CHICAGO — Anthony Davis can score from almost anywhere. The New Orleans Pelicans need him to score from everywhere.
So while Davis is an increasingly reliable jump shooter even out to 3-point range, the Pelicans need him producing more points in the paint. After a difficult shooting night against the Bulls on Saturday in which 14 of Davis’ 24 attempts came from outside the paint, coach Alvin Gentry called for more diversity in his star’s offensive attack.
It’s not that Gentry minds Davis shooting jumpers — “They’re good shots for him,” Gentry said — but he doesn’t want the Pelicans to be overly reliant on Davis making them.
“You live and die sometimes with what guys are good at, and he’s good at that, and those are the shots that we want him shooting in the game,” Gentry said. “But we’ve got to also be able to attack the basket a little bit more than we did.”
That has been an issue of late for Davis, who in his past two games has attempted 31 jump shots compared to four layups, two dunks and two hook shots.
In that span, he’s 5-for-21 on shots from 15 feet and out and 3-for-14 on shots from 15 to 19 feet. Shots from 15 to 19 feet represent 23.8 percent of Davis’ field-goal attempts this season — and 35.9 percent of his shots in the past two games.
Some of that is dictated by the defense. In the Pelicans’ win against Washington on Friday, the Wizards guarded Davis with a smaller defender — usually Jared Dudley — and used a big man to double-team him. Chicago frequently packed the paint Saturday, leaving little room for Davis to run to the rim on pick-and-rolls.
It has hurt, too, that forward Ryan Anderson missed the past two games with a stomach illness. His presence stretches the defense to the perimeter and gives Davis more room to operate.
Davis took some of the responsibility, saying “it’s on me” to read the defense and roll to the basket when the opportunity presents itself.
“Sometimes when (guards) come off of a screen, he has to dive some; sometimes he has to pop (for a jumper),” guard Eric Gordon said. “With him just out there casting away jump shots, it’s not the best way for him. He’s just got to learn to mix it up.”
Gordon said Davis “will be fine” and that the rest of the players have to help “get him into the flow” offensively.
Davis has diversified his offensive game. Last season, about 1 percent of his field-goal attempts were from 3-point range. That number is up to 10.8 percent this season.
But whether because of his choices or the way defenses play him — likely a combination of both — Davis’ attempts around the rim have decreased. Last season, 40.8 percent of his attempts came from between 5 and 9 feet. This season, that number is down to 33.5 percent.
And though Davis is a dramatically better shooter behind the 3-point line, he has struggled with a typically reliable mid-range jumper. Last season, he shot 46.3 percent on shots between 10 and 14 feet. He’s shooting 26.5 percent on those shots this season.
“We’ve got to try to get him to the basket a little bit more and post up more,” Gentry said. “But he’s capable of making those shots.”
And they’re easy to get. Defenses have keyed on taking away dives to the basket for Davis, who was among the league’s best scoring options as the roll man in pick-and-rolls last season. That creates plenty of opportunities to launch jumpers.
“It’s just tough because the pocket’s always there for the jump shot,” Davis said. “But I definitely can get some more stuff going to the basket. I think when I went to the basket (against the Bulls), I either got fouled or got a bucket or made a good pass.”