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1 major adjustment Anthony Davis needs to make for Lakers to succeeed

anthony davis lakers

After the Los Angeles Lakers frustrating triple-overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings on Friday, Anthony Davis — who shot 4-of-13, missed all five of his three-point attempts, and made one of 12 jumpers — cited the team’s shot quality as a primary factor in defeat.

“I think our shot quality towards the end of the games — we just got to be able to get good looks. But I’m not worried about the offense. I think defensively, we got to do better,” he said.

The Lakers should be worried about their offense. OK, maybe not as much as the defense in the long run, which is trending upwards (they’re 18th in defensive rating) but might simply lack the capable personnel on the roster to be elite.

Regardless: the offense remains an inconsistent work-in-progress.

Following the Lakers’ 110-106 win over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday (bringing them back to .500, at 11-11), the team now ranks 22nd in offensive rating. They average more field goal attempts per game (16.1) with 18-22 seconds left in the shot clock than any team in basketball. Despite having Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook — all historically productive rim attackers, though that may not be the case with LeBron and Russ anymore — they’re only 12th in paint points per game.

In other words: they’re settling for too many long jumpers, with Anthony Davis being the primary culprit.

In almost every other facet of the sport, AD is having a stellar 2021-22 campaign thus far. He’s averaging 24.2 points and 10.1 rebounds, shooting 51.7% from the field and cleaning up a lot of messes on defense. Despite various nicks, bruises, and ailments, he’s played all but one game, and turned in a few bubble-level performances.

However, his jumper has decidedly not resembled its bubble form.

Let’s go through a few numbers.

After a “lights-out” 2-for-2 showing vs. Detroit, Davis is 9-0f-44 (20.5%) from downtown this season — 10% below his subpar career average. As Silver Screen and Roll noted, 24 of those 44 have been “wide-open.” He’s made three of those. Davis is shooting 41% on long-twos — a shot he takes early and often.

AD shot 38.3% from deep in the 2019-20 playoffs. However, he’s been a 29.6% shooter in the regular season since joining the Lakers. His only season even sniffing league average was in 2017-18, when he made 34% of his 2.2 attempts per game for the New Orleans Pelicans.

Through 22 games of 2021-22, Davis is on pace to post the worst jump-shooting season in NBA history.

He ranks last in the NBA in jump shot efficiency (as of Friday).

In general, the Lakers have underperformed from the perimeter this season. They’ve also been outscored by over three points in the paint per game.

They need more of this from AD:

But don’t expect him to change his ways.

“I’m going to continue to shoot the ball from three,” Davis said Friday. “Whether it goes in or not, I think that opens up the floor for my teammates — LeBron, Russ, (Talen Horton-Tucker) — to get downhill. And it opens it up for me to get to the paint when guys run out and are closing out to the three,” Davis said. “I’m just trying to be effective at all three levels of the floor, and it was going for me tonight.”

Frank Vogel acknowledged that he wants AD to continue to attack the basket, but won’t tell him not to take long jumpers.

“Obviously, we want him attacking the basket as much as possible. His points in the paint are really good, top-three (in the league), one of the best in his career,” Vogel said. “But his jump shot is going to come around, so we’re comfortable with that.”

In the past, Vogel even encouraged Davis to attempt five threes per game. This season, he’s repeatedly expressed his contentment with AD putting up triples.

“We’re encouraging him to stay with the 3-point shot and keep shooting those without hesitation,” he said in early November.

Here’s what Vogel said after AD’s 0-of-5 showing: “Yeah, AD just started the season off struggling for whatever reason. We’re encouraging him to shoot open ones and knowing that it’s gonna come around. It just hasn’t yet. It’s part of our early-season struggles. When he starts knocking that down the way he’s done the last few years, it’s going to open up a lot of things up for our team.”

Here are the two problems, imo. One, there’s no indication that Davis is a good shooter. Remember: everybody shot well in the bubble. Anthony Davis jumpers are throwing away possessions, more often than not. Secondly, if AD is at the center, the Lakers should have enough spacing without needing him to eat minutes hovering around the three-point line. When he’s on the floor next to a center, asking AD to do something he doesn’t do well so DeAndre Jordan or Dwight Howard have space to operate is silly (though that’s more of a lineup issue, in general).

Frank Vogel is on the hot seat, and the pressure is ramping up on him to develop cohesion on both ends of the floor. However, there’s only so much he can do when his top interior player who can’t shoot continues to settle for early-shot clock looks. Vogel may not want to tell his stop taking long jumpers — something his superstar clearly enjoys doing. However, maybe he shouldn’t depend on it nor encourage it so openly.