One of the central frustrations the Lakers have had in the opening weeks of the season has been the lack of favorable calls they’ve received from officials. Over two weeks ago, head coach Frank Vogel said the Lakers were sending in clips to the league of plays they felt were incorrectly called against them.
On Wednesday, Vogel again reiterated that, this time after Anthony Davis finished the team’s game against the Bucks with zero free throws.
“I think Anthony Davis getting zero free-throw attempts is something that’s a little bit mind-boggling,” Vogel said. “We’ll continue to communicate with the league on that.”
As previously noted, this is not the first time Vogel is openly admitting to sending in clips to the league, which seems to be his workaround for criticizing officials without being fined while doing so. Vogel explained the process involved with sending in clips to the league, something which he says is a regular practice throughout the league.
“You label clips in the portal every game,” Vogel said, “and then when there is a huge discrepancy like we saw tonight, with them shooting 12 free throws in the fourth quarter and Anthony Davis getting flagrant fouled on a dunk on one play and having zero free throw attempts for the game, it’s just frustrating. So we’ll communicate with the director of officiating, we send clips in the portal, and they do a good job of evaluating that stuff. That’s just the process.”
Davis has been at the center of the Lakers complaints this season, and it seems there is some substance to their gripes. But Davis has sometimes received outside criticism for his playing style and a perceived lack of desire to attack the basket, the numbers don’t back that up this season.
Through Wednesday’s game, Davis is now attempting 46% of his field goals at the rim, per Cleaning the Glass. That mark would be the highest mark of his career since his sophomore season. Davis is also shooting 3-pointers at his lowest rate since 2017-18, with long mid-range jumpers seeing the increase. The 24% of his field goals coming in the mid-range would be the highest mark for him since the 2016-17 campaign.
In that vein, Davis is hitting 45% of his mid-range shots this year, a career-best mark so far, and one that ranks him in the 70th percentile in the league among bigs. He’s also shooting 72% at the rim, a mark that falls right in line with his career average near the basket.
But despite his uptick in attacking the rim and the success he’s having there, his free throw rate — his number of free throw attempts per field goal attempts — of .315 is the lowest mark of his career. Similarly, Davis has only drawn 33 shooting fouls this season in 16 games, barely an average of two fouls per game, which would be the lowest mark of his career since his rookie season.
Davis’ increased long midrange shots could be for a variety of reasons. One reason could be the lack of calls. If he isn’t getting fouls called in his favor, it’s reasonable to think he would have less motivation to attack the rim and take a beating without going to the line, particularly so when he’s shooting at such a high percentage from the midrange.
What isn’t up to debate is the numbers back up the Lakers claim that Davis isn’t getting to the line despite him being at the rim more this season than hardly ever in his career. Davis’ propensity to shoot midrange jumpers will likely rub fans the wrong way throughout his career, but he’s also doing his part in trying to get to the line.
For now, Vogel and the Lakers will continue skirting the line of calling out officiating while not actually doing so. The calls may get even louder when LeBron James returns. And perhaps all of it is simply luck of the draw, and a positive regression to the mean is due in the future.
But Davis and the Lakers have a case that they aren’t getting to the line as frequently as perhaps they should. For now, it’s up to the league to see if they agree moving forward.
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