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How Will History Remember Anthony Davis' Masterpiece of a Season?

this is a discussion within the Pelicans Community Forum; In 15 years, when Anthony Davis announces his retirement after the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Mexico City Matadors in the NBA Finals, people will look back at his career and think of this year as when we first knew ...

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Old 03-29-2015, 06:31 PM   #1
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How Will History Remember Anthony Davis' Masterpiece of a Season?

In 15 years, when Anthony Davis announces his retirement after the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Mexico City Matadors in the NBA Finals, people will look back at his career and think of this year as when we first knew he’d be one of the greatest ever.

The man with a unibrow is already establishing himself as special. In fact, what he’s doing is downright extraordinary. Per Basketball-Reference.com, only two other players have put up his per-36-minute stats their first three seasons, and they turned out to be pretty good:

And that only scratches the surface. David Robinson was 24 his rookie season. Hakeem Olajuwon was 22. Davis just turned 22 on March 11. But that’s not what will make this year the one we knew he’d be special.

Davis is getting better. This year he’s looking to become just the eighth player in history to record a player efficiency rating over 30. Here is every player to hit that mark and the age they were when they did it (not including Chris Paul’s 2008-09 season when his PER was rounded up to 30.0).

But that’s not the reason we’ll look back at this season and remember Davis either.

He’s averaging 24.6 points on 59.6 percent true shooting, 3.0 blocks and 10.4 rebounds. He could quite realistically join David Robinson, Patrick Ewing and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to average 25, 10 and 3 with 60.0 percent true shooting.

If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs, Davis would be the second player to post numbers like that without making the postseason. The first, Abdul-Jabbar in 1976-77, was the only MVP in history whose team didn’t make the playoffs.

But Davis won’t be remembered for that either.

Davis emerged as a clutch shooter, tying for the league lead with four makes in five attempts with the game on the line. That included an impossible three-point shot with multiple hands in his face. But nope, that’s what we’ll be talking about when he retires.

The Pelicans aren’t dead in the playoff hunt. Far from it, in fact. Just two games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder in the loss column, they have the easier remaining schedule and the tie-breaker. If Davis would drag the Pelicans to the postseason, it would be legend—wait for it—ary, but even that wouldn’t be the most memorable aspect of his season.

Sure all those are things we’ll remember about him, but they won’t be the reason we look at this year as the year knew Davis was on track to become one of the greatest players the game had ever seen. He’s doing things that only some of the greatest to ever suit up have done. But that’s more “effect” than “cause.”

To appreciate that, we need to revisit his draft profile. In 2012, Jonathan Givony, writing for Draft Express observed:
With that said, Davis is still a fairly raw prospect in many facets offensively, giving him a considerable amount of room for growth as he continues to develop. 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.

That doesn't jive very well national TV broadcasts, but the truth is he rarely dribbles or takes a shot outside five feet, and isn't overly successful at the moment when he does.with the "he grew 8 inches in one year and used to be a point guard!" part of his narrative you often hear on

Davis couldn’t shoot. His rookie year, he made just 68 jumpers from more than 10 feet out and shot just 26.1 percent on them.

But he worked on it. He got better. So much better in fact, that this year, only Dirk Nowitzki, Al Horford, Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and Kyle Korver have hit more jumpers from at least 10 feet with a higher field-goal percentage than Davis’ 213 on 43.8 percent shooting.

Talent separates the great from the good. Skill distinguishes the all-time greats from the merely great. And skill comes from work. Monty Williams, Davis’ coach both with the Pelicans and assistant coach on Team USA this summer, spoke to Jim Eichenhofer of NBA.com on how the experience helped Davis:
Anthony is improving right now (due to) experience. He’s getting more and more experience. He’s understanding that he is a lead dog among a number of alpha dogs. Mentally, he’s taken it up a few notches. I think Coach (Mike Krzyzewski) has been a big part of that, pushing him to be a leader and be ‘the guy’ on the team.

When you think about the names on this team, and think about the impact on the game that (Davis) has, you seldom say there’s a better player on the floor than Anthony. That’s got to help him from a confidence standpoint. I think that’s where he’s improving.

He’s always working on his game and his shot, his handle, a few more post moves, but mentally he’s getting more confidence. That’s going to help us going forward.

Williams added:
The thing I’ve been wowed by is watching guys I’ve never been around work on their game every day. I’ve watched Steph Curry, James Harden, Klay Thompson, all of our guys, how diligent they are about their games and about their bodies. How they don’t take days off. It’s been impressive to watch, learn and be around these guys… I think that’s had an impact on Anthony, because we’ve talked about what he has to work on to improve, but when you see All-NBA guys and All-Stars who’ve done a lot more than he’s done, out there working their tails off after a two-hour practice, I think it has an impact on him. They all feed off of each other.

This is the year that Davis will be remembered because it’s when he added a whole new skill to his game. It’s one thing to hone an existing ability. It’s quite another to come back from the offseason with a completely different element.

Davis is still young, and there are so many areas he could legitimately improve.

For example, he could extend his range to deep. There are a total of 18 players, including Davis, who have 100 field goals from at least 16 feet out who shoot better than 42.5 percent from that range. All but four of them have at least 10 threes, and as a group, they shoot a collective 42.2 percent from three. This suggests that Davis can add three-point range.

All but four of them have at least 10 threes, and as a group, they shoot a collective 42.2 percent from there. This suggests that Davis can add three-point range.

Or consider the fact that while only Derrick Favors, Marcin Gortat and DeAndre Jordan have a higher field-goal percentage than him at the rim, he’s only 12th in attempts there.

Consider that. As efficient as he is, he's still barely utilizing the most efficient areas of the court. What happens when he does?

He has barely even touched on his point guard skills to include passing. And he’s only scratching the surface of his defensive potential.

It’s not how great Davis is that’s most impressive. It’s how utterly amazing he can be.

When all is said and done, he should end up being a Kevin Love-Garnett-Olajuwon hybrid, do-everything-that-can-be-done super beast—the most complete big man the NBA has ever seen.

All that’s needed is time and work, and his last offseason will be remembered as the time he showed he was going to put in the work. And that is what will make this year memorable. It's when "could be" became "should be."

It’s guys like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James who came/come back every fall with some new facet. And that’s why what Davis did in the offseason, not the regular season, makes this the year the one we’ll remember and say, “That’s when I knew he would be one of the greatest.”

All stats provided by Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise stated.

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