this is a discussion within the Pelicans Community Forum; If the NBA season ended right now, Anthony Davis would be your 2014-15 MVP in a landslide. The third-year phenom is dominating every facet of the game for the New Orleans Pelicans . He&rsquo;s averaging 26.3 points (second-most in the ...
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How Much Will Pelicans' Playoff Fate Affect Anthony Davis' MVP Bid?
If the NBA season ended right now, Anthony Davis would be your 2014-15 MVP in a landslide.
The third-year phenom is dominating every facet of the game for the New Orleans Pelicans. He’s averaging 26.3 points (second-most in the league), 11.4 rebounds (sixth), 3.5 blocks (first) and 2.2 steals (third).
But the 82-game marathon is far from over. And while the playoff-hopeful Pelicans are 7-5 and a half-game out of eighth place in the Western Conference, Davis' race to the MVP trophy could be brought to a halt if his team fails to make any type of run down the stretch.
Unfortunately for the Big Bad Brow, there are still upwards of 65 games left on the schedule. That leaves enough time for LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Carmelo Anthony, James Harden and a handful of other stars to catapult themselves into the conversation for the league’s top individual award.
But if AD keeps producing at his current pace and the Pelicans keep winning, none of those All-Stars has real a shot at keeping him from hoisting his first MVP trophy.
The key word in that sentence—and in Davis' pursuit of his first MVP trophy—is crucial: Winning.
Why Davis Could Win MVP
The 21-year-old is barely old enough to drink, yet he leads the NBA in Win Shares (2.1) and Player Efficiency Rating (35.8) by an enormous margin.
Michael Lee of the Washington Post put Davis' unreal numbers into perspective: "...Wilt's best: 31.82. Jordan's best: 31.71. LeBron's best: 31.67," he tweeted on Nov. 18.
Davis is, essentially, a new breed of basketball player. He’s always been a supreme shot-blocker. But in just three short years on the pro level, Davis has crafted himself into one of the game’s most complete all-around players.
After playing as a 6'3" guard up until his junior year of high school, the lanky Davis sprouted an astounding seven inches in a year. And he might not be done growing, either.
Even at 6'10", Davis has retained the guard skills he honed for much of his life, making him as well-rounded of a player as there is in the NBA.
“He is one of the game's elite players right now, for sure," James said before facing Davis earlier this year, per Jennifer Hale of Fox Sports. "You look at his numbers, points, blocks and steals. If he continues to stay healthy and grow like he's been doing, he can be a superstar in this league for sure."
A formerly lean beanpole, Davis has bulked up and gotten a lot stronger, reportedly adding close to 20 pounds since his was measured at the draft combine.
“I’m up to 238 right now. It’s all muscle, and that’s what I need,” Davis said over the summer, per Jim Eichenhofer of NBA.com. “I want to get stronger, so that when I post up, it’s a lot easier for me. I think it’s going to translate to the season, just my mentality, knowing that I’m a lot stronger and a lot better. It’s going to make me more aggressive.”
James, who also said Davis “doesn't compare to anybody,” has won four of the past six MVP awards. Durant was able to dethrone LBJ last season, though, and according to the 26-year-old Oklahoma City Thunder star, Davis is “next in line.”
Here’s Eichenhofer with more from Durant after a Team USA practice:
I know how good he’s going to be. I know how good he is now, but I know how good he’s going to be. He’s an MVP-caliber player. So he’s next. He’s next in line – a guy that has grown so much in just a year. I’m excited to see what he does from here. He’s definitely on pace.“It was shocking,” Davis said of KD's words. “For a guy who knows what it takes to win an MVP award, telling me that I’m on my way, it means he sees something in me. That means a lot, especially from one of the best players in the league right now, if not the best. It just meant a lot. It made me want to work even harder.”
It’s one thing to put up big numbers from time to time, but being the best goes beyond the box scores.
On Nov. 18, the Pelicans took on the Sacramento Kings, a team that has already solidified itself as a legitimate threat this season.
Davis and Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins battled all night. While the Pelican outdueled the King, both were extraordinary. B/R's Jim Cavan wrote about how the LeBron vs. Durant debate could soon become Davis vs. Cousins.
Like James and Durant before him, Davis' arrival was never in doubt. It’s that it happened this quickly and this loudly—long limbs the focused-flailing cues for some chaotic basketball concert—which makes the music all the more magical.Davis finished with 28 points, nine boards, three blocks and two steals while Cousins wound up with 24 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks.
Midway through the fourth quarter, with the Kings surging, Davis came up limping after setting a screen. But he continued playing hard, never checked out and led his team to a 106-100 victory.
