Con: The Lakers defense will suffer with LeBron James at center
LeBron James is not the same defender he was in Miami. The Lakers also do not have the same caliber of defenders that Houston had (PJ Tucker, Eric Gordon, and Robert Covington were excellent individual defenders during the 2019-20 season).
Portland’s Norman Powell was able to easily get to the basket on this possession. Stanley Johnson, a 6’7″ forward who should be signed for the rest of the season, tries his best protecting the rim, but to no avail.
Portland had 21 offensive rebounds against the Lakers in that game. Minnesota got twice as many rebounds as did the Lakers, out-rebounding them 56 to 28.
The Lakers need Dwight Howard’s interior presence to control the glass. The Lakers cannot afford to get crushed on the boards, especially against good defensive teams that can slow down the Lakers iteration of Micro Ball. For instance, Golden State’s defense can move Draymond Green to center to counter the Lakers smaller lineup.
Howard needs to start at center and play 15 to 20 minutes per game. He can set the tone with his physical play. All he needs to do is to stay under control when he is on the court. Yanking him in and out of the rotation is not doing him any favors. Howard does much better with a defined role and a clear set of boundaries.
They need Howard because LeBron will be worn down in the fourth quarter if he has to play center for an extended period of time. The burdens of anchoring an NBA defense while scoring all the points on offense are too much even for a king to bear.
And even if LeBron plays well, the Lakers are still getting out-rebounded and dominated in the paint against the better teams.
Conclusion: Playing Micro Ball is not worth it for the current Los Angeles Lakers roster
It will not be a good look for the Lakers to change their lineup on a game-by-game basis. Dwight Howard will have to start at center when the Lakers face Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton or Denver’s Nikola Jokic. Howard goes from starting to not playing at all depending on the matchup. Very few championship teams have this kind of volatility in their playing rotations.
Furthermore, Micro Ball 2.0 is going to make the Lakers the worst defensive team in the NBA by a long shot. The potential improvements on offense is not worth it considering the defense is guaranteed to be a whole lot worse.
So in closing, the Los Angeles Lakers should not play LeBron James at center going forward.