After just two seasons in the NBA, New Orleans Pelicans center Anthony Davis has already established himself as an up and coming superstar in the league. The scariest part for the rest of the NBA? He may be poised to make another leap next season.
In his rookie season, Davis averaged 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks while shooting 51.6 percent from the field. From the outset, expectations on offense were low. Instead, many expected Davis to use his lanky frame and basketball instincts to become a defensive force right away. To some extent, he was, though defense in the NBA is lightyears from his lone season at Kentucky. During that rookie season, Davis also surprised everybody by being way ahead of the curve on the other end of the floor.
If his rookie year was encouraging, last season was absolutely terrifying — for the rest of the league, that is. His averages shot up to 20.8 points, 10.0 rebounds and a league-leading 2.8 blocks per game. His win shares went from 6.1 to 10.4.
Despite Davis’s individual brilliance, the Pelicans were a terrible defensive team last season. New Orleans lacked another frontcourt player who they could pair with Davis on the defensive end. Despite only appearing in 22 games last year, Ryan Anderson is a terrific offensive player, but asking him for above-average production on the defensive end is unrealistic. The rest of the roster included players like Jason Smith, Greg Stiemsma and Alexis Ajinca, who are adequate but not exactly guys to discourage opponents from taking the ball to the basket.
As a result, the Pelicans were in the bottom ten team for defensive rebounding percentage last season. They were also in the bottom five for defensive efficiency, allowing 107.3 points per 100 possessions.
This is where the acquisition of Omer Asik comes in. On the surface, it seems like a duplication of the skillset Davis possesses, especially on the defensive end. But in reality the Pelicans needed an upgrade on that end. The numbers above support that fact. The team identified defense as an area of need and acquired one of the best rim protectors in the game.
The question of course is how this will all work, especially on the offensive end. One of the reasons Asik played sparingly towards the end of the season last year in Houston was because the team was terrible offensively when Dwight Howard and Asik shared the floor together. There are bound to be spacing issues when you have two back to the basket players who operate close to the rim.
This is where Davis’s off-season plan comes in.
Via Nakia Hogan of The Times-Picayune, Davis will likely enter next season with an extended repertoire on offense:
After playing this past season at less than 230 pounds, Davis said he is up to 237 pounds. The new physique gives Davis the look more of a power forward than he did in his first two NBA seasons.
So far, Davis is working on adding the corner 3-point shot, more post move and a pull-up jumper off the dribble to his repertoire.
If that happens, Davis, who scored at least 20 points and had at least 10 rebounds in 27 games last season, should be able to pull the Pelicans into the playoffs. That is if his teammates can remain healthy.
Yes, you read that right. Davis is working on a corner three, which means he could eventually evolve into a stretch four on offense. Slot him in next to Asik with his expanded offensive arsenal, and the spacing issues will be much less of a concern.
A lot of this depends on whether the off-season goes according to plan, and how quickly Davis can become an efficient three-point shooter. If it happens, everything is in place for him to make another leap next season with the New Orleans fans the biggest beneficiaries.
What do you think?
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