Season In Review: Anthony Davis

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Published: April 25, 2013
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The narrative for Anthony Davis began before he was even drafted into the NBA. His esteemed college career had pundits raving about his potential, likening him to the likes of Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan.

While comparisons are never fair; it displayed the talent scouts saw in him.

When the Hornets won the draft lottery everyone was excited. Here they were getting a player to put Chris Paul right in the rear view mirror. Everything was on the up-and-up.

We saw him flash brilliance in the lead-up to and during the Olympics. He gestured confidence towards his ex-coach, he blocked shots that struck everyone into amazement and he won the approval of the best players in the world.

From there we saw his NBA emergence. He displayed an offensive game that people said would take years to develop (if ever). He blocked and altered countless shots. He grabbed rebounds that many thought were impossible to gather. Upon reflection he lived up to the hype and in some ways was a little bit more than it.

Things aren’t all roses, but there’s an over analysis that gets people no closer to the answer. The question to that answer is, “How good will Anthony Davis be?”

Damn good.

What the Statistics Say About His Game

Before jumping into the more nuts and bolts of Davis’ statistics let us first take a glance at some of his comparable statistics to the league average.

Anthony Davis45

So across the board we can see that Anthony Davis is indeed an above-average NBA player. For a number one overall pick that’s to be expected. However, for a 19 year old that’s exceptional. Not only does he do better than the average PF, but he significantly out-performs them.

In almost any category we can clearly see that Davis is better. Even on some of his worse days he still has an impact. Whether it be through steals, blocked shots or offensive rebounds.

However base line statistics aren’t the whole story, what is really important is Davis’ impact on the team. Anthony only produced -1.3 Net points per 100 possessions for the Hornets which does seem quite disappointing. For some this would mean he had a negative impact on the team, but net-based statistics are quite easy to manipulate as they don’t take into account the units Davis runs with and what the most successful units are.

Nearly every lineup Davis featured in had Vasquez on the floor. Of the top-10 lineups Davis featured in, only one did not have Vasquez in it. This probably is a significant reason for Davis’ lapses at the defensive end where rotations need to come quicker as Greivis fails to neutralize his opponent.

The Statistical Timeline for Davis

Anthony Davis’ season seemed plagued by injuries. After starting off strong he dipped towards the middle of the season before recovering and playing better towards the end. From the infographic above we can see this displayed in his PER, points per game and rebounds.

Davis played more minutes in the months of March and April a sign of diminished depth or growing trust in the coaching staff.

According to 82Games Davis had a negative impact on the defensive end (opponents scored 0.9 points more per possession when he was on the floor), however this is extremely absurd a notion. With Davis on the floor the Hornets had more blocks, steals and forced turnovers of the opponent than when he was off the floor.

New Orleans was a notoriously bad defensive team as they didn’t steal the ball (they were 30th, worst, in the league). Davis had the 2nd most steals on the team despite playing the 5th most in minutes.

The hunch is that the Hornets guards put significant pressure on Davis, Lopez, Anderson and Smith to rotate defensively. This is clear because the Hornets blocks naturally went down when Davis and Lopez were both off the floor. What’s even more staggering is that when both these players were off the floor, (i.e. playing small-ball) the Hornets steals also went down.

For my mind there are three main things to draw from the numbers about Anthony Davis’ season:

  1. Davis’ impact was not as significant to mitigate poor defensive guard play
  2. His season came along very well post All-Star break
  3. Health significantly affected his play

Categorical 2012-13 Strengths vs. Weaknesses

Anthony Davis strengths and weaknesses 2012 13

Four Issues For the Future

“(Carlos) Boozer made a point of trying to hurt him, basically,” Williams said. “He just tried to smash him every play. I thought, ‘This could be ugly for him if he doesn’t get stronger.’ I started talking to him about, ‘Right now you have to use your quickness because you can’t out-strength these guys.'” — New Orleans Pelicans Coach, Monty Williams

1. Injuries

The greatest debate about Anthony Davis was whether his size would be a detriment to his development as a professional basketball player. After this year the discussion continues. Davis suffered four injuries this season including a concussion, stress-reaction (ankle),  sprained left shoulder and a left-knee (MCL) sprain.

Bulking up isn’t the issue here as some may expect. Many players like Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki and even Kevin Garnett all weigh in the region of 225-235 pounds. They all are in the 6’10”-7’o” range. What I’m trying to say here is that packing on 20 pounds might not be the best thing. Adding strength to his frame is what is much more important.

The Pelicans aren’t trying to raise a body-builder here. They’re trying to develop a basketball player. Adding strength is a necessity if Davis is to bang bodies with the big dogs [INSERT CARTMAN DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER].

