When Anthony Davis landed in Los Angeles to suit up in the purple and gold he made it clear that one of his goals with the Lakers was to win Defensive Player of the Year — an award he feels he should already have on his resume.
“I want to be Defensive Player of the Year. I think if I’m able to do that, I can help this team win,” Davis said in September (h/t Bleacher Report). “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 built quite the case to reel in the award this season, becoming a monster backstop for the Lakers much-improved defense. At the time the NBA season was put on hold, Davis led the Lakers in blocks per game with 2.4, which was good for third in the NBA.
He also led L.A. in steals per game at 1.5 and impacted the game beyond the box score, showing an ability to guard every position and even affecting three-point shooters with his large wingspan.
Anthony David Third in DPOY Race, According to ESPN Expert Poll
Despite his strong showing, Davis is not the front-runner to win the award in the latest ESPN poll of experts. In fact, he’s not even the runner up. The recently released poll has reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo taking home the award with 56 percent of the vote. Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who has won the last two DPOY trophies, finished second.
It should also be noted that Antetokounmpo was slated to win his second MVP over Davis’ fellow Lakers star LeBron James. The Greek Freak has long been the favorite for the top NBA honor, but James closed the gap just before the season was put on hold with a string of vintage performances against the league’s top teams.
LeBron James, Frank Vogel Back Anthony Davis for DPOY
The stoppage of the NBA season was especially painful for the Lakers, who lead the Western Conference with a 49-14 record and are a top title contender. What helped propel the Lakers to the top of standings was the chemistry between the team’s two stars — Davis and James.
James was not shy through the year to showed Davis with praise for his ability on the defensive side of the ball and backed him for the award.
“He does everything,” James said of Davis in February, via ESPN Los Angeles. “He’s able to protect the rim, he’s able to guard in the post, he’s able to switch out on guards, he’s able to block shots from guys shooting floaters and runners, he gets steals, I mean he does everything defensively for us. That’s why he’s Defensive Player of the Year.”
He also has the support of his head coach, Frank Vogel.
“I think he can and will win Defensive Player of the Year this year,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said this week. “I think there’s no one in the league like him defensively in terms of being able to guard all positions, protect the rim the way he does and deflect the basketball, contain the basketball. There really isn’t anyone in the league like him and if our team defense continues to play at a high level throughout the year, I think he’ll win it going away.”
With all that being said, there’s still a lot to be decided this season when the NBA resumes its season. Some good news is that owners are expected to approve commissioner Adam Silver’s recommendation on a format to restart the season in Orlando, Florida this week, which will give Davis a chance to prove he deserves the hardware.