Nothing in the world of professional sports creates quite as much pressure as being the No. 1 overall draft choice. No matter which sport it may be, the No. 1 pick is the player whom a general manager labels as the best player available above each and every other athlete that could be selected.
Sometimes, players live up to the hype and show early signs of greatness in the mold of a LeBron James of the NBA’s Miami Heat or a Peyton Manning of the NFL’s Denver Broncos. Other times, it takes a few seasons for those players to pan out, a la Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs or Andrew Bogut of the Golden State Warriors.
In the case of Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans, he’s wasted no time in proving to be a legitimate franchise player.
Davis was the NBA’s No. 1 overall draft choice in 2012. He was wrongfully overlooked as Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers won Rookie of the Year, but we’re rapidly learning that Davis is still the gem of the class.
Davis is already nearing the ranks of the elite.
Best from 2012
It’s hard to argue against Lillard winning the 2012-13 NBA Rookie of the Year award. The Trail Blazers’ scoring point guard was a human highlight reel with flashy passes, dazzling ball-handling and clutch shots that could make the most avid NBA fan drool.
Not even that could change the fact that Davis is the best player from the 2012 draft class.
Lillard was the leading scorer and the top assist man, which made him the attractive and easy option to win Rookie of the Year. The reality is, his stellar levels of play shouldn’t have overshadowed Davis in any way, shape or form.
As expected, A.D. is the star of the class.
In 2012-13, Davis led all first-year players in rebounds, blocks and steals per game. He was also tops amongst rookies in Player Efficiency Rating, Value Added and Estimated Wins Added.
All in all, Davis immediately proved to be the best player from a relatively strong draft class that includes Lillard, Bradley Beal and Terrence Jones, amongst others. It’s just taken another season of action to confirm that stance.
Thus far in 2013-14, Anthony Davis is averaging 20.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 3.1 blocks and 1.6 steals per game. He’s posted a Player Efficiency Rating of 26.35 and is shooting 52.3 percent from the field and 76.1 percent from the free throw line.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Davis is on pace to become the first player since David Robinson in 1994-95 to average at least 20.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and 1.5 steals per contest.
For what it’s worth, 1994-95 was the season that The Admiral won league MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Davis won’t win MVP, mainly because of the Pelicans’ mediocre team record, but he is a candidate for the latter award.
Most importantly, he’s proving to be one of the best two-way players in the NBA—and he’s still only 20 years old.
In an era in which 20 points and 10 rebounds are only consistently recorded by the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard and Kevin Love, Davis is already in that company in year two. More impressively, he joins Howard as the most statistically dominant two-way big men in the league.
On top of padding the stat sheet, NBA.com reports that Davis limits opponents to 46.2 percent shooting when he meets them at the rim. That’s downright elite.
Amongst those who have played in at least 40 games and see 6.0-plus attempts at the rim per game, Davis’ percentage is seventh in the NBA. The players in front of him include Roy Hibbert, Serge Ibaka and Joakim Noah, which is enough to establish his caliber of defensive play.
All in all, Davis has proven to be what many believed he would become: a franchise player.
When it comes to the star conversation, the players who have earned their spot in that category are held to a high standard. If said athletes are unable to lead their respective teams to the playoffs, it ultimately leads to heavy levels of criticism.
Fortunately, 20-year-old Anthony Davis is immune from that reality for the time being. For now, we should marvel over what he’s already capable of and evaluate what he needs to do next.
On top of developing his role as the leader of a postseason team, Davis must improve his jump shot. He’s done a good job of developing his mid-range game, as can be seen in the shot chart provided below.
What’s clear is that Davis is reluctant to step outside for a shot that power forwards are becoming more capable of hitting in today’s NBA.
If Davis is able to expand his range to shooting from three-point range, he’ll be close to unstoppable as an offensive player. His length and ball handling skills are already strong enough to make him a tough cover, and his athleticism and transition prowess do nothing but help.
With the addition of a shot from distance, he’ll be elite on both ends of the court—and that’s the scariest thought of all.
More so than his skills is Davis’ need to bulk up and put on serious weigh to improve as a low-post defender. Some may claim that the post-game has died, but that’s simply not a reflection of the reality of the NBA.
Big men still back players down, and it’s on Davis to add muscle mass to develop more positional versatility and effectiveness as a defender and scorer.
With all of this being established, what Davis is capable of today still places him in the ranks of the top 10, if not the top five, power forwards in the game. He’s a superior defender to most of any age, and he’s become an offensive force that few big men can rival.
All in all, Davis has become a franchise player. And it’s taken no time at all.