If the Los Angeles Lakers don’t shoot a lot better next season than they did during the 2018-19 campaign, it won’t be for lack of trying. The team hired Mike Penberthy as a shooting coach over the weekend, and Anthony Davis has been working with private shooting coach Chris Matthews (better known by his nickname of “Lethal Shooter”) over the summer.
Matthews — who also recently showed off the changes he had helped Kyle Kuzma make this summer — posted a video of Davis’ changing form on Twitter:
Studied for months to train Anthony Davis. Making key changes that was throwing his shooting rhythm off. A lot more work to do but I love to see progress with my clients. Late nights studying are worth it. My life is DEVOTED to the player. #NBA #Lakers #LethalShooter pic.twitter.com/w3HUxzl1Qa— Lethal Shooter (@LethalShooter__) July 19, 2019
Davis is receiving a pass from the side and stepping in here, so this might be him working on the mechanics of his shooting form before introducing jumping to the equation. Still, the fact that he’s not jumping — and how close he is to the basket — means that this could also be free-throw practice.
But while it’s not totally clear which area of his game Davis is working on, we already know that he wants to get better at both.
Davis said last week that he wanted to improve his percentages from 3-point range and the free-throw line, the latter of which he says he wants to shoot 85 percent from (he shot 79.5 percent on free throws this year). Knocking down more free throws would make it even more dangerous for teams to foul Davis to prevent easy finishes, potentially eliminating wear and tear on his lanky frame and also making him even more dangerous around the basket (and when the Lakers are in the penalty).
As far as threes go, Davis shot 33.1 percent on 3-pointers last season, and a career-high 34 percent the year before. Both are below league-average, as is Davis’ career percentage of 31.4 percent from behind the arc.
But the Lakers don’t need Davis to suddenly become Kyle Korver. They just need him to nudge his shooting up to league-average or slightly above and he’ll become basically unguardable. The Lakers spacing Davis out to the 3-point line every possession as a glorified floor-spacer would be a waste of his prodigious athletic and ballhandling gifts, but if he can credibly step back and force teams to guard him out at the 3-point line, all of a sudden his pick-and-roll game with LeBron James and dribble-drive skills — along with his many other talents — become instantly more threatening and effective.
In short, whichever area Matthews and Davis are specifically working on here is less important than the footage showing us that Davis is putting in time in the gym to get better at the skills he wants to get better at, priming him for a big year.
Now the Lakers have a full-time shooting coach for Davis to work with whenever he wants during the season too in Penberthy, and it’s probably safe to assume he wouldn’t be here without Davis’ blessing after he spent last season in New Orleans with Davis as well.
If Penberthy’s presence here is something Davis lobbied for with his newfound sway in the franchise — a big assumption, but not an unreasonable one — then it’s even more clear how committed he is to improving as a shooter and making himself one of the most difficult-to-guard big men the game has ever seen.