But former NBA star Gilbert Arenas thinks any doubt that Davis can lead the charge is wrong.
“Anthony Davis did everything the Lakers asked him to do,” Arenas tweeted on August 8. “Don’t let LeBron’s dominance at his age make you think that AD still not HIM.”
James, 38, is entering his 21st NBA season and will turn 39 years old in December. Despite his advancing age, he continues to perform at an elite level, averaging 28.9 points on 58.3% true shooting with 8.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists last season.
He is also starting a two-year, $99 million contract next season that he can opt out of after the 2023-24 campaign and become an unrestricted free agent.
The Lakers will need a plan for life after James sooner or later with Davis at the center of it.
“Things can always change with trades or trade requests, but…it’s safe to say the Lakers want him to be the franchise’s cornerstone,” wrote Zach Harper of The Athletic on August 8. “That never quite worked out for the New Orleans Pelicans, which struggled to compete with the best when he was there.”
Davis, 30, was 216-250 in his Pelicans career with just two playoff appearances as the best player on the team. As Harper notes, he paid off the Lakers’ trade by helping guide them to a championship in 2020.
But Harper goes on to question whether or not Davis is the star-level draw the Lakers may need to reel in other top talent.
And he agrees that James’ shadow could lead to unrealistic expectations for Davis.
“Who then becomes the star to join Davis? And is he the type of player who will attract stars to L.A.,” Harper posed. “I’m not sure if Davis is the guy to draw players to the team. We knew James was that guy, but that’s not a fair bar to set for Davis.”
Gilbert Arenas: LeBron James ‘Puts So Much Pressure’ on Players
“LeBron James put so much pressure on people,” Arenas, a three-time All-Star, said. “The fact that he’s 39 doing what he’s doing makes 30 seem like you’re a rookie. Now we have a glimpse of what 38 and 39 is capable of doing which means when players are looking like they’re slowing down at 31, 32, I don’t know how we accept that anymore.”
James has dealt with injuries the last few seasons, making no more than 56 appearances during the regular season. But Davis has not fared any better, with his 56 appearances last season a high in the last three campaigns.
Sometimes questioned for his pain tolerance, Davis’ lack of durability isn’t for lack of trying.
Thomas Bryant Defends Anthony Davis’ Work Ethic
“Playing alongside A.D – seeing him up close and personal, just seeing his unnatural talent for the game of basketball,” said former teammate Thomas Bryant on Arenas’ show. “And then seeing his work ethic on and off the court of…his body maintenance. How he’s always trying to make sure to stay on top of it and everything. And then also just he has a very high basketball IQ.”
Davis’ basketball IQ is not questioned as often as the work that he puts in to stay on the court.
“I think he’s I think he deserves [his extension],” Bryant said. “And for what he had from his playoff run down out there? I thought it was amazing.”
Davis averaged 22.6 points, 14.1 rebounds, 3.1 blocks, 2.6 assists, and 1.4 steals in the postseason including 26.8 points, 14.0 boards, 2.8 blocks, 2.3 assists, and 1.8 steals in the Western Conference Finals.
The Lakers signed Davis to a three-year, $186 million contract extension, keeping him under team control through the 2026-28 season while there is a $63.4 million player option for the 2027-28 season. It’s the largest annual average value for an extension in NBA history, per ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski.