Anthony Davis has been slow to ramp things up this season, at least by his standards. Although the 27-year-old superstar is averaging 21.7 points per game on 51.5% shooting from the field and 41.2% shooting from 3-point range, he’s had three games with less than 20 points in his first seven games. Last season, it took him 13 games to get to three games with less than 20 points.
While Davis has tried to get back to being a consistent scorer, he’s found other ways to impact the game, most notably as a passer. Through six games, Davis has recored 19 assists, which is three more assists than he had through six games last season. Going into the Lakers’ win against the Memphis Grizzles on Sunday night, he was averaging a career-high 4.0 assists per game.
Davis only picked up one assist against the Grizzlies, but Frank Vogel thinks Davis still deserves credit for the way he moved the ball on Sunday, and for how he’s developed as a passer since last season, particularly out of double teams.
“His passing, to me, in double teams, is night and day from where it was at this point last year,” Vogel said of Davis on Monday. “I think he really grew towards the end of the season last year in the bubble and in the playoffs, where games mattered more. I think he’s really grown into this year with regard to that.
“Last night, I thought he had a great passing night even though he only had one assist, and we highlighted that in the film session today. He made a number of extra passes that we didn’t get the payoff of a made shot, or a made finish with a foul or an extra pass after that, but I thought he had a great passing game last night even though he didn’t get awarded on the stat sheet. He’s definitely growing in that area.”
It’s unlikely that we’ll see Vogel run his offense through Davis with more advanced playmakers like Dennis Schröder, Marc Gasol and, of course, LeBron James at his disposal, but Davis being a better and more willing passer will make the Lakers better as a whole, and that’s ultimately what’s motivating Davis to improve in that area.
“I’m just trying to add more to my game,” Davis said on Sunday. “I know a lot of teams try to double just to make me get a different look when I score, so the best way to beat a double team is to find the open guy and our guys are making shots. I just have to do my job and draw the double. Once I do that, find the right guy, whether he’s in front of me, (in the) weak side corner, the big down in the middle; whatever it is, I’ve got to make the read. That’s how you make your team better.
“I haven’t been scoring like you guys are used to but I’ve been making the right plays and finding my teammates, who have been doing a great job of knocking down shots and just continuously making plays for others.”
Fortunately for him, he has a few capable teachers around him, including one of the best playmaking big men the NBA has ever seen in Gasol. Gasol leads all active centers in assists with 2,905. On Sunday against the Grizzlies, he dished out four assists.
“It’s good that I have Marc here because I’ve been learning a lot from Marc as far as passing bigs from the top, the elbow, from the post — just trying to figure out ways to kind of steal that from him, and also Bron. He’s been talking to me about that as well over the past couple of years. I’m just trying to get better and continuously add to my game.”
Marc Gasol's got every pass in his bag pic.twitter.com/bDRdOmvBYV— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 4, 2021
Davis is already one of the more complete players in the NBA. If he can improve as a playmaker with the help of his teammates, it would be hard to put a ceiling on what the Lakers can accomplish while he’s in Los Angeles.