Apr 4, 2014; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz center Derrick Favors (15) defends against New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) during the first quarter at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Pelicans: Is Anthony Davis The Most Improved Player Of The Year?

In case you were asleep, living under a rock, or in some kind of coma, I’m here to inform you of how well Anthony Davis has been playing down in New Orleans.

Actually, there’s a good chance you already know that, but what you may not know is that he has raised his game so much from his rookie season that he has to be in talks to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award.

For some quick background on the award, it’s given to the player who improved his game the most in the NBA regular season. Previous winners include Indiana’s Paul George, Ryan Anderson (while he played for the Orlando Magic), and Minnesota’s Kevin Love, just to name a few.

Looking at how his 2013-14 season has gone, Anthony Davis deserves to be added to that list.

Looking at this from a scoring perspective, Davis has raised his scoring average from 13.5 points per game to 20.1 points per game, and leads his Pelicans in scoring. A 7 point increase is impressive, and his shooting percentage improved with it, from .516 to .519. Davis is 5th in the league scoring as a power forward, 16th among all players.

In his rookie season, Davis was a decent scorer. He couldn’t exactly be leaned on as the go-to scorer, but he was there when the team needed him. This year, however, he’s been their workhorse in the scoring department, and in some games, he absolutely gone off. For proof, look no further than Mar. 16 against the Boston Celtics, where Davis exploded for 40 points and 21 rebounds.

He wasn’t doing that last season.

While Davis is an excellent scorer, he continues to excel at rebounding. This season, the former Kentucky Wildcat has been pulling down an even 10 rebounds per game, compared to the 8.2 per game he recorded last year. Davis is 12th in the league in total rebounds, up from the 20th spot he was in his rookie season.

Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

What made Davis such a threat in college? Mainly the fact that he blocked more shots than most Division 1 teams did all together.  While he did carry over that ability into his rookie season (1.8 blocks per contest) he exploded this season, raising that average up to 2.8, good for the best mark in the NBA. As a rookie, you didn’t want to see Davis in your way while you drove to the net. This season, by the time you saw Davis, it was probably too late and he had already blocked your shot.

Davis’ improvements in areas like scoring, blocking and rebounding were great, but one of his best improvements might not show up in the stats column: staying healthy. That sounds odd after the Pelicans announced yesterday Davis would be sidelined for the rest of the season because of back spasms, but those might be “back spasms” more so than actual back spasms.

Davis appeared in 64 of a possible 82 games last season due to nagging injuries. Whether it was a stress reaction in his ankle, or a sprained MCL, Davis couldn’t gain much momentum missing time here and there. In 2013-14, Davis has seen much more action and been healthier overall, giving him the ability to improve as the season goes along without having to miss time due to injury.

While players like Lance Stephenson, Gerald Green, and Nick Young have improved their stats to a great degree, I don’t think any of them have brought up their game to the level that the 21-year-old power forward has.

Anthony Davis has been one of the most impressive players of the year, whether he’s grabbing double digit rebounds, or blocking a shot into the third row. It’s clear Davis has taken huge steps from his rookie year, where he was a solid starter, but not yet a star. He went from a good power forward to one of the most feared players in the league. Do I have to explain it with another transition? I shouldn’t have to, because the numbers speak for themselves. Anthony Davis should be the Most Improved Player Of The Year.

Shawn McFarland covers the New Orleans Pelicans for HoopsHabit, and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association

Tags: Anthony Davis NBA NBA Most Improved Player Award New Orleans Pelicans

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