Lakers forward Anthony Davis has seen a significant drop in his performance this season. Currently, the Lakers remain the second-best team in the west with a 21-7 record. However, Davis must improve his play, or else the Lakers won’t win their second straight championship.
Decline In Performance
Anthony Davis is, without question, a top 10 player in the NBA. This season, Davis has not lived up to that billing. After a third of the season in the books, Davis is averaging 22.9 points and 8.6 rebounds. This is a significant drop off in comparison to his numbers during last year’s championship season. A year ago, Davis put up 26.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. The most alarming concern is Davis’ free throw shooting. The Laker’s forward is shooting a career-worst 70% from the free-throw line. Davis has made a note of the criticism this season and had this to say to the media.
“A lot of people have been talking about my offense and how this year’s been a slow start and everything offensively, but I’m a two-way player. I don’t rely on offense for me to have a great season. “Anthony Davis
Davis is right; he can still impact the game on the defensive end. However, even his defensive stats have taken a dip this year. Davis is averaging the lowest blocks and rebounds since his rookie season. The Lakers forward doesn’t seem too concerned with his numbers this season. Whether this is a calculated move or natural regression is yet to be seen.
Following their championship run in the NBA bubble, the Lakers were rewarded with the shortest off-season in NBA history. With only 71 days of rest, the Lakers were at a clear disadvantage heading into this season. Davis’ slow start may be attributed to this shortened off-season. The Lakers forward has never had a deep playoff run like the one he endured last season. Before, the farthest Davis had gone in the playoffs was the second round with the New Orleans Pelicans. The long playoff run combined with the shortened off-season may have taken a toll on Davis.
Some may argue that this is not a valid excuse for Davis’ drop in production. The shortened off-season does not seem to be affecting Davis’ 36-year-old teammate, who happens to be having an MVP season in his 18th year. In an early-season MVP poll, LeBron James was favored to win his fifth MVP award. At 27, Anthony Davis is nine years younger than James. Davis has nowhere near the miles on his body that James does. Davis should be shouldering the Lakers’ load while James takes a backseat, not the other way around. With Davis not consistently playing to his potential, James has been forced to play heavy minutes early in the season. This doesn’t bode well for the Lakers’ long-term goals.
Importance of Davis
Lebron James will always be the most important player on his team. This iteration of the Lakers is no exception. However, James needs Davis just as much as Davis needs James. Anthony Davis has the ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor. He is one of the most versatile defensive players in NBA history. Davis has the ability to protect the paint and switch out to the perimeter and defend guards. This versatility is imperative to the Laker’s championship hopes. In the post-season, the Lakers will potentially have to go through the likes of Nikola Jokic, Kawhi Leonard, and Kevin Durant. These are just a few of the superstar players the Lakers may have to beat if they hope to repeat as champions. The Lakers forward will have to be at his peak defensively to slow down opposing players.
Davis’ offensive contribution is just as important to the Lakers’ success. Last season, he was the leading scorer for the Lakers during the regular season and playoffs. His ability to score in the post and handle the ball makes him a matchup nightmare. Davis also has the ability to stretch the floor with his three-point shooting. He made several long-range shots a season ago, none bigger than his game-winning three against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals.
The Lakers had a relatively smooth ride to the championship last year. This year will be a lot more complicated. Winning one title is hard enough. Winning two in a row is one of the hardest things to do in professional sports. The obstacles in the way of a Lakers repeat are extremely daunting. The Clippers have another season to build chemistry and are better than they were a year ago. Joel Embiid is having an MVP season, and the 76ers look like they finally have it figured out. With James Harden’s addition, the Brooklyn Nets now boast the most firepower any team has had in NBA history. The Lakers need their superstar forward to start playing like himself if they have any chance of winning back-to-back titles.