LeBron shows how the Lakers can optimize Anthony Davis at center
A winding road of searching for a 3rd star, deliberate roster building via limited resources, too many injuries to count, COVID protocols and basketball gods delivering nasty verdicts have brought the Lakers to where they are at currently – a team of less than 500 and fighting to survive in the midst of a weakened Western Conference.
With each path we cover, however, lessons are learned. And despite all the hype around the Lakers looking into their new, no-plus size identity that finds LeBron James central to everything, literally and figuratively, the stylistic change the team is now embracing, inevitable as it may seem. , comes while missing a fairly important piece of the puzzle.
Because while the Lakers have moved on to an almost micro-ball team that deploys attackers as crosses for almost every team minute, there is a true mid-size superstar recovering from an MCL sprain that just waiting to join the list. Of course, Anthony Davis has had his own historic issues moving up to 5 throughout his career, but by all accounts he was ready to plant his flag in the proverbial pivot for more minutes this season, and appeared even accept the fact that he would most likely be the starting center when training camp opens.
We can debate how good Davis is this season – especially as the only great man on the pitch – but as he looks aside, I hope he, the Lakers coaching staff and his teammates see which now works with LeBron’s success in in the middle, and try to find ways to replicate some of those ideas with AD when he’s back and available to play.
If there has been one main complaint about AD this season, it’s how many possessions he uses to post and how often those possessions turn into jumpshots. But there are a lot of factors and context to these possessions that we shouldn’t ignore, and the team can do better by trying to make these types of possessions easier for them (more on that later).
Yet Davis himself also has to make his life easier with these goods. And a key way to do that is to take inspiration from LeBron’s playbook by doing his homework earlier, before he catches the ball to create a better chance to score:
As the Nets do here with LeBron, teams will try to push AD further down the floor and make his grip harder via three quarters and fully facing him to negate the passing angles. As Bron does in the clip above, however, AD would be wise to take advantage of those attempts to deny the pass by trying to dislodge his man from his position and work in tandem with teammates knocking the ball over in order to create a much easier entry pass and finish.
Now I understand that LeBron is a different kind of physical specimen with a lower center of gravity and more natural force. That said, AD has its own natural advantages over the types of players who defend it, which is speed and speed. The reverse pivot that Bron uses to get rid of his man and gain an angle is pretty much the same type of movement AD uses when he comes out of the post to catch lobs in his connections with Rajon Rondo (connections that we don’t may not see each other again this year).
So while I don’t expect AD to always be able to drop and push his man back like LeBron does in the clip above, he can use his quickness to dodge ball rejections and then look to use upper body strength. and the length to create passage angles where it can obtain easier finishes at the basket.
Using these types of actions more might keep AD engaged via postal contacts, but diversify the types of actions the team uses to try and give him the ball. The hope would be to make those games faster and avoid using too much of the clock as AD fights for position, while also delivering the ball to him in better spots on the floor to promote easier finishes.
Another area where I think Bron’s play can serve as an example for AD is in on-screen play, and specifically in combining LeBron’s width when setting up his picks and then the speed with which he got out of his screens and in his plunge to the basket.
This is a simple but excellent example of how Bron widens, holds his position, then quickly descends to make himself available for a quick pass from Russ at the end. AD can too often try to get totally under the defender he’s trying to protect, and either not get a good enough screen, or – when he makes good enough contact – linger too long and not step in. its roll quickly enough to be a threat on the dive.
Here, too, is another example of how to quickly enter and exit the screen, ending up swiping the action down the slope and in front of the rim for a quick score. Of course, swiping isn’t an option with every play, but it becomes much more viable when you primarily set the types of solid screens referenced in the previous clip.
Of course, it’s not just up to Anthony Davis to make a bunch of changes as coaches and his teammates just try to do the same things they did with him before he got injured. Make no mistake, AD was super productive and had more success than his most vocal critics would admit, but even acknowledging that, looking at some of the ways they tried to optimize LeBron in all 5 lineups, they did can apply these same strategies to Davis to help him be even better.
For example, I would like AD to spend more time as a center in alignments with better spacing and better shot. around him. According to Cleaning the Glass, AD, Bron and Russ split the floor (without Dwight and DeAndre in the game) for 345 possessions. Of these possessions, the first two formations used have THT and Bradley (74 possessions) and THT and Bazemore (73 possessions) as the other two players on the field with them. Snipers, they are not.
Compare that to the rosters where LeBron and Russ share the field without any of the team’s greats on the floor, and it’s only in the fourth most used roster that you will find two “non-shooters” in Bradley and Stanley Johnson. in the same line-up, the most used group that comes close to reflecting the crowded AD floor has had to face steadily this season.
Too often, then, it feels like Davis is being seen as the spacing solution for his teammates, rather than benefiting from some of the lineups that could include genuine shooting threats. I understand the AD at 5 is going to be great for groups with Bron and Russ sharing the floor with him, but can more of those lineups be filled with Melo’s, Monk’s, Ellington’s and Reaves’ from the rather than the Bradleys and THTs?
Also, I think players who split the floor with AD need to make a more concerted effort to support him in painting and defense in the same way they tried to support LeBron. There isn’t a metric or stat that I can point out, but looking at this team on a regular basis, I feel like when AD is in the game, he feels like he’s going to clean up any mess around. the rim for anyone. That if someone is pushed back from the dribble, they will contest the shot. That if there is a missed shot, he will ensure the rebound. That if there is a loose ball, he will win the scrum for it. It’s because he’s the size of a traditional fat guy that he’ll handle all the big guys’ stuff.
The point is, however, that playing a smaller squad or taking the stylistic approach that the team will thrive in means that all players on the team have to take responsibility for supporting the paint and playing a little “bigger.” “than them. are to be able to succeed. And it’s true whether your center is LeBron or AD. It doesn’t exempt this “fat” loner from doing these things, either. They just need a little help from their teammates.
Which brings me back to Davis himself. While he’s had his prime moments, he hasn’t been as dominant as we know he can be from night to night. And, if he wants to be the team’s main big man when he returns – and all signs point to that – he needs to channel the parts of his game that make him one of the best greats in the world. world.
We know he has it in him. We have seen him do it at the highest level in the NBA Finals, when the stakes were the difference between being a champion or not. So when he comes back he has to come back with the mindset that he’s going to be that guy again. And when he does, he and the team can take inspiration from what works for queues when LeBron manages 5 to help him get there.
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