Anthony Davis: the Beginning is the End

By:
Published: January 18, 2014
New Orleans Pelicans v Dallas Mavericks

Amidst a season of disappointing losses, a rash of injuries, and horrible defense, there has been a bright spot in the Pelicans’ future, and it’s Anthony Davis. His production has hardly been a secret, as national writers and fans have taken notice of his gaudy statistics, but one storyline has surprisingly stayed well beneath the radar: Anthony Davis is already becoming a closer. A few days ago, Jake Madison took a look at this in his “A Tale of Two Halves” article, where he states:

If there is one bright spot for the Pelicans in the second half it is the corner stone of the franchise. Davis sees improvement in every major category. His shooting percentage and points increase. He gets to the line at a higher rate and his percentage from the stripe jumps by almost 20. He rebounds more and turns the ball over less. And as we saw recently, he can drain an occasional corner 3.

In an effort to measure just how much differently has Davis been playing in the 4th quarter, I decided to take a look at the stats. My first instinct was to compare Davis’s per 36 averages with his 4th quarter averages (also adjusted to a per 36 basis), but doing so would have made the difference smaller, because his 4th quarter production actually pulls his regular averages higher. Instead, I chose to analyze his 4th quarter data versus the first 3 quarters in an effort to isolate the data from any overlap. The statistics are adjusted to a per 36 minute basis. Here they are (courtesy of nba.com/stats):

FGM FGA  FG% FTM FTA  FT% OREB DREB REB AST   TO PTS
1st 3 Quarters 7.47 14.94 0.50 3.93 5.42 0.73 3.76 6.60 10.35 1.35 1.79 18.87
4th Quarter 9.18 14.82 0.62 7.06 8.89 0.79 4.80 6.49 11.29 0.99 1.27 25.55

 

So there you have it: Davis isn’t taking more field goal attempts, but he’s making more. He’s taking more free throws and making them at a higher rate. He’s attacking the offensive boards harder.

One of my worries was that a possible team increase in pace could affect the data in the table above, so I took a peek at the pace in each timeframe of interest. The 4th quarter pace with Davis in is actually marginally slower than the average pace with Davis in the first 3 quarters. He’s scoring more, but he’s not reaping the statistical benefits of an increased pace. Of course, it’s not surprising that the game slows down in the 4th quarter, but I wanted to avoid any bias that would exaggerate his 4th quarter production. Davis’s rebounding percentages were also higher in the 4th, so his increase in raw rebounds is not misleading.

Davis OReb

Davis comes from the opposite side of the basket to clean up a miss from Jrue Holiday

The concept of a star player scoring more at the end of games is not a foreign one. But the concept of a 20 year old (whose reputation entering the NBA was as a defender) having a higher 4th quarter scoring average than Tony Parker, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dirk Nowitzki, Kyrie Irving, and Chris Paul is surprising.

But, like anything else Davis-related, he’s doing it differently from everyone else. The Pelicans aren’t exclusively drawing up plays for Davis to close games and the percentage of his field goals coming from assists is actually lower in the 4th than it is during the rest of the game. His 4th quarter boost has come from running the floor, rolling to the rim, and cleaning up misses.. like Harvey Dent, he’s making his own luck. It is a testament to his effort and his otherworldly ability go grab any offensive rebound in sight, but more importantly, it shows his willingness to be a garbageman on the floor despite being one of the NBA’s most talented players. He doesn’t mope around because he doesn’t have the ball and the spotlight in pivotal situations.

The season’s story is ending, but Davis’s reign is forthcoming; as bitter as the close losses taste, there’s nothing like witnessing the origin of greatness, and Davis’s production at the end of the game is the beginning of something truly great.

 

 

 

 

 

7 comments
JannyMeza
JannyMeza

Anthony Davis keeps me from crying myself to sleep after we lose. I went to the Arena tonight, and AD kept us in the game, without him it's a blowout. He really has risen above everybody else from his draft class. 

RobertWelch
RobertWelch

What's exciting, in a scary way almost, is to think what AD will be like in a few years. Especially when the team really develops around him and everyone is on the same page, as it were. If his arc continues in it's present trajectory, by the time LeBron is feeling the ravishes of time and tread wear, it would seem the NBA will belong to either Durant or Davis. Between the two, it seems to me Davis could have the higher potential ceiling. I think we know what Durant is capable of now, but we are still waiting to find out just how good Davis can actually be.

mateor
mateor

I have my issues with some of the decisions the franchise has taken in the last year. I made no secret that I feel we overpaid for Jrue, for instance. But even with everyone injured, I haven't been upset with the team. The Pelicans are going to be good soon, and as long as they can show some steady improvement by year six, we have a good chance of keeping Anthony Davis longterm. That is literally the only thing that matters. He looks like the second or third most valuable league player already.

Keep up the good work Michael, you are a professional-grade NBA writer.

Michael Pellissier
Michael Pellissier

@JannyMeza No worries, you aren't a real Pelicans fan if you haven't uncontrollably sobbed and found solace in Davis's present/future. 

Michael Pellissier
Michael Pellissier

@RobertWelch couldn't agree more, though I still struggle to believe Davis has a higher ceiling than Durant, all things considered. But I do believe he could be as impactful as Durant is on the game.

But yeah, he's doing this while physically outmatched and with less experience. Can't wait till he's the one taking advantage of the younger fellas

Nithenz
Nithenz

@mateor  "That is literally the only thing that matters." I thought that building a championship caliber team matters... If we can keep him, but surround him with Poseys, Gordons and one season mercenaries it will be same old story... Keeping him is really important, but placing a team that gives him chances to play for a ring will seal the deal.