Four nights later, Davis absolutely erupted for a career-high 43 points on 16-of-23 shots to go along with 14 rebounds in a 106-94 win over the Utah Jazz.
Just a few weeks into the 2014-15 season, the rapidly improving Davis has cemented himself as one of the best players on the planet.
Why It's a Long Shot
Davis will need to continue blowing up stat sheets in order to carve his name onto the league's storied list of MVPs, but the gaudy numbers carry the same weight as the wins.
And in the wild, wild Western Conference, Davis could struggle to make the Pelicans a contender despite his individual greatness.
Of the 68 times a Most Valuable Player has been announced, just once has the winner failed to carry his team to the postseason: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975-76.
The Los Angeles Lakers finished with a 40-42 record that season, which was just one of two instances in league history that the MVP’s team finished with a sub-.500 record. The other came in the first year of the NBA, 1955-56, when Bob Pettit’s St. Louis Hawks finished 33-39 but did in fact make the playoffs.
In 1975-76, Abdul-Jabbar averaged 27.7 points on 52.9 percent shooting, 16.9 rebounds, 4.1 blocks, five assists and 1.5 steals. Abdul-Jabbar was not the general manager, and it wasn’t necessarily his fault the Lakers failed to earn a playoff berth.
Nor will it be Davis’ fault if New Orleans gets left out.
The Pelicans are not a bad team. While they've yet to taste the playoffs since Chris Paul was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2011, there has been improvement in recent years.
New Orleans just doesn't have the amount of depth and talent its conference foes do. Davis is certainly a superstar, but one man can't do it all.
While Davis' best teammates, Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday, are respectable, the latter is still recovering from injury and the former frequently goes one-on-five.
Here’s what Pro Basketball Talk’s Brett Pollakoff said about AD’s MVP chances in late October:
There’s practically zero chance he wins the MVP this season.Strong words, for sure.
But the hole in that argument is this: No player on any team that’s recently finished “worse than fourth in the league-wide standings” has been as good as Davis.
Is it unfair to punish a guy who, statistically, holds the most value, simply because his team fails to reach the postseason?
Perhaps. But winning—and making your teammates better—is an essential part of being the best.
Take Carmelo Anthony, for example.
'Melo finished third in MVP voting back in 2012-13 after leading the league in scoring and carrying the 54-win New York Knicks to the playoffs. A year later, Anthony bumped up his rebounds and assists, became a more efficient scorer (from both two- and three-point range) and stepped up his game on the defensive end.
But in 2013-14, the Knicks showed everyone on a nightly basis how not to play basketball. They wound up with an immensely disappointing 37-45 record even while getting the best season of Anthony’s 12-year career.
Anthony finished 15th in MVP voting last season, despite improving in just about every facet of the game.
The Pelicans didn’t enter 2014-15 with the expectations of those Knickerbockers. New Orleans plays in the Southwest—by far the toughest division in basketball—and has to compete in a conference that is worlds better than its Eastern counterpart.
The Southwest is loaded. The San Antonio Spurs (reigning champs), Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies all made the playoffs last year and are very likely to do so again in 2014-15.
Last season, the eighth-seeded Mavericks clawed their way into the final playoff spot with a 49-33 record. The Toronto Raptors finished third in the East at 48-34, and the Atlanta Hawks beat out those dreadful Knicks to clinch the eighth-spot with a 38-44 record.
Seven of the West’s eight representatives from a year ago will likely be there again—the four returning Southwest squads along with the Clippers, Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors.
Thanks to the injuries to Durant and fellow star Russell Westbrook, the Thunder would be the only team that could conceivably fall out of contention in the West.
Despite the odds stacked against his team, Davis sees the 'Cans as playoff-bound. Here's what he told Eichenhofer:
Year 2 to Year 3, I just want to get better. All my numbers I had last year, I want to see increase. I want to try to stay healthy and play at least 75 games. When I’m healthy and the whole team’s healthy, we’ll be a playoff team. We definitely had the pieces we need to be that team. Unfortunately last year, we were all hurt. I think that’s going to change.
Davis certainly has the right mentality. But the Kings are the real deal and so are the Phoenix Suns. If Durant and Westbrook come back soon enough, OKC may jump back into the fray, too.
So for New Orleans, making the postseason will not be easy.
And therefore, questions about Davis’ MVP chances will be fair game until he puts the Pelicans on his broad shoulders and does what Most Valuable Players do and, save for the anomaly that was Abdul-Jabbar, have always done:
Carry his team to the postseason.
All stats are accurate as of Nov. 24, courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
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