The Pelican Debrief season reviews have been flowing for the past 10 days with the large group of role players that played significant minutes for the Pelican’s in 2013-2014. In case you missed them they have been: Luke Babbitt, Darius Miller, Jeff Withey, Jason Smith, Alexis Ajinca, Greg Stiemsma, Austin Rivers, Anthony Morrow and Brian Roberts and Al-Farouq Aminu. Over the weekend, we started a look at what the projects as the Pelicans’ core going forward with a season review of Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday. That continued Monday with a look at Tyreke Evans and Tuesday with the review of Eric Gordon. Today we finish things up with a look at Anthony Davis.
Stats: 67 games (66 starts), 35.2 mpg, 21.3 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 1.6 apg, 2.9 bpg, 1.4 spg
Highlight: Really the entire season was a highlight for Davis who went from being a really, really good rookie to a superstar in his second season. If I had to choose a single game though it is the 40 point, 21 rebound, three assist, three block, one steal game against the Celtics on March 16. It was amazing, fun to watch and likely a sign of things to come.
The Good: 6.7 block rate. Really this was a take your pick type of choice but Davis tied for the league lead in block rate with Serge Ibaka so it is hard to not go with this one. Davis was a force defensively for the Pelicans on an individual basis and it showed. He blocked plenty of shots that seemed flat-out unblockable, including jumpers from Dirk Nowitzki and LaMarcus Aldridge.
The Bad: The 15 games missed aren’t a great sign but a few of those came at the end of the year when I tend to think that the back spasms Davis was having also were a bit over played. It will be nice when Davis plays somewhere around 75 to 80 games a year, something he has yet to come close to doing in his two years in the league.
The Ugly: There wasn’t any ugly. The guy became arguably a top 10 player in the league this season. It is hard to find much fault in that season.
When Anthony Davis was drafted in June of 2012 there was a special feeling surrounding him. It was different from the hope surrounding many top picks and the belief that one day that player will turn into a superstar. Instead around Davis there was a certainty. It wasn’t a question of if Davis would become a superstar, but one of when he would become one.
In 2013-2014 he became one. Davis improved drastically across the board this season and most of the improvements weren’t just in counting stats. Offensively he upped his effective field goal percentage from 51.6 as a rookie to 52 percent this season, his true shooting percentage rose from 55.9 percent to 58.2. This all happened while his assist rate jumped from 6.1 to 8 and his turnover percentage dropped from 10.3 to 8.3 and while his usage rate went from 21.8 as a rookie to 25.2 this season as he became the focal point of the Pelicans offense this season. What should terrify opponents most is that in some aspects Davis actually has room to grow a lot still.
In 2013-2014 his shooting percentages from 0-3 and 3-10 feet dropped from his rookie season. Davis made up for it though with a ridiculous increase in his mid-range shooting percentages. Davis went from shooting 37.3 percent from 10-16 feet in 2012-2013 to 43.1 percent this season and from 26 percent from sixteen feet to the three-point line as a rookie to 36.8 percent this year. When those numbers from 0-10 feet increase back to his rookie season numbers, and possibly beyond, Davis is going to be almost unstoppable inside the arc.
He does it by being way too athletic for bigger players to stay in front of off the dribble and way too long for smaller players to stop when he plays over the top. If he ever adds a three-point shot we may see the next in the line of unguardable NBA players.
Defensively things were a mixed bag for Davis. His individual numbers were great. The 2.9 blocks per game and 6.7 block percentage both led the league showing Davis was in the right place at the right time to swat away his fair share of shots. But the Pelicans as a team defended about the same with Davis on the bench as they did when he was on the floor according to NBA media stats. With Davis playing the Pelicans posted a defensive efficiency of 107.6 as opposed to 107.1 with him off the floor. Part of the problem is the massive responsibilities that Davis had when he was on the floor. With Jrue Holiday out Davis was the only real above average defender in the starting lineup and it showed at times as he was out of position after helping on plays that he probably shouldn’t have needed too. Part of the problem was Davis though as he does have a small tendency to over help when it isn’t needed and at times is slow to recover back to where he needs to be.
Thankfully Davis has plenty of room and time to grow. He still is just 21 years old and already one of the best players in the game. As he learns more about opposing offenses and defenses, his impact on games will become even greater on both ends of the floor. It won’t be long before people are talking about Davis as one of the three best players in basketball. So it is time to buckle in and enjoy the ride he is about to take the franchise on.