New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis is one of the only players in the NBA who could realistically be The Best Player In The World one day.
Last year the 21-year-old had his breakout year.
He averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds per game and led the league in blocks while making his first All-Star team.
This year he’s widely expected to break out in a more mainstream fashion, vaulting himself into the group of NBA players (LeBron, Durant, Carmelo, Kobe, Chris Paul, etc.) who could be convincingly described as household names.
To understand what makes Davis so good, it’s helpful to know this bit of trivia — Davis grew from 6’2″ to 6’10” between his sophomore and senior years in high school. He went from a lightly-recruited guard who had one scholarship offer (from Cleveland State) to the best high school player in the country.
As a result of that unusual growth spurt, Davis has the fundamentals and movements of the guard within the body of a center (he’s now 6’11” and still growing). He’s the ultimate hybrid.
In a new ESPN article, Jordan Brenner had this great description of his unique skillset:
“In a league of specialised big men — rim protectors and stretch-4s, elbow facilitators and designated rebounders — Davis embodies virtually every archetype.
“When asked to name Davis’ best attribute, Pelicans coach Monty Williams pauses like a parent forced to choose his favourite child. Eventually, Williams settles on Davis’ ability to run the floor, but he just as easily could have picked the power forward’s quickness and reach as a shot-blocker, his rebounding acumen (which will only be aided this season by his newly chiseled shoulders) or the touch and grace he displays in finishing plays near the rim. Plus, Davis can dribble, pass and knock down face-up jumpers, and it won’t be long before he displays 3-point range. ‘His strength,” says one GM, ‘is that he has no weakness.'”
In other words, he can mimic Kobe like this:
And mimic Shaq like this:
When he was a freshman at Kentucky in 2012, he told ESPN that his basketball idols actually changed when he grew. He originally wanted to be like Allen Iverson as a sophomore in high school, and by the time he was a senior he wanted to be Kevin Garnett.
The things Davis does so well — blocking shots, finishing, rebounding — are things he learned after he grew.
“Just like that, on a national stage, Davis went from thinking about steals to shot blocks. He switched from Steve Nash dribbling drills to the Mikan Drill. Everything was new to him, but he never let on that he was learning most things for the first time.”
The essence of what makes Davis so good is found in that transition between being short and being tall.
Going into the 2014-15 season, Davis is still raw in a lot of ways. He’s a work-in-progress in the offensive post and he hasn’t yet added the three-point shot that could take his game to the next level. But in other ways his game is refined. In areas where other talented, raw big men (think Serge Ibaka) initially struggle, Davis thrives. He doesn’t have a goofy-looking jump shot. He can run a fast break if he needs to. He moves comfortably away from the hoop.
And all of that goes back a growth spurt that was so dramatic that his mum took him to the doctor. His mum told the Courier-Journal:
“‘His feet were dangling off the bed,’ she said. ‘That really made it noticeable. His sleeves on his shirts began to be short, and the pants legs. He was like, “Mum, I need new school pants.” I’m like, “Well, I just bought those? Are those the ones from last year?” Those were the new ones I’d just bought him.'”
“His parents took him to the doctor just to be sure everything that was happening was normal. Well, healthy at least. Davis’ physician marveled that despite his rapid growth he didn’t experience any pain or clumsiness.”
Davis is a guard who grew into a dominant big man while maintaining his inherent guard-ness. If he’s able to put together all those skills in one package (which looks likely), the rest of the NBA should be terrified.
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