Anthony Davis has been dreadful shooting the basketball from the perimeter over the past three seasons for the Lakers, which has limited the ceiling for their offense because teams simply don’t feel they have to guard Davis away from the basket. Given his hot shooting in the Bubble was a big reason they won a title, getting Davis back to being a threat from the perimeter is pretty important for L.A.
Over the past three seasons, Davis is shooting 23.8 percent from three and has scaled back his forays to the perimeter considerably, dropping to just 1.3 attempts per game a year ago. That was in part due to Davis shifting to playing the five more, which allowed him to stay inside and dominate in the paint. However, he prefers to play the four and is expected to do that more this season, which means there is a need for him to be a bit more of a threat to shoot or else it will condense the floor some for the L.A. offense. The Lakers recognize that and Darvin Ham has gone so far as to challenge his star big man to let it fly from deep, via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
“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 expect Davis to do that, but the message is clear. As McMenamin notes, Davis spent this offseason working on his shot form with assistant Chris Jent in an effort to clean up his mechanics and become a more reliable shooter, but as Davis even explained, he won’t know if the work has paid off until the Lakers start playing under game pressure. The concern with asking Davis to shoot more from the outside is that likely means he is spending more time on the perimeter where he isn’t as effective. That said, if he’s moving to the four that’s almost a necessity at times (depending on who he’s partnered with in the frontcourt), even though it might drive Lakers fans insane on nights where the shot’s not falling if he continues taking them to limited success.
This is the conundrum with Davis, as he has stated his preference is being a power forward, but his skillset offensively is far better suited to playing center. The more you ask him to do the things a modern power forward needs to do in terms of spacing the floor, the more you’re taking him away from the things that he absolutely dominates at. The tradeoff is on the other end, where he gets banged up defending other centers (even though, again, he’s very good at it).
We’ll see exactly how close he gets to Ham’s request, as his career-high is 3.5 per game in that 2019-20 season. If he can unlock that ability, the Lakers will be truly terrifying, but this isn’t the first time a Lakers coach has issued this challenge — Vogel asked for 5 per game before the 2021 season — and that did not end up working out.