(Erica Rodriguez/Los Angeles Lakers)
Latest Laker: Anthony Davis
One of the most dominant two-way forces in the game will now be suiting up in purple and gold.
Anthony Davis — the six-time All-Star, three-time First Team All-NBA and three-time All-Defensive selection — is now a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
L.A. landed Davis by way of trade with his former club, the New Orleans Pelicans, who acquired Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, the draft rights to De’Andre Hunter, two first-round picks, a first-round pick swap right and cash.
That trade package netted the Lakers one of the most gifted players in the world, as Davis is unquestionably among the NBA’s elite scorers, defenders and rebounders.
We’ll start on offense, where Davis has boasted a top-10 scoring average for five years straight:
- 2014-15: 24.4 (fourth)
- 2015-16: 24.3 (seventh)
- 2016-17: 28.0 (fourth)
- 2017-18: 28.1 (second)
- 2018-19: 25.9 (10th)
Oh, and there’s no need to worry about that slight dip. In fact, Davis’ scoring arsenal was even more robust last season. The Pelicans put him on a minutes restriction for the entire second half of the season. Prior to that, he was averaging an insane 29.3 points — the best of his career and on pace for second-most in the NBA.
Davis is a capable three-level scorer, but his lethality down low is what makes him among the league’s best. Despite the aforementioned minutes restriction, he still finished second among all players in points in the paint (14.3).
Davis provides one of the most valuable assets in the NBA: the ability to go one-on-one and reliably get a bucket. He accomplishes this largely in the post, where he blends finesse and power.
The seven-year veteran is certainly capable of overpowering his opponents, especially when they unwisely switch a smaller player onto him. But his post game is also a dance, as he loves to give footwork lessons while mixing in some face-up jumpers, fadeaways and hook shots.
And while he averaged the NBA’s seventh-most post-up points (4.3), he might be even more impressive in the pick-and-roll.
Davis ranked among the 82nd percentile among rollers to the rim (1.36 points per possession; 67.6% FG), and it’s not difficult to see why. He is a ridiculous athlete, who explodes through the paint and launches himself into the air for lobs. Once mid-flight, he uses his unbelievable, condor-like 7-foot-6 wingspan to snag anything in his area code and slam it down.
Those same attributes also make him a beast on cuts to the hoop. Davis ranked seventh in the NBA in scoring on cuts (3.4) and in the 87th percentile for efficiency (1.47 ppp; 72.5% FG). As soon as opposing defenses are compromised, he has excellent timing for when to dart to the hoop for a lob. In short, he is perhaps the best vertical threat in the game.
And now Davis will work in tandem with one of the game’s all-time playmakers: LeBron James.
But Davis hardly needs to rely on others to get a bucket. Famously a high school point guard who grew seven inches seemingly overnight, Davis is perhaps the greatest ball-handling big in the game, capable of leading fast-breaks or taking his man off the dribble in the half-court.
Davis can dust his defender in straight isolations, attack closeouts from beyond the arc and catch opponents napping with fake handoffs. If his athleticism and ferocity are what make him elite, his ball handling is what makes him one-of-a-kind.
Defenses do whatever they can to keep Davis from taking over the paint, but they often do more harm to themselves than good. He has a fast pass to the foul line, as his aggressive play allowed him to average the league’s fourth-most made free throws last year (6.1).
The same physicality that earns Davis trips to the charity stripe also makes him one of the league’s best rebounders, especially on the offensive glass.
Boxing out Davis is a migraine of a task, as his pterodactyl wingspan, quick second jump and smart timing allow him to constantly clean up missed shots by his teammates or himself. It’s no surprise that he ranked second league-wide in second-chance points (4.8).
And he’s hardly a slouch on the defensive boards. In fact, if he had played enough games to qualify for the NBA leaderboard, Davis would have finished third in total rebounds (12.0). As with scoring, his rebounding average was also even more impressive pre-minutes restriction (13.3).
Speaking of defense, Davis is one of the league’s most fearsome players on that end of the court. A perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Davis has all the physical tools and basketball IQ needed to be an elite defender both at the rim and on the perimeter.
The 6-foot-10, 250-pound big man is a one-man swat team, having led the NBA in blocks three times in his young career. Though he didn’t qualify for the leaderboard last season, he would have been third (2.4).
Many defenders block shots; Davis annihilates them. His wingspan and aggressiveness make him an elite last line of defense, and oftentimes opponents are deterred from even challenging him, instead settling for lower-quality mid-range shots.
But even the NBA’s best rim protectors often having one glaring weakness: Typically they’re too plodding to guard perimeter players — something that typically leaves them susceptible to getting exposed in the playoffs.
Davis has no such issue.
Though he plays power forward and center, Davis is nonetheless a monster when it comes to defending guards and wings.
For a big man, he has unique foot-speed and quick-twitch reactions, which allow him to keep up with even the nimblest point guards. He also envelops them with his wingspan, simultaneously closing off driving and passing lanes with two Groot-like arms.
Most famously, Davis put these talents on display a year ago, when he corralled Portland’s guards — including Damian Lillard (35.2% FG, 30.0% 3P) — and led the seventh-seeded Pelicans to a sweep over the second-seeded Blazers.
Speaking of the playoffs, Davis is the rare superstar whose game amplifies in the postseason. While most see their production decline due to opponents having the time to scheme against them, Davis has been nothing short of dominant come playoff time.
In 13 career playoff games, he has averaged a whopping 30.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 2.5 blocks and 52.6 percent shooting from the field. And in case that wasn’t impressive enough, two of his three series were against the recent Golden State dynasty.
Davis never played a single playoff game with a fellow all-star. Opponents had the opportunity to focus solely on him, but that still didn’t prevent him from insane production. Now he’s teaming up with another generational superstar.
The LeBron-AD pairing is a nightmare for the rest of the league. Who do you double-team, if anybody? Which poison do you pick when they run the pick-and-roll together? How do you protect the paint against two of the greatest interior scorers ever?
And, perhaps best of all for the Lakers: Davis is still only 26 years old. What will he evolve into as he continues to reach his prime? We’ll find out in L.A.
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