Best Shooter on the Lakers? Shooting Coach Gives Surprising Answer

Lakers forward Anthony Davis shows his shooting form

Getty Lakers forward Anthony Davis shows his shooting form

Post-up scoring. Rebounding. Blocked shots. For most, those are the strengths of Lakers big man Anthony Davis. But assistant coach Mike Penberthy has something else in mind: Best shooting mechanics on the Lakers roster.

Penberthy, speaking on the Lake Lake Show podcast this week, said that Davis is the purple-and-gold’s top player when it comes to shot form.

That shows itself, according to Penberthy, in Davis’ free-throw shooting numbers. He is making 84.5% from the free-throw line, the best percentage of his career. He had been shooting 79.5% from the line in his seven seasons with the Pelicans and that improvement is indicative of Davis’ shooting prowess.

Here’s how Penberthy explained:

The guy that I’ve spent the most time with that I think at this point — and having continued to work with him during this break — is Anthony Davis, and you can see that really in his free-throw percentage. I think most of your great shooters that have ever lived have really high free-throw percentages.

So I usually try to evaluate people based on what their shooting percentages are, not just in the game, because sometimes the game doesn’t dictate exactly how good of a shooter you are. Maybe you take a shot at the end of the shot clock, or maybe every shot you’re taking is heavily contested by the defense. … But at the free-throw line, there is nobody guarding you. So if you can stand there and make free throws that is a pretty good sign of where you’re at from a shooting perspective.

Anthony Davis has Made Mechanical Changes

Davis needed to make changes to his shooting form this season, Penberthy said. The numbers show overall improvement, especially from the start of the year. Davis is making 33.5% of his 3-pointers, which is not great, but represents the second-best success rate of his career.

He was making only 29.7% of his 3s in his first 35 games of the season. But after he returned from a bad bruise on his backside in January, Davis seemed to find his stroke. He made 40.9% of his 3s in the last 20 games he played before the suspension of the season. Overall, he has a 61.4 true-shooting percentage, the best of his career.

Penberthy said that’s been the result of mechanical alterations.

“We had to change so much,” Penberthy said. “He was turning his body, his elbow was funny, his hand was coming off the ball differently, his toe was crooked in the front. There were all kinds of little mechanical issues there. He’s such a great player he was able to make up for it and still be highly productive. So we just had to tinker with some of that stuff.”

Penberthy and Anthony Davis Became Friends in New Orleans

Penberthy, who had a brief stint with the Lakers, in 2000-01 and 2001-02, joined L.A.’s staff this summer after he had already begun working privately with Davis. Penberthy was on the staff with the Pelicans last year, but said he did not work directly with Davis during the time. The two did get to know each other then.

Penberthy has a long relationship, though, with Pelicans star Jrue Holiday—he had been Holiday’s private shooting coach for years and helped him improve from a 44.1% shooter from the field for the first eight years of his career to a 48.4% shooter in 2017-18 and 2018-19. That helped Penberthy earn the nickname, “The Shot Whisperer.”

“Interestingly, I didn’t work with Anthony in New Orleans,” he said. “He wasn’t one of my players, we are assigned players. I worked with Jrue Holiday but Anthony and I, obviously, we knew each other, we developed a good friendship there in New Orleans, we had a lot of great conversations. … When Anthony was ready to leave, he wanted me to come with him because we had had so many discussions and he had seen Jrue Holiday’s improvement.”

Penberthy was prepared to remain working with Davis on a private basis but when an opportunity to join the Lakers’ staff opened after Davis was traded to the team, Penberthy took it.

Davis’ shooting percentages have benefited.

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