The Los Angeles Lakers‘ playoff shortcomings led the team to venture through an offseason highlighted by significant roster change. Star forward Anthony Davis also took a revamped approach over the summer behind increased importance on his health. It led Davis to finally embrace what Lakers fans have desperately wanted since his arrival.
Lakers revamp the roster around Anthony Davis and LeBron James
After helping lead the Lakers to a 17th NBA title, Davis experienced an injury-plagued 2020-21 campaign.
The star big man’s health issues began from the get-go as the brief offseason didn’t allow his body to adjust properly. In February, things hit a breaking point as he suffered a calf injury related to his Achilles tendon, forcing him to miss two straight months.
Davis returned for the final two weeks of the regular season, where he showed flashes of dominance. However, he suffered a groin injury in Game 4 of the first-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns. It led him to miss Game 5, but he attempted to play in Game 6 and reaggravated the ailment.
The 28-year-old embraced a renewed approach to his health in the offseason by changing his trainer and workout regimen. He spent the entire summer focused on his body, which head coach Frank Vogel voiced last week the star forward looked noticeably different.
“He put a lot of work this offseason into his body,” Vogel said this week on the Spectrum SportsNet’s “Lakeshow” podcast. “A lot of work. And we had a moment, maybe two weeks ago, where he had been training at home, and we had a conversation about ‘these are some of the concerns we have with our team, we think we’re good here, we think we’re good there,’ and then he comes in for a workout, and it was the first time we had kind of seen him for a while, and his body looked imposing.
With training camp set to begin this week, Davis may be finally embracing what Lakers fans want to see.
Anthony Davis may finally be embracing what Lakers fans desperately want
Since the Lakers acquired Davis, the star big man remained reluctant to play center in any significant capacity.
Much of that came due to not wanting to experience the physical wear and tear of playing against opposing centers. However, it appears Davis may have changed his tone concerning the position as Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting that the 28-year-old is expected to be the team’s starting center this upcoming season.
“Since Davis arrived from New Orleans two years ago, the Lakers’ best lineups have featured him at center,” Charania wrote. “With Westbrook aboard, sources said Davis has emerged as the expected starting center, clearing the way for a likely starting five of him, Westbrook, Ellington, Ariza and James, according to sources.”
Davis’s shift to center certainly makes sense as it allows the Lakers to stretch the floor with another shooter in the starting lineup. It will enable Trevor Ariza, a stout defender and 3-point threat, to give the Lakers a versatile combination of players. The move also provides Los Angeles more depth at center, with Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan as options of the bench.
Lakers fans have been pushing to see Davis play center as the team has proven to be most effective with him at the position. He’s a mismatch for opposing centers due to his unique skillset. He can stretch the floor with his outside shooting, dribble like a guard, and his quickness will play a factor. It also opens up lanes for James and Westbrook to be more effective getting to the rim with the center pulled away from the paint.
The expected lineup falls in line with previous reports that indicated Davis would have increased playing time at center while James would shift over to power forward. Head coach Frank Vogel will have plenty of different player combinations he can play around with throughout training camp to see what best maximizes the Lakers’ talent.
Lakers are positioned as legitimate NBA title contenders
Davis’ expected transition to center will be one pivotal element to the Lakers‘ push toward contending for an 18th NBA title.
Davis’ health is without a doubt the key to Los Angeles’ championship hopes, but other factors will play a crucial role. James and Russell Westbrook must find a way to work alongside each other. It will require a significant adjustment as both are most effective as the primary ball-handler.
Meanwhile, Vogel must find the best lineup combinations to maximize the versatile roster around the star power. The pieces are in place for the Lakers to vie for an NBA title, and it will be a matter of the team figuring out the best way to utilize their talent.