Anthony Davis has always been a fringe MVP candidate. He has always had the numbers, but the problem is, he has never been on a good enough team.
But now, Davis is teaming up with LeBron James on a Los Angeles Lakers squad that should be one of the best clubs in the NBA this season, so an MVP chase does not seem out of the realm of possibility.
Neither does a Defensive Player of the Year award.
While the MVP is certainly the more prestigious honor, Davis seems to be focused on potentially winning Defensive Player of the Year, and he does seem to be in the running for that this coming season.
Defensive Player of the Year is supposed to be an individual award, but generally, it is given to players who are on good teams, so now that Davis is on the Lakers instead of toiling in New Orleans, he might get more attention in the voting this year.
To be fair, I’m not sure Davis has ever performed well enough defensively to earn the hardware. He has always been really good, but he has never been elite to the point of former great bigs like Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan or current stalwart Rudy Gobert.
It also never really helped Davis’ case that the Pelicans were never an elite defensive ballclub during his time there.
Was that partially on him? Maybe, but it’s not like the Pels front office ever did a good job of assembling a strong defensive unit.
The Lakers, on the other hand, could have that this year if everyone stays healthy.
We know what Davis can do, and if Dwight Howard and Avery Bradley can simply stay on the floor, they can be elite defensively at their respective positions. So can Danny Green, who has always been an underrated perimeter defender.
LeBron James? He can be a solid defender when he is in the mood, and while Rajon Rondo may need national TV appearances to guard his position well, his defensive ceiling remains fairly high because of his length, toughness and instincts.
So, unlike this past year, the Lakers could end up having a pretty good defensive squad during the 2019-20 campaign, and Davis could be at the center of that.
Davis is incredibly versatile on the defensive end. He is an elite shot-blocker, having registered 2.4 blocks per game in 2018-19. He has also led the league in blocks per game three times.
In addition, Davis is a very good pick-and-roll defender, as he has the footspeed and the athleticism to switch on to guards on the perimeter, not to mention the length to contest just about any shot they take.
With Davis guarding the pick-and-roll and Howard or JaVale McGee protecting the rim, the Lakers could have a very formidable interior defense, and again, they have some nice perimeter defenders on the the roster, as well.
But Davis has the advantage of voter fatigue in his favor. Leonard and Gobert have both won the award twice. Green captured the honor in 2017. Davis? He has made a few All-Defensive teams, but he has never won Defensive Player of the Year.
And don’t think for a second the fact that he is playing in one of the two largest media markets in the country is not going to play a role, either.
Davis is now taking center stage in a massive city for the first time in his NBA career, and so long as he maintains—and potentially improves—his strong play on the defensive end, he will be a candidate to win his first Defensive Player of the Year trophy.