We still don’t know for sure if Anthony Davis is going to start at center for the Lakers or not — or who the team’s starters will be — but after the team’s final preseason game last week, Davis wanted to make something clear. For all the talk about how much more important his shooting is to space the floor in lineups where he shares the court with a traditional big man, he thinks his shot making is just as critical regardless of whether he’s playing center or not.
Whether he’s making or missing shots, and regardless of what position he’s playing, Davis says he has to be confident and fire away, because LeBron James and Russell Westbrook need space to get to the basket.
“It’s pretty crucial because it opens up the floor, but I’m gonna shoot the basketball no matter if I’m on or off, because I want to create the space and open the floor for guys, especially Bron and Russ,” Davis said. “Bron and Russ getting downhill, (Rajon Rondo) getting downhill, helps everyone on the floor, it helps them keep attacking.
“With DJ and Dwight on the floor or off the floor, my thing is being able to open up the floor for our guards who attack.”
If that is indeed the case — and Davis makes good points, as James and Westbrook getting to the cup is important for this team to fully leverage its athleticism, power and speed offensively — then Davis has some work to do on knocking down said jumper to open up the floor.
Davis shot really well near the basket during the preseason, going 17-24 (70.8%) within five feet of the basket, according to NBA.com. But of the other 38 shots he attempted outside of that range during his five preseason games, Davis converted just seven (18.4%). He also only made two of his eight 3-point attempts. He’s going to have to make a significantly higher percentage of all those looks if he’s going to convince defenses to respect his range.
The good news is that Davis does have a track record of shooting much better on such shots. For his career, he’s a 43.7% shooter from 3-10 feet, 42.9% shooter from 10-16 feet, 37.6% shooter from 16 feet to 3-point range, and 31.2% shooter from deep, per Basketball Reference.
Those aren’t necessarily defense-breaking numbers, but they’re good enough to punish teams just enough if they completely leave him alone. The Lakers certainly shouldn’t make them an offensive cornerstone, but those looks can serve as a bail-out weapon in late-clock offense on possessions where Davis, James and Westbrook can’t get anything going to the rim and there are no good 3-point looks available.
As he well understands, Davis is just going to have to make more of them when they start counting. Whether or not he can will play a significant role in this team’s ultimate offensive ceiling.