There’s a whole lot of hype surrounding Anthony Davis lately, and rightfully so. The Unibrow broke out in a monstrous way last season, growing seemingly every game and leading his New Orleans Pelicans to the final playoffs spot in the Western Conference. His 30.8 player efficient rating (PER) was the 11th-best PER of all-time. Davis’ momentum hasn’t slowed during the summer, as he signed a max, five-year extension with the Pelicans and graced the cover of NBA 2K16. The hype has grown to such a degree that Davis is now mentioned in the same breath as Kevin Durant and LeBron James, arguably the two best players in the NBA.
Except, this might be a bit too much, too soon, and Davis knows it, too. As he told SiriusXM NBA Radio (hat tip to Kurt Helin of NBC Sports for the transcription):
“I still have a lot of work to do. I haven’t even got out of the first round yet, haven’t won a game in the playoffs yet. So there are a lot of steps for me. Them two guys are definitely unbelievable players but I know one day I’m going to be there, I’m going to be the best player in the league if I continue to work hard and keep grinding, keep being dedicated, keep being motivated.”
Here it is in Davis’ own words:
Davis’ humility is one of his greatest assets, and maybe the most under-appreciated. He’s not buying into his own publicity, he’s just focused on becoming the best player he can be (which, in his case, is the best player in the league).
While there’s no denying Davis’ greatness, there’s a difference between our perception and the reality of him as a player. He’s viewed as an elite defender, and his numerous highlight-level blocks lend a certain credence to that line of thinking. Yet he’s not quite at that level yet. He’s still missing rotations, still over-helping, still a 22-year-old learning how to use his myriad tools within an NBA defense. He’ll get there in time, especially with the help of new assistant coach Darren Erman, a defensive specialist.
Davis isn’t a finished product yet by any means – not on offense, not on defense. He’s elite, certainly among the top 15 players in the NBA, but putting him on the podium next to LeBron and KD does a disservice to all of those players and the players in that same tier (Steph, Harden, CP3, Russ etc). It also does a disservice to the fans. Prematurely anointing a talent like Davis takes away from marveling at his process.
There is a joy in watching the becoming of a player, his trials and tribulations, his moments of triumph and temporary defeat. In this regard, perhaps, Davis is exactly like Durant and LeBron. It’s been a delight to see those two suffer their growing pains and overcome their challenges – witnessing their flashes of What Could Be turn into sustained brilliance. Davis is the next transcendent talent that captivates not just because of what he does, but because of what he can eventually be.