As Anthony Davis walked off the floor after making multiple huge defensive plays to help the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Nuggets in Denver on Tuesday night, he was screaming out a message to teammate Alex Caruso.
“First team All-Defense,” Davis yelled, but Caruso had to suggest an alteration to his All-Star teammate’s proclamation.
“No, no. Player of the Year,” Caruso corrected. He then detailed why he thinks Davis deserves the award (via Spectrum SportsNet):
““His defense was extraordinary,” Caruso said. “He’s shutting down the opposing team’s best player one-on-one, without fouling, on the road, sick. (He was) exhausted, probably, and that just goes to show the type of competitor he is, and we all know what he’s capable of.”
In addition to making life difficult on the Nuggets, Davis fought through an illness that required him to get an IV bag of fluids at halftime to finish the game with 25 points, 10 rebounds and somehow just one shot credited as a block, although he altered countless others.
It was the latter ability that left his teammates campaigning for Davis to win the end-of-season award as the NBA’s best defender. Davis’ fellow big man Dwight Howard — a three-time Defensive Player of the Year himself — spent postgame raving about how much easier Davis makes things on his teammates defensively:
“In order for us to win, defense is where we have to hang our hats at. He’s been doing an amazing job of playing guards, playing bigs, getting blocks, getting steals and just doing all the little things,” Howard said “He’s getting big stops, he’s getting big rebounds and that’s what it takes to win that award.
“(He) makes it easy. You know you’ve got a guy who can play everything on the floor. You don’t have to be hesitant to switch or anything like that because you know that the guy who is playing defense is going to get a stop,” Howard continued. “We believe and trust that AD is going to do the best he can on the defensive end and we’re going to anchor that.”
Interestingly enough, the Lakers allow just as many points per 100 possessions while AD is on the floor (102.3) as they do when he’s off, but considering some of the all-bench units he’s played with that likely bring that rating down, such a statistic is more impressive than damning.
The numbers from Davis’ game against the Nuggets also back up what his teammates were saying, as the Lakers were never worse on defense than when Davis sat, allowing Denver to score at a rate that would equal out to 123.8 points per 100 possessions while he was on the bench. Conversely, lineups with Davis held the Nuggets to 88.6 points per 100 possessions. That’s a huge swing that basically confirms what the eye test about that game would say.
It also has to mean something that all of this praise for Davis is coming from his teammates and coaches in unison. Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel made his case for Davis prior to the game even being played...
Frank Vogel on Anthony Davis’ defense: “I think he can and will win Defensive Player of the Year this season”— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) December 4, 2019
...while teammate LeBron James once again trumpeted Davis’ candidacy for Defensive Players of the Year after the win, citing how well Davis has played, and how he’s done so while fighting hard to stay on the floor amidst injuries and illness.
“He’s been doing it all year. Playing through injuries, playing through illness like he did tonight. He’s the Defensive Player of the Year and he showed it tonight once again. Playing one-on-one versus (Nikola Jokic) in the post, when there were switches going on with Jamal Murray playing one-on-one versus a small. He got stop after stop after stop. Just a monster game.”
This is at least the third time James has touted Davis as Defensive Player of the Year, and this is something the Lakers clearly want for their teammate because of how much more simple he makes things on them on defense.
Davis may not ultimately win the award at the end of the season, but if the voting happened now, it would be a shock to see him not end up with the individual hardware he covets, right as the Lakers look set to chase a ring in large part as a result of his efforts. We’ll see if that’s how everything ends up, but Davis should definitely be the favorite for the award as things stand today.
All quotes transcribed via Spectrum SportsNet. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.