Could Shaq Version of Anthony Davis Be Better for Lakers Than Bubble AD?

It’s a tiny 3-game sample size early in the season but watching Anthony Davis dominating in the post like Shaquille O’Neal has hopeful Lakers fans wondering if rookie coach Darvin Ham has figured out how to unlock AD.

Davis sudden breakout play couldn’t have come at a better time for the Lakers as early injuries, poor shooting, and a tough schedule put them in a 2–10 hole that had the front office questioning if the season could be saved.
Two injury-plagued losing years fueled by self-inflicted mistakes had paralyzed the Lakers’ front office with some wanting to move forward with a mega trade and others to save the picks for a major rebuild next summer.

With a 3-game win streak, the 5–10 Lakers have 5 games left — Suns, Spurs, and Spurs on the road and the Pacers and Blazers at home — of the 20 games Pelinka said he would give the team before any trade decisions.
Could the Lakers do the impossible, upset the Suns tomorrow night in Phoenix, trounce the Spurs twice in San Antonio, and finally come home to Los Angeles to beat the Pacers and Blazers and finish November 10–10?

The 10–6 Suns have struggled recently going just 5–5 over their last 10 games although they are 8–1 at home, where they will play the Lakers tomorrow night. It’s still unknown whether LeBron will play tomorrow.
The Lakers and Anthony Davis will have an opportunity to see how their new winning formula works when they’re playing an elite team like the Phoenix Suns with an elite quality starting center like Deandre Ayton.

The Lakers have a legitimate opportunity to climb out of the early 2–10 hole they dug themselves because Anthony Davis was able to take the baton from an injured LeBron James and dominate like Shaquille O’Neal.

What Are Differences Between ‘Shaq AD’ and ‘Bubble AD?’

So how does the Shaquille O’Neal version of Anthony Davis that we’ve seen the last three games compare with the Bubble version of Anthony Davis that along with LeBron James earned the Lakers 18th NBA championship?

While it’s only been three games, the eye test suggests Shaq AD could be better for the Lakers than Bubble AD as he appears to be taking more shots at the rim and fewer long twos and threes, which is far more efficient.
A quick look at the stats confirms during the last three games that Davis is shooting 73.5% of his shots within 5 feet of the rim compared to just 55% during the 2019–20 regular season and 33% during 2019–20 playoffs.

By focusing his offense more on attacking the paint and rim and less on taking long midrange twos and threes, Anthony Davis has dramatically changed his game and made himself a more dangerous low post threat.
That’s why comparing Anthony Davis’ new game to the dominant game of former Lakers’ center Shaquille O’Neal, who basically took half of his 20 shots within 5 feet and half within 9 feet of the rim, makes sense.

During the three-game stretch, Anthony Davis has averaged 35.0 points, 17.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.7 blocks in 31.8 minutes per game. That represents his best three game stretch wearing purple and gold. Because he’s taking a higher percentage of his shots closer to the basket, Davis was able to hit 61.7% of his field goals during the three games and attack the offensive backboards to average 5 offensive boards per game.

While it’s only been three games, it does appear the Darvin Ham has figured out how to unlock Anthony Davis by having him play more like Shaquille O’Neal and take more shots at the rim than the perimeter.

(2019–20 Season) 26.1/9.3/3.2 shooting 50.3%/33.3%/84.6% on 17.1/3.5/8.5
(2010–20 Playoffs) 27.7/9.7/3.5 shooting 57.1%/38.3%/83.2% on 17.1/2.2/8.4

(2022–23 Season) 25.6/12.0/2.4 shooting 55.4%/21.1%/81.4% on 17.8/1.4/6.9
(Last 3 Games) 35.0/17.3/2.0 shooting 61.7%/0.0%/91.2% on 20.0/1.0/11.3

What Happens When LeBron James Returns From Injury?

It’s been a long time coming because of injuries and poorly constructed rosters but it finally looks like Anthony Davis is ready to take the baton from LeBron James as the face and alpha superstar of the Lakers.

Like the transitions of many great sports figures, Davis’ ascension to the throne as the Lakers lead superstar was facilitated by untimely groin and foot injuries to LeBron James that opened the door for AD to dominate.
The big question for Darvin Ham and the Lakers is now how to re-integrate LeBron James into the rotation without taking away the critical touches and possessions that have allowed Anthony Davis to dominant in the paint.

Until the last three games, Anthony Davis averaged 17.8 field goal attempts per game compared to LeBron James’ 21.9 field goal attempts per game. In those three games, AD raised his total shot attempts to 20.0 per game.
Lonnie Walker IV and Austin Reaves also got additional shot attempts due to James being out with injuries. The key strategy for the Lakers going forward may be for LeBron to return as more of a facilitator than scorer.

In many ways, shifting the focus of the Lakers’ offense from LeBron James to Anthony Davis has been the team’s goal since winning their 18th NBA championship in the bubble in 2020 so it’s great he has this opportunity.
Fortunately for the Lakers, LeBron James has always envisioned Anthony Davis taking over the baton from him so it’s likely he’ll appreciate the opportunity to step back, play fewer minutes, and let AD dominate.

The Lakers need to make sure re-integrating LeBron James back into their rotation will not take away from the monster impact that Anthony Davis playing like Shaquille O’Neal could have on the Lakers playoff hopes.

Can Shaq Version of Anthony Davis Lead Lakers to Championship?

Lakers’ management and fans losing faith that Anthony Davis would take the baton from LeBron James as the team’s next transcendent superstar player was obviously a way-too-early knee-jerk reaction to a tough start.

And while three games is not a fair sample size, the results clearly show that Anthony Davis can be as dominant as any superstar in the league. Most pundits have already restored him to his former top-five NBA player status.
The timing of Davis sudden takeover of the team could not be better for the Lakers and LeBron James, who now can take whatever time he needs to heal his groin and foot and hopefully go on cruise control until playoffs.

With Father Time relentlessly undercutting James’ health and athleticism, now is the ideal time for the Lakers to shift focus of their offense to AD with LeBron focusing more on playmaking and defense than scoring.
Just a side note but you have to wonder whether LeBron might resist a role because of how close he is to breaking Kareem’s scoring record. There are many smart reasons for the Lakers to scale LeBron back in regular season.

While Anthony Davis still has to prove he can stay on the court, he’s finally looking like the top-five player he used to be before the last two frustrating injury-filled years. Tomorrow night against Ayton will be a big test.
Anthony Davis knows he’s had a huge physical edge over his opponents in the last three games. Deandre Ayton and the Suns will be as good a quick test on whether Shaq AD is good enough to lead the Lakers to victory.

Anthony Davis has the talent to take the baton from LeBron James and become the team’s go-to player. If Davis can dominate Deandre Ayton tomorrow night, he may be ready to lead Lakers to a championship.

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Lakers fanatic since 1971 when team traded for Wilt Chamberlain. Founder, editor, and publisher of , a community for smart informed Lakers fans.