Shortly after the Lakers agreed in June to acquire Anthony Davis in a blockbuster trade with the Pelicans, LeBron James spoke to “higher-ups” within the organization and suggested that the big man should become the focal point of the club’s offensive identity, league sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
While Davis is looking forward to carrying a big share of the offensive load, he’s also thinking about the impact that he can make on the other end of the court, telling Haynes that he has individual and team goals in mind for the Lakers’ defense.
“I want to be Defensive Player of the Year,” Davis said. “I think if I’m able to do that, I can help this team win. The offensive end will come around, but defensively, I want to hold myself, teammates, including LeBron, accountable in order for us to take on the challenge of being the best we can defensively. In doing so, we’ll have a good chance of winning every night.
“I want to make sure me and LeBron are on the All-Defensive Team. And for me personally, I just want to be the Defensive Player of the Year. If we’re able to hold teams under 100 [points], which is probably unrealistic but it should be our goal, I think we’ll have a shot at winning the title.”
Davis is fully capable of being a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Los Angeles this season, but it may be more challenging to get LeBron the seventh All-Defensive nod of his career. Although James can still play elite defense on a given possession, he has been less inclined in recent years to consistently exert that kind of defensive intensity over the course of an 82-game season, preferring to preserve his energy – and health – for the playoffs.
For his part, Davis is also considering ways to stay healthy and effective over a full season, acknowledging to Haynes that he’s reluctant to play center on a full-time basis for that very reason.
“Battling [centers] can wear on your body,” Davis said. “So I think having JaVale [McGee] and having DeMarcus [Cousins] before he got hurt and now having Dwight [Howard] takes pressure off of me and allows me to play and withstand an 82-game season and going into the playoffs. But obviously, if we have to and we’re playing a big lineup where I’m at the five, then I’m willing to do it. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to win.”
If Davis were to win Defensive Player of the Year, it wouldn’t have a financial impact on his free agency next summer — he can no longer qualify for a Designated Veteran Contract after being traded from New Orleans to Los Angeles.