Last Word On Basketball

Top NBA Players 2022-23: #17 Anthony Davis

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - APRIL 05: Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers walks off the court following the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center on April 05, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Lakers 121-110. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Anthony Davis has earned the number 17 spot on our list of the best players in the upcoming 2022-2023 season. Davis was dominant during his lone season at Kentucky and was the consensus top prospect before being selected first in the 2012 NBA Draft. He solidified himself as a perennial All-Star during his seven seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans (they were the Hornets his rookie season). Davis was subsequently traded to the Los Angeles Lakers and won a championship in the 2020 bubble.

Davis approaches the 2022-2023 season at a career crossroads. He turns 30 in March, and injuries and past performance suggest he’s already exited his athletic prime. However, he plays and shares an agent with the Father Time-defying LeBron James. The Lakers have also tried to surround those two stars with better complementary players, most notably trading for Patrick Beverley. Is Davis on the downslide of his career already, or can he bounce back in the 2022-2023 season?

Previous Top 20 Entries

No. 20 Donovan Mitchell

No. 19 James Harden

No. 18 Jaylen Brown

Top NBA Players 2022-23: #17 Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis’ 2022-2023 Season

Davis is still a phenomenal player despite the injuries and some disappointing performances. He remains an elite finisher at the rim after converting 77% of his 304 attempts there, despite receiving poor spacing from players like Russell Westbrook and Talen-Horton Tucker. His extraordinary fluidity and dexterity should help him remain one of the premier lob threats in the game next season. Davis shot 57% on twos, by far the best of his career, thanks to his incredible at-rim efficiency.

Davis remains one of the elite defenders in the NBA, as well. Only six players who played in at least 40 games defended more shots overall than Davis, and of those players, only Rudy Gobert forced opponents to shoot a lower overall percentage. Davis has proven he can maintain his impact in the playoffs as well. Only Draymond Green and Giannis Antetokounmpo can claim to blend rim protection and perimeter defense as well or better than Davis in the playoffs. Davis may not guarantee a top-10 defense in the regular season like Gobert, but his versatility makes him one of the most impactful playoff defenders in the league.

Anthony Davis’ Areas of Improvement

Unsurprisingly for someone nicknamed Anthony Day-to-Davis, availability is his biggest concern. Davis missed an average of 14.5 games during his time in New Orleans, a significant but reasonable number that’s inflated by his missed games at the end of the 2018-19 season after requesting a trade. That average has ballooned to 29 games missed per season with the Lakers, including the 2019-2020 season when he missed just 9 games. 

After the Lakers won the 2020 title, they infamously had just over two months between their Finals win on Oct. 11th and their first 2020-2021 regular season game on Dec. 22nd. The Lakers then exited the 2021 playoffs on June 3rd, with the subsequent regular season starting on Oct. 19th. It’s possible these compressed offseasons didn’t allow Davis to recover from injury or prepare his body for 82 games. We should know this season whether Davis just needed some rest, or if his body is starting to break down. 

Davis and the Lakers will hope his major on-court weakness, outside shooting, will improve as he gets healthier. Davis made roughly one three per every three attempts from 2017-2020, an acceptable number given his at-rim dominance. That percentage plummeted to 18.6% last season. This downturn, combined with Westbrook’s struggles, submarined the Lakers’ offense. Davis’ free-throw percentage dipped as well, as he averaged over 80% from the line from 2017-2020, but just 71% from the line last year.

In contrast with the other players on this list, Davis is mainly a complementary player on offense. He can put up points with incredible efficiency but needs to be set up by others in order to fully contribute on offense. This is especially true if defenders can ignore both his midrange (where he shot just under 37%) and three-point shots.

The Last Word on Anthony Davis

The debate over whether Davis should play center or power forward has raged since his days in New Orleans. He’s a 6’10”, dominant defender and paint finisher who struggles to create his own offense or shoot from outside. That certainly describes a center, but perhaps Davis knows something we don’t. It’s possible the increased punishment he takes at center accounts for some of his injuries, and playing him more at the four can help him be available to play more often. Players like Green, Antetokounmpo, Al Horford, and Jaren Jackson Jr. all primarily play power forward and shift to center when needed. Perhaps the issue isn’t Davis’ position, but Lakers management needing to find the right center to pair with him.

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