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Laker Film Room: The guard skills that Anthony Davis brings to the Lakers

Anthony Davis is a matchup nightmare that will allow the Lakers to reap the benefits of going small, without actually having to do so.

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Zain Fahimullah for Laker Film Room/Silver Screen and Roll

So much of the Anthony Davis tape I’ve watched has me muttering to myself, “A guy that big shouldn’t be able to do that,” and his journey to superstardom helps to explain his unique skill set. He began high school as a point guard, but grew from 6’2” to 6’10” between his sophomore and senior years.

That growth spurt took Davis from being a point guard with just one Division-1 offer, to a big man who was the most coveted recruit in the country. He was able to retain the skills that he acquired in his former basketball life, and apply them to his new, massive frame.

The of collection of high-level moves that Davis has in his tool bag lead to some eye-popping highlights when he attacks the basket off of the dribble, but there’s a functional aspect to his ball-handling ability that impacts many more possessions every game. He played more center last season than he ever has before, and is simply too quick for many traditional bigs. His ball-handling is how he leverages that advantage.

Let’s take a closer look:

His go-to move is the inside-out dribble, which gets opposing bigs to shift their weight in one direction while he drives the other way. Opposing centers then have to play him to drive, and Davis uses that against them by planting his front leg in the ground and stepping back to create space. You’ll see the defender’s momentum continue to go backward, and then he’ll scramble to contest, but by then it’s too late. And Davis is excellent at knocking down this particular shot.

Davis’ 3-point shooting (33.1%) is uninspiring on its surface, but much more encouraging when you dive into the numbers. Per, Davis shot just 1-21 (4.8%) on 3-point attempts off of the dribble, but that skyrocketed to 37.7% on catch and shoot threes (46-122), which are the type shots that LeBron James creates regularly. This ostensibly gives the Lakers the stretch-5 that they lacked last year, and will allow the team to space the floor without losing the presence of an elite rebounder and rim protector.

Anthony Davis is blessed with a degree of coordination at his size that is only rivaled by Giannis Antetokuonmpo. He’s too quick for opposing 5’s, too big for opposing 4’s and will allow the Lakers to reap the benefits of going small without actually having to go small. That’s practically a cheat code in the modern NBA, and should allow the Lakers to have an elite offense whenever he and James share the floor.

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