Lakers target is the missing piece for building around Anthony Davis

The Los Angeles Lakers have identified a potential offseason acquisition. Adding them could mean finding the missing piece alongside Anthony Davis.
San Antonio Spurs v New Orleans Pelicans
San Antonio Spurs v New Orleans Pelicans / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Lakers are gradually shifting towards a vision that will prioritize Anthony Davis as the definitive franchise player. It's a logical decision, as Davis, 31, theoretically represents a wider championship window than the soon-to-be 40-year-old LeBron James.

As the Lakers prepare to transition to building around Davis, one of the top priorities appears to be honoring his well-established preference to play power forward.

Despite his request to spend more time at the 4, Davis has predominantly played center over the past three seasons. That includes 2023-24, when he was at the center spot for 97 percent of his minutes during the regular season.

According to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, the Lakers are interested in a free-agent center who could help ease Davis back to the 4: Jonas Valančiūnas.

"Pelicans center Jonas Valančiūnas, who’s approaching unrestricted free agency, has been another big man often mentioned by NBA figures as a potential Lakers frontcourt addition this summer."

Valančiūnas has spent the past three seasons raising the floor for the New Orleans Pelicans, and could now do the same with the Lakers.

Jonas Valančiūnas is the perfect fit alongside Anthony Davis

Valančiūnas, 32, has played 12 NBA seasons since being drafted at No. 5 overall by the Toronto Raptors in 2011. He's been the epitome of adaptability, embracing the need to develop range on his jump shot and to improve defensively.

It's made him a hot commodity for teams looking to make a playoff push, thus resulting in his 58 games of postseason experience being amassed with three different franchises.

Between his tenures with the Memphis Grizzlies and the Pelicans, Valančiūnas became a walking double-double with three-point range. His post play and in-between game continue to be his trademark, but his improved range has added a new wrinkle to his value offensively.

2023-24 was a down year for him in that regard, but his role was transformed and his minutes diminished, making it perhaps easier to forgive.

If the Lakers were to take a chance on Valančiūnas, they would be getting the perfect complement to Davis. Even if his jumper doesn't return to adequate form, the areas in which he can be expected to thrive align perfectly with what Los Angeles needs.

Making the finances work will be challenging, but on the court, Valančiūnas could be the missing piece.

Jonas Valanciunas is exactly what the Lakers need

The first of the key characteristics that make Valančiūnas a fascinating fit is the fact that he ranks among the best offensive rebounders in the NBA. He boasts career averages of 2.8 offensive rebounds per game and 3.9 per 36 minutes, and thrives at converting second chances.

Anthony Davis ranked No. 1 in the NBA in second-chance points last season, but the Lakers finished dead last in that department as a team—making Valančiūnas' first key skill a dream fit.

Valančiūnas is also one of the better passers at the center position, as his average of 3.2 assists per 36 minutes from 2023-24 begins to display. That fits head coach JJ Redick's vision of having multiple playmakers on the court who can initiate the offense.

When all else fails, there's the final key characteristic, which is arguably the most important: Valančiūnas is one of the best post players in the NBA.

If Davis wants to play more 4 to make the regular season less physically taxing, then adding a player who can work with their back to the basket will be essential. Valančiūnas more than fits the bill, with a powerful 265-pound frame and an array of moves that enable him to finish over or around almost any defender.

In turn, the Lakers could preserve Davis' health during the regular season and have an instant offense player who can simply receive the ball on the low block come the playoffs.

Throw in his value as a pick and roll, as well pick and pop, threat and Valančiūnas could change the dynamic of the Lakers. He's more comfortable from midrange or as the dive man, but over the past five seasons, Valančiūnas has knocked down 185 three-point field goals on 34.6 percent shooting.

Throw in his strong post defense as a potentially valuable trait in a seemingly inevitable postseason encounter with Nikola Jokic, and there's ample evidence as to how well Valančiūnas could fit alongside Davis.

Valančiūnas could be the missing piece for this Lakers resurgence.