Anthony Davis, at age 22, made a huge leap in the 2014-15 season, turning himself into one of the best players in the NBA.
He averaged 24.4 points on 53% shooting, 10.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.5 steals, and 2.9 blocks per game this season, all of which were career highs.
Perhaps Davis’ greatest improvement during his third year was his jump shooting, which was considered his biggest weakness when he entered the NBA.
Prior to the 2012 Draft, DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony wrote this about Davis, noting his poor shooting:
“… The truth is he rarely dribbles or takes a shot outside five feet, and isn’t overly successful at the moment when he does.
“Davis attempts just over one jump shot per game on average, but has only made 27% of his attempts. His shooting mechanics are not bad … but this is a part of his game he’ll need to continue working on in time.”
Sure enough, Davis’ jump shooting has improved year-over-year to an impressive extent:
Though Davis’ field goal percentage from 20-24 feet decreased in 2014-15, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While six of his 56 attempts from 20-24 feet were three-pointers, the other 50 were “deep twos,” shots just inside the three-point arc, often considered the least efficient shots in basketball. That Davis’ attempts from 20-24 feet decreased while his attempts and accuracy from midrange (10-14 feet and 15-19 feet) increased is probably better for his offensive development.
Most people figured that Davis would improve as a shooter, but he’s become one of the NBA’s best midrange shooters already. He was 12th in the NBA in field goal percentage from 10-14 feet among players who took at least 100 attempts, and he was 10th in the NBA from 15-19 feet among players that took at least 250 attempts.
For a player who was expected to struggle to do anything but finish easy shots set up for him, Davis has already become unguardable at 22 years old.
Davis shot nearly 46% on catch-and-shoot opportunities, showing off a smooth, confident stroke:
Like most players, he’s less efficient off the dribble, but at 6’11”, he makes moves that most power forwards can’t keep up with:
In Game 1 of the Pelicans’ first-round series against the Warriors, Davis went off for 35 points, 20 of which came in the fourth quarter. When matched up with smaller opponents, Davis used his height and improved jumper to his advantage:
Of course, Davis’ improved shooting opens up more opportunities for him to do this:
This is where Davis becomes a nightmare matchup. Opponents have to step out on his jumpers, which means he can now work off the dribble. In the pick-and-roll, he’s too athletic to match up with. If defences gear their coverage to stop him from rolling to the rim, that sort of gravity opens up lanes for Pelicans’ ball-handlers to score.
Though the Warriors are a superior team to the Pelicans and won Game 1 by more than the final score indicates, they rightfully respect Davis, as USA Today’s Sam Amick notes. Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green, two frontrunners for defensive player of the year, glowed about Davis’ game.
Bogut called him one of the best players in the NBA in an interview with Amick:
“He’s going to get his points. We’re not going to keep Anthony Davis to zero points or five points. He’s going to get his numbers. He’s an All-Star. He’s one of the best players in the league. … He’s a top five player in this league, up there with LeBron and those guys.”
“It’s a great challenge. Obviously you don’t always get a chance to line up against an All-Star, an All-NBA player, so when you do, you take that challenge head on. I was definitely excited about the challenge and idea of playing him possibly seven games. You want to get the better of that match-up. He’s a great player, so I look forward to (the match-up).”
The next step for Davis would be to add a respectable three-pointer to his game, but that may be a few years off. For now, his offence is already remarkably more versatile than anyone predicted, and he can single-handedly change a defence’s approach.
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