the Denver Nuggets, they'll be much better off having Rui Hachimura to reprise his role from the conference finals than asking Wood to guard the reigning Finals MVP.
This is not to say that signing Wood -- an extremely talented offensive player who is a threat popping and rolling -- for a minimum contract is senseless. His scoring could help Los Angeles' offense stay afloat when the team is banged up, and the price was right. When it comes to relieving a player of the burden of playing center, though, it is Davis who can help Wood, not the other way around. In prior stops, and most famously last year with the Dallas Mavericks, Wood's coaches have soured on him because of his defense. He's sleepy off the ball, doesn't deter drivers and is less effective as a switch big than his length and athleticism would suggest. If he works out better for the Lakers, it will likely be because he'll be next to a defensive anchor who can make up for his deficiencies and clean up his mistakes.
If Wood and Davis are ever in the same starting lineup, the Lakers could submit a lineup sheet that lists Wood as the center and Davis as the power forward. But that itself would not change Davis' job, and it would not even affect how his position is recorded on Cleaning The Glass. I reached out to Ben Falk, the former Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trail Blazers executive who runs the website, and, in an email, he said that he's not sure how Wood-Davis lineups will be categorized yet. In cases like this, Falk may make an initial guess, but then he'll watch film, see how the players are used and, if necessary, make adjustments. This one will probably be pretty simple: The player "who seems to be primarily guarding opposing centers at the start of the possession" will be slotted at center.
I have an educated guess of who that might be.