It was clear that with the resounding failure of the 2020-2021 season for Los Angeles Lakers, the offseason It was going to be quite hectic, but few could venture that a few weeks before the start of training, only LeBron James, Anthony Davis y Talen Horton-Tucker they would be the only members who started the course compared to the previous year. After the departures of figures such as Montrezl Harrell or Kyle Kuzma, among others, it was the turn of Marc Gasol, who headed to the Memphis Grizzlies, saving about $ 10 million in taxes to the Los Angeles franchise and making it easier to fit DeAndre Jordan.
This exchange is the last move to shore up the squad that will have to fight to win the 18th championship for the Lakers and make people forget what happened the previous year. To undertake it, Rob Pelinka has assembled a roster with some of the most prominent names of the last decade, adding to Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo and the mentioned Jordan. On paper they are strong contenders for the title, but it will be necessary to see how the pieces fit on the floor and if they really have what it takes to achieve their goal.
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The main doubt will be in the inner game, After Gasol’s departure, the Lakers have lost their most efficient interior in defense (104.2), the pivot that best understood with Anthony Davis (+11.1) and LeBron James (+11.0), as well as one of the players who produced the most points in assists (5.2).
In short, Pelinka is looking to surround her two main interior stars who can perform in specific roles and, above all, executors. That is, they don’t have just the ball in their hands as could happen with Harrell or Gasol, returning to vertical basketball that worked so well for them in 2020.
The 2021 Playoffs evidenced the need for a classic pivot to perform basic functions to enable outsiders to be in a position to perform at their best, as well reflected by figures such as Deandre Ayton, Ivica Zubac, Brook Lopez or Clint Capela. That is why the Lakers have sought to reformulate their inner game again, will it be enough to lift the champion trophy again?
More Anthony Davis as pivot
The decisions made by the Angels are ultimately going to require Anthony Davis to return to a role in which he has traditionally not been entirely comfortable as sole pivot. The best version of Davis yes it is true that it happened when he has been the only reference in painting, being able to have a better spacing to attack the rim from the post or taking their pairing (usually slower) out of the zone to attack from the outside in.
However, this also has a disadvantage, which is not minor in the case of AD, since the fact of assuming a greater timing as the sole pivot will wear it down considerably physically, something that after what happened in the last campaign should not be taken at face value. light. Davis is prone to injury, Especially muscular, and he has never played more than 68 games in a season, so Frank Vogel will have to minimize the Chicago native’s forays as the only center on the court.
The most logical thing would be to think that this provision with AD at 5 would happen mainly in the Playoffs, where the Angelenos really must perform, but as it became clear in 2020-2021, the Regular Phase is very important, so adding the most wins will be vital to have a comfortable path to the Finals. The most used lineup in 2019-2020 with Davis as a pivot had just a +5.4 net rating in the regular season, while in the Playoffs it had a -7.2. Vogel will have to find the balance and improve the fit with respect to the previous experience.
Howard, a veteran of warranties
Dwight Howard’s best years are long past, he is no longer the defensive anchor he was a decade ago or the physical determinant that dominated the Eastern Conference. The years go by and weigh on, but Superman seems to have been able to reconvert himself into the right interior for any self-respecting Playoff team. About to turn 36 years old, the pivot returns for a third stage in the Lakers after a bittersweet final in the 76ers, where he exceeded expectations but could not help achieve the goal.
It is not yet clear who will accompany Davis in the starting five, if Howard will do it, Jordan or he will bet on a more open format with Anthony as power forward. In the specific case of Dwight, he already knows what it means to share the court with AD and LeBron, so it could be the best solution in the short term. During the 2019-2020 season, the Georgia native posted a career-high percentage of shooting from the field with a 72.9% effective, a very positive record and that was the consequence of a role tailor-made for him. In defense his only job was to protect the rim to rebound and allow the team to run, while in attack he only had to put up screens, execute alley-oops and load the offensive.
Despite this very positive experience, betting on Howard has its drawbacks. And, as we saw in the 76ers, the more their importance increases in the squad, the lower their performance and the more they end up conditioning the team. His offensive use increased and his percentages dropped to 58.7%, becoming entirely inconsistent in parts of the year where he didn’t seem to fit into Philly’s second unit.
The pivot’s greatest contribution should come in the regular season, where he could eventually become a 5 substitute, but in the short term Vogel could be forced to turn to Howard more than necessary.
The unknown Jordan
DeAndre Jordan appeared to be the only jarring element in a talented Brooklyn Nets. The arrival of James Harden left the inside veteran somewhat out of place due to the change in style of play experienced by Steve Nash’s team. He was losing weight in the rotation to the point of playing 15 of the last 27 games and not even appearing in the Playoffs for the first time in his entire career. Faced with this situation, the veteran has started the march to Los Angeles where everything seems to indicate that his role will be greater.
Like Howard, Jordan is light years away from his best form, both physically and technically, and has hardly contributed in the last 3 seasons to their respective teams despite being only 32 years old. Despite its clear decline, this can still be productive if given the right fit, which would mean a game system in which direct blocking had a great weight as well as transitions, two aspects that have been key in the Vogel era.
Although the Nets were a long way from being a great defensive team last season, DeAndre Jordan did have a positive impact for the group in that regard, achieving the third best record in Defensive Box Plus Minus (+0.7) and being the second with the most Defensive Win Shares accumulated (1.5). “I feel like they gave me that respect as a veteran player to understand that I wanted to be able to compete,” said the pivot in his presentation. “I am a competitor. We are all in this league and we want to be able to be out there and compete.”
The idea regarding Jordan seems to point to him playing a veteran role in the team while continuing to contribute on the court, which could mean a distribution of minutes in the 5 with Howard around 18 each, leaving Davis 12 as the main inner reference.
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