Making the Leap
As the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Anthony Davis came into the NBA as the cornerstone of the New Orleans franchise.
The 19-year-old forward/center had a solid, though not spectacular, rookie season for the then-Hornets, averaging 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks, earning All-Rookie Team honors and finishing as runner-up for Rookie of the Year.
A year later, the team has a new name and Davis has elevated his game across the board. Since the first day of the season, the University of Kentucky product has been putting up numbers that place him in some elite company and creating a buzz for an All-Star selection.
Entering Wednesday's action, Davis is one of only three players averaging 20+ points and 10+ rebounds per game (20.9 pts, 11.0 reb) -- joining Minnesota's Kevin Love (26.7 pts, 13.4 reb) and L.A. Clippers forward Blake Griffin (22.9 pts, 10.9 reb). And he's doing so in the fewest minutes per game (35.3) of the group.
His rebounding average ranks sixth in the league and his scoring average ranks 17th. And while his scoring average is the lowest of the group, Davis scores his points in a more efficient manner than Griffin and Love. A look at SportVU data shows Davis is scoring 0.41 points per touch, which is tied for 11th among players that touch the ball at least 10 times per game, and well ahead of both Love at 0.30 (T-78th) and Griffin at 0.29 (T-87th).
Davis has already set a new career-high with 32 points in a win over the Lakers on Nov. 8 and has scored 20 or more points five times in 10 games, already halfway to his rookie-year total of 10 games with 20+ points.
"I mean, he's the franchise. He's that guy. He's the go-to guy and everybody here knows it," said guard Jrue Holiday after the Lakers game. "We want him to be that guy. It's awesome to see."
"He's a special player because he's athletic," said Lakers forward/center Pau Gasol. "He's able to block a shot on one end and sprint to the other end and get a layup ... so you really have to keep up with him because he creates a threat to you that's a little different than other players."
"He's got a good shooting touch. He's got a complete package for his second year in the league," Gasol added. "It's pretty impressive."
But where he truly separates himself from Love and Griffin is on the defensive end. Davis is ranked second in the league in blocked shots at 3.6 per game -- trailing only Indiana's Roy Hibbert (4.6). And he is ranked third in the league in rim protection with opponents shooting just 33.3% at the rim while being defended by Davis. He trails Tiago Splitter (29.4%) and Brook Lopez (31.5%), but leads Hibbert (34.5%) in rim protection. Davis is also ranked seventh in the league in steals at 2.1 per game, the most by any big man.
Davis set a new career-high with eight blocks in New Orleans' last game, a 135-98 rout of the Philadelphia 76ers, where Davis sat for the entire fourth quarter. He flirted with a triple-double, finishing the night with 13 points, nine rebounds and eight blocks in 29 minutes. But his teammates see more on the horizon for their young franchise player.
"He'll get a quadruple-double one of these days if you want to be honest," said Holiday. "I kind of expect that from him. That's where a lot of pressure is kind of being put on him, but he can handle it."
With New Orleans set to host the All-Star Game in February, Davis recently told NBA TV's Rick Kamla that he's thought of representing the hometown team in the featured attraction, after being part of the Rising Stars Game a year ago. If he continues to play at the level we have seen through the first 10 games of the season, there's little doubt he would earn the nod: a reward for the work he put in during the offseason to raise his game to new heights.
"I work on certain things and try to apply it during the game. That's why you work out. That's why you have summer sessions and work with the coaches, work with the team, trainers, whoever, to get better," Davis said. "I'd be disappointed in myself if I hadn't gotten better."