How fun was that?!?
Anthony Davis showed instant chemistry with LeBron James in his first game with the Lakers, particularly on ball screens. James commended Davis for the intelligence with which he plays in his post-game interview, and what he was talking about was on display in their first connection of the game.
Davis set a flat-angle ball screen for James — meaning that his back is facing the baseline — which allowed LeBron to use the screen while driving in either direction. Davis made good contact (hallelujah!), and with James putting pressure on the rim, all Davis had to do is dive to the front of the rim while sealing Alfonzo McKinnie behind him.
James missed the layup, but it was an easy put-back for Davis, especially considering he’s good at cleaning up with either hand. This type of “pick your poison” quandary should put defenses in difficult positions and benefit their teammates throughout the season.
Davis also dominated on the offensive glass, along with his fellow Lakers bigs, taking advantage of a Golden State team that was missing several of its own big men. As a result, the Warriors were no match for Davis’ combination of length, jumping ability, and timing.
Let’s take a closer look at his dominant debut:
Frank Vogel used Davis in a number of “short pick and rolls.” On these plays, one big sets the high ball screen, with the other in the dunker’s spot on either side, depending on the variation. Davis was featured in both spots. This is a good way to take advantage of Davis’ unbelievable ability as a roll man, despite not having a floor-spacer as the other big.
The frightening part about Davis’s performance is that his jumper wasn’t even falling. He went just 1-8 on those, with several of them missing short. He’s nearly unstoppable when he has that working for him, and that’s coming soon.
Davis will likely be defending the perimeter a little more this season with JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard protecting the rim, which should lead to a lot of leak outs and deep post seals against smaller players. Davis had a couple of those during this first preseason game.
It was otherwise a pretty uneventful game from Davis on the defensive end, although we did see the value of his ability to hedge higher on screens, either contesting jumpers or preventing them from being taken in the first place. The only real blemish in Davis’ defensive game in this one was his transition defense, where he made a couple of mistakes.
It was a stunning debut for Davis, that showed off how much he should benefit from playing alongside an elite shot creator. He’s been a Laker since June, but now it finally feels real.