Adding weight will not prevent injuries. A lot of times rookies need to get used to the marathon of a season. I hope that with the proper medical staff, coaching, mentoring and individual awareness that Davis will remain healthy for years to come.

2. Leadership

For the Pelicans and the future one of the key areas of team-chemistry development is the emergence of a natural leader. Every title contending team has one or two. Lebron James and the Heat, Chris Paul and the Clippers, Oklahoma City and Durant & Westbrook, San Antonio and Tim Duncan & Tony Parker.

Our own Andrew Smith said that “I haven’t seen the leader side [of him], pretty much because I haven’t seen an opportunity to as Kobe would say, put his big boy pants on and lead.” Davis is still a 20-year old who wants to respect the league and its veterans. At some point though he’s going to have to step up and control this team both on and off the floor.

Many say that one of Davis’ weaknesses is that he doesn’t have a fiery passion of a Kevin Garnett. These is highly unfair because most players don’t possess that kind of  intensity. His competitive fire will only grow with time but learning to be a leader something that comes naturally to some and is harder for others to grasp.

Whatever style of leadership Davis chooses to utilize he must remain consistent in his delivering. Commanding respect from his peers will only happen if he’s confident on and off the court.

3. Offensive Repertoire

” Davis gets the overwhelming majority of his touches playing off the ball—be it cutting to the rim, crashing the offensive glass, running the floor in transition, or as a pick and roll finisher… If an opposing defense can force him to take a jump-shot, put the ball on the floor, or attempt to score in a post up situation, they have a more than three times better chance of stopping him than if he simply catches the ball in the paint in position to finish.” — Jonathan Givony, DraftExpress.com, February 16, 2012.

After a full season in the NBA the talent that Anthony Davis possesses on the offensive end is astounding. Out of college everyone was salivating over his defensive impact, but it was offensively where he thrived the most.

A lot of credit should be thrown Monty Williams’ way because of the situations he placed Davis in early on and towards the end of the season. Williams decided that the best way to utilize Davis was to place him as a base-line cutter off a Vasquez-Lopez pick and roll. This was very effective in exploiting the strengths of all players involved.

(Check out Jake Madison’s post on Davis as a baseline cutter)

Davis’ jumpshot started to become more consistent as the season wore on. Coupled with his growing comprehension of the pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop and you could see the makings of a very solid offensive game in the future.

The problems lies in his ability to create, not just for others but more so for himself.

Anthony was assisted on 77% of his made field-goals, an astounding number. Shots outside of 10 feet were assisted up to 90% of the time.

What this tells us is what scouts like Mr. Givony first analysed. Davis is a good cutter, offensive rebounder and finisher but lacks any kind of individualistic game. Anthony should build on his strength first as a foundation for the future. This must be combined with a focus on footwork and coordination which he already possesses to a certain level.

4. Defensive Impact

The hype surrounding Davis’ defensive ability was very much warranted. It’s very rare that a shot-blocker that talented comes out of the draft. Because of that the Hornets and Monty Williams were seen by many to improve their defense.

That didn’t happen.

The opponents offensive rating (points-per-100 possessions) with Anthony Davis off the floor actually declined from 111 to 110. That is to say that the team was better off, from a raw numbers standpoint, to keep Davis on the bench.

However delving deeper we can see that Davis did have a positive impact defensively in some areas.

The team blocked 1.8% more shots and gathered 1.8% more steals with Anthony on the floor. This shows that the impact scouts saw in him was prevalent this season. (See Basketball-Reference.com)

The issue to be taken further is that Davis didn’t have a massive defensive impact that many were hoping. Oklahoma City blocked 5.1% more shots with Serge Ibaka on the floor and Memphis had 2.2% more steals with Mike Conley on the floor. Defense is a team game and if the Pelicans can surround Davis with excellent perimeter defenders (like when he was on Kentucky) then expect Anthony’s numbers to rise significantly.

2013-14 Outlook

Anthony Davis’ off-season has already begun. Putting on strength, not size is the key to his future career. There remains hope that with more talent on the roster Davis can flourish defensively. There must be some kind of progression in his offensive game where he has a go-to move either with his back to the basket or off-the-dribble.

The determination of a successful future can only be fertilized in hard work and preparation something the number one overall pick can and will do.

2 comments
houp garou
houp garou

" the Big Easy" is going to be a great one for many years, fate ( or david stern intervention) smiled on us with this pick, what a player to launch the era of pelicans basketball!

Nate
Nate

The obvious and yet fitting nickname in a world of lazy ones. (KD, AD,K-Mart, Wal-Mart, etc)

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