After a year in which the Los Angeles Lakers only had to worry about properly utilizing one star — and not even managing that correctly — they acquired Anthony Davis to pair with LeBron James, and will now have to make sure they’re getting the most out of two transcendent players.
To be clear, that is an amazing “problem” to have, and one most coaches would kill for. And there is also the matter that getting the two to mesh may not really be difficult at all, given how complementary James and Davis’ skillsets are.
Still, it will be up to Lakers head coach Frank Vogel to find the best balance that maximizes both of his stars, and in a recent interview, Vogel told Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated that Davis makes doing so easy because of his ability to do, well, everything on the basketball court:
Mannix: Having Anthony Davis is every coach’s dream. I mean, a top-five player in this league. You’ve seen how previous coaches have played him, how he’s developed. How do you think he fits in to what you’re going to try and do next season?
Vogel: He’s a major focal point. He’s one of the best players in the league. He’ll be involved in every way that I can possibly use him. Offensively, he’s got the ability to play the four or the five, stretch the floor from the three-point line, post up, be a lob threat rolling through the basket. He literally does it all. He’ll be able to rebound and push on the break.
Obviously, you’re going to be a major factor there. And then defensively, he can do it all as well. He’s got that athleticism, can guard on the perimeter, an elite rim protector, a rebounder. Just one of the best two-way players in the game. Usually when you talk about two-way players, you’re talking about wings, you know, the Paul George’s and Kawhi Leonard’s of the world. Avery Bradley for instance, another guy we have on our squad. But you don’t usually talk about guys like that at the power forward or center position, and that’s what we have in AD.
Vogel isn’t wrong about Davis. He is a special, special player, and one whose game will likely only go up another notch given that he’s still only just 26 years old, and that he’s never had a co-star to pressure defenses in the ways that James can. James’ abilities as a creator will make it even easier on Davis to do the complementary things he does well, while also allowing him to conserve energy and be more effective in the moments the offense is run through him.
How much will the latter happen? It’s unclear, and probably depends partially on James’ health. When James is in the lineup, Davis will likely get a bit of a break from having to be the hub for the Lakers offensively like he was in his last few years with the Pelicans, where the last four years he used about around 30 percent of the team’s possessions while on the floor, according to Basketball-Reference. Even with Vogel saying that Davis will be a “focal point,” that number figures to drop at least a tick this year — or at least the ease with which Davis sustains it will rise — with Davis likely becoming more efficient as a result.
However the numbers shake out exactly, though, Davis will surely play a prominent role on both ends for the Lakers, who will especially need him defensively to cover up for any lapses from some of the team’s more suspect perimeter defenders.
In 2018, Davis finished in the top three in MVP and Defensive Player of the Year voting. If what Vogel is saying is true — and there is little contextual reason to doubt him — then Davis just might be set to repeat that feat this season.