LOS ANGELES – The last time the Lakers were 3-1 or better to start the season, Anthony Davis was a senior in high school, while LeBron James was in his first year with the Heat and still did not have an NBA title. Davis, in the time since then, burst on the scene thanks in part to a growth spurt that occurred earlier in his high school career, cemented his future at Kentucky, transformed how he played, and became one of the NBA’s most unique players since, well, James.
Davis as a Laker may have felt inevitable after more than two years of rumors, but that doesn’t take away from what he’s doing on the court now that he is in L.A. The big man — sometimes a 4, sometimes a 5 — has been the Lakers best player, giving LeBron the trusted partner he needs and putting the league on notice through four games. If he’s healthy, this team will give almost every other NBA squad fits in a seven-game series.
Through four games, Davis is averaging 28.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, three assists, and three blocks in 33.3 minutes per game. Arguably only Karl-Anthony Towns has had a better start to the season, although Lakers fans admittedly are biased toward AD, showering him with “MVP” chants following a virtuoso performance in the team’s 120-91 win over the Grizzlies on Tuesday night.
40 and 20 for Anthony Davis, with Dwight Howard trying to get the MVP chant going. pic.twitter.com/HfUVj8GOKG
— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) October 30, 2019
Davis made an emphatic statement in three quarters of play, putting forth a 40-point, 20-rebound effort that featured him relentlessly attacking the paint en route to going 26-for-27 from the free throw line. Nothing the Grizzlies tried worked. And for the second straight game, James was able to defer; he collected his first rebound in the fourth quarter and finished with 23 points, eight assists, and two boards. (The last time James was held to zero rebounds? Yup, 2010.)
“He was dominant,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said of Davis after the win. “He was obviously impacting the game on both ends of the floor, but just the pressure he puts on the defense with his ability to spin out of lobs, his ability to attack the basket with the ball, and then what he’s doing on the glass is spectacular as well. They didn’t have an answer for him tonight.”
Few teams will have an answer for Davis this season if he’s able to tap into that well and continue to find a comfort in partnering with James. Since media day, James has said he wanted the offense to run through AD, and while some of that might be based in self-preservation and helping James extend his dominant career, it also is because, quite simply, this may make the most basketball sense. Davis poses a serious mismatch for most defenders — he can handle the ball, use his explosiveness to corral rebounds, and finish around the rim or draw fouls. And, at 26 years old, he’s still finding ways to tap into his sheer offensive brilliance.
Whether he’s playing at the 4 or the 5, he’s going to find ways to make his minutes count, even if the positional tug of war will play out season-long.