Anthony Davis: Destroyer of the Basketball-Reference Play Index

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Published: November 20, 2014

The Pelicans are now 10 games into the 82-game NBA season, sitting at 6-4 after splitting a road back-to-back in Portland and Sacramento. The biggest single contributor to New Orleans’ winning record, of course, is the incredible play of Anthony Davis. While trying to measure just how great he has been so far, we can point to lots of raw advanced stats: PER, Win Shares, RAPM (regularized adjusted plus-minus), and VORP (value over replacement player), to name a few. While each statistic is quite useful determining a player’s overall utility, they are also very general in the sense that they don’t measure exactly what that player is doing on the court. Thankfully, we have an incredible resource at our disposal to help us dig deeper – the Play Index search tool on Basketball-Reference.com. Below are a few queries that most effectively exemplify Davis’ statistical impact, as well as current and historical NBA players that his production most closely resembles (and trumps). Spoiler alert: the results are pretty staggering.

1) 2014-15

A) Offensive Impact

Query: Players in 2014-15 averaging at least 30 points, 10 rebounds, & under 3 turnovers per 100 possessions

Qualifying players: Anthony Davis, Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge, Ryan Anderson, Al Jefferson

Notes: Starting simple here. Those who have followed Davis know that he easily clears this threshold; AD is currently averaging over 35 points, 15 rebounds, and under 2 turnovers per 100 possessions. LaMarcus comes closest to Davis based on this criteria, but his rebounding in particular falls far short.

B) Defensive Impact

Query: Players in 2014-15 averaging at least  2 steals, 2 blocks, & under 4.5 fouls per 100 possessions

Qualifying Players: Anthony Davis, DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol

Notes: Davis once again finds himself in good company, but in reality, AD is in a category all to himself. Davis is averaging over 3 steals, 5 blocks, and under 3 fouls per 100 possessions, but by simply moving to 2.5+ blocks & < 4 fouls (and keeping 2+ steals), both Jodan & Gasol’s names disappear.

2) Production in the First 10 Games of a Season

Query: Players since 1985 totaling at least 160 points, 80 rebounds, 30 blocks, and 15 steals

Qualifying Players: Anthony Davis (x2), Hakeem Olajuwon (x7), David Robinson (x5)

Notes: Again, we use basic box score stats to evaluate two-way production from big men similar to Davis. While per-game averages of 16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 1.5 steals sounds pretty damn versatile, it may not sound THAT elite. Then you look at the players who have done it – only two in the past ~30 years apart from AD.

3) Number of Games in a Season Meeting Specific Criteria

Query: Players since 1985 with at least 5 games in a season with at least 24 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 0-1 turnovers

Qualifying Players: Anthony Davis, Shaquille O’Neal (x4), Hakeem Olajuwon (x3), Amar’e Stoudemire, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson (x2)

Notes: The individual record for number of games in a season with a 24/11/3/0-1 stat line is 7, held by Shaq. Anthony Davis has done it 5 times in his first 10 games, so he is on pace to break O’Neal’s record with roughly 66 games to go.

4) Player Streak Finder

Query: At least 7 games in a row with at least 14 points, 1 block, and 1 steal in past 6 seasons

Qualifying Players: Anthony Davis (x2), LeBron James (x2), Andrew Bogut, Dwight Howard (x2), Josh Smith

Notes: Anthony Davis has accumulated at least 14 points, 1 block, and 1 steal in each of the Pelicans’ first 10 games this season. No player has topped that streak since Kevin Garnett in the 2003-04 NBA season, who reached 13 straight games. Of course, this is an active streak for AD, so he has a chance to stretch it to 11 on Friday night in Denver.

5) The Young Guns

Query: Players below age 25 in NBA history with a PER over 25 & Win Shares per 48 Minutes over .27

Qualifying Players: Anthony Davis*, Chris Paul (x2), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (x2), LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Michael Jordan

Notes: The asterisk is next to AD’s name for an obvious reason – he has only played 10 games. That being said, the names on this list clearly indicate how incredible Davis’ play has been to date, and if AD can even maintain 70% of his PER (36.1) and 80% of his WS/48 (.346) numbers, he’ll still be a member of this elite group at the end of this season.

6) Defensive Discipline, Offensive Efficiency

Query: Players with a true shooting percentage of at least 56%, at least 1 steal per game, and more blocked shots than fouls

Qualifying Players: Anthony Davis, David Robinson (x7), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (x3), Hakeem Olajuwon (x2), Bill Walton

Notes: Above all else, this query should serve as an indicator of how disciplined Anthony Davis has been defensively so far this season. Only 78 qualifying players in NBA history have ever totaled more blocked shots than fouls committed; to do so while both creating turnovers and serving as a source of efficient scoring is a rare skill that makes AD even more special. Oh, and Davis has TWICE as many blocked shots as fouls so far, which is absolutely unprecedented.

7) Putting it All Together

Query: Players in NBA history over 21 points, 11 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, and under 2.75 turnovers per 36 minutes

Qualifying Players: Anthony Davis, Shaquille O’Neal (x3), David Robinson (x2), Tim Duncan (x3)

Notes: This final list combines what are arguably Davis’ most attractive skills and compares them to the NBA players with the most similar skill sets throughout league history. It is difficult to decide what is more impressive – the efficiency with which AD is churning out these numbers, or the incredibly young age at which he has already shown the ability to perform at this level. Regardless, his all-around impact on every game he has played thus far is inescapably clear.

 

While the lists given above sufficiently depict how unprecedented Anthony Davis’ start to the 2014-15 NBA season has been, there are certainly many more ways to do so with such a unique and special player. As the season wears on, it will be really fun to see if Davis can maintain or improve his place on each of these lists. While it is unlikely that AD continues to play at quite this level, he could certainly come close; if he does, the New Orleans Pelicans could surprise a lot of people this season.

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