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Lakers’ Anthony Davis building early case for Defensive Player of the Year – Orange County Register

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PORTLAND, Ore. — It’s a defender’s nightmare: That sickening feeling as you fly past the man you’re supposed to be guarding, unable to do anything but watch as he waits you out with a shot fake.

As the 3-point revolution keeps churning outside attempts upward, there have been more and more of these kinds of plays that are extremely hard to recover from – leaving one’s feet on a shot fake almost guarantees an open shot. The only possible recourse a defender has is to land in an angled stance and immediately leap back, hoping to disrupt the shooter as he reloads.

The hope is for distraction, not necessarily stopping the shot. Unless, of course, you’re Anthony Davis, and you can reach back to tip Bojan Bogdanovic’s 3-pointer hopelessly off course the way he did Wednesday night in Utah.

Because Davis’ athleticism and sweeping wingspan have the power to make even this common NBA mishap into an uncommonly impressive correction.

“It’s not hard,” LeBron James said, “when you’re the Defensive Player of the Year.”

During the last week, the Lakers’ locker room has been ramping up the volume for Davis’ candidacy as the best defensive player in the league, a title he’s often been in contention for but never officially earned. Coach Frank Vogel said Davis “can and will” win DPOY, while Rajon Rondo said he should win that and league MVP.

Davis has listed winning DPOY among his goals, even though on the court, he can be a little more restrained. In multiple games, teammates have heard him exclaim after a big defensive play: “First-team defense.”

They’ve gently urged him to aim higher. One such moment came after Tuesday’s win in Denver, when Davis stopped Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray multiple times on drives in the final three minutes. As Davis came off the floor, guard Alex Caruso told him that he looked like the Defensive Player of the Year.

“You’re shutting down the opposing team’s best player, one-on-one without fouling, on the road. Sick. Exhausted probably,” Caruso said. “That just goes to show the type of competitor he is, and then obviously we all know what he’s capable of.”

What is Davis’ case, though? It’s tied up in the numbers.

As a team, the Lakers (19-3) have had the fourth-best defense in the league (102.7 defensive rating). Davis is a key ingredient: He’s the only Laker who is on all of the top eight five-man lineups sorted by defensive rating, playing either center or power forward. As of Thursday, he was averaging a league-leading 2.7 blocked shots per game, and along with Orlando’s Jonathan Isaac was one of two players with at least 1.4 steals while ranking among the top 10 shot-blockers. He also is one of the best at keeping opponents off the free-throw line.

But Davis might be most impressive in a crunchtime context: The Lakers have by far the best fourth-quarter defense in the league, just a 93.9 defensive rating. Davis is an inescapable piece of that, given that he’s switchable on wings and guards, that he can block shots at the rim (as he did in Denver), and that he can defend inbounds passes in critical situations.

One need only look at the Lakers’ four-game trip last month, when Davis helped cover the court when the Lakers mucked up inbounds plays in three different games that could have tied or won the game for the opponent in the final seconds. In the last of these, Davis stole the inbounds pass against New Orleans, his former team, for a triumphant finish at the line.

Those are situations where Davis truly shines, and which the Lakers lean on him to be a safety on inbounds passes, a blocker at the line, and a gatherer of critical rebounds.

“I take pride in my defense,” he said. “Anytime late game when guys feel like they can score on me, I take it personal and try to play without fouling and get stops for my team. In those situations … you want to make sure you want to stay home and do what I do best and play defense and make them take tough shots.”

Vogel joked recently that the Lakers were looking into cloning him to guard all five positions. But truly, the team believes Davis is capable of guarding anyone. As a power forward, he’s guarding more perimeter players than he ever has in his career, and while he’s admitted it’s often a challenge after playing opposing bigs for the previous seven years, his teammates cheer him on.

Bradley pointed out the difference between Davis and other leading shot-blockers is that Davis can step out to the 3-point line when he needs to, something that could prove crucial in the playoffs.

“If A.D. wants to guard a point guard and it came down to it to win a game, A.D. could do it,” Bradley said. “He’s that effective on that end of the floor.”



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Jeff Stearman

Jeff has experienced much success in his many years as a Realtor, consistently ranking in the Top 1% of Realtors nationally as well as the Top Agent locally. Jeff also has an MBA and Graduate Realtor Institute (GRI) designation and is Certified Short Sale Specialist and Distressed Property Negotiator and Expert. Jeff has a firm grasp on today’s real estate market and is an expert in all areas of residential real estate, including: traditional sales, residential income properties, vacation properties, luxury homes, as well as distressed properties. Additionally, with his background in mortgage & financial consulting, Jeff can help you understand the numbers side of real estate and offer valuable advice on the different types of home loans and financing options that you could take advantage of. His clients say: "If you want something done, ask a busy Realtor.” The Stearman Group has successfully sold over 3,000 homes because they carefully work with their clients to create successful solutions. They strive to solve your individual housing needs-one client at a time. His team gives only the Best Personalized Service to each of their clients every single time.

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