2016-17 Pelicans Season Review: Anthony Davis

by Jim Eichenhofer

It wasn’t quite a universal consensus, but when numerous basketball media members unveiled their picks for the league’s All-NBA squads at season’s end, Anthony Davis was a common first-team selection. A year after he played a career-low 61 games in 2015-16 and was left off each of the three All-NBA lists, he bounced back in a big way, appearing in a career-best 75 games and regaining his place among the elite of the sport (Davis had finished fifth in MVP voting in ’14-15, behind Steph Curry, James Harden, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook).

Davis likely would’ve garnered serious MVP consideration – in a year when there was no shortage of extremely qualified candidates – had New Orleans made a bigger jump in the standings, but the Pelicans improved by just four wins from the previous season.

“Unfortunately for us, we didn’t have the type of year we anticipated from a team standpoint, but if we had the year we anticipated, I think they very much would’ve been talking about him for MVP,” New Orleans second-year head coach Alvin Gentry said late in 2016-17. “I just think he’s been real consistent.”

Indeed, a monster year for Davis included him setting single-season New Orleans franchise records for points (2,099), free throws made (519), field goals (770) and defensive rebounds (712). He made significant leaps in scoring average (24.3 to 28.0) and rebounding (10.3 to 11.8), a rare feat for a player who already ranked near the top of the NBA in both categories. Davis scored 30-plus points in a whopping 36 of his 75 appearances, while commonly showing up in statistical comparisons to Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal for his numerous 30-point, 10-rebound games. In March, Davis’ streak of four straight games with at least 30 points and 13 boards was the first of its kind since Shaq in 2000.

“When they compare you to Shaq and say you two guys are the only ones to do (something) over the last 18 years,” Gentry summarized, “that’s pretty impressive.”

After being named a Western Conference All-Star for the fourth straight year, Davis accomplished additional hoops history Feb. 19 on his home floor, breaking the all-time record with 52 points in the NBA All-Star Game and garnering MVP.

NBA experience: 5 seasons || Games played/started: 75/75 || Age: 24

Late in the season, Gentry remarked that the Pelicans still believe Davis has the potential to make more strides as a three-point shooter. Compared to 2015-16 – when Davis launched treys with frequency for the first time in his career – he didn’t make a big jump in accuracy, with his percentage dipping a bit in ’16-17 (from 32.4 to 29.9). Perhaps partly as a result, he relied less on the long-distance shot as the campaign progressed, attempting 39 in November, but only eight in January, for example. He did take slightly more after the addition of DeMarcus Cousins, averaging 2.2 tries post-trade and 1.6 pre-trade.

75: Games played in a season by Davis, a career high, easily surpassing his previous best of 68 in 2014-15 (New Orleans’ most recent playoff campaign). Excluding the final three games of the regular season – when Davis sat out but may have played if a postseason berth was at stake – he only missed four games in ’16-17 due to injury. As a result, he logged the most minutes (2,708) of his career and finished in the NBA’s top 15 in that statistic.

A significant preoccupation of media, fans and well, everyone, following the Pelicans’ blockbuster Feb. 20 trade with Sacramento was how it would impact Davis’ effectiveness and statistics. Although it may have been reasonable to project that Davis’ offensive numbers might decline while trying to accommodate one of the NBA’s premier scorers in Cousins, that wasn’t the case. Davis averaged 27.7 points prior to the deal, then bumped that up to 28.6 in 22 games post-trade. In the 17 games Cousins and Davis both were on the floor, Davis had eight games of 30-plus points, including 46- and 41-point outings vs. Charlotte and Denver, respectively.

Nov. 23: New Orleans 117, Minnesota 96
On ESPN’s national airwaves, Davis dominated, racking up 45 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block. With Davis on the floor, New Orleans outscored Minnesota by 33 points, part of why the Timberwolves have probably already seen enough of him. In three matchups with Minnesota, Davis averaged a whopping 38.3 points and shot 67.7 percent from the field, leading a 3-0 sweep. || HIGHLIGHTS

Jan. 9: New Orleans 110, New York 96
At the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” Davis put up dazzling numbers, particularly when you consider that he only played in the first three quarters. Prior to New York’s Kyle O’Quinn earning a third-quarter ejection for a dangerous foul on a mid-air Davis that sent Davis sprawling into the baseline seats, he registered 40 points, 18 rebounds and three blocks in only 29 minutes of action. || HIGHLIGHTS

March 11: New Orleans 125, Charlotte 122 (OT)
The third-best scoring game of his pro career, Davis put the Pelicans on his back in the fourth quarter and overtime, repeatedly dropping in key baskets en route to a 46-point night at Spectrum Center. Davis also grabbed 21 rebounds, becoming the first NBA player since 2001 to go for 46 and 21. Did we mention it was also his 24th birthday? Davis joined a list of only five players to ever tally 46-plus points on their birthday. || HIGHLIGHTS