On June 15th, the Los Angeles Lakers agreed to trade Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, the 4th pick in the 2019 Draft, two future first round picks, and a pick-swap in 2023 to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Anthony Davis. The final terms of the deal can’t be finalized until July 6th and, in true Laker fashion, has been full of drama. But let’s not lose sight of the central aspect of the trade: The Lakers just got one of the very best players in the NBA.
In fact, they have two of them. Davis will pair with LeBron James to create arguably the most formidable duo in the NBA, but the synergy between them could make the whole greater than even the sum of their two parts. I’ve been dreaming of LeBron James to Anthony Davis pick and rolls since news of the trade broke. The tape did not disappoint. Let’s take a closer look.
Davis will help and accentuate James in several different respects on ball screens. Drop coverages — where the defensive guard fights over the top of the screen while the defensive big hangs back to protect the rim — are probably the most common pick and roll coverage in the NBA. Davis has a high-level understanding of passing angles that makes life easier on the ball-handler, a combination of length and athleticism that allow him to get to lobs that most other players can’t reach, and some of the very best hands in the NBA.
NBA games become very pick and roll-centric down the stretch of a close contest, with teams often relying on the talents of their best player to create a quality shot when they need it the most. James will shoulder those responsibilities just as he did last season, but Davis’ presence should lead to a spike in the team’s efficiency in such situations. Defenses would often switch these late-game ball screens, daring James to beat a big man off of the dribble, without fear of JaVale McGee or other centers punishing the mismatch on the other end. James uncharacteristically struggled in such situations, often settling for step-back threes instead of challenging the foot speed of the switching big.
Davis changes the equation. He punishes smaller wings in the post, using his length to go over the top of them, his underrated strength to seal and pin them in disadvantageous positions, and his skill to finish. James will no longer shoulder the burden of attacking mismatches on his own.
Teams also like to trap James, to simply get the ball out of his hands and make someone else beat them. Such possessions lead to temporary 4-on-3 scenarios everywhere else on the court. Davis is a scoring threat from anywhere in the half court, but these situations are where his passing ability shines through the most. He’s able to identify the open man and hit them in their shooting pocket, or on a dump-off for a layup. His presence as a dual scoring/passing threat will make teams think twice about the value of trapping James in the first place.
Intelligence, unique physical tools, and skill combine to make Anthony Davis a one-of-a-kind pick and roll threat. And the other guy is LeBron James. Just imagine it. I’ll be dreaming of what that will look like all the way until October.
The goal of Laker Film Room is to create content that helps you enjoy the game on a deeper level. If you’d like to support that work, you can do so on Patreon or Venmo. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts.