Power forward Anthony Davis puts up big numbers but does so in a somewhat understated fashion for the Los Angeles Lakers since teammate LeBron James understandably attracts more attention. Still, he’s effective and clearly among the NBA’s elite players at both ends of the court.
It turns out that Davis’ trolling game can also fly under the radar. He worked in a nice shot in reacting to the Brooklyn Nets’ huge James Harden deal. It was so subtle that the Nets probably haven’t even figured out yet that Davis delivered a zinger.
With Harden’s arrival, the Nets have too few basketballs for too many players, which they apparently hadn’t considered.
The James Harden is huge in its size and complexity
The Brooklyn Nets certainly managed to shake up the NBA playoff outlook a mere three weeks into the season by executing a four-team trade that landed them the services of James Harden from the Houston Rockets.
Moving a big name is difficult in the NBA because there is usually a big salary attached. Making the numbers work under the salary cap is a science in itself on top of the need for the involved teams to get fair value. That often means bringing other teams into the deal to make sure everyone goes home happy.
In the case of the Nets-Rockets trade, the sides called on the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers. The DL;DR version of the deal is that the Nets got James Harden, and the Rockets got Victor Oladipo and a lifetime supply of draft picks and accommodations. Indiana broke even by getting Caris LeVert, and the Cavaliers came out OK by acquiring Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince.
The key, though, was Harden going to the Nets. The Los Angeles Lakers have marquee value with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, complimented by a solid cast that starts with Dennis Schroder. But the Nets now have three of the sport’s biggest names in Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving, assuming the latter ends his self-imposed exile.
Anthony Davis takes notice of the Brooklyn Nets’ star-studded roster
On paper, the Brooklyn Nets now boast of three players who can light up the scoreboard night after night. James Harden has averaged 25.2 points a game in his career and won three NBA scoring titles. Kevin Durant averages 27.0 points and has won four scoring titles. Kyrie Irving averages 22.5 points per game.
They also consume an enormous amount of the payroll. Irving is due $33.3 million this season and another $71.4 million over the next two. Durant’s contract calls for $39 million this year and almost $83.7 million over the next two. Harden gets $40.8 million this season and $90.7 million over the next two years.
Clearly, they all have incentive to continue proving their value. And that is usually accomplished by putting the ball in the bucket – a lot. That’s where Los Angeles Lakers standout Anthony Davis comes in. He very subtly raised the question of how well the three stars will fare when they find themselves having to share the ball.
“They look good on paper and we’ll see how it goes when those guys get in between the lines and get a chance to play alongside each other,” Davis said, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
It sounds as though Davis is wondering what DeAndre Jordan and Joe Harris, the other 40% of the Nets’ starting lineup, are probably wondering. How is this going to work with just one basketball on the court?
The statistics support what Anthony Davis implied
The analytics crowd has developed a statistic that reflects how much of NBA teams’ offense is run through individual players. Usage Percentage (USG%) factors in the percentage of a team’s field goals and free throws that the player takes as well as his number of turnovers. Crunching those numbers and rating the results against minutes played produces a conclusion that should have Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash on edge.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, James Harden’s USG% since the start of the 2017-18 season is 37.4%, far and away the highest in the league for players who have logged 5,000 minutes. Giannis Antetokounmpo is next at 33.4%, followed by Joel Embiid (33.1%). Russell Westbrook (33.0%) and LeBron James (31.6%) round out the top five.
However, Kyrie Irving of the Nets checks in at ninth at 30.6%, and teammate Kevin Durant is 14th at 29.7%. In approximate terms, that means that almost 98% of the Brooklyn offense theoretically will run through those three stars.
That doesn’t leave a hell of a lot for the rest of the roster to do, which makes their combined USG% completely unsustainable. If Nash can’t fix that quickly, Anthony Davis and the rest of the NBA will enjoy watching the carnage from a season-long game of tug-of-war by the Nets’ big three.