Anthony Davis on pace to repeat as NBA blocks champion by substantial margin

The men who’ve most frequently witnessed Anthony Davis’ shot-blocking prowess know better than anyone why it’s wise to avoid challenging the hyper-athletic, 6-foot-10 power forward around the basket. Asked recently if Davis regularly rejects shots during Pelicans intrasquad games, reserve 7-foot-2 center Alexis Ajinca pointed out that the 22-year-old actually rarely gets a chance to block someone at the team’s Metairie practice facility.

“Not that much, because we all know what he’s capable of,” a smiling Ajinca said. “Guys always try to make him jump, then they pass it.”

That’s sound strategy for offensive players around the NBA when going up against Davis, who’s on pace to repeat as the league’s blocks champion, this time by an even greater margin than his first title in 2013-14. Through March 26, the two-time All-Star was averaging a career-best 2.91 blocks per game, nearly a half-block greater than second-place Hassan Whiteside of Miami (2.49). Last season, Davis averaged 2.82 blocks, edging runner-up Serge Ibaka (2.70) of Oklahoma City.

According to ESPN.com, over the past 10 NBA campaigns, the only players to average three-plus blocks in a full season are Ibaka, Marcus Camby and Andrei Kirilenko. Davis could soon reach that level; he averaged 1.75 blocks as a rookie but has improved both seasons since.

“That’s very impressive,” said Ajinca, who is averaging 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes this season. “To have two or three a game is very impressive. To be that consistent is tough. There aren’t that many players who do that.”

En route to what will be the NBA’s seventh different repeat blocks champion over the past 20 years (Ibaka, Dwight Howard, Camby, Theo Ratliff, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo have also repeated since 1994-95), Davis has delved into some uncharted defensive territory. A sampling of some of the Kentucky product’s block-related accomplishments in 2014-15:

  • In just his 180th career game on March 4, he became New Orleans’ all-time leader in blocks. He swatted eight shots vs. Detroit, surpassing David West’s previous franchise mark of 435 rejections. West played 530 career games with NOLA.
  • He has a staggering six separate games of six-plus blocks, including a season-high nine apiece in home games vs. Orlando (Opening Night) and Denver (March 15).
  • He has three games of eight or more blocks. All other players combined in the NBA this season have six (Ibaka two, Pau Gasol, Hassan Whiteside, Nerlens Noel, Jerami Grant).
  • He’s blocked at least one shot in 54 of his 56 games played. One of the two block-less appearances was a Dec. 12 game vs. Cleveland, when he logged only 6:30 of playing time due to a first-quarter injury.
  • Over a six-game span from March 4-15, Davis blocked a total of 30 shots. He has notched a multi-block game in all nine of his games played since March 4.
  • Team-wise, the Pelicans have gone 11-4 when he blocks at least four shots.

Prior to the March 4 game vs. Detroit, Pistons Coach Stan Van Gundy joked that the Pelicans were making a terrible decision by allowing Davis to return from a right shoulder injury, sarcastically saying that the two-time All-Star was not ready to perform.

“He’s a huge help to their defense because of his length and shot-blocking abilities,” Van Gundy said. Van Gundy’s comments came before Davis blocked eight Pistons shots. Davis became just the third player in NBA history to pile up at least 39 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks in the same game, joining Hakeem Olajuwon (43-16-8 in 1994) and Dwight Howard (45-19-8 in 2009). Just another noteworthy night during what’s been a record-setting Year 3 of Davis’ pro career.