The Los Angeles Lakers’ stubborn insistence that Anthony Davis won’t play major minutes at center this season complicates matters for his teammates and coaching staff, especially in wake of a torn ACL that will rob DeMarcus Cousins of an opportunity to re-stake his claim as one of the league’s most dynamic big men.
Offensively, it’s pretty clear why Los Angeles would be best served by slotting Davis at center something close to full-time. He’s a mismatch at whatever position he’s playing, wherever he is on the floor, but even more so when matched up against opposing centers. Davis’ improving ability to space the court to the three-point arc makes him all the more dangerous, and maybe more importantly, stands to provide LeBron James with extra room to operate in the paint.
But it’s the other end of the floor where Davis not playing center could loom largest. Who might it most affect? Kyle Kuzma, who will at times be asked to check the opposition’s most threatening wing given the need to preserve James’ energy. Fortunately for the Lakers, USA Basketball teammate Donovan Mitchell seems to believe Kuzma is ready for that challenge.
“He’s a defensive player now. He can play defense,” Mitchell said, per Los Angeles beat reporter Mike Trudell. “People kind of knock (his defense), I don’t know why … But he’s a guy who’s taking the charge, communicating … I think that shows a lot to his maturity and a lot about his work ethic.”
Defense hasn’t been a strong point of Kuzma’s game over the past two seasons. Now that he’s poised to compete for a championship with the Lakers while playing next to James and Davis, though, it seems Kuzma is ready to prove his worth on that side of the ball.