Entering the 2010 FIBA World Championships, Kevin Durant was a 21-year-old kid coming off of his best season in the NBA. He averaged 30.1 points per game on 48 percent shooting, leading him to claim his first scoring title.
The Thunder as a team jumped from 23 to 50 wins in 2010 and earned the eighth seed in a loaded Western Conference. Their reward for their improvement was a face-off with the defending champion Lakers in the first round.
Although they fought hard and gave the Lakers a run for their money, the Thunder fell in six games and the Lakers went on to grab another NBA championship.
Fans and media alike were impressed with the way the Thunder had represented themselves against the eventual world champions, especially Durant, who averaged 25 points per game in the series. It was a coming out party of sorts for Durant, and nearly everyone knew he was on the verge of superstardom.
Many looked forward to the 2010 World Championships for one reason: to watch Kevin Durant make the leap. And he delivered.
Why am I telling you about Kevin Durant’s story? Well, I believe his story includes some similar parallels to the potential story of one, Anthony Davis. Allow me to explain.
Entering the 2014 FIBA World Cup, Anthony Davis is a 21-year-old kid coming off of his best season as a pro. He stole the hearts of many NBA League Pass nerds (including myself) and went on to average 20.8 points, 10 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game on 52 percent shooting.
He was a lanky, Gumby-looking character that was starting to figure out how he can dominate in today’s NBA. There are people within the game, including Kevin Durant (see how this all comes full circle?), that believe he will be the next challenger for the MVP trophy.
With Durant stepping away from the World Cup for reasons that remain unclear, Davis has the chance to take Team USA on his back and bring home the gold. I would argue that Durant not being there may help Davis make the leap because he will be even more likely to be an assertive assassin on both ends of the floor.
If Saturday night is any indication, I think Davis has the same idea that I do. He played 25 minutes and scored 20 points along with eight rebounds and five blocks in a 95-79 win for Team USA over Brazil.
He is the prototypical center for the international game with his ability to play both inside the paint and out and run the floor.
The 2014 World Cup has basketball nerds like me all giddy because there is a tremendous chance that we get to see Anthony Davis transform himself into the third-best player in the league. There is no question that LeBron is still the king (ha, puns), and that Durant is the unquestioned No. 2, but that third spot is up for grabs.
Davis knows he is on the cusp of it, he understands the opportunity he has in front of him to become the alpha dog for Team USA.
For the Pelicans, this is all great news. With high expectations from owner Tom Benson, and a talented roster, a Davis leap may lead to a playoff push as soon as 2015.