LeBron James is among the most ball-dominant players in the NBA, but that doesn't mean he always wants to be. When he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, he eagerly spoke of eventually handing the reins to Kyrie Irving. In Los Angeles, he so badly wanted another ball-handler on his team that he advocated for the disastrous Russell Westbrook trade. James is a point guard in a forward's body, but at age-37, he's eventually going to have to lighten his offensive load.
And new head coach Darvin Ham wants to do just that. According to Yahoo's Chris Haynes, Ham plans to run his offense through Anthony Davis. James supports the idea, according to Haynes. The viability of such a plan is the greater question.
Davis was so focal point of plenty of offenses in New Orleans, but the Pelicans never advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs during his time there. Ham came from the Milwaukee Bucks, who ran their own offense through Giannis Antetokounmpo and won a championship in the process. It is theoretically possible to run a high-level offense through a big man.
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But even Antetokounmpo relied on Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday to generate some shots late in games. James could hold that sort of role alongside Davis. More pressingly, Antetokounmpo is both a higher-usage and more durable player. Davis won his first championship as soon as he linked up with James because he benefits greatly from having an elite playmaker next to him. No matter what the Lakers plan, nothing matters if Davis can't stay on the court. He's played just 76 games over the past two seasons.
If Davis is going to lead the Laker offense, they are going to have to shoot far better than this roster suggests is possible. Westbrook is a complete non-threat as a shooter, and that allows teams to throw extra help at Davis and James. The Lakers have not added any shooting yet this offseason, as their free-agent additions have been younger players whom the team hopes will help more defensively and athletically.
Landing Irving in a trade with the Nets would make things far simpler. James, Davis and Irving could share ball-handling duties in a more egalitarian system that could space the floor properly around them. But until Brooklyn trades Kevin Durant, Irving appears to be in limbo. Another trade with Indiana has been rumored that would involve Myles Turner and Buddy Hield, but nothing appears close.
Ultimately it doesn't really matter who is running the Laker offense if the supporting players aren't better. Westbrook makes life more difficult for both James and Davis, and the front office did neither any favors by ignoring shooters in free agency. Ham is putting an enormous task on Davis' shoulders, and it might be too much for any player to handle.