It’s no secret that this year’s NBA season is going to be interesting with LeBron James in Los Angeles and competing for a Western Conference title. In addition, since that move, there has been a ton of talk about who is going to support him during gameplay. While free agent pickups could ultimately pan out, it seems like the Lakers are planning on entering the season with Javale McGee, Ivica Zubac and Mo Wagner playing at center. Doubtful. In fact, it’s more likely that the Lakers want to put LeBron at center. While there’s nothing really wrong with this, what seems to be happening, though, is that this flies in the face of how LeBron has played for most of his career. While I don’t know LeBron personally, I can’t see him accepting this, even if he is the “new” kid on this team.
Now, LeBron at center is an interesting idea. But only if the Lakers surround him with stars and shooters. Two players come to mind immediately – Paul George or Kawhi Leonard. But that’s not an option for the Lakers this season. In fact, if they could get him these kinds of players, it might be the only way for the Lakers to beat the Warriors. But the issue is that LeBron has barely played center his entire career. Which makes you wonder if he is going to be able to do it? Is this something that Luke Walton really thinks is going to play out the way that he wants?
In the Western Conference, there is a lot of really big players. Think Nikola Jokic, Karl Towns or Boogie Cousins. Is LeBron going to be able to guard these types of players? Will he want to? LeBron has done a really good job of not getting injured seriously during his career. Sure, he hurt his hand during the finals last season, but that was self-inflicted. If he’s guarding these kinds of players there’s a possibility that he could get injured based on man-to-man contact. Is this a risk that the Lakers are willing to take?
The problem with the other options for the Lakers is that they don’t have the experience. Javale McGee hasn’t played more than 15 minutes since 2014. And during that time he only played 16 minutes. McGee’s effectiveness in Golden State was based almost entirely on him playing in short, concentrated doses, surrounded by really great players. Because the Warriors had such great players around McGee, it made his job easy. But even then he never played for very long.
That said, the Lakers are likely counting on McGee to start and play with considerably less talent around him. The Lakers had a decent defense last season, but LeBron hasn’t bee playing defense like he’s 25 for a few seasons. But asking any of the above players to match up with the large and/or athletic centers in the West definitely poses some serious problems. Which is why LeBron is looking like he’s the best option for that group. But asking him to play center looks a lot better on paper than it does in practice. How this will play out can only be determined once the regular season starts. LeBron is basically a machine, so maybe he can do it?