While a number of things played into the Lakers’ deep playoff run last season with their in-season additions receiving a good amount of the credit for that run. But perhaps the overarching reason that the Lakers were able to win multiple series was that, for the majority of the postseason, Anthony Davis was the best player on the court.
Only when the Lakers ran into Nikola Jokic, arguably the best player in the world right now, did it become a debate as to whether AD was the best player in a series. And even in a Western Conference Finals in which he was outplayed, he averaged 26.8 points, 14 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game on 49.3% shooting from the field and 87.5% free throw shooting.
Over the course of 16 playoff games, Davis reached a point that, at the very least, reached his level in the bubble in terms of impact even if it came in a different way. His 3.1 blocks per game and his 14.1 rebounds each were career-highs for the postseason.
Coming into this season, one of AD’s focuses is maintaining that dominance. Davis was asked during his interview with ESPN LA 710 at media day on Monday about what he needs to do in order for the Lakers to be title contenders this season.
His answer was just one word but spoke a lot.
“Dominant,” Davis said. “Not saying it has to be 30 [points] and 15 [rebounds], 30 and 20, 40 and 20 every night but just leaving my presence on the game every night. ‘Oh, AD only had 20 [points] or 15 but he had 20 rebounds’ or ‘he had five blocks.’ Whatever it is, just know AD was there tonight. He had an effect on the game and that’s what I try to do. Every game, did I leave my imprint on this game. You’re going to have nights where you [don’t] score the basketball or make shots but it’s other things you can do to effect the game.
“That’s my mindset. That’s been my mindset for a very long time. I’m not a one-trick pony. I want to make sure that whatever we do and whatever I do to help this team, I leave it out on the floor.”
With an annoying amount of attention paid toward Davis’ statistical output, seeing him acknowledge that it’s not always about the stats is nice, even if it won’t likely lead to those narratives changing. At times during the postseason last year, Davis might not have had the most points or the best statistical night but he was always the best defender on the court, even when matched up against Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr. in the first round.
Davis was also asked if he was looking to contend for an MVP after his strong postseason in which he gave a similar type of answer.
AD, on if he cares about contending for MVP:— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 2, 2023
"Whether I'm in it or not, I have an expectation of playing at that caliber... I'm my own biggest critic... This year I want to come out and build on last year, and hopefully if everything plays out I'll be in those conversations.
At this point in their respective careers, LeBron James is going to give the Lakers a very high floor on the season as a whole that will damn near make them a playoff team on his own. Assuming health — not a safe assumption given recent seasons — LeBron is going to have the Lakers ticking well enough to get them a postseason berth.
However, the ceiling of this team will be determined by Davis. If he plays as he did in last year’s playoffs, they’re a title contender.
It’s a lot to ask of anyone to play at that level. But considering how much the Lakers have invested in Davis, particularly financially this summer, it’s a fair expectation to have heading into the season.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.