Anthony Davis’ Floor Distortion


Welcome to AD week here at Pelican Debrief. This week, our work will focus on the league’s most peculiar specimen and one of its greatest players, Anthony Davis

Davis is a unique basketball specimen; he has the ability to distort the space around him in a manner that can allow him to bring out the very best in himself and those around him.

Anthony Davis…he’s pretty good, right?

It doesn’t take a strong analytical mind to realize that a guy posting season averages of 24.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game while sporting the ninth highest player efficiency rating in the NBA (all courtesy of basketball-reference) is really impressive. The most destructive thing Davis does to the opposition, though, does not always show up on the stat sheet.

Space distorts around the burgeoning superstar in a similar fashion to how it bends in the area of a supermassive black hole.

Anthony Davis is not unique in his ability to tell Newton to take the day off. Elite point guards can eschew the depth of the floor coming off of screens in a way that makes space expand, allowing them to slip through the smallest of cracks or find teammates so open a rank amateur could hit the look. Very rarely, though, does a big man achieve this level of positive impact.

With the ball in his hands 18 feet from the basket, the distance is suddenly much shorter. Multiple options present themselves to the cosmic destroyer. He could simply explode to the rim in flash for a downright vicious dunk or rise up and hit the jumper with the same ease in which he makes warm up lay-ins during pregame. Either way, the basket is closer than it may appear.

Two key things give Davis this great power that he wields with childlike joy: an incredibly efficient jumper from deep in the midrange and unparalleled athleticism.

The 43.4 percent mark from 16 feet to the three-point line is, perhaps, Anthony Davis’s most undervalued skill, and the effect it has on the floor around him is often left unrecognized. When he mans the center position, the ability to force the opposition to come out to meet him creates more space under the basket for cutters and slashing maneuvers from the perimeter, obviously.

Watch as the opposing big (number 12) has all eyes on Davis and does nothing to impede Holiday on his way to the rack.

The less recognized aspect of having a good shooter like Davis man the middle is that it often creates easier looks from the corner. Opposing forwards, left without support at the most crucial location, often cheat inside to act as pseudo-rim protectors, which gives their assignments easier shots from the corner.

Of course, if the other team’s center does not follow him out, Davis can simply hit those looks over and over and over and over and over…

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The athletic dominance of Anthony Davis simply cannot be overstated, though. As previously mentioned, he is able to cover distances that would take others a handful of seconds in the blink of an eye. This allows him to capitalize on any action the defense takes to neutralize the distortion that occurs as a result of his shooting.

If the defense gets set in the midrange, he can often blow by a flat-footed defender by way of a simple isolation move. Typically not an efficient play for NBA players, Davis’s athleticism allows him to get the upper hand easily and forces the defense to collapse upon him at the rim, opening the entire perimeter up in his wake.

This distortion of space – the vast oceans between defenders and their assignments behind the arc – is something Davis has yet to fully take advantage of, and it is where the bulk of his improvement on the offensive end is left to be made. Despite having so many open options as a result of his attacking motions, Davis has yet to excel as a distributor.

The ability to harness this third option granted to him by way of stretching and compressing the floor is what will cement Davis as an unquestioned generational talent in the same echelon as LeBron James, a player that similarly distorts the defense as he sees fit.

Anthony Davis already bends time and space. Now, he just needs to control it.