After the New Orleans Pelicans concluded practice today, Alvin Gentry announced to the media that Anthony Davis may not be relegated to his typical starting position at power forward like in years past. Despite the fact that Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca are set to earn over $14.5 million and appear in better physical shape, the head coach claimed Davis could start at the 5 depending on matchups.
Alvin Gentry says he's not set on starting a true 5 next to Anthony Davis each game this year. Could see AD start at 5 depending on matchup.— Justin Verrier (@JustinVerrier) September 28, 2016
This news is music to my ears and probably a lot of you as well. This past August, I made a plea of sorts for the Pelicans to strongly consider playing Davis on a more permanent basis at center. The reasoning was simple — the team and Davis have a history of performing more optimally when AD mans the middle.
Davis possesses uncanny speed for his size and a deft perimeter touch, but it was all too often neutralized last season with quicker, more versatile defenders and opposing centers eager to leave Asik to go help.
Barring the addition of a Tim Duncan post-game for Davis, the easiest way for the Pelicans to circumvent this strategy is to employ AD at center a lot more often. Two years ago, when Asik, Alexis Ajinca and Jeff Withey sat, the offense hummed along to a tune of 116 points per 100 possessions. Under Alvin Gentry, the offense produced an average of 111 points per 100 possessions when the triumvirate of Asik, Ajinca and Kendrick Perkins were off the floor.
During these explosions by the high-octane offenses, the defenses were not noticeably worse whereby killing the gains made on offense. How’s this for the ultimate litmus test? In the 4-game postseason sweep two seasons ago, the Pelicans bested the Warriors by a margin of 109.7 points to 108.1 when Davis operated as the team’s center. Now what if Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, and other poor defenders could have been replaced by more quality personnel?
Oh wait, I see you Solomon Hill, Langston Galloway, E’twaun Moore and Terrence Jones!
The notion of Davis at center was coincidentally also supported by Kevin in his player preview of AD posted earlier in the day.
Davis either needs to play the five full-time or play as an interchangeable 5 with Terrence Jones next to him. Just because you brain farted and paid Asik and Ajinca that money, it doesn’t mean that you should play them when it doesn’t make basketball sense. There are only 4-5 centers in this league that could truly abuse Anthony Davis. Davis is huge now, but he remains extremely quick, agile and has a handle that he can use to go at the slower plodding brutes everyone seems so worried about him guarding. Aside, from the offensive advantage his speed and agility give him, they also create problems for the Marc Gasols and DeMarcus Couisns on the defensive end. His ability to jump twice quickly, to slide, to recover, to gain ground and his ability to use his hands and length to strip balls and tip entry passes are just as beneficial as the determinant created by what he gives up in weight and strength.
Let’s start making teams adjust to us by fully unleashing the Brow.
To further illustrate the Pelicans likelihood of playing to their strengths this upcoming season, Gentry also made mention of the fact that Terrence Jones could see time at center.
Alvin Gentry said that Terrence Jones can play some 5 for them.— Justin Verrier (@JustinVerrier) September 28, 2016
Anthony Davis is bigger, stronger, more ready to lead than at any point in the past and the coaching staff is primed to unleash him in small ball lineups? Someone, please pinch me.