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Anthony Davis of the Lakers claims the title of the best player of the NBA after the historic opening against the Warriors

Anthony Davis likely won’t make an All-NBA team this season. After missing 26 games and being surprisingly snubbed as an All-Star, much of the momentum for the third-team All-NBA center went to Domantas Sabonis of the Sacramento Kings. Fittingly, the two now share a common playoff opponent.

Draymond Green and Kevon Looney spent seven games beating Sacramento’s big star. Sabonis saw his scoring, rebounding and assist averages drop against Golden State’s interior duo. His field goal percentage dropped from over .600 in the regular season to under .500 in the playoffs. The Warriors won Game 7 on the back of 13 offensive rebounds in the third quarter that Sabonis was powerless to prevent. He was helpless against Green and Looney on Sunday.

The roles were reversed on Tuesday. Green and Looney had no answer for the Los Angeles Lakers big man. Davis became just the second player in NBA history to finish a playoff game with 30 points, 20 rebounds, five assists and four blocks, joining Tim Duncan on that short list. He shot 90% from the floor in the first two quarters, becoming the first major leaguer to do so with 20 points and 10 rebounds in a playoff game since tracking began in 1997.

The Lakers were so scared of facing the Warriors without him that Davis played every 24 minutes in the second half. They handed the Warriors just their 13th home loss of the season. Davis was so dominant inside that the Lakers became the second team in NBA history to win a game in which their opponent made 20 or more 3-pointers while they themselves hit six or fewer. The first team to do so? Also the 2022-23 Lakers who beat the Mavericks on February 26, despite that deficit because Davis had 30 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks. It was a historic inside shot by Davis on two players who had just delivered a similar punch to Sabonis.

Well, the idea that Anthony Davis is a better player than Domantas Sabonis is not groundbreaking. The comparison exists to serve a larger point. All season, Davis has been overlooked and underrated. He has already proven emphatically that he is at least one of the top three centers in the NBA. In fact, it goes much further. Why can’t Davis appear to have earned the title of “NBA Player of the Year” in a potential championship run right now?

Before we delve into his candidacy, we need to set our terms here. Davis will never be an 82 game player. Durability has always been and always will be a weakness. Building a team from scratch is a reasonable excuse to avoid Davis. But there are no more 82 games on the schedule. Davis is healthy here and now and if the goal is to win the championship in 2023, there’s a strong case that he should be the pick, and when the dust settles, there’s a real chance he could walk away with the metaphorical title of often discussed. in the elite of the league.

The knock on Davis is that he is a limited half-court shot creator. This is a legitimate mistake, but every candidate in this field has one. Giannis Antetokounmpo who was he almost unanimous election for MVP status before his first-round elimination against the Miami Heat shares the same weakness. Joel Embiid just won his long-awaited MVP award, but the Brooklyn Nets held him to just 20 points on 46.2% shooting in the first round. He is now battling a knee injury that will cause him to miss games for the fifth time in his six postseason trips. The only exception? A 2020 four-game sweep against the Boston Celtics. Nikola Jokic won the previous two MVP awards and is the best offensive player in the group. However, his defensive limitations were evident in his previous postseason losses, one of which came to Davis. Both Jokic and Embiid could earn a chance to face Davis later in the postseason if their teams continue to improve.

Stephen Curry now has his chance and, as the reigning Finals MVP, is the default holder of our hypothetical belt. It would be hard to hold his Game 1 loss against him, considering he dropped just 50 points to the Kings in Game 7 just two days earlier, but it’s worth noting that Curry clinched a career playoff run in that one. win – 13 2 points scored. He made just four on Tuesday while missing his other seven attempts. Like the rest of his teammates, he dreaded facing Davis on the outside.

This is the main point in his favor in these debates. He can’t score with Curry, but the defensive gap between the two is incalculable. That doesn’t just apply to him and Curry. That goes for him and everyone else on the field. Davis just faced the Defensive Player of the Year in the first round, and he completely outplayed Jaren Jackson Jr. Here’s how their defensive numbers compared in the first round:

Anthony Davis

Year Jackson

rob

8

6

the distractions

16

14

blocks

26

12

Defensive rebounds

64

27

Contested shots

100

79

Field goal percentage allowed

33.3%

41.6%

And then there is the argument of help. Davis isn’t even the most famous Laker. As long as LeBron James is on his team, fans and critics will struggle with the idea that this team is now Davis’s. If James were healthy, that might not be the case. But the foot injury that nearly ended his season completely changed the way James plays. He has averaged just over 22 points per game in the playoffs thus far, the lowest average of his playoff career. Most of these records are also not created individually. In the Memphis series, he attempted just 2.3 shots per game from isolations and 2.2 from the pick-and-roll. At his peak, he averaged nearly 14 combined in the 2018 postseason. James can’t carry the Lakers now. The onus is on Davis to do that.

As a Laker, he’s never had to do that for long, and it’s a role he’s still adjusting to. He managed to average over 32 points per game for a month early in the season, which James missed, but was injured soon after. Even now there are nights when the jumper doesn’t fall or a minor injury kills him.

But the version of him we saw in Game 1 against the Warriors, this is the player we’ve seen for most of Memphis’ series, and every time James has been hurt in the regular season is more than enough to carry the Lakers to a championship. This isn’t your typical Lakers superteam either. His co-star is injured. Its supporting cast is young, and many of its key players only arrived in February. He has a first-year coach who was hired by a general manager the fan base wanted fired.

And none of that has mattered in the postseason so far, because Davis has exceeded our wildest expectations. He’s not a perfect basketball player, but there isn’t one on the court right now. Instead, the remaining eight teams each have incredible but flawed stars competing for the hypothetical belt. Davis is one of those stars, and now he’s surpassing them. If he continues like this, not only will he become the NBA champion for the second time, but he will become the best player in the league for the first time.

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