Posted Mar 1 2012 10:55AM
If Anthony Davis is going to beat people with offense, the race for the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft has officially become a rout.
Saturday afternoon saw him net a career-high 28 points on 10-of-11 shooting, haul in 11 rebounds and record five blocks. He drilled an 18-footer to beat the shot clock late in the second half and another long jumper with a little more than a minute left to secure Kentucky's tense victory over Vanderbilt.
That settled that.
But it didn't take big-leaguing Vandy inside Rupp Arena to clinch the coveted top spot on June 28, Davis' exact destination TBA pending the May 30 lottery.
Davis, a nonstop worker with a thin frame and a defensive presence comparable to a young Marcus Camby (all the way down to wearing No. 23), already had become the clear favorite to go first. The game against Vandy was the kind of offensive display the pros wanted to see, though, as proof that the 6-foot-10, 220-pound freshman from Chicago was not one dimensional.
The new perspective is that Davis has in the last four or five weeks become not just the consensus choice for first overall, but the clear choice. As the NCAA tournament approaches, he has lapped the field.
"He plays every possession every night," one general manager said. "You don't see that much. He's long. He's going to get stronger. His offensive game is going to get better. He's just in a class by himself."
There were other contenders for No. 1 as recently as mid-January, with some NBA talent evaluators rating Andre Drummond of Connecticut and Harrison Barnes of North Carolina as possibilities. One well-respected executive with a successful Draft record said Davis' Kentucky teammate, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, had played his way into the conversation, too.
Drummond, in particular, kept the debate open. Stronger and bigger (6-foot-11, 270 pounds) than Davis, Drummond is reminiscent of a young Amar'e Stoudemire. The Connecticut big man was the tease who could have changed the top of the Draft(even with a wobbly start to his freshman season).
But no more. Drummond has mostly been underwhelming, unable to take advantage even when he could physically dominate an opponent. The theory that a postseason hot streak starting in the Big East tournament could thrust him back into contention for No. 1 is gone as well.
Drummond doesn't have enough time to catch Davis, not when his production hasn't come close to matching his potential. That was part of the impact of Kentucky-Vanderbilt on Saturday. Davis is running up the score.
"He can't get hot enough," an executive said of Drummond and the universal agreement that the first selection has been decided. "It's over. It's over. Anthony Davis is the No. 1 pick in the Draft. And it's a gap between one and two."
The closest thing to an opposing view is the scout who calls it "about 95 percent " decided. "It would take something really big to happen to change the top," the scout said.
Davis would have to be thoroughly outplayed several games in a row at the same time Drummond or Barnes or one of the longer-shots takes a rocket ride through March. Drummond also would have to change his previously announced intention to return to UConn next season, a change a lot of NBA people still believe is possible. (Kidd-Gilchrist has made the same statement about staying at Kentucky.)
The race has become for No. 2, mostly between the untapped potential of center Drummond and the offensive weaponry of small forward Barnes, with a clear favorite if Drummond sticks to remaining in school. At least then there would be uncertainty near the top of the Draft. For now, No. 1 is settled.
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