Don't Overlook The Brow
The Los Angeles Lakers currently sport a record of 49-14 and sit atop the Western Conference standings, as the 2019-20 NBA season is set to restart Thursday.
After a disappointing 37-45 campaign in LeBron James' inaugural season in Los Angeles last year, the Lakers have vaulted from 10th place to first in the matter of a year.
And a lot of it has to do with one sizable addition.
The price to acquire Anthony Davis in July of last year was expensive for the Lakers, who shipped out Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and a host of future draft picks.
However, so far, the Lakers are seeing a premium return on investment, and Davis has helped transform LA's fortunes this season.
Davis ranks second in the league in blocks per game with 2.4, while also averaging 1.5 steals, numbers that have him right in the thick of the Defensive Player of the Year race.
But for the most part, Davis' dominance has only qualified him for the Defensive Player of the Year conversation and not the MVP conversation. And Skip Bayless thinks it's because Davis is being overlooked while living in the shadow of superstar teammate and MVP race stalwart LeBron James.
"I know this is a new season but what happened? What changed life in LA? [LeBron] didn't just get a co-star, he got someone who is rivaling him for MVP."
When looking at the numbers, Bayless indeed has a strong argument.
Davis leads the Lakers in points (26.7), rebounds (9.4), steals (1.5) and blocks (2.4). The only edge James holds over Davis in box score counting stats is assists, where he leads the NBA with 10.6 per game.
Davis also has the highest-scoring game of any Laker this season, registering 50 points on Dec. 9 against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Prior to the season being postponed, ESPN's Max Kellerman said he believes Davis has been underappreciated during his first year in Los Angeles.
"Anthony Davis is a top five player in the world, maybe even better than that... LeBron gets credit for making it work as the point guard, but really, this is about two of the best five [players] in the world on the same team, and AD is one of them. If you took LeBron off, would this team be any good? Of course not. Would they even be a playoff team? Maybe, maybe not. But the same goes for AD. But somehow, our focus is on LeBron."
If there is one factor that is hurting Davis' case for being the MVP of the Lakers or the league, it's his numbers on the floor when James sits.
The Lakers have an 11.3 net rating with James on the floor and Davis on the bench, which is the sign of a team that can still compete at a high level without one of its stars.
However, when James sits and Davis is on the floor, the Lakers have a -2.75 net rating.
Aside from the debate regarding who is the Lakers' most vital piece, when speaking to a group of reporters during a zoom call in July, Davis said he believes the team is locked in and ready to win a championship this season after a lengthy 4-month layoff.
“Actually, I think our chances are higher, just because we’re all rested and we’re all ready to go. If anything, our chances got higher, and it’s going to be about just who wants it more.”
If the season ends with the Lakers hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy in Orlando, James will surely see his stature elevated among the game's all-time greats.
But as they always say – it takes two superstars to tango.