It becomes easy to take great players for granted when there are so many of them performing at a high level around the same time, which is a blessing and a curse for NBA fans. In the case of the Los Angeles Lakers, star power may spawn a negative connotation — at least over the last two seasons, during which a team that’s only a few years removed from title contention has barely scratched the surface of a Playoff appearance. Much of that responsibility fell on the shoulders of Anthony Davis, an oft-injured superstar big man who is already one of the 75 greatest of all time.
In the first 11 games of his season, Davis failed to reach 30 points in any single game. With teammates in and out of the rotation, it was expected that he would help to elevate the Lakers back into the postseason discussion as the No. 1 option on the team. His running mate, LeBron James, is now 37 and has seemingly dealt with more injuries in the last few seasons than in his entire career before now. The team’s third star, Russell Westbrook, fell off a cliff in terms of efficiency, decision-making and public perception.
Whether he likes it or not, the Los Angeles Lakers will go as far as Anthony Davis goes, and finally, he’s rising to the occasion.
Anthony Davis is playing like the top dog on the Los Angeles Lakers.
In his last four games, Davis is averaging 35.5 points, 18.3 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 2.3 steals per game on 62.3% shooting from the field. He’s been dominant in and around the paint, hanging around for offensive rebounds and lobs while exploiting gaps in opponents’ coverage despite hoards of help defenders and crowding at the basket. Even more impressively? He’s dominating in the paint for the worst 3-point shooting team in basketball, so he barely gets help from spacing.
An important key to his recent success has been the resurgence of his mid-range jump shot — a tool that forces defenders off balance and allows him to create more effective driving lanes using his sharp dribble and deceptively slithery frame at 6-foot-10. If teams must respect his jumper, he becomes nearly impossible to defend one-on-one.
With the skills and intellect of a lead guard, Davis has mastery of using his long reach and stout frame to his advantage. It’s a combination that few players in league history have ever been able to share, making him one of the top pure talents in the NBA. Unfortunately, his reputation has been somewhat muddied in recent seasons. That’s largely due to his injury troubles, which forced him to just 36 games coming off his championship year in 2020 and 40 in the year after that.
Yet through his woes, a healthy Anthony Davis is one of the best players in the world and certainly, an elite big man who belongs in the same conversation as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid. This year is his chance to re-insert himself into that upper echelon. If Anthony Davis is the best player on the Lakers this year, they’re far more likely to compete in the Playoffs. Relying solely on a 37-year-old to be your 1A superstar simply isn’t a winning recipe in a league with so much elite talent leading teams with Finals hopes.
The Lakers are still the 14th seed in the Western Conference and have a long way to go before digging themselves out of this hole, but these four games of excellence from Davis show just how well this team can perform with him at his best. This 3-1 stretch is their best of the season thus far and quite frankly, competing with a regular-season powerhouse like the Phoenix Suns without LeBron in the lineup could, in some ways, be considered a win for the Lakers faithful.
At this point, the fate of the Lakers rests in the hands of Anthony Davis. Let’s see how he responds through the rest of this season.