Former Kentucky Wildcat and current member of the Los Angeles Lakers, Anthony Davis, has already set some high expectations for himself ahead of his introductory season with the purple and gold.
In an exclusive interview with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Davis has one personal goal in mind: win Defensive Player of the Year.
“I want to be Defensive Player of the Year,” Davis told Yahoo Sports. “I think if I’m able to do that, I can help this team win. The offensive end will come around, but defensively, I want to hold myself, teammates, including LeBron, accountable in order for us to take on the challenge of being the best we can defensively. In doing so, we’ll have a good chance of winning every night. I want to make sure me and LeBron are on the All-Defensive Team. And for me personally, I just want to be the Defensive Player of the Year.
The new face of a storied franchise, Davis is hoping he can come in and set the tone early on both sides of the court for a team that missed the playoffs for the sixth-consecutive season.
What sticks out to me the most is Davis saying he’s going to hold everyone accountable on defense, “including LeBron”. In previous seasons, LeBron James hasn’t exactly been the gold standard for defensive engagement, although not without good reason. James has often “took plays off” over the past few seasons during his time in Cleveland and his first season in Los Angeles last year, but for the betterment of his offensive effort. James averaged 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 8.3 assists last season in 55 games.
I’ll be interested to see if Davis truly does hold LeBron accountable. Are we going to see a 26-year old Davis getting up in the face of the greatest basketball player of all-time if he doesn’t slide properly on defense? James hasn’t made an All-Defensive Team since 2014. Davis, on the other hand, has led the league in blocks three times during his NBA career (2014, 2015, and 2018).
Not only does Davis have high hopes on defense, but he also expects to be the focal point of the offense, something that LeBron has cosigned.
“I’ve kind of been a focal-point player my whole career, especially in New Orleans,” Davis told Yahoo Sports, “But first off, to have a guy like LeBron, someone of his caliber, go tell management and ownership and the coaches that he wants me to be the focal point is an honor.”
This is the right move for both Davis and LeBron. At 35 years old, LeBron is coming off the most significant injury of his career and he’s going to have to be healthy for at least 70 games this season if the Lakers want a serious chance to make it into the playoffs of a loaded Western Conference. Reducing his usage is a perfect start for that: exerting that extra energy on defense, however, might not ideal.
Davis has also made it clear that he does not want to play at center this season, citing constant battles with other NBA bigs and the wear-and-tear it would have on his body throughout an 82-game season. Much like the Lakers need a healthy LeBron, a healthy Davis might actually be more important, considering the multitude of minor injuries he’s racked up throughout his career.
With JaVale McGee expected to play center and Dwight Howard added as the backup, the Lakers have options that they can play next to Davis. Which could make for a crowded frontcourt that isn’t particularly set up to play small ball. Davis has begun to make a solid chunk of three-point attempts the last two seasons (33.6 percent shooting on 2.3 attempts per game), but he’ll need to really stretch the floor if he, LeBron, and one of McGee/Howard are on the floor at the same time.
In the same interview with Haynes, however, Davis did note that he would be willing to play the five in certain situations. He’s “willing to do whatever it takes to win.”, so interpret that however you would like.
Winning Defensive Player of the Year is a realistic goal for Davis. Backcourt additions for the Lakers including defensive specialists Danny Green and Avery Bradley should aide Davis in keeping guards at bay or funneling them right into the shot-blocking extraordinaire. Any extended amount of effort from LeBron on defense would surely help Davis, too. If Howard can be anything other than a complete locker room cancer (don’t get your hopes up), then a defensive pairing of him and Davis would be intimidating as hell.
We’ve seen Davis as the focal point of the New Orleans Pelicans for years now and he’s more than excelled in that role. This season, he’s going to have more talent surrounding him since he was at Kentucky. Time to watch him work.