It’s always dangerous to overly hyperbolize based on an NBA preseason game, but at the same time, it was hard to not watch LeBron James and Anthony Davis make their debut as a pairing for the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night and not reach the conclusion that they could be one of the best and most unstoppable duos in the NBA.
Partially aiding in this declaration not feeling like an unreasonable takeaway from an exhibition game is that this always seemed like a possible, and even likely, endpoint for Davis and James’ partnership. The best tandems in NBA history have mostly been built with one superstar on the wing and another serving as the big man, and in this fashion James and Davis looked set to be as complementary of each other as peanut butter and jelly.
It may just be one game that didn’t count, but Saturday’s 123-101 victory over the Golden State Warriors did little to dissuade the theory that James and Davis can be special together. If anything, it only reinforced it, something Davis echoed to reporters on Spectrum Sportsnet after the game:
“It’s tough to cover. You’ve got a guy like him going downhill and a guy like me who’s rolling, who’s a lob threat — you’ve got to pick your poison. You know he’s getting to his strong hand, he’s in the paint and then you got me rolling behind, so either he’s going to go finish, pass or a lob, especially when it’s a clear like that. It’s a tough play to guard.”
Davis makes the action he and James are using sound simple, and in one sense it is, at least until a defense has to try and stop it. With a defense’s nervous system already panicking at the threat of James barreling to the basket to dunk one home, it doesn’t always have the requisite leftover attention to focus on Davis, leading to something that could never happen in New Orleans — Davis being forgotten about, setting up easy baskets like this one:
That’s just one play in transition, but it’s a good example of what Davis references, and the types of terrible choices he and James will force teams to make when they share the floor. After a season both spent shouldering a far heavier burden than they wanted to, it’s also likely a big part of exactly why James and Davis wanted to join forces this badly, too.
Even after watching just one half of their union, it’s hard to argue with their reasoning.