Anthony Davis has been quite possibly the league’s most impactful two-way player this year. He’s been just about as efficient offensively as you can hope for as he tries to regain confidence in his jumper and has somehow anchored a top-10 Lakers defense — a legit miracle given who he’s surrounded by.
When he enjoys stretches like the one he is currently on, he forces you to simultaneously wonder why this isn’t the norm and whether it’s fair to hope for that in the first place. But that’s the way talent works, and when someone so gifted as Davis is oscillates between greatness and, well, significantly less than that, even his most incredible feats can become a source of frustration.
So, what has gone into his recent success and how sustainable might it be?
For me, it all starts at the free-throw line. Getting there in the first place indicates that he’s consistently engaged and isn’t afraid of how it’ll go when he gets there. This year, Davis is shooting 83.2% from the line on 7.8 attempts per game. Both of those are significantly higher than the last couple seasons and are important steps closer to the title run when he shot 84.6% on a whopping 8.5 attempts per game.
During this wild 10-game stretch, Davis is attempting 10.2 free-throws per game and hitting at a stellar 88% clip.
The other thing about free-throws is they also can showcase a proficiency in shooting all over the floor. Does Davis shooting how he has from the line this year mean he’ll all of a sudden become a sniper from deep? Obviously not, but might it mean he’s probably quite a bit better than he was last year, when he shot a hilariously frigid 18.6% from behind the three-point line? Yeah, probably, and that opens up the game for him, as defenders actually have to contest rather than try to suppress laughter when he rises up from the perimeter.
Now, this is where it gets interesting. So far this season, Davis has been incredibly discernible in his shot selection. He’s taking fewer fadeaways this season than either of the last two. He’s shooting fewer threes. Last year, he dunked the ball 111 times, which was way up from the 54 he had the year prior. So far this year, he has 68, with three-quarters of the season still to go — a pace fairly consistent with that 2020, when he dunked the ball 157 times.
Even while the numbers would indicate he’s improved as a shooter, it’s critical he maintains something close to the balance of interior and perimeter shot attempts he’s clearly focused on this season.
Obviously, there are more factors beyond how often and how well Davis shoots at the free-throw line that go into the caliber of season he’ll have. But the point of all of this is to point out that, because of what he’s done in the fairly recent past, what he’s done so far this season might actually be pretty sustainable.
With Davis, we’ll always worry about some injury or perhaps he might slip into some of the bad habits of the last two seasons that made him look like a shell of himself, but the blueprint is there, and so far he’s following it. If can continue that, and if the Rob Pelinka can actually pull the trigger on a trade that helps him do so, then this Lakers season might have a real chance at turning around.
This week, I welcomed Matt Moore of The Action Network to discuss Davis, his relationship with Lakers twitter and why Lakers fans react to any questioning of Davis’ season thus far, and how there are never enough scissors in a household.
And for a short-form recap pod, check out Lakers Lowdown, in which Anthony Irwin recaps the previous day’s news and gets you ready for the day ahead in LakerLand, every weekday morning on the Silver Screen & Roll Podcast feed.