The ceiling for the Lakers’ offense has been lowered due to Anthony Davis’ poor perimeter shooting over the previous three seasons because opposing defenses don’t feel compelled to keep Davis away from the basket. Getting Davis back to being a perimeter threat is crucial for Los Angeles since his excellent shooting in the Bubble was a major factor in their championship victory.
Davis has reduced his trips to the perimeter significantly over the last three seasons, down to just 1.3 attempts per game in the previous season. Davis is hitting 23.8 percent from three-point range. Davis switching to playing the five more, which enabled him to remain inside and rule the paint, was partially to blame for that. He does, however, like to play the four and is anticipated to do so more this season, so he has to be a little more of a shooting threat if the L.A. offense is to have more space to operate on the court. According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, the Lakers are aware of this, and Darvin Ham has gone so far as to dare his star big man to shoot from beyond the arc.
“I want him, if he can — I know he won’t do it, but maybe he’ll shock me — but I’ve requested to see six 3-point attempts a game,” Ham said after practice Tuesday. “Three per half, at least. I wouldn’t put that on him if I didn’t think he was capable.”
Six is a lot of threes, and even Ham doesn’t think Davis will play that way, but the point is still made. Davis spent this summer working on his shot form with coach Chris Jent in an attempt to improve his mechanics and turn into a more consistent shooter, as McMenamin points out. However, as Davis himself acknowledged, he won’t know if the work has been fruitful until the Lakers begin playing under pressure in games. The issue with pushing Davis to take more outside shots is that it probably means he will be spending more time on the perimeter, where he is less productive. In spite of the fact that it could drive Lakers fans crazy on nights when the shot doesn’t fall, if he continues to lead them to modest success, shifting to the four is nearly always a requirement at times (depending on who he is paired with in the frontcourt).
This is Davis’ dilemma; he has claimed that he prefers to play power forward, yet his offensive skill set is far more suited to playing center. He is being pulled away from the tasks that he absolutely excels at as you ask him to do the tasks that a contemporary power forward has to do in order to spread the floor. He gets hurt guarding other centers, despite the fact that he is extremely adept at it, which is the price to pay on the other end.
Given that his career-high is 3.5 per game in the 2019–20 season, we’ll see just how close he comes to Ham’s desire. The Lakers will be genuinely dangerous if he can unlock that capacity, but this is not the first time a Lakers coach has set this goal; Vogel requested five points per game before the 2021 season, and that did not turn out well.