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New-Look Lakers Already Showing How They'll Maximize Anthony Davis

Mo DakhilFeatured Columnist IOctober 22, 2021

Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) shoots against Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers will be a work in progress all season, but one thing is clear after their first game: They need to embrace Anthony Davis' versatility. 

In the loss to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, the 28-year-old star showed his ability to score in all sorts of ways. It did not matter whether he was the power forward or center—he shined. Davis operated in the post and perimeter and was both a facilitator and scorer. 

A lot of those skills were on display in just the first quarter, when he dropped 14 of his 33 points. The Warriors threw several guys at Davis, but it did not matter whether it was Draymond Green, Kevon Looney or Juan Toscano-Anderson—they each got the business from him. 

Even though the Lakers lost 121-114, AD was a bright spot on a night when there weren't many for L.A.

   

Perimeter Work

The Lakers started the game by going big at center with the 6'11" DeAndre Jordan, so Davis tipped off at power forward. With limited space on the floor, he was floating around the perimeter and looking for opportunities to strike. 

His first made field goal was off a Russell Westbrook post-up. With Stephen Curry on Westbrook, the Warriors had no choice but to send help. Once Davis' man went to trap Westbrook, The Brow cut down the lane and finished the play with a bucket.

Even when the Lakers went small, bringing in Carmelo Anthony to play power forward and shifting Davis to center, he still floated some. First, in early offense, he showed off his pull-up game by attacking Nemanja Bjelica off the dribble and going into a jumper at the free-throw line.

The Lakers made it a point to use Carmelo in the post in the small lineup because of the mismatch he presents. Below, that allows Davis to hang around the three-point line and get downhill on the kick-out from Melo for the bucket. 

Davis did almost everything head coach Frank Vogel could ask of him on offense. The one thing he could've improved was his three-point shooting. He went 1-of-5 from deep, and his lone make came late in the fourth quarter, after the game was already decided. 

       

Post Work

Even though Davis will spend more time floating around the perimeter, he'll still eat while in the post. Early on, with Jordan on the court, he operated there against Green. Davis backed the Warriors defender into the paint for a jump hook.

When the lighter Toscano-Anderson had to guard Davis, the Lakers star went to his face-up game. He caught it in the post, turned around, gave Toscano-Anderson a jab step and then went into a step-back jumper.

All of that was just in the first quarter. 

 

In the second half, the Lakers began to use Davis as an offensive facilitator. They would get the ball to him on or just off the elbow and let him run the show. Late in the game, the ball is entered to Davis, and he goes into a dribble-handoff with Avery Bradley, who hits him on the roll for the basket.

   

Lineups

Disclaimer: This is just a one-game sample. This could play out very differently throughout the season.

The Lakers made the Westbrook trade with the mindset that Davis would play center much more throughout the season. Tuesday, he was featured at center for 57 percent of his 39 minutes, according to Cleaning the Glass.

The minutes Davis played at the 5 were a big departure from previous years. Last season, he only logged 9 percent of his game action at center and 40 percent the year before. If anything, despite the fact that L.A. had a better expected point differential over 100 possessions when he was playing power forward, this game showed the Lakers will indeed play him at center more.

One number to watch as the season moves on is the net rating of the Lakers' Big Three. Against the Warriors, they shared the court for 21 minutes, and the team's net rating was minus-1.9. That should improve as Westbrook gets more comfortable. Eight of those minutes came from two small-ball lineups, and one had a negative net rating of minus-50 and the other a positive 42.9.  

The big starting lineup played 13 minutes together and had a 6.5 net rating, per NBA.com. The best small-ball lineup for Davis that saw more than a minute together featured Rondo, Anthony, Malik Monk and Kent Bazemore. In just four minutes, that crew put together a 62.2 net rating. 

When Vogel replaced Bazemore and Monk with LeBron James and Bradley, there was not much change in the net rating (60.0). 

Those were the two most effective small lineups the Lakers used in their first game. And while Vogel will need to experiment more as he works on his rotation, most importantly those small lineups have to feature Davis.  

The Lakers need to maximize his versatility to build a cohesive offense. He is a piece they can move around the chessboard throughout games. Used properly, Vogel can consistently force other teams into difficult mismatches. 

How the coach uses his star could be the key to the Lakers' success this season. 

   

Mo Dakhil spent six years with the Los Angeles Clippers and two years with the San Antonio Spurs as a video coordinator as well as three years with the Australian men's national team. Follow him on Twitter, @MoDakhil_NBA.

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