EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Before the season started for the Los Angeles Lakers, Anthony Davis got his teammates’ attention, because he needed to let them know something. Many players on the roster hadn’t played with him before, and there was part of his game he needed to make sure they understood.
“If you throw it towards the rim I’m gonna find a way to get it,” Davis said then, and so far this season, he’s delivered on that promise.
Davis is shooting 86.5% (45-52) on alley-oops this year, according to NBA.com, which is the third-best percentage he’s ever shot on such attempts, and his best since the 2014-15 season. The Lakers haven’t always made that feat easy on him, as evidenced by this pass from Danny Green the other night.
Davis may have lost his gum, but he finished the lob, delivering on his promise to the team despite the added difficulty level.
“Some of the best alley-oop finishes are some of the worst passes in NBA history, and Danny Green is now up there as one of the worst alley-oop passes,” said LeBron James.
Green said he wasn’t even just following directions, because he never heard Davis’ preseason challenge.
”He might have said that to ‘Bron. He doesn’t look at me as a point guard. Most guys don’t,” Green said. “Nobody really comes to me and says ‘just throw the ball near the rim.’ I don’t handle the ball much, but looking at him and seeing his past and his resume, I could kind of figure that one out.”
Davis joked that his teammates might be taking his challenge to literally.
“I think they’re testing me a little bit,” Davis said with a smile, and Green was happy to poke a bit of fun at himself for his lack of targeting ability.
“I’m not a point guard by any means, so I know my passes are challenging,” Green admitted. “I thought it was a solid pass, but then when I threw and the way he caught it, I was like, ‘damn, I don’t know if he’s going to catch this.’ But he catches everything. He makes everything.”
Frank Vogel expressed similar sentiments as Green almost a month ago after Davis finished a couple of impressive lobs as the Lakers beat the Miami Heat on the road, calling Davis the “best finisher and lob catcher in the game, and maybe that I’ve ever seen.”
Still, after practice on Saturday, he admitted that the Lakers testing Davis’ finishing ability too much is something he worries about.
“It is a concern. We don’t want to just throw wild passes at the rim,” Vogel said. “More importantly, we’ve got to read the help. A lot of times we throw it up there when there is two or three defenders in the lane, and then you’re going to a) have a turnover and b) put him in a compromising position in mid-air.”
Vogel isn’t going so far as to advocate for the Lakers not taking advantage of Davis’ incredible pass-catching and finishing ability, though.
“You’ve got to be smart about it, but when there is space he’s got a crazy ability to seemingly catch everything, and finish everything. The best I’ve ever seen, and we saw that (against New Orleans) with Danny’s missed pass that ended up being a flush,” Vogel said.
Davis and James have had particular success with those easier passes out of their pick and rolls a few times, part of what has allowed Davis to average 1.16 points per play as the roll man in such situations, the fourth-best rate of any player with more than 100 such possessions, according to NBA.com.
“You can throw it to AD anywhere,” James said, before not being able to resist taking one more subtle crack at Green. “For me, I try to just put it there where he can just dunk it, and he did that.”
Green just appreciates that Davis was able to turn his potential lowlight into one of the highlights of the year.
“The fact that he’s 6’11, seven feet or whatever and jumps out the gym, it’s not hard to throw lobs to him. He makes me look good,” Green said. “It’s not challenging when you throw it to a guy like that.
“Catching oops? There is not a player that I’ve played with (that’s as good as him).”
Unlike Davis’ 3-point shooting, Vogel said he hasn’t set a specific goal in terms of lob attempts per game for Davis, but Davis himself says that no matter how many times his teammates try it, he’s happy to attempt to get some easy points.
“I just see the ball and I just try to go get it,” Davis said. “If I see the ball, I make sure it’s in my hand clean, and if I got it clean, it’s probably gonna go in.”
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 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.