Anthony Davis: Season Review with the Playoffs Looming

In the fourth game of the Lakers season, Anthony Davis exploded for 40 points and 20 rebounds with two blocks in 31 minutes of a 120-91 blowout vs. Memphis.

The raw production of a 40-20 game was impressive, if not totally unexpected since AD had already done that three times in his young career.

Even more notable was the fact that he got to the free throw line 27 times (26 makes). The Grizzlies had absolutely no answer for AD’s combination of length, quickness and touch, and while he wasn’t especially efficient with his shooting (7 for 17), he repeatedly bludgeoned Memphis with drives to the basket, where they had no choice but to foul him again, and again, and again.

Totally unstoppable.

Zooming out, AD is averaging 26.7 points on 51.1 percent shooting (33.5 percent from three, including 41.0 percent after the All-Star break), 9.4 boards, 2.4 blocks, 1.5 steals and 3.1 assists with eight regular season games remaining, set to take place in Orlando starting in late July. He’s a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year and has a strong case for All-NBA First Team, and showed his toughness in playing through multiple minor injuries, playing in 55 of 63 games.

His overwhelming ability on both ends of the court has helped the Lakers to a 49-14 record, all but securing the No. 1 seed in the West when the playoffs begin.

There are many examples of Davis dominance, such as: vs. NOP 1/3/20 (46P, 13R); vs. DET, 1/5/20 (24P, 11R, 8B); vs. POR, 1/31/20 (37P, 16R, 6A, 5B); vs. PHI 3/3/20 (37P [4 of 5 3’s], 13R, 4S, 2B, 2A).

And yet, because LeBron is an elite NBA offense almost by himself, Davis has been able to be Robin on many nights on one end, while consistently leading L.A.’s defense. He’s found the most efficient ways to complement his co-star neatly, whether by sprinting ahead in transition to catch football passes for dunks, or waiting on the weak side to attack 1-on-1 after LeBron kicks the ball his way after drawing a double team. In fact, LeBron (who leads the NBA with 10.6 assists per game) has supplied more AD buckets than any other NBA player has assisted any teammate.

Davis has received an assist from LeBron on a ridiculous 169 buckets. By comparison, Giannis Antetokounmpo (No. 1 in the NBA in FGM per game) has 81 assists from Eric Bledsoe, and Russell Westbrook (No. 2 in FGM) has 89 from James Harden. LeBron, who’s 5th in FGM, has been assisted 41 times by Rajon Rondo, 40 by Davis, and 25 by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Vogel and his coaching staff know they’re going to get elite defense from Davis regardless of how the offense is dispersed between AD and LeBron.

As Davis demonstrated throughout the season, he can do it all on D, as the biggest reason the Lakers rank No. 3 in defense with a 105.5 rating. Rim protection? Check. Post defense? Yup. Switching onto guards in isolation situations? No problem. Sideline out of bounds plays? Of course. The versatility he brings towards that end of the floor translates beautifully the postseason, when Vogel can essentially stay big on that end with Davis at the five and yet be “small” on offense with an offensive threat like Kyle Kuzma or KCP on the floor for starting center JaVale McGee.

From the beginning of the season, LeBron and AD have been so good as a 1-2 punch that we haven’t too often seen them pressed as they might be in a playoff series, when Frank Vogel tightens the rotation, and AD’s field goal attempts grow as defenses focus even more on LeBron. They’ve held onto the No. 1 seed for the entire season, starting 7-1, then 17-2, then 24-3.

So, there’s some comfort in knowing that L.A.’s No. 2 is better than anybody else’s No. 2, and most teams' No. 1. The uber-aggressive form of AD is lurking. That’s the AD who, the last time he was in the playoffs with New Orleans against Portland in 2018, averaged 33.0 points on 57.5 percent FG’s with 9.5 free throws per game in a sweep.

At the introductory press conference for Davis back in July, LAL’s VP of Basketball Ops/GM Rob Pelinka said this:

“There is no more complete basketball player in the game. There is nothing he can’t do. He can shoot. He can make plays. He can defend 1-5. He can protect the rim. He can handle the ball. His dedication to his craft is unparalleled. And to sit here next to him and to think he’s going to be a pillar on our franchise for many years is something we’re incredibly proud of.”

AD certainly lived up to that billing.

But as impactful as he’s been thus far, it’s enticing to think about what could come next from him as the Lakers gear up for the playoffs.