Grizzlies Player Picks Lakers’ Anthony Davis for Key NBA Honor

The Lakers Anthony Davis, at left, blocks a shot from Memphis guard DeAnthony Melton

Getty The Lakers Anthony Davis, at left, blocks a shot from Memphis guard DeAnthony Melton

In his first NBA season in Los Angeles, Lakers big man Anthony Davis has posted some impressive numbers: 26.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 51.3 percent shooting. He has posted 24 double-doubles on the season.

But one unconventional number gets easily overlooked for Davis this season: minus-8.4. That’s the differential in the field-goal percentage players shoot when Davis is guarding them, according to the NBA’s official stats site.

That means players guarded by Davis shoot 46.5 percent against the rest of the league. But against Davis, they shoot a touch better than 36.0 percent. When the numbers are rounded, that differential comes out to minus-8.4. That’s second-best in the league and tops among centers (Giannis Antetokounmpo has a minus-8.8 percent differential).

Davis averages 2.5 blocks per game, which is tied for second in the NBA, behind Portland’s Hassan Whiteside. But while blocks get more attention, the differential in field-goal percentage is a more important number, reflecting the frequency with which Davis forces offensive players to change their shots.

Davis did a bit of both in Friday’s win over the Grizzlies, blocking seven shots and changing several others. After the game, Memphis guard Dillon Brooks said of Davis, “He’s probably going to be Defensive Player of the Year.”

Teammate Jared Dudley tweeted his support of that notion:

Anthony Davis Overcomes Early Injury Scare

The Grizzlies win did not come without some drama. Shortly after tip-off, Davis appeared to injure his right calf and hobbled off the floor. He returned early in the second quarter, however.

“I just felt like I was able to get back on the floor and play,” Davis said, according to the L.A. Times. “The leg felt good enough for me to go out and give it a try and just trying to stay loose and stay warm so it won’t tighten back up. But, just want to be on the floor to help the guys.”

The Lakers also nearly frittered away a 25-point third-quarter lead, allowing it to get cut to four points before closing out the game in the fourth quarter. But in a potential first-round preview against the No. 8 seeded Grizzlies, Davis and LeBron James dominated.

And Davis kept making his case for Defensive Player of the Year.

Giannis Antetkounmpo is Top DPOY Competition

Davis has never won the award but he has been named to the NBA’s All-Defense team three times. He has the support of coach Frank Vogel in his DPOY candidacy.

“Another Defensive Player of the Year-type of night from Anthony,” Vogel said, according to the Associated Press. “He’s the best defender in the league from a versatility standpoint. Especially against a team like this, where you have concerns about a basket-attacking guard like Ja Morant.”

The Lakers are fifth in overall defensive rating, allowing 106.2 points per 100 possessions. His top competition for the top defensive award figures to be Antetokounmpo, whose Bucks rank No. 1 in the league in defense (101.7 points per 100 possessions).

Utah center Rudy Gobert has won the last two Defensive Player of the Year awards, and the Jazz ranked first and second in defensive efficiency in those seasons. The last time a player whose team was outside the Top 3 in defensive efficiency won the DPOY award was the Knicks’ Tyson Chandler in 2012.

No Laker has won the award since Michael Cooper in 1987.

READ NEXT: Pat Beverley on Lakers Finals Chances: ‘They Have to Go Through Us’

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