Anthony Davis has transformed the Lakers’ defense in his first season in L.A. and could be in line for his first Defensive Player of the Year award, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Davis is averaging a league-best 2.7 blocks per game and has become the anchor of a rapidly improving defensive unit. Going into last night’s win at Utah, the Lakers ranked fifth in defensive rating, third in points allowed per game and seventh in opponent’s field goal percentage.
“I think he can and will win Defensive Player of the Year this year,” coach Frank Vogel said. “I think there’s no one in the league like him defensively in terms of being able to guard all positions, protect the rim the way he does and deflect the basketball, contain the basketball. There really isn’t anyone in the league like him and if our team defense continues to play at a high level throughout the year, I think he’ll win it going away.”
Davis has been in the top five of the DPOY voting a couple times and believes he should have won the award two years ago. He said he developed his defensive philosophy by studying Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard, who is now a teammate.
“I’ve watched him grow over the years to blossom into a really great player on both ends of the floor,” Howard said. “So, really proud to see him sticking by his word and doing what he has to do every night to make this team better.”
There’s more Lakers news to pass along:
- One of the reasons the Lakers have the league’s best record is Howard’s willingness to accept a complementary role, observes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. He’s giving the team quality minutes as a backup center without demanding to be the focus of the offense. “Throughout Dwight’s career, he’s been a guy you bring the ball down and you throw to him in the post and everybody works off of him,” LeBron James said. “Now he’s a screener. He’s a roller. He’s a guy who facilitates the offense if you pass it in to him. He gets the ball to the guards and he waits for his opportunities and he’s basically been great in that role.”
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope often heard boos early in the season, but his game has improved since he became a starter, Turner adds in a separate story. KCP is averaging 10.6 PPG while shooting 52.5% from the field and 47.7 on 3-pointers since an injury to Avery Bradley moved him into the starting lineup.
- The Lakers still need to develop a dependable third scorer to go with Davis and James, notes Pete Zayas of The Athletic, who examines how Kyle Kuzma can fit that role.