The Los Angeles Lakers have a history of superstar big men. Superstar big men have a history of winning Defensive Player of the Year. And yet, in their entire history, the Lakers have never had a big man win that award. It has been given to centers 24 times since its inception for the 1982-83 season, but the only Laker ever to win it was Michael Cooper, a guard. Anthony Davis, the latest in the long lineage of star Lakers centers, told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that he hopes to change that this season.
“I want to be Defensive Player of the Year,” Davis told Yahoo Sports. “I think if I’m able to do that, I can help this team win. The offensive end will come around, but defensively, I want to hold myself, teammates, including LeBron, accountable in order for us to take on the challenge of being the best we can defensively. In doing so, we’ll have a good chance of winning every night. I want to make sure me and LeBron are on the All-Defensive Team. And for me personally, I just want to be the Defensive Player of the Year. If we’re able to hold teams under 100 [points], which is probably unrealistic but it should be our goal, I think we’ll have a shot at winning the title.”
Davis winning the award would not be too farfetched. He is a three-time All-Defense selection, and he finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting during the 2017-18 season. Making James an All-Defense selection, however, would be a tall order. He has not earned that honor since the 2013-14 season, and his effort on that end of the floor has been inconsistent in recent years.
But if Davis can coax more defensive energy out of James, that alone might be enough to get him into contention for this award. Defense tends to stem from the top down. When a team’s best players take pride in their team’s identity on that end of the floor, the rest of the players follow them. If Davis can get James to play hard on that end of the floor, the rest of the Lakers will follow their example.
The Lakers finished 13th in defense last season, but rose as high as No. 6 prior to injuries decimating their roster. Many of their best defenders from last season are gone, but players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso and JaVale McGee are still more than capable of making an impact on that end of the floor. Additions like Danny Green and Avery Bradley should help as well. The Lakers have the pieces to be a strong defensive team. It is going to come down to effort and intensity.
Davis is promising to bring that, and if he does, the Lakers will be able to defend just about anyone at a high level. If the Lakers live up to their potential on that end of the floor, Davis will have every opportunity to become the first Lakers center to win Defensive Player of the Year.
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