Anthony Davis skill set on full display in first week
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
According to the statistical website Basketball-Reference.com, in the past 29 NBA seasons, just four players have recorded at least six blocks and six steals in the same game. Prior to Anthony Davis doing so in New Orleans’ 105-84 victory over Charlotte on Saturday, the only players to have accomplished the feat since 1985-86 were Hall of Fame centers David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon, along with jack-of-all-trades forward Andrei Kirilenko.
Over the first season-plus of Davis’ NBA career, the No. 1 overall draft pick has often brandished a vast skill set on both ends of the court. However, the 20-year-old’s versatility and end-to-end dominance has never been as apparent as it was during Saturday’s one-sided win. Along with his six-and-six stat line on the defensive end, the power forward notched 25 points, eight rebounds and four assists. To the further delight of fantasy basketball owners everywhere, Davis was also an efficient 9-for-13 from the field and 7-for-8 from the foul line.
In a memorable 37 minutes of game action, the 6-foot-10, 230-pounder managed to provide ample evidence of his improvement from a year ago. Though it's just one week into the regular season, here’s a closer look at some of the strides Davis appears to have made since his rookie campaign:
After averaging a modest 13.5 points last season, Davis has added more than 10 points to his production, at 23.7 through the first week of 2013-14. Davis is focused on being more aggressive on the offensive end, which helps open things up for his teammates by drawing defenders. As a rookie, he scored 20 points or more points in 10 of his 64 appearances, but has done so in all three games this season. His career high of 28 points set in Milwaukee in November 2012 is in imminent danger after he’s compiled 26 and 25 points in the past two games vs. Orlando and Charlotte, respectively.
Pelicans coaches worked with Davis this summer to adjust his shooting form, raising his release a bit higher to improve his consistency. The tweak has manifested itself most prominently at the foul line, where Davis is shooting 95 percent (19-for-20) after connecting on 84.3 percent in preseason. As a rookie, Davis was above average for a power forward at 75.1 percent, but his ability to further capitalize on his increasing trips to the line will be very valuable.
Perhaps the area of the game in which he was the most pro-ready as a 19-year-old, Davis led New Orleans as a rookie at 8.2 boards per game, but he’s made a substantial leap here as well. En route to averaging 12.3 rebounds in the first week of 2013-14, he grabbed 12 and 17 vs. Indiana and Orlando, respectively. He “only” had eight rebounds vs. Charlotte, but he was a bit preoccupied filling every category of the box score vs. the Bobcats.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Davis was one of the greatest defensive players in NCAA history, averaging 4.7 blocks in his 2011-12 championship season at Kentucky. He wasn’t nearly as feared in the paint in his NBA debut, but still led New Orleans in 2012-13 at 1.8 blocks per game. So far as a second-year pro, he’s had at least three blocks in every contest, capped by his six-swat performance against Charlotte. Davis ranks No. 2 in the NBA at 4.0 blocks per game, behind only Indiana’s Roy Hibbert (4.7).
Davis’ long arms, anticipation, athleticism and high basketball IQ were evident in one sequence vs. Charlotte in which he picked off a pass near the sideline, saved the ball over his left shoulder to keep it inbounds, then beat everyone to the other end for a dunk. He’s had at least one steal in all three games, topped by the six thefts vs. the Bobcats. Davis was second on the 2012-13 Hornets with 1.2 steals per game, but has more than doubled that at 2.7 this season. That average ranks him sixth among all NBA players. Nearly every other player in the top 10 is a guard.