Anthony Davis dunks

Anthony Davis' Elite Production in the Paint

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

For a player often categorized as a new-school big man, Anthony Davis sure loves himself a matchup that allows himself to rewind the game back to ‘90s bully ball.

See Davis’ game-within-the-game against Chimezie Metu in Tuesday’s comeback over Sacramento: Five times AD went back-to-the-basket against Metu and found the bucket.

Straight-up power, soft touch, footwork to create angles — Davis put it all on display in the post en route to a team-high 25 points, as the Lakers alchemized a 14-point deficit into a 25-point victory.

Such a display was nothing new for Davis — an eight-time All-Star and member of the NBA’s 75th anniversary team. He’s been dominant down low for his entire career, but this season he’s been a Picasso in the paint.

For all the exterior chatter about Davis taking too many jumpers, no player has scored more more points in the paint than he has (322). And like any great artist, he is a master of a variety of techniques.

Want him working in tandem with elite playmakers like LeBron James and Russell Westbrook? He leads the league in points as the pick-and-roll roll man (113).

Need him to get a bucket on his own? He’s second in scoring off post-ups (97). How about cleaning up his teammates’ misses? He’s fifth in second-chance points (77).

In short, he’s been a combination sledgehammer-Swiss army knife.

Davis’ work down low has behooved the Lakers through both volume and efficiency. He ranks second in baskets in the restricted area (129), fourth in dunks (53) and seventh in layups (71). And he’s also shot the fifth-best percentage on layups (68.9%), plus an elite 75.4% in the restricted area.

He’s a shape-shifter, constantly morphing from low-post bulldozer to angle-seeking tactician to uber-athletic lob threat.

Furthermore, all of that success goes without mentioning the physical toll that comes with doing battle among the game’s colossuses down low. And that tax only increases with how much effort AD puts on the defensive end, where he swats the NBA’s second-most shots per game (2.3).

So, with his presence in the paint well established, what of Davis’ jump shot — one of the league’s surest conversation starters?

Well, he’s hit 38.1% from mid-range, which is on pace for his best mark as a Laker. Fans will recall just how deadly his mid-rangers were during the 2020 playoffs, when he hit 49.6% from that zone.

Obviously he’s a far cry from that sweltering percentage, but a player doesn’t reach that kind of height in the playoffs without putting in reps upon reps in the regular season.

Now, where AD has undoubtedly struggled this season has been from the arc, where he’s made just 9-of-46 from 3-point range (19.6%).

Again, there is value in regular season reps leading to postseason success. AD’s 3-point percentage ballooned from a below-league-average 33.0% in the 2020 regular season to a dangerous 38.3% during the run to the title.

Beyond that, there is simply value in him being willing to take shots from beyond the arc in the interest of spacing. The Lakers need Davis to at least be a potential 3-point threat, so that opposing defenses cannot simply pack the paint on them.

During his tenure in purple and gold, the Lakers are 55-25 when he attempts at least three 3-pointers, and 43-23 when trying two or fewer. Shooting 3s — even if they don’t go in — stretches the defense, gives the offense more space to attack, and leads to winning.

For those still not satisfied with his perceived diet of jumpers, here are a couple more: Davis’ 5.1 mid-range attempts per game is the same mark that he shot last year. And his 2.1 3-point attempts are by far his fewest as a Laker.

But perhaps most illuminating is this: Davis, for all the talk of him spending too much time on the perimeter, has taken 252 shots in the paint — more than any other player in the game.

And you know what he’s capable of doing there.

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