It is November 2013 and Anthony Davis is 20 years old and I think we've officially arrived at the point where the team is him and he is the team. A lot of great things happened tonight that were entirely non-Anthony Davis related, and a lot of great entirely non-Anthony Davis related things will surely continue to happen this year. But Anthony Davis exists on an entirely different plane of reality at this point, and even though the opponents have been quite frankly awful, it is magic. It is mad.
At the start of the season, I was mostly just ecstatic at the summer progress of his face-up jumper, his counter move on the block, and his block timing at the rim. Those three additions to a fantastic rookie game would've been enough to vault him into All-Star consideration. His perimeter catch-and-shoot and lane turn-and-hook abilities of a year ago were significantly bolstered by those new wrinkles. The rim protection, as Cody Zeller could attest to, was beginning to feel Kentucky-esque.
Fast forward three weeks but, and that stuff feels... routine? We've somehow moved onto the next stage. Now it's catching passes while running backwards in transition to softly touch-pass past defenders for layups, blocking arcing jump shots from guards on the perimeter in isolation defense, sprinting the length of the floor to swat trailing transition threes from the wing into the fifth row. And Gordon Hayward totally saw him too! He saw him and decided nobody he'd ever played against could dream of getting that shot. Davis got there, and it wasn't that hard.
Davis came into the game leading the league in PER, and I suspect that after a 22 point on 12 shots, 9 rebound, 8 block, 4 assist, 1 turnover night (and Kevin Love's corresponding 2 for 14, 5 point line in Los Angeles), it's a lead he will retain. And there was a sort of ease to the whole production; Davis didn't have many plays drawn up for him, but once again, he gravitated to the ball on both sides of the floor. His anticipation was more integral to his 5.8/40 min college block rate than most anything else, and after a year in the pros, he's at last acclimated brilliantly.
In the block game, Davis is in many ways the anti-JaVale McGee. The vast majority of his blocks come in man defense rather than help situations, and then too, those blocks only come after he's played spectacular defense with his feet and forced a very difficult shot. More often than not, Davis grabs the blocked miss. The fact that the NBA could very easily go back to this game tape and possibly, for a second straight game, pick out a 9th block speaks to how many shots Davis didn't merely alter, but, essentially deleted entirely without touching. Have you ever seen that? I've never seen that.
This is a 20-year old playing virtually every facet of the game of modern basketball at the highest, highest level. This, again, is mad.
Some super quick hitters:
- Ryan Anderson being able to step in from a chipped toe and casually nail every shot he takes is really great! Monty Williams actually had to draw up plays tonight to get him free, as opposed to the Philly game, and Jason Smith set some great weak-side picks to that end.
- This was one of Al-Farouq's better games I felt. The help D hasn't been all the way there yet -- you need only watch the number of blown rim rotations New Orleans had as a team in the third and early fourth to confirm this -- but Aminu's man defense was strong, and especially impressive was his ability to wrestle away defensive rebounds and turn them into transition opportunities.
- We can complain about Evans' 8 misses to get 13 points I suppose, but as Fisher has pointed out, Tyreke keeps doing other important things on the floor when he's not scoring. Tonight was no exception -- 5 boards (2 offensive), 4 assists, 4 steals, and a block. Gordon's the guy I had more of an issue with tonight. He did literally nothing outside of looking for his own shot (3 for 13, 1 rebound, 0 anything else), and blatantly missed a wide-open Anthony Davis alley-oop in the final minute with the entirety of the arena screaming at him to lob the ball.
- His 4 assists notwithstanding, Austin Rivers' ball-handling looked as shaky as ever. And yet! Keep playing him, I say.
- No Withey. This is dumb.
- Trey Burke! I'm on record as not guaranteeing Trey Burke will be an All-Star, but I've definitely waggled my eyebrows suggestively and mouthed those words to various random passers by on various random streets. I think Trey Burke will be great, and this Utah team actually has a ton of fun pieces to aid in his development.
I'll tell you who he won't be as good as though.