How underwhelming has Anthony Davis been to start the season? Well, for one thing, when Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green talked on a podcast about “one superstar in particular” who was out of shape for the first time in their career this year, everyone assumed he was talking about the Lakers’ star not named LeBron James.
Still, despite Davis quite visibly not playing at the level he was able to show in last year’s playoffs, he’s still been quite good for the Lakers overall. They’re nearly five points per 100 possessions better when he plays than they are when he doesn’t, according to NBA.com, and he’s third in the league among power forwards in ESPN’s real plus-minus (+3.24), trailing only two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (+5.54) and MVP candidate Kevin Durant (+3.83). And all that comes even as Davis (self-admittedly!) eases his way into the season while recovering from a secret ankle injury he played on during the NBA Finals and experiments with adding new elements to his game after just a two-month offseason to rehab his body.
One of those elements? Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has repeatedly urged Davis to shoot more threes since he arrived on the Lakers. He’s averaged 3.3 per game in his two years in Los Angeles so far — 2.6 this season — which is more than he shot in any season with the New Orleans Pelicans. And the reason the Lakers want him to keep it up is simple, according to veteran forward Jared Dudley, who broke it down to Jovan Buha of The Athletic as part of an excellent, zoomed-in look at Davis’ season:
“When you’re so good at driving, in the midrange and your post-up, you forget (to shoot 3s), and it’s like, ‘Hey, listen, this is something that you need to keep on improving in,’” Dudley told The Athletic. “And so that’s something that I want A.D. to continue, to keep shooting, keep shooting. The more reps, the better you are. It’s gonna be even harder to guard us long term. Because in the playoffs, when he’s at the five and he’s hitting that 3, the Lakers are unstoppable. We’re literally unstoppable.”
Does that sound dramatic? Well, it’s the perpetually candid Dudley, so of course it does, but he’s also not wrong. The Lakers are literally undefeated (6-0) this season when Davis hits 40% or more of his threes. Last year, they were 18-5 in such circumstances.
Now, the Lakers being better when one of their stars shoots well is hardly hard-hitting analysis or breaking news, but still, it’s notable given that behind the arc is clearly an area they want Davis to grow. It’s also another reminder that the vet affectionately known as Dudz has never once missed.
But amidst all that context, Davis also wants to find the right balance. He knows he is a lot more than a stretch four or five, and wants to make sure he uses the right mix of his skills; utilizing the best possible amalgamation of all his talents help the Lakers win rather than just parking himself behind the arc:
“I don’t want to be that guy that’s just out there shooting 3s,” Davis said.
Though his attempts at the rim and in the paint are down from last season, Davis has never been more dangerous on the interior, posting career-high percentages in the restricted area (76.5 percent) and in the non-restricted area paint (59.0 percent).
“I’ve seen a lot of guys be able to shoot the 3, but they were in a post and now they kind of just shoot 3s,” Davis said. “I want to make sure we establish a presence in the paint.”
As long as Davis continues to do both, the Lakers will be in good shape moving forward. Even if Davis clearly isn’t quite yet.