Lakers fans are aware of the skepticism for their team. What will the lineups be like? Vogel might not be the right coach. LeBron James might not have anything left to prove.
On the other side of the skepticism lies Anthony Davis.
The Lakers invested most of their future on a 26-year-old, 6’9″ all-star caliber, big man. Things did not play out when they faced the same scenario in 2013. Of course, that big man, Dwight Howard, made his return to Staples Center this summer and could be a big-time contributor on the bench.
Davis is in a similar position as Howard was then: a younger star with an aging veteran. The only thing they’re missing is an oft-injured 40-year-old guard with spondylolisthesis if they wanted a reboot of 2012-2013.
There are doubters. People believe Davis is injury-prone (he’s played one less game than Kawhi who was drafted a year earlier) or that he’s been passed up by other, younger bigs in the league.
That doubt can only fuel Davis, however. A forward with a 7’6″ wingspan and ball-handling ability and added motivaton to boot? That’s a force to be reckoned with.
Last year was awkward. Thanks, Dell Demps!
Davis’s trade request was famously outed by the New Orleans Pelicans’ former general manager Dell Demps. The takes flew throughout the year. Davis didn’t want to be there. New Orleans didn’t seem to want to just let him go. He looked unfocused. The team was in an awkward spot. His last memory with the Pelicans was on the bench wearing a Looney-Tunes shirt that said: “That’s All Folks”.
He only played in fifty-six games that season in a situation that became overblown. The trade request being made public did no favors for anyone. Davis knew his time was up in New Orleans and recognized it was time to go. Still, he averaged 26 points, 12 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game. His assist average was a career-high, as well.
Alex Regla of Silver Screen & Roll talked about Davis being more utilized in the passing game this upcoming season. Davis recorded eight assists in his last preseason appearance. The team is riddled with lob threats in James, JaVale McGee, and Howard and shooters that can make the three at a high clip. It’ll be interesting to see how the playmaking will work throughout the year.
Anthony Davis has his expectations set individually. He stated that he wants to be defensive player of the year. Davis was in the top five in voting during 2014-15 as well as 2017-18. He also stated that he wants to hold himself and teammates (while singling out LeBron) to be motivated on the defensive end. I’m a big fan of Davis setting out to focus on this aspect as it is vital for the team’s success.
Last year, Pelicans’ opponents shot 48.4% from the field while he was on the court. The year before that (when he played 75 games and probably gave a crap) teams shot 46.9% from the field. His best year was in 2014-2015 as the opposition shot 46% from the field when he was on the court.
Defensively, Davis has the versatility to guard anyone. He has the mobility to deal with wings and the length to affect any shot at the rim. Davis’ defensive prowess was awarded by placing him on the All-Defensive team three times. He could be the leader of an elite defense this year.
This is the best team Anthony Davis has been a part of.
In New Orleans, Davis played with many good players. Jrue Holiday is an incredible guard. DeMarcus Cousins was great before his injury. Julius Randle played well with him! Jahlil Okafor and Omer Asik were pretty bad.
None of these players are close to LeBron James. The Davis and James pick-and-roll will be INCREDIBLY devastating, as already shown in the four exhibition games they played. According to Synergy Sports, James ranked in the 84th percentile as a P&R ball handler last year. Davis was rated as average last year as the roll man, but the year before last, he attributed to 1.177 points per possession in that role (71st percentile).
The sort of gravity that Davis commands will lead to more looks, freeing up opportunities for those on the weak side. The Lakers have much better shooters this year than last. Davis will also have lob threats to pass to in Howard and McGee.
Oh man, there’s so much potential for this team to be incredible.
Still, so much of the Lakers season will rely on Davis’ play and health. James stated he’d defer to the Brow, but will that continue if the team goes through a slide?
Plenty of people think the Lakers gave up too much to get Davis. More talk about him as an oft-injured big man who can’t win as the number one option. He has the chance to prove every doubter wrong. And it gets me even more excited for the regular season.