Following the 2022-2023 NBA regular season, Joel Embiid was crowned league MVP. After the 2021-22 and 2020-2021 regular seasons, Nikola Jokic was named MVP. Shortly after the conclusion of the 2019-2020 and 2018-2019 campaigns, it was Giannis Antetokounmpo claiming MVP honors. This all bodes well for Los Angeles Lakers big man Anthony Davis.
Lately big men have been dominating the polls for the most prestigious individual (regular season) award among voters. The Process is the reigning MVP, although The Joker is considered by most to be the best basketball player in the world. And while those two and the Greek Freak are largely labeled as the superior active big men, it feels like this is finally the year that AD earns his place among the league’s historical individuals.
Say what you please about Anthony Davis, but do not lose sight of the season he was having last year prior to his injury. AD was in the midst of his best individual season thus far in his career and even had his Laker co-MVP candidate LeBron singing his praises in terms of the MVP race. He was flat-out getting it done on both ends of the floor.
Unfortunately, the pattern of bad health luck that seems to have followed him since entering the league once again unveiled itself last December. The injury came at a critical point in the season, with Davis looking like a potential MVP and the team turning things around after a poor start. It was an ailment that killed a ton of momentum for the team as a collective unit and one that led to an inevitable need for the roster moves that were made prior to last season’s trade deadline.
Last season is last season, however, and we will leave it in the past. In the present, the Lakers have made it clear that Anthony Davis is the focal point of this franchise. If that were not the case, the organization would not have extended him one of the loftiest contract extension offers in NBA history. It might seem like a major risk signing him to such a lucrative covenant, but it is a risk that Rob Pelinka and the front office were willing to take.
Quite frankly, why would they not take such a risk on him given what they gave up to get him combined with the level of production he has given them since they got him?
The stage is set for Anthony Davis to win the MVP with the Lakers.
Over the past few seasons, the 3 previously noted gentlemen (Embiid, Jokic, Antetokounmpo) have been the MVP winners. Obviously, this puts them in a class of their own when it comes to big men across the league. Look beyond them, and you will find Anthony Davis lurking ever so closely in the conversation of the elite NBA bigs.
Realistically, if you are separating the starting caliber NBA centers into tiers then it would be a mistake not to include Davis in a class with those guys. He is genuinely just as talented as each of them, and some may even consider him to be a better player than any/all of them.
Looking back at his career to this point, AD has proven he is a top 10-15 player in this league. Looking ahead to the 2023-2024 season, the time for AD to stake his claim as an MVP is now. The other rising big men have each done so, which should add one layer of motivation to validate his NBA frontcourt status.
This is looking more and more like his last season suiting up next to the King, which should add another layer of motivation to validate his status as the heir to the throne. He has heard the hefty harassment from a heaping of hecklers, which should add yet another layer of motivation to invalidate the opinions of those who doubt him.
He should have plenty of sources of motivation as we prepare for the coming campaign, but the layer of motivation that he should be most focused on is simply proving to himself that he has what it takes to be the best. He may have dubious doubters, but he has constantly been his own biggest critic.
This season, expect the most hungry version of Anthony Davis that we have ever seen. Not your typical level of hunger, though, we are talking about an absolutely starving version of Anthony Davis. The first item on his personal menu should be a regular season MVP, and the following item should be an NBA Finals MVP. He should be much more hungry for the second of those items, but his appetite for the first should be nonetheless mighty.
He owes his undivided focus to the Laker organization this season. Further than that, he owes it to the Laker fanbase. And even further than that, he owes it to himself. He has input endless amounts of work in his career, and it is time that the output delivers an end to his hate.