So much of the LA Lakers’ struggles this season have been put on Russell Westbrook, but should Anthony Davis shoulder more of the blame?
The Lakers sit 0-3 after three games in large due to their offensive woes and shooting deficiencies – ranked 30th in the league in offensive rating, field goal percentage and three-point percentage.
And yes, the Westbrook experiment has seemingly ran its course as the team actively explores off-loading his expiring $47 million contract.
Watch an average of 9 LIVE NBA Regular Season games per week on ESPN on Kayo Sports on ESPN on Kayo Sports. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
Thu, 27 Oct
Thursday October 27th
However pundits have put Davis’ form under the spotlight and believes he needs to take on more responsibility for the team’s shortcomings.
“We’ve got to stop just bringing up Russell Westbrook. Anthony Davis is shooting 20 per cent from three-point range,” ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said on First Take.
“I talked about how Anthony Davis was a top seven player – I take it back. Damn it he doesn’t like it. He doesn’t look like he wants to go anywhere near the basket.
“My point is, yo bro you’re too big, you’re too big, you’re too skilled, you’re too talented. What has happened to Anthony Davis?
“We need to be talking less about Russell Westbrook and more about Anthony Davis, because damn it, I expected better.
“We talk about Russell Westbrook and whether he needs to be gone because he just doesn’t fit in what LA is doing … should we rule out whether or not AD should be traded?”
Once viewed as a future MVP, Davis, an eight-time All-Star with four All-NBA First Team appearances and two All-Defensive First Team appearances, used to be an absolute monster for the New Orleans Pelicans.
He averaged 27.3 points and 11.6 rebounds per game to go with 1.4 steals and 2.4 blocks in his final three seasons with the Pelicans from 2016-2019.
Then since joining the Lakers, his averages have dipped to 23.9 points, 8.7 rebounds while maintaining his elite defensive numbers.
While some offensive regression was expected playing alongside LeBron James, there was also a belief Davis would at some stage take over the mantle as the Lakers’ alpha, ascend his game to greater heights and help lead the team to more championships after their 2020 triumph.
But the big man, who’s contracted until 2025 for a total of over $120 million (AUD $185m),q looks a shell of his former self offensively. He’s playing passively and settling for jumpers compared to when he used to endlessly attack the basket at the Pelicans and shoot predominantly when he was open.
He hasn’t shot above 26 per cent from downtown since the Lakers’ 2020 championship-wining season and this decline has clearly hurt the team.
And now with James – despite still being dominant at age 37 – in his twilight days and the Lakers dwindling, there’s an expectation that Davis, who’s in his prime years at 29, should take charge and put the team on his back.
“At some point Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) handed it over to Magic (Johnson). And that’s part of the Lakers’ biggest problem now,” NBA legend Charles Barkley said on The Bill Simmons Podcast.
“At some point LeBron is going to have say: ‘AD (Davis), damn, I’m 100 years old, it’s about time for you to be the best player. You are in your prime.’
“I said five or six years ago that dude (Davis) was going to be the best player in the world for the next 10 years. He’s not even in the conversation anymore.
“I don’t think he has that killer instinct. You have to have a thing like: ‘I’m going to kick your ass and there’s nothing you can do about it.’
“That’s one of the cool things about being a great player. 99.9 per cent of the time you step on the court you’re the best player out there …. part of being a great player is you’ve got to have an ego.”
Thompson ejected in heated Suns clash! | 00:25
Barkley also believes Davis hasn’t taken full advantage of learning from James – arguably the greatest player of all time and notorious for his professionalism off the court, looking after his body and doing everything possible to be the best player he can.
“I think the one thing that surprises me and shocks me is that he’s around LeBron and LeBron talks about how he spends a million dollars on his body a year,” Barkley added.
“It’s like, yo man, you get to play with that dude. I’m going to be like a sponge (if I was Davis) … I’m going to do what he does, whatever he has for breakfast I’m eating it, whatever he has for lunch I’m doing it, whatever he does for dinner.
“If he’s going to lift weighs: ‘Hey man, can I tag long with you?’ That’s what I would do – that’s the part that disappoints me.”
Meanwhile the Ringer’s Bill Simmons said he’s “given up” on the possibility of Davis becoming a bona fide superstar in the league.
“I think it’s too late and he’s had too many injuries and I don’t feel like he’s gotten better. I feel like he peaked in 2018 with that New Orleans team,” he said.
“You go back to New Orleans, everything is above the rim. Everything is playing off Rajon Rondo and attack the rim, attack the rim and then his little 10-foot game.
“When I see him (now), he’s just perfectly happy to chuck up a 20 footer and not try to take advantage of these (Kevin) McHale arms, drop steps and all these things he can do. It doesn’t seem like he wants to tap into it sometimes.”
This isn’t to put all the blame on Davis. He’s still playing at a high level, and of course, the Lakers’ roster construction has also both him and the team at large.
And as much as they’ve struggled, we’re still only three games in and so there’s plenty of time for them to turn things around.
But for that to happen, you sense Davis may need to return to his previous best heights – or at least something close to.