Anthony Davis' talent has been apparent since he entered the league in 2012. It became only more so as he grew into his body and became one of the most dominant two-way players in the game [when healthy]. But, thanks to a combination of front office incompetence and untimely injuries to both Davis and his most important teammates, playoff success has been severely lacking for a player many consider to be top five in the NBA.
His trade to the Los Angeles Lakers was mainly to fill that gap in his resume. The quest for playoff success was put on hold along with the rest of the NBA season back in March. Now, though, we've finally arrived at the moment we've eagerly awaited for months: real basketball games that count. Tonight, the Lakers will face off against the Los Angeles Clippers to help tip off basketball's restart at Disney. It's also time for Davis to prove he belongs in that upper echelon of players along with his teammate, LeBron James.
The narrative is overblown a bit because Davis has been very, very good when he has made it to the postseason. It's certainly not his fault that the Pelicans only won one playoff series in his seven seasons with the team. In 13 playoff games, Davis has averaged 30.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, and two blocks per game. Those are superstar numbers, especially in the playoffs when the refs allow more physicality and defenses are far more keyed in to the opposing team's top option. In short, he put up those stats while getting smothered and hammered by defenses.
Davis was the force behind the Pelicans' series win over the Portland Trail Blazers in 2017-18. Portland had no hope against him offensively and he was a monster on the other end of the court, blitzing Damian Lillard pick-and-rolls with reckless abandon. The Lakers won't need him to be quite on that level. Such is the benefit of having LeBron on your team. But he will need to be a similar type of two-way monster if this Los Angeles team wants to go the distance.
The noise will be loud if the Lakers make an early playoff exit, even if it comes in the Western Conference Finals against the other consensus best team in the West, their crosstown rivals who boast Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Expectations are sky-high. We can expect LeBron to do his thing, but the X-factor has and always will be Davis when it comes to the team's championship hopes. This won't be his last chance by any means; in the very likely scenario he re-signs with L.A. this offseason, he'll have at least two or three more years of enjoying life as James' sidekick and consistent success, with annual opportunities for a ring.
But this is what the Lakers brought him in for-- to fill in the cracks around James and carry the load when needed. How he steps up will define how we view Anthony Davis, fair or not.