Anthony Davis Quietly Does What it Takes
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After a disappointing, injury-plagued regular season for the entire LA Lakers - but especially for star-forward Anthony Davis - a lot of questions have risen in the national media about Davis’s reliability and overall value to a team. Let me set the record straight: Anthony Davis is not only great - he is “a great.”
But let's take things back in time a bit first: the great Bill Russell once went to the University of San Francisco and immediately won two titles in both 1955 and 1956. Nobody had ever heard of the school before Russell led them to those championships, and nary a soul has spoken of the program since.
Okay, Anthony Davis didn't put the University of Kentucky necessarily on the map. That's fair.
And the Los Angeles Lakers had also tasted championship glory once or twice themselves before the seven-footer sharpshooter joined its pantheon of all-time greats. Nevertheless, these two facts below remain true, and yet somehow they are missed by the majority of folks covering basketball these days:
Fact #1: Kentucky hadn't won a national championship since 1998 before Davis went there and helped them win it all in 2012 (the Wildcats' men's basketball program has also not won a title since Davis left).
That's right. From 1999 to today, the "best college program in the nation," one which annually brings in the best recruiting classes we have ever seen, has one title in the last 22 years. And yet Davis went 1-0 in his title quest as a player there, bringing the 'ship home in his only season. Whom to thank for the Wildcats' national crown? Head coach John Calipari has been there for almost half of that time, so no, not him.
Anthony Davis? They guy who put up 16 boards, 6 blocks and 5 assists? That was the difference maker.
More on his stat line in a minute.
Fact #2: The Lakers had not won a title since 2010, and they won it all in the first year that Davis arrived.
Again, Davis again posted a 100% championship hit rate with his new team. And he was not just there for the ride alongside LeBron James. Davis posted great - check that, borderline historic numbers - for every single round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs, and he was the best defensive player in the postseason as well.
So he is a winner? Is he clutch?
Despite his other great stats we mentioned above, it should also be noted that Davis did shoot 1-10 from the field in that 2012 NCAA title game, only scoring 6 points in the process. In the biggest game of his life, the 19-year old simply had a nervous hand. Yet not only did his team still win the game, but anybody watching that championship contest would know that young Anthony Davis dominated throughout.
Davis is not your traditional Kobe, MJ, or LeBron type player, nor leader for that matter.
First off, he's not a perimeter player like those guys, so it's more difficult for him to impact transition basketball, at least from a statistical perspective. Think of all the times the ShowTime Lakers were running a break 70 feet away from Kareem, who had just anchored a defensive stop. And like Kareem, Davis’ defensive importance increases in playoff-type basketball, which also does not show up on the stat sheet.
But Davis doesn’t care - he prefers the LeBron/MJ debate and is less concerned with his own legacy.
Now, in 2021, Davis finds himself in his first do-or-die game (kinda) since that 2012 NCAA finals victory over Kansas. While it's true that the Golden State Warriors don't have anyone with the height or size to contend with Davis offensively, I don't believe that automatically leads to a ton of scoring for the forward.
I expect the opposite in fact, anticipating that the Warriors send double teams towards Davis early and often in this Wednesday night play-in tournament matchup out west. And Davis - who grew up a PG - is a lot more versatile than many give him credit for. Just like he did in that 2012 final - focusing on other ways to impact the game when his shot wasn’t falling - I like Davis to parry the Warriors strategy by quickly rifling the ball across the court to shooters, racking up more than a couple assists against Golden State.
That's why I like Anthony Davis Over 2.5 Assists (+114 @ Pinnacle) Wednesday night.
Davis has gone over this number in 55% of games this season (20 of 36) and 61% of all of his games as a Laker (72 of 118), including posting 3+ assists in 16 of 21 games during the Lakers' 2020 playoff run.
In three games vs. these same Warriors as a Laker? Davis has averaged an even better 4 assists/game.
So you're saying that we have a +1.5 projection edge (+60%) for this prop and +114 odds to boot?
That's more than enough for me to bet on Davis to do what he does best: play winning basketball.
Just like he's done for his entire life - or at least since that one 2012 title night in New Orleans.