Why the Lakers’ no-risk signing of Christian Wood could free up Anthony Davis’ game

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The Los Angeles Lakers agreed to terms with the free agent big man Christian Wood Tuesday, making their offseason moves with about a month to go before training camp.

Wood tweeted It was “always my dream” to play for the Lakers. It turns out that his dream coincides with the wishes of LA’s most important player: Anthony Davis.

Sources told ESPN that Davis made it clear to the organization that he wanted more support at center so he wouldn’t have to play the 5 as much during the regular season.

According to Clearing Glass Data, Davis was slotted at center in 99% of his minutes last season. Although Davis’ performance in the middle earned him a three-year, $186 million contract extension this summer, the Lakers’ strategy with Rob Pelinka in charge of basketball operations is to partner with their stars as stakeholders in the process.

Davis was rumored to want to spend more time in power. (In addition to Wood, LA also signed a 7-footer Jackson Hayes.)

Wood, 27, is the seventh new face on a team that fell eight wins short of a title last season, losing to the eventual champion Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals.

And while some of the outgoing players have something to say — Dennis Schroederoverall competition, Lonnie Walker IVgame time, Troy Brown JrRole flexibility and Wenien GabrielIts tenacity was all positive material for last season’s squad — LA seemingly thrived while keeping its core intact.

That was easier said than done: Pelinka and the Lakers only had a two-year exception value of $4.5 million, a full midlevel exception value of $12.4 million and veteran minimum contracts to offer.

LA’s summer, culminating with Wood Signing, presents a cohesive vision. The Lakers didn’t make the same mistake of ill-fitting wholesale changes heading into 2020-21. They didn’t prioritize name recognition and experience over youth and athleticism going into 2021-22. They’re still not trying to work a three-star system, as they did in 2022-23.

They maintained consistency while adding players that theoretically meshed with the defensive-minded expectations that Darwin Hamm had in his first year as coach. They added players who thrived in high-IQ basketball situations in Miami (Gabe Vincent) and Minnesota (The Taurian Prince)

They are Wood, Hayes and Cam is red) and addressed a glaring weakness of last season’s team by adding shooting wherever they could find it: Vincent shot 43% on catch-and-shoot 3s during the Heat’s run through the playoffs, while Prince shot 38.1% from deep last season. Did and rookie two-way signing De’Moye Hodge shot 40% from 3 for Missouri last season.

Because of Wood’s two-year deadline, the $5.7 million deal — the deal includes a player option over 2 years — comes nearly two months after the team’s previous trade when it signed him. Jalen Hood-Schifino And Maxwell LewisIt may stand out more than others.

The truth is, the Lakers’ most productive moves were reviving their own stars.

In addition to extending Davis, they re-signed a young trio Austin Reeves (four years, $56 million), D’Angelo Russell (two years, $37 million) and Rui Hashimura (Three years, $51 million). This core helped LA go 18-6 through the regular season, the play-in tournament and the first two rounds of the playoffs. Add a healthy and rejuvenated LeBron James for his 21st season, and there are plenty of reasons for optimism in Lakerland.

Wood may have been a steal in a season where he averaged 16.6 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 37.6% from 3 with the Dallas Mavericks. He could have used the Lakers’ platform the same way The owner is a monk And Schröder spent recent seasons reclaiming value and earning a bigger role if James or Davis miss any significant time due to injury.

But if Wood, who is last In individual protective ratings Among the Mavericks rotation players from last season, there is little risk that the Lakers’ agenda to pursue the franchise’s 18th championship doesn’t fit.

“If he’s on his best behavior, it could be a good fit,” a league front office source told ESPN. “If he’s not there, you cut him off.”

Wood joins a franchise that has been on a roller coaster since winning the 2020 Finals inside the NBA’s Orlando Bubble. Despite these titles, a mix of injuries and unfortunate trades kept the LeBron era from being considered a great success.

Now, like any team with title aspirations, the Lakers hope their strong roster — capped by their latest big man signing — can stay healthy. Knock on wood.

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