It is known that Anthony Davis doesn’t love playing center all that much in the regular season but is willing to do it in the playoffs. The Los Angeles Lakers’ play-in victory over the Golden State Warriors again showed the devastating force that is AD at the 5 and why Frank Vogel must ditch Andre Drummond as the starting center.
The Lakers have been sluggish with Davis and Drummond together on the court this season, and Wednesday’s game was no different. They fell behind by 11 points right away and trailed by 13 at halftime. While Drummond wasn’t actively terrible in the game, he was just a big body out there getting in the way of driving lanes and clogging up the paint. He also was slow on some rotations and not always sure where to be defensively. Meanwhile, Davis was forced out to the perimeter and fired up a variety of bricks in the first half.
The Lakers did come out of the second-half gates better, only for the Warriors to push their lead back out to 12 midway through the third quarter. The game then flipped when Drummond exited (right after ESPN’s Mark Jackson ripped the Lakers for giving him multiple post-up touches in a row) for Wesley Matthews and Vogel went to Davis at the 5. All of a sudden that clogged paint was open for LeBron James to wreak havoc after a brutal first half. Davis started to get going as well after his own rough opening half.
A 12-point deficit was just two going into the fourth quarter, and that quickly became a six-point lead after a few minutes in the final frame. The Warriors hung tough and had their chances in the final minutes, but Davis, LeBron and Alex Caruso helped seal the deal. Drummond didn’t come back in the game again.
When it was all said and done, the difference between Davis at the 5 and Davis at the 4 couldn’t be more clear:
Anthony Davis shot 9-13 from the field when at center tonight and went 1-11 when either Andre Drummond or Montrezl Harrell was on the floor with him. https://t.co/NXd76UQ0Pq
— Matt Williams (@StatsWilliams) May 20, 2021
At the 5:16 mark in the 3rd quarter, Andre Drummond turned the ball over and was subbed out for the final time. The Lakers were much more efficient the rest of the game with Drummond on the bench. pic.twitter.com/JsX0R5ladw
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 20, 2021
There are politics involved when it comes to starting Drummond because the Lakers sold him on a starting role after his Cleveland Cavaliers buyout. But they shouldn’t be beholden to him at this point. It’s big boy time in the playoffs.
The Lakers know Davis at center is their best configuration. If they don’t actually want to start him there yet, fine (closing is more important anyway), but they should still ditch Drummond as a starter and go back to Marc Gasol. While Gasol has declined since his heyday, his ability to stretch the floor, pass and still play stellar defense make him a better bit.
This doesn’t mean Drummond should be out of the rotation entirely. He can still get minutes off the bench and be effective in small doses. Having another big body like that will help against certain matchups. It’s not a bad thing to have a lot of options to go to at a position, with Montrezl Harrell also in play at center.
I’ll also admit that the Lakers could still win the title with Drummond starting at center. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are that good. But they can make life easier on themselves by playing AD at his best position and doing it right from the start.