Mining the Numbers: Pumping the Brakes on Davis

Published: August 27, 2015

Alright guys, it’s time for a reality check.  I know it’s hot and sexy to see boundless potential for the upcoming season, and I’ve heard a lot of reasons why:  Alvin Gentry is going to implement a system that turns Eric Gordon into Eric Gordon, and Darren Erman will make Omer Asik into Dikembe freakin’ Motumbo!  Jrue Holiday will play more games!  Alonzo Gee has LeBron James-level talent, give or take one LeBron James worth of talent!  We have Quincy, Cole and Cunningham all season and not a bench that resembles a bag of flaming poo!  Ryan Anderson will rain death long-range death in volumes not seen since World War II!

I’ve heard them all(well, most of them) but I haven’t listed the one that leaves me the most floored when I hear it.

Anthony Davis is going to make a leap!

Good god, guys.  Do you even know what you are asking?  If you want a significant improvement from Davis – one that would actually move the needle over what he did last year, you’re asking him to post the greatest season ever.  Seriously.  Do you know who posted better PERs than Davis did last year?  Three people: Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, and LeBron James.  That’s it.  10 total seasons from those 3 guys.

So that all we’re asking.  “Hey Anthony! At age 22, do something the greatest players in the History of Basketball never managed to do before age 24.  Oh, and do it better!”

It’s sick.  And there’s another reason it’s ridiculous of us to expect it:

Most superstars go through a regression season where their production falls off after a huge spike.  Here’s the list of major stars over the last 25 years, age 25 or younger, who posted a high PER season in their third or fourth season, and then suffered a significant regression season following it:

  • Shaquille O’Neal
  • Kevin Durant
  • LeBron James
  • Tracy McGrady (and he kept falling)
  • Dirk Novitski
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Grant Hill
  • Tim Duncan
  • Chris Webber
  • Amare Stoudemire
  • Vince Carter
  • Kevin Love
  • Elton Brand
  • Clyde Drexler
  • Allen Iverson

Here’s the list that didn’t:

  • Chris Paul
  • Dwayne Wade
  • Dwight Howard
  • Michael Jordan
  • Kevin Garnett

Now, I left a few off like Penny Hardaway and Derrick Rose who had spikes and then their bodies failed, but you can see the lists.  Players trajectories aren’t always one way.  They have down seasons.  They are asked to do different things and it takes a while for them to adjust. (Hello? Gentry wants him shooting threes?)

So please, let’s pump the brakes a little bit on Davis.  He’s amazing.  He’s neck and neck with LeBron James and Durant as the best players in the game already.  He can probably boost this teams wins total by a few games just by playing closer to the superstar minutes goal of 3000 than the 2400 he put up last year.

But can we really ask this much of him?  Already?



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