Anthony Davis’ Injury-Proneness Becoming A Concern

Mar 20, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis sits on the bench during the first quarter of a game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Smoothie King Center. It was announced prior to the game that Anthony Davis would miss the remainder of the season with a left knee injury. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 20, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis sits on the bench during the first quarter of a game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Smoothie King Center. It was announced prior to the game that Anthony Davis would miss the remainder of the season with a left knee injury. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /

With Anthony Davis being shut down for the season, is it time to worry about the durability of the New Orleans Pelicans superstar?

If the 2015-16 New Orleans Pelicans were a cartoon character, they’d be Eugene Horowitz from Hey Arnold!.

You remember Eugene, right? The freckled, red-headed klutz who always managed to injure himself in every episode despite being one of the nicest characters on the show?

In such a injury-ravaged season, the Pelicans never had a chance, naively hoping they could avoid the impending doom that comes with the amount of luck one could expect from someone constantly walking under a ladder. Every time, catastrophe struck in unexpected ways, try as they might to avoid every health peril that kept circling back like a boomerang.

The Pellies weren’t a particularly impressive group even when everyone was healthy, but there’s no question that their combined 299 missed games due to injury and 34 different starting lineups — the most in the NBA, per’s Justin Verrier — played a significant role in the team’s current 26-43 record.

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Every time someone got healthy, another two guys went down. But unlike our friend Eugene, this unintentional comedy wasn’t very funny.

The only solace to be found in this lost season was using the injuries as an excuse for all the underachieving going on, especially since expectations were sky high following last year’s playoff berth. This was supposed to be New Orleans’ coming out party, so it’d make sense to choose the simpler explanation for the team’s overwhelming underachieving.

But with Anthony Davis being shut down for the last 14 games of the season as he prepares for two separate surgeries (one on his left knee, a more recent injury, and the other being for a torn labrum in his shoulder, an injury he’s apparently been playing through), the Pelicans’ injury woes aren’t just isolated in this one unlucky season.

The Brow was a top-five MVP candidate last year, and despite averaging an impressive 24.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 1.9 assists and 1.3 steals per game this season, the question needs to be asked: At what point should we be concerned about Anthony Davis’ durability?

There’s no doubt about his abilities or his status as the Pellies’ franchise player. He’s already a top-15 player in this league (at worst), he’s a smart shot-blocker and he’s slowly adding three-point range to his game (32.4 percent on a career-high 1.8 attempts per game this season).

The 2015-16 campaign was an unexpected setback, but the career of this superstar looks incredibly bright.

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Or does it? Because as much as the labels of “soft” are misplaced when it comes to describing virtually any injury-prone player, the Brow’s first four seasons have been as promising from a developmental standpoint as they’ve been worrisome from a health standpoint.

As a rookie, Davis won Rookie of the Year honors with raw averages of 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, but he also missed 18 games due to a concussion, ankle soreness, a sprained shoulder and a sprained MCL.

In his second season, the Brow made the All-Star Game as an alternate behind his 20.8 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game, but missed 15 games because of a hand injury, a minor finger issue, a respiratory infection, another ankle injury and back spasms.

In his third season, Davis led the Pelicans to 45 wins and a playoff berth, finished fifth in MVP voting while posting the 11th highest Player Efficiency Rating in NBA history (30.8) and earned All-NBA First Team honors…but he also missed 14 games due to a chest contusion, a toe injury, a sore groin, a sprained shoulder and a sprained ankle.

This season, he’ll be limited to 61 games because of a hip contusion, a lower back bruise, a concussion, a right foot injury and now the knee and shoulder injuries that will require surgery and shut him down for the remainder of the season — and that doesn’t even count all the games where he played single digit minutes because he sustained an injury early into a game.

All in all, Davis will have missed 68 games through the first four years of his NBA career, nearly 25 percent of all possible games. Most of these have been minor ailments, but couple them with the bizarre and differentiating list of maladies and Anthony Davis starts to look like the poster child of that New Orleans Pelicans-Eugene Horowitz comparison.

On the bright side, shutting Davis down for the rest of the season is the cautious, smart move. Even if this wasn’t a lost season, keeping him healthy should always be priority No. 1 for this franchise. With him sidelined, the Pelicans can proceed with their unintentional tank — something they should have been doing since around or even before the All-Star Break.

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  • Nearly everyone on this roster aside from Davis and maybe Jrue Holiday should be expendable to put a championship-caliber team around a championship-caliber player like the Brow. With the Pelicans currently owning the NBA’s sixth worst record — and only four games ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the standings — they can add a nice, young player on a cheap contract with a top-six pick in the draft to provide Davis with a running mate for the future.

    While it’s unfortunate that Davis will miss out on a $24 million contract bonus if he fails to earn All-NBA honors again this year — something that could be up in the air since the Brow will miss 21 games this season — the Pelicans would be saving a good chunk of cap space to put to good use elsewhere if he doesn’t earn that money.

    Finally, we should also note that it’s not just Davis who is injury-prone — it’s been everyone on this damn roster. Tyreke Evans (25 games played), Eric Gordon (45 games), Quincy Pondexter (zero games) and even replacement Bryce Dejean-Jones (14 games) have all sustained season-ending injuries at some point as well.

    Jrue Holiday spent most of the season on a minutes restriction, Omer Asik has missed 16 games, Norris Cole has missed 24 games…you get the picture.

    But none of those players are intrinsic to what the Pelicans are trying to build around a once-in-a-lifetime talent, and it’s got to be concerning that at age 23, Anthony Davis already has such an extensive, diverse laundry list of injuries that have held him back from reaching 70 games once in his four-year career.

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    Sadly, we’ve already seen what can happen to players bursting with potential because of guys like Grant Hill, Penny Hardaway and Derrick Rose. So if you’re wondering about that point in time when it becomes acceptable to feel concerned about Anthony Davis’ durability preventing him from being an all-time great, it’s safe to say we’ve already reached it.