From the moment the team left Orlando in 2020, Lakers fans have longed for the return of Bubble Anthony Davis. A thoroughly dominant force, AD controlled the game on both ends of the court and looked like the star of the future for the franchise.
Injuries and inconsistent play have plagued Davis since then but his play in recent contests has been something on par with Bubble AD. Sunday’s 30-point, 18-rebound performance in a win over the Spurs was the third straight he recorded at least 30 points and 15 rebounds, joining just Shaq and Elgin Baylor as Lakers to complete that feat.
All this coming with LeBron James sidelined due to injury has made it all the more important for the Lakers. After the win this weekend, Davis talked to Dave McMenamin of ESPN and discussed his conversations with LeBron about his recent play (emphasis mine).
“Obviously when he’s out, or if I’m out, we take it upon ourselves to kind of, as much as we can, fill that void,” Davis told ESPN when asked about his ascension in James’ absence.
While the Lakers’ big man was intentional about taking on more of the load to buy James more time to recover, he did not specifically plan it as payback for what James did last season.
“We haven’t talked about it, but he did say that I’m playing like my old self, so I’m trying to get back into that rhythm,” Davis told ESPN about James’ feedback to him.
This current version of AD looks far different from Bubble AD in terms of playstyle. From a shot profile standpoint, 24% of AD’s shots during that playoff run were characterized by Cleaning The Glass as long mid-range jumpers. Comparatively, only 12% of his shots this season are long mid-range efforts.
Instead, Davis has turned those attempts from distance into attempts at the rim. During the title run, only 36% of his shots were at the rim. This season, 54% of his shots are at the rim as he has fully embraced being a center offensively by turning down shots he’s struggled at in recent years and moving closer to the basket.
In a different type of dominance from Davis, which makes it even more impressive in some ways. Davis has changed his game and is back to being dominant.
Now, this is just three games versus an entire playoff run of performances, so they’re not really comparable. We’re a long way from saying AD is replicating his run in the bubble, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t playing at that level right now.
Unfortunately, given the state of this Lakers roster, they will need him to be Bubble AD for most of the rest of the season to even be competitive. It’s a tall task but AD has shown he’s capable of still competing at a high level.