Since returning from an MCL injury, Anthony Davis’ terrific form has provided the Los Angeles Lakers with optimism that they can still turn things around this season.
Davis is averaging 29.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 2.8 blocks over his last five games, impressing with aggressiveness on offense while showing off his Defensive Player of the Year award-worthy skills on the other end.
The 28-year-old forward’s pick-and-roll game has become a particularly dangerous weapon for the Lakers this year — and one the Purple and Gold rely on heavily. Davis averages 4.5 ball screen possessions in which he acts as the roll man, the third-highest number in 2021-22.
“It’s not rocket science. At the end of the day, if you know you got someone as dynamic as Anthony Davis, you put them in action,” LeBron James explained, detailing why the versatile big man has been involved in more pick-and-roll action.
“I hate to keep using the same Rams analogies or whatever, but McVay knows that Cooper Kupp is a dynamic football player. He knows how great he is in the slot, outside the numbers, going in motion, you put him in all the action and something is gonna open up for your team.
“So it’s time we come off a pick-and-roll and hit AD on a pocket pass to get to his floater, get to his jumper. Sometimes you come off the pick-and-roll and get him for a lob, sometimes you also come off and you attract other defensive guys and you’re able to get someone else open for an open three. If you look at one of the biggest possessions of last game, I threw the ball to AD on the inbound, he hit me back, AD came to a side pick-and-roll, and because of his roll, he attracted so many defenders, attracted Julius Randle to stage AD, and I hit Trevor for a three.”
James added Davis “balances the Lakers offensively” when he plays at the five. However, the 37-year-old All-Star admitted L.A. is better off with a nominal center on the court in certain matchups.
“I still would say ideally defensively if you are putting a defense lineup out there then you have two seven-footers out there because of AD’s mobility to be able to guard on the perimeter, you still have the rim-protector inside,” James said.
“That just hasn’t been a functional lineup on this year’s team offensively. It is a balance, but he’s able to do both. He’s able to be elite as the defensive center as well. He just moves his length and versatility on the perimeter when he’s playing defensive center. But he’s got all those options and the way we’re benefiting from the open-paint offense, we believe is something that can really carry us on a deep run.”
Frank Vogel sees Davis returning to his dominant self
Frank Vogel praised Davis for the defensive impact he’s made since returning from the MCL injury. Vogel said the forward has been showing the remnants of his old, dominant self that propelled the Lakers to the NBA championship in 2019-20.
“Hopefully, it’s just AD returning to form and being dominant,” the head coach said.
“But I do think he’s had a look about him the last x-amount of games I think since Bron went out that resembles more closely 2020 AD than maybe we’ve seen since then, so that’s a real positive sign for us.”
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