Los Angeles Lakers: Case for Anthony Davis as Defensive Player of the Year

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

The case for Los Angeles Lakers big man Anthony Davis to win the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award is a strong one.

Los Angeles Lakers All-Star Anthony Davis has made an impact on both sides of the ball that has proven why he is one of the best players in the league, but his defense is what has truly stood out.

Davis is the best defender in the NBA. It really is that simple.

Davis has completely changed the Lakers with his defense. Yes, he is one of the most talented offensive players in the league. But his defensive presence is what has truly transformed this Los Angeles Lakers team into, arguably, the favorite to win the championship.

When most think of AD’s defense, his shot-blocking ability immediately comes to mind. Currently, Davis is averaging 2.5 blocks per game, tied with Brook Lopez for second in the league. Blocking shots is not all Davis does, though, as he is also tied for seventh in the NBA in steals at almost seven-feet tall, averaging 1.5 steals per game.

There seems to not be a play, while Anthony Davis is on the court, that he does not affect defensively. The luxury that he provides to all the other Lakers’ defenders cannot possibly be understated. If any of the Lakers perimeter defenders are beat off the dribble, the second defense line that Anthony Davis provides is not matched by anybody in the league.

Hassan Whiteside averages more blocks, yes. But the impact they make on defense should not be mentioned in the same sentence, though, or stratosphere.

Anthony Davis is ranked third in defensive box plus-minus this season, trailing only Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kris Dunn. The stat simply favors guards, and the Bucks have a remarkable advantage over other teams in team defense. Thus, Davis’ position on this list is extremely impressive. Over and over, he just impacts the game.

Moreover, LeBron James‘ defensive renaissance this season has been a popular topic of discussion. What is not often brought up in that discussion, though, is how much of the load has been taken off of LeBron so that he is able to have this rebirth on defense.

With Anthony Davis behind him, James is able to play with confidence on the perimeter that he has not been able to play with at any other point in his career. LeBron is eighth in the entire league this season in defensive win shares, per NBA.com.

That would be the third-best mark of his entire career. Anthony Davis is a generational type defender, and playing with him makes everything easier. LeBron is able to defend wings, knowing that he has help behind him that will not wain.

Davis is also able to affect the transition game with his defense. There were far too many occasions last season where the Lakers were just not getting back on defense, getting beat in transition for easy layups and dunks. The Lakers’ transition defense was ranked in the 13th percentile.

What seemed like an Achilles heel last season, has turned into a strength this year. Anthony Davis is able to close on breakaway layups with ridiculous speed due to his length. If he does not record the block, he can alter the shot and force a miss. Davis has been able to save numerous seemingly-open layups this season, blocking opponents shots from behind.

There has not been a greater display of the greatness of Anthony Davis on defense than, possibly, when Davis missed time in early January.

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After AD went down with a bruised tailbone/buttocks, the Lakers were much less disciplined on the defensive end of the court. They were much less composed and were giving up points at a much higher rate. Their lack of inspired defense affected their offense. Everything on defense seemed a bit off, compared to the months prior.

The holes were evident when Davis was sidelined, even with the superb play of Dwight Howard this season. The rotations were a bit slower, the cohesion a bit less smooth. Anthony Davis is the captain on defense, and his absence was a bit of a frightening look into how much the defense truly relies on him.

The Lakers lead the NBA in blocks per game at 6.9, with AD leading the way. Something that is not often brought up when discussing the defense of Anthony Davis is how much it positively affects the Lakers’ offense.

The Lakers play some of their best basketball in transition, ranking fourth in the league in transition points per game, and Davis’ defense is an important component of getting into that transition offense.

Anthony Davis could conceivably lead the Lakers to a championship with his play on defense. He is such a difference-maker, one could argue he is as important defensively as LeBron is on offense.

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The Lakers’ defense is one of the most improved units in the league, going from 13th to 4th in defensive rating. Anthony Davis is the anchor of that defense and he deserves to add a Defensive Player of the Year award to his mantle at the conclusion of this season.