It's probably disingenuous to say we're witnessing a new Anthony
Davis as of late.
We've seen him dominate games as a solo act. We've seen him
throw opposing game plans out of the window with his two-way
prowess alongside a co-star. He's settled into being a darn-good
No. 2 alongside an elite primary, with that setup peaking during
the Los Angeles Lakers' 2020 title campaign.
But it probably isn't right to say the old Davis is back,
either. This version feels like a hybrid: The athletic marvel of
old with a slight shift in mindset. However you want to describe
him, just make sure you note how ridiculous he's been.
The Lakers had their three-game winning streak snapped by the
Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night, but that wasn't Davis' fault. He
filled the stat sheet in this one: 37 points, 21 rebounds, 5
steals, 5 blocks and a pair of dimes. Zoom out to the four-game
stretch, and you're left with these averages: 35.5 points (64.9%
from two, 92.0% free-throw percentage on 12.5 attempts), 18.3
rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.3 steals and 2.5 blocks... with the Lakers
outscoring their opponents by 50 in his 134 minutes.
I've been wildly impressed with Davis' process. This hasn't just
been a hot streak of jump shooting (though having the jumper going
helps; he's drained 53.3% of his mid-range attempts
during this four-game stretch).
There's been a real emphasis for him to get in the paint. He's
been able to isolate against slower defenders, get them off-balance
and get downhill. There's been a comfort against smaller players,
slow-playing things before tossing his body around. Even in
ball-screens, AD's rolling more; he's rolled on nearly 69% of his
screens during this four-game stretch, up from 60% before it, per
No matter the opponent or the method, the results are the same:
High-value shots, shooting fouls drawn or both.
What's really popped for me has been the work Davis has done
after the catch. Too often in the past, Davis would receive a
cross-screen to set up a post touch, only to receive the ball 15
feet (or further) from the basket after being knocked off his spot.
He could still attack from there, but it would be a steeper climb.
Davis would compound things by settling, catching and holding
before firing a rhythm-busting jumper.
We haven't seen that play out too often as of late. Even when
he's pushed out, he works to get both feet in the paint. This
really popped in the Brooklyn game on Saturday.
On the season, the average shot distance for Davis is 6.5 feet.
That's easily a career low, besting his rookie campaign (7.8 feet)
where he attempted six threes the entire season.
It would be easy to attribute the lower shot distance to Davis
practically taking threes out of his diet this season; only 7.1% of
his shot attempts have come from beyond the arc, his first time
dipping below 10% since the 2016-17 season. But even his average
two-point shot distance is down, from 7.8 feet last season to 6
feet this season per PBP Stats.
Davis has been phenomenal on the other end, too. The Lakers have
had him toggle between a deeper drop and having him up to the level
of the screen when defending pick-and-rolls. No matter the task,
Davis has proven to be game.
When in a drop, Davis has been able to walk the line between
disrupting the ball-handler's space and not letting the roller get
behind him. When he's at the level, he uses his length to hinder
potential passing lanes, but is still quick enough (and a good
enough leaper) to prevent lobs from being thrown over
He's nailing the cat-and-mouse game right now.
(Of course, it's worth noting the Lakers have been on a string
in general. Drop coverage doesn't work without good screen
navigation, or timely help when those point-of-attack defenders get
screened off. When everyone is doing their job, the whole of it
flows more smoothly.)
Opponents have generated just 0.8 points per possession (PPP)
when running a ball screen at Davis over the last four games, an
elite number that isn't far off his season-wide mark (0.85 PPP).
Zooming out, opposing teams see their rim rate — the percentage of
shots coming at the rim — drop by 3.6 percentage points with Davis
on the floor, a mark that ranks in the 86th percentile, per
Cleaning The Glass.
And when players do try Davis at the rim, it
doesn't generally go well. They're converting a shade under 54% of
their shots at the rim against Davis over the past four games, a
mark that would rank sixth among high-volume rim protectors (min.
5.0 rim shots defended per game) across the entire season.
Davis won't be a 35-and-18 guy moving forward; that's MyCareer
stuff you shouldn't reasonably expect. But if this is the mindset
from Davis — getting to the rim and free-throw line at will,
patrolling the paint with gusto — the calculus could change for the
Lakers. They're slated to get LeBron James back on Friday; I don't
need to explain how much he may help their offense.
I'd keep an eye on L.A.