The Los Angeles Lakers recently announced that LeBron James will mainly play center until Anthony Davis returns from injury. LeBron moving to center is similar to how Magic Johnson filled in for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals.
Moving LeBron to center is worth a shot considering the Lakers have underachieved so far. After their win over the Houston Rockets, Lakers Assistant Coach David Fizdale explained why he originally moved LeBron to center.
"“LeBron’s plus-minus at the 5 is so ridiculous right now,” Fizdale, who is filling in while Frank Vogel is in protocols, said afterward. “To have guys out with COVID and stuff like that, I just took a gamble and said, ‘You know, I think that tonight’s the night to start him at 5.'”"
Ironically, playing LeBron James at center is similar to what Houston did two seasons ago with James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Houston’s infamous “Micro Ball” lineup, featuring 6’5″ forward PJ Tucker at center, was intended to give Westbrook more space to attack the basket.
Westbrook thrived in the first 10 games of the Micro Ball era, averaging 32.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 6.1 assists, with a staggering usage rate of 36.4 percent (which would be the highest usage rate in the NBA this season).
Houston’s short-lived experiment ended when the Lakers dominated them in the second round of the NBA playoffs. After Houston won Game 1, the Lakers adjusted their defense by double-teaming Harden and forcing Westbrook to beat them with outside shots. The only adjustment Houston could make afterward was to grow six inches taller.
So why are the Lakers adopting a strategy they exposed two seasons ago?
Do the Los Angeles Lakers really think Micro Ball 2.0 is going to save their season?
Here are the pros and cons for the Lakers recreating the Micro Ball lineup, featuring LeBron James (and eventually Anthony Davis) at center.