Just 25 years of age, Anthony Davis is already one of the best players in the NBA. A MVP candidate, Davis has not reached his ceiling. He has the tools to become one of the greatest big men the league has ever seen.
Davis has been one of the few big men to find success in a league dominated by guards. After he was drafted in 2012 , he informed the Pelicans front office that he did not want to play the center position. Not wanting to disgruntle their star player, the front office acquired centers such as Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca, and DeMarcus Cousins.
When Cousins went down with an Achilles injury to end his 2017-18 season, Anthony Davis was already putting up incredible numbers, averaging 26.7 points per game. To end the season, Davis averaged 29.5 points per game and led the league in scoring at the center position.
The Pelicans front office and Davis now seem to be on the same page, and Davis will play center this year. Nikola Mirotic was great for the Pelicans and is a perfect fit next to Davis. He is a stretch four who can spread the floor and allow Davis to go to work.
With Davis at the “5” and Mirotic at the “4”, the Pelicans had a net rating of +10.4 in the regular season. With both Davis and Cousins on the floor, the Pelicans had a net rating of +5.5. The Davis-Mirotic pairing is an opposing coach’s nightmare, as it is difficult to send players to help on Anthony Davis when Nikola Mirotic is a career 37.7% three-point shooter and is ready to fire.
Davis is so unique, as he creates mismatches in which slow footed centers just cannot keep up with him. A permanent move to the center position will have Davis putting up incredible numbers this upcoming season.
This was evident in the 4-game sweep of the Portland Trailblazers during the playoffs. Anthony Davis led the Pelicans in minutes, points, rebounds, blocks, and steals per game, carrying his team to a domination of the three-seeded Trailblazers.
With the absence of DeMarcus Cousins, the Blazers simply couldn’t match up with the Pelicans. Jusuf Nurkic could not keep up with Anthony Davis, forcing Al-Farouq Aminu to guard Davis. Nurkic was placed on Mirotic but could not defend him out on the perimeter. Because Davis was at center, the Blazers starting center was played off the floor.
Not only does Davis have the capabilities to be an all-time great offensively, he can also anchor his team’s defense on the other end. He led the league in blocks, averaging 2.6 blocks per game, 0.7 more than the runner-up. His ability to see plays before it happens and provide help defense is uncanny, and it led to an All-Defensive First Team selection last season for Davis. He is a complete two way player, and one of the few players in the league currently that can takeover a game not only on offense but also defensively.
Davis even had a case for the Defensive Player of the Year award last season, as his team struggles defensively when he is not on the court. Without Davis on the court, the Pelicans had a 110.2 Defensive Rating — good for 29th in the league. With Anthony Davis on the court, that number jumped to 104.3. He anchored the Pelicans defense, and his value on both ends of the court make him an instant MVP candidate.
As he is only 25 years old, Davis is rapidly adapting to the new NBA in which you must be able to shoot. Davis put up a career high 61.1% true shooting percentage, beating out guards like Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, and James Harden. He is already a nightmare for opposing centers to guard, but as he improves his jump shot, he is going to be unguardable.
Anthony Davis can be one of the greatest big men of all time. He has not even entered his prime, yet he is one of the most versatile and dynamic big men the NBA has ever seen. He may not have any championship trophies or major awards as of now, but by the time his career ends, he will. He is too good not to.