Anthony Davis is not just another LeBron James co-star
The Brow is on the short list of players who could be the best in the league through the 60-day postseason.
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Coming into the league as a tankworthy consensus No. 1 pick, Anthony Davis had the hype worthy of a potential generational superstar. And as he played up to that hype in terms of production if not wins, he wasn’t exactly underrated or underappreciated. He made the All-Star team in his second season and All-NBA in his third. As the Pelicans’ failures to build a great team around him continued, other teams lusted after him more or less openly. No one ever slept on Anthony Davis. Everyone has acknowledged for a long time that he’s one of the best players in the league.
Yet his lack of high-level success in the playoffs has perhaps shrouded just how spectacular a talent he is. That’s about to change, of course, and it should be noted that Davis has been extremely good in his two playoff trips (30 and 13 on 52% shooting in 13 career playoff games).
The Brow’s incredible performance against the Jazz on Monday really showed it all: the eclectic and irrepressible scoring, the stout and agile defense. His completely abnormal and supranormal package and style are jarring, really, in ways dissimilar from other so-called unicorns. There’s a mundanity to his dominance unlike LeBron’s explicit smooth genius or Harden’s abrasive loudness or Antetokounmpo’s defiance of the natural laws of basketball and physics. He’s just … so … good.
There’s a short list of players who you could reasonably predict will be the best performer in the 60 days of NBA playoffs coming up. Anthony Davis has to be on that list. He might be No. 1. He did much of his damage Monday against the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, with a rather stark stakes differential. (This is to say that the stakes are much higher for the Jazz than the Lakers in these seeding games. The Lakers locked up the No. 1 seed with this win, but they had it essentially locked up anyway.)
LeBron is and has been incredible. His record of success — including in the playoffs — means he will get a disproportionate share of the credit for the Lakers’ rebound this season. LeBron will probably finish No. 2 in MVP voting and will definitely get the first team All-NBA nod. Davis might not finish top five in MVP voting in the end, and could slide off the first team All-NBA depending on whether voters treat him like a center and how they rate reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.
In the context of this single season, acknowledging LeBron’s historic and current greatness and the importance of high-level success in the playoffs, incorporating defensive impact along with offense and even leadership, I think Davis has been at least James’s equal if not surpassed him in terms of impact. And based on the limited evidence we have of how Davis performs in the dungeon of playoff basketball, I think it’s reasonable to believe Davis has a path to being the Lakers’ best and most important player in the postseason.
Anthony Davis is not just another LeBron co-star. He’s truly a Co-Star. This is as close as LeBron has ever had to an equal on his team, with apologies to 2003-04 Carlos Boozer, 2011-13 Dwyane Wade and June 2016 Kyrie Irving.
Obviously, the Lakers do and should strike fear into opponents’ hearts. LeBron plays on another level in the playoffs. And Anthony Davis has been on another level this season. Ask Rudy Gobert.
Coaches of the Year
The National Basketball Coaches Association announced Mike Budenholzer and Billy Donovan have tied in their race for NBA Coach of the Year. (This isn’t the NBA’s official award voted on by media.) I’ve written that there are few wrong answers to this question this season, and both Coach Bud and Donovan are worthy of praise for highly successful efforts. Apparently. Nick Nurse finished third, just one vote away from making it a three-way. I think Nurse might get the nod from the media based on Budenholzer’s award win last year and then playoff loss to Nurse’s Raptors. But we’ll see.
Donovan really turned his reputation around this season after a disastrous end to the Paul George era. Chris Paul deserves plenty of credit as the prototypical “floor general,” but Donovan got creative with lineups and rotations, trusted players like Lu Dort and made a really solid team out of a rebuilding roster with a leftover star. Nice work.
It still floors me that it took as many years as it did for Budenholzer to get a shot. All he does is win games.
Raptors 107, Heat 103 — Fred VanVleet didn’t really feel great about the bubble situation. But if he’s going to be here, he’s going to BE here. Career high 36 points and the game-clinching deflection/cross-check.
urge to pick Raptors to win it all intensifies
Nuggets 121, Thunder 113 (OT) — Skinny Jokic is still Jokic.
Grizzlies 99, Pelicans 109 — Huge bounce back win for the Pels, pulling them back within a game (more or less) of the No. 9 seed. (The Blazers are technically up a half-game, but the uneven games played thing advantages Portland since all these teams are under .500.) Better team defense (especially containing Ja Morant, who shot 5/21), good efficiency from Brandon Ingram, good production from Zion Williamson and Jrue Holiday. And also
Never gets old.
Spurs 130, Sixers 132 — SHAKE MILTON FOR THE WIN.
I wonder if Joel Embiid still wants to “slap the s—t out of” Milton. Probably not.
I’m not sure why Dejounte Murray sagged off so much — Milton is shooting 45% on threes this season, even if you give up a two you’d have time for a final shot. I’m also not sure what the Hades is up with Philadelphia’s defense. But a win is a win.
All times are Eastern. If a broadcaster is not listed, the game is on League Pass. Note that WNBA League Pass and NBA League Pass are separate products.
Nets vs. Bucks, 1:30 p.m., NBA TV
Mavericks vs. Kings, 2:30 p.m.
Suns vs. Clippers, 4 p.m., NBA TV
Magic vs. Pacers, 6 p.m.
Wings at Sky, 6 p.m.
Celtics vs. Heat, 6:30 p.m., TNT
Mercury at Dream, 7 p.m., ESPN2
Rockets vs. Blazers, 9 p.m., TNT
Sun at Storm, 9 p.m., ESPN2
Alexis Mansanarez of The Next on how WNBA stars including DeWanna Bonner are parenting in the wubble.
Seth Partnow in The Athletic on why NBA bubble games are taking longer to complete. ($)
Michael Pina on why the Jazz should try to turn Donovan Mitchell into James Harden.
Very excited to dig into this NPR Music deep dive and celebration of Southern rap.
Be excellent to each other.