|Image courtesy of Derick E. Hingle/USA Today.|
Viewed as a gangly defensive pest with a raw offensive repertoire coming out of college, it is Davis' showcases of scoring and low-post manoeuvres that have come as the most pleasant surprises. Among those were a monster 32pt, 12 rebound, six block display in a win over the Lakers, and a 29 and 15 game in a Salt Lake City defeat. Furthermore, he's getting to the line six times per game, and drilling 85.1% of his chances - becoming somewhat of an anti-Dwight Howard at the charity stripe. This proficiency at the free throw line, and his ability to reduce his turnover count to just 1.4 per showing, is certain to please the New Orleans administration. The offense isn't all sunshine and rainbows, however, as the sharp uptick in minutes, added attention, and occasionally odd shot choice have caused a mild decline in his scoring efficiency (shooting 49.7% to this point). Understandably, the second year man is finding the majority of his points in the restricted area, scoring at a 64.6% rate (62 of 96) in that region, and struggling when he has attempted to expand his range. Although he may not be relied upon as a lethal outside shooter, developing the midrange game and fine-tuning his planted jump shot is clearly next on the offensive agenda. The below graphic depicts Davis' difficulties (granted, in only a limited sample size) when forced further and further away from the comforts of the interior.
|A brief overview of Davis' shot locations, in blocks of eight feet, per NBA.com/stats.|
Indiana behemoth Roy Hibbert edges out New Orleans' unibrowed phenomenon by 0.07 for league-leading status in the blocks per game department, with the Pelicans' #23 deflecting 3.86 shots per game, on average. In addition to this, Davis is bunkering down in the paint at a level good enough for top five in the NBA (of eligible big men boasting steady minutes), minimising the conversion of opposing teams' shots at the rim to 42.5%. He is also inhaling rebounds in contested situations at a click superior to that of prolific glass-eaters such as Kevin Love and Dwight Howard, claiming boards in 45.3% of these cases, according to publicly available player tracking information. Assessing how he fares in a variety of front court tandems, though, carries certain value. It is perhaps most prudent to focus on the period in which Anderson has factored in - albeit a very limited one - due to the reality that NOLA were exposing the likes of Lou Amundson, Jeff Withey, and Greg Stiemsma to disproportionate minutes with the stretch four-man absent. Once again, the 2014 window of evidence is minute, but in terms of strategy, the proof is in the pudding: the Anderson-Davis duo is scoring at a handsome number, but is ultimately conceding 102.5 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com numbers. On the season last year, over a 61 game span, the twosome's defensive reality was even more daunting, giving away 113.0 points by the same measurement. With this in mind, it becomes easier to understand why an Omer Asik-Ryan Anderson exchange has swiftly grown into one of the Internet's favourite imaginary trades. The thought of regularly aligning Anthony Davis with a true ball-stopping, intimidating low-post body must leave the other 29 teams shuddering. Alas, the Pelicans appear keen to latch their bills onto Anderson's canny and bountiful game, trusting their ability to plug the holes of the remaining minutes holes with one-sided, stopgap bigs.
The early season demonstrations of Davis have contributed to frequent player comps in the public domain, most notably with some seeing a resemblance between him and a youthful Kevin Garnett. High praise, no doubt, and reflective of the way in which Anthony Davis has captivated the attention of the NBA universe in this relatively young campaign. Unfortunately for New Orleans, their roster isn't comprised of thirteen Anthony Davis', and they are currently staring at a sub-.500 record, with a bevy of balancing issues. Of foremost concern for the Pelicans franchise would be the fact that their 6-8 mark comes after a 25th placing in the "Strength of Schedule" standings (ranking at .473), meaning that there's an inevitable uphill stretch from here. For the casual observer and those seen as strictly Davis admirers, though, it might just be best to heed the advice of Tony Montana from here on out, and look at the Pelican fly.