This week's 10 things highlights a Los Angeles vengeance season, some cool uniforms, a Milwaukee Bucks super-sub, an unsung hero in Brooklyn, and much more.
1. Anthony Davis, blotting out everything on defense
Davis engaging destruction mode on offense -- culminating in 99 combined points in back-to-back games -- has rekindled hopes that the undersized, bricky, ill-fitting Los Angeles Lakers may have hope yet to make noise in the jumbled Western Conference.
Superstar talent can paper over structural flaws. The Lakers two-star model is valid only if Davis and LeBron James are true-blue superstars -- top-10 players. Davis fell out of that stratosphere last season; the Lakers fell from relevance.
Davis's scoring binge has catapulted him back toward top-10 status. He's thriving at center -- rolling to the rim, canning short jumpers, feasting at the line. (An underrated feature of playing Davis at center is that it becomes harder for defenses to switch the LeBron-Davis pick-and-roll -- unlocking rim-runs for Davis.)
The defense has been there since Day 1. Davis is defending with a perfectly calibrated combination of force, calm, and precision. He knows when he can sit in the paint, and when the situation demands he amp it up and run around the perimeter. He is unfazed by marauding drivers and deceptive fakes; he understands the power he has standing on his toes, arms spread -- the uncertainty he instills before he leaves the ground:
That looks passive, but it's really Davis acting with appropriate restraint. He sees Austin Reaves navigate that Devin Booker pick-and-roll unscathed, and concludes he can hang near the basket. He doesn't leap at Cameron Payne's baseline drive, confident he can challenge the shot late if it goes up -- and blot out every passing lane in the meantime.
When Davis needs to do more, he will:
Davis diagnoses that play early. He stays back to contain the initial drive, and then sprints at Buddy Hield when the Lakers switch on the fly.
How a big man uses his arms can be a tell. Are they at his sides? Or is he leveraging his wingspan? Freeze opposing pick-and-rolls, and you'll see Davis crouched in this pose -- enveloping every driving and passing window:
Good freaking luck.
When you build fake Lakers trades, remember: Davis is doing all this at center. Should the Lakers really add another one?