Los Angeles Lakers

How does Anthony Davis fit with LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers?

Anthony Davis and LeBron James (NBA Canada Illustrations)

Following a disappointing 2018-19 season, the Los Angeles Lakers made arguably the biggest move of the summer in trading for Anthony Davis.

The Lakers gave up a lot to acquire the six-time All-Star. In addition to Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, which became De'Andre Hunter, Los Angeles sent two first-round picks, a first-round pick swap and cash to New Orleans for Davis.

Will the risk be worth the reward? Only time will tell, but Davis and LeBron James give the Lakers the star power they need to win it all, next season and beyond.

Here's why.

An all-around scorer

Davis is coming off of a season in which he averaged 25.9 points in only 33.0 minutes per game. He shot 51.7 percent from the field, 33.1 percent from 3-point range and 79.4 percent from the free throw line, solid splits for a player his size.

The 3-point shooting is a relatively new side to his game. Davis attempted 2.6 3-pointers per game this season, up from 2.2 in 2017-18 and 1.8 in 2016-17. He made them at a below average rate compared to the rest of the NBA but opponents still respect him when he catches the ball on the perimeter, largely because he's long been a solid midrange shooter.

Where Davis separates himself from other power forwards and centres is he can attack closeouts by putting the ball on the floor. He's a threat to pull-up off the dribble and he can finish strong at the basket, where he does the bulk of his scoring.

James will make the most out of that shooting. Davis doesn't shoot 3-pointers with nearly the same volume as Kevin Love or accuracy as Chris Bosh, but he'll draw opposing centres out of the paint in ways JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler couldn't last season, which will only open up more driving lanes for James and others.

That's important because the Lakers won't sacrifice anything by having Davis on the court instead of McGee or Chandler. Not only is he an excellent cutter and offensive rebounder, he's a huge target around the basket.

Being 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-6 wingspan obviously helps, but Davis is an incredible athlete who can finish way above the rim. He's the type of player who makes bad passes look good. Putting him in pick-and-rolls with James should therefore be totally unstoppable as long as they have the right supporting cast around them - ideally, players who are reliable threats from the 3-point line - because he can both pop and roll at a high level.

Davis can pick mismatches apart in the post when teams switch those pick-and-rolls as well, which would come in handy against switch-heavy teams like the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets in the playoffs.

According to NBA.com, only seven players generated more points per game than Davis in the post this season. He's not the bruiser Embiid is, but Davis knows how to use his size to his advantage and has a soft touch in the paint. It helped him average 0.97 points per post-up possession this season, ranking him in the 62nd percentile.

Davis isn't just an elite scorer on offence. He averaged 3.9 assists per game this season, close to double his previous career-high that he set last season (2.3). He's willing to make the extra pass when teams throw multiple defenders at him, something that happens often due to how versatile and dominant of a scorer he is.

That'll only make the front office's job easier to build around him and James moving forward, as they are both unselfish players who draw a lot of attention whenever they take the floor.

An All-NBA Defender

To go along with all that skill on offence, Davis is one of the league's premiere defenders. He's a one-time member of the All-Defensive First Team and a two-time member of the All-Defensive Second Team, and he's led the NBA in blocks per game in three different seasons.

That latter puts him in some impressive company - Marcus Camby, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar and Mark Eaton are the only players to have won more block titles in their NBA careers.

Davis also comes up with quite a few steals. The same long arms that have turned him into a terrifying rim protector have made him a pest in the passing lanes, and he's capable of turning live ball turnovers into easy baskets for himself and his teammates in transition.

All of those blocks and steals helped make the Pelicans a better defensive team with Davis in the lineup in each of the last five seasons. The difference wasn't as large this season, but New Orleans saw its defensive rating improve by a whole 5.6 points per 100 possessions last season in the minutes Davis was on the court.

They basically went from playing defence like a top-three team to a bottom-10. It's one of the many reasons why he was a finalist for the Defensive Player of the Year award.

New Orleans Pelicans defensive rating
Season Davis on court Davis off court Differential
2012-13 107.0 106.2 -0.8
2013-14 108.0 106.1 -1.9
2014-15 103.3 106.5 3.2
2015-16 107.3 106.7 0.6
2016-17 103.6 108.6 3.0
2017-18 103.6 109.2 5.6
2018-19 109.7 111.9 2.2

The Lakers have been a solid defensive team for the last couple of seasons, but their ceiling on that end of the floor is exponentially higher with him now in the fold.

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