Over the summer NBA MVP Kevin Durant raved about Anthony Davis at a Team USA camp in Las Vegas.
“I know how good he is now, but I know how good he’s going to be. He’s an MVP-calibre player. So he’s next. He’s next in line,” said Durant. “He’s moving up the ladder every single day. It’s scary. Scary.”
It was high praise, but it was also framed in the future tense. The implication was Anthony Davis is coming, not Anthony Davis is here.
In the four months since Durant issued that warning, Anthony Davis has arrived.
He has been the best player in the NBA over the first five weeks of the season. If you look at his per game stats, he’s scoring like Stephen Curry, rebounding like Tyson Chandler, and defending like Serge Ibaka. He leads the league in blocks and he’s second in steals.
He’s ranked No. 1 in player efficiency rating (PER) — the advanced stat that measures a player’s total contribution to the game. The difference between him and the 2nd-ranked player in PER is the same as the difference between the 2nd-ranked player and the 20th-ranked player.
He is, as Durant put it over the summer, scary good.
On Tuesday night he lead the Pelicans to a win over Durant’s Thunder in the MVP’s first game back from a foot injury. The type of stat line he put up — 25 points, 10 rebounds, 6 steals, 4 blocks, and 4 assists on 53% shooting — is becoming a weekly occurrence for Davis. So are highlights like this, where he made Kendrick Perkins look like a college kid:
His own coach Monty Williams told Marcus Spears of Yahoo! that he was surprised at how good he has been, especially offensively. The 21-year-old has always been a great defensive player, but now he has put together a solid offensive game as well.
The rest of the league is jarred about his rapid ascent. Davis told Spears:
“If you look at my phone, I have over 1,500 unread text messages. I don’t even look at the stuff. After the game people are texting me saying, ‘You are playing well. Keep it up.’ All I am going to say is, ‘Thank you.'”
Davis spent the summer playing on the U.S. national team that won the FIBA World Cup in Spain. The mastermind of that USA team, Bryan Colangelo, told Sean Deveney of Sporting News that Davis was going to take a huge leap from playing with the national team.
ESPN’s Jordan Brenner wrote before the season that Davis had an impossibly high bar to meet in 2014-15:
“That’s how high the bar is for Davis this season: If he doesn’t butt his way into the conversation with LeBron and KD, there will be disappointment, from NBA front offices to Internet message boards to the Twittersphere. As unfair as it may be, popular opinion demands linear progress.”
If his performance over the first four weeks holds, Davis will become the rare athlete-prodigy who lives up to the seemingly unattainable expectations set by others. He has closed the gap between the player he is and the player he can become, and he has done it faster than we could have realistically hoped for.
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