Anthony Davis is going to get all kinds of love this year. Naturally, we started lauding him a season ago, as we witnessed the first glimpses of a franchise player, but the rest of the nation is going to catch on rather quickly, if they haven't already.
As you may know, Unibrow is off to a heck of a start: 21.2 PPG, 11.4 REB, 1.4 AST, 1.4 TO, 2.2 STL and 4.0 BLK. People have begun giving him serious All-Star consideration, some even trying to start dark-horse MVP discussions. Instead, I'm going to focus on one massive achievement that is flying under the radar -- the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Pelican fans know how special Davis has been. He's the first player to average 15 points and 3 blocks, the first five games of the season, since both Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson did it back in 1992-93.
The longest streak, at any point during the regular season, with these numbers? 14, by Mr. Robinson in 1990 (age 24). Some other notables and their personal bests: 13 by Hakeem Olajuwon in 1993 (age 30), 12 by Patrick Ewing in 1990 (age 27), 11 by Shaquille O'Neal in 1992 (age 20), 9 by Alonzo Mourning in 1993 (age 23), 7 by Andrew Bogut in 2010 (age 25), 6 by Tim Duncan in 2003 (age 26) , and 6 by Dwight Howard in 2010 (age 24).
Some pretty exclusive company, and Davis certainly still has a ways to go to reach the top of the list, but time is undoubtedly on his side.
However, let's just focus on defense, since that is today's purpose. Yes, blocked shots are nice and Davis can certainly throw a good block party, but there are other ways to disrupt opponents, like steals. Since 1985-86 (when full game logs started being kept), there have been only four instances an NBA player has averaged over 3 blocks a game and 2 steals a game:
Now that's impressive, even if Davis' averages of 4.0 blocks and 2.2 steals have come in a sample size of five games. The thing we want to take away here is that he has the ability to do what only two other players have managed in approximately the last 30 years. Talk about elite.
Ok, now for the really hard to please. Blocks and steals just might not contain enough data for some to form a solid opinion about a player's overall defensive impact. I hear you. So let's have a gander at the recently released SportsVU data.
Currently, Davis ranks 5th in protecting the rim, allowing a minuscule 26.9 FG%. (That's an opponent's field goal percentage at the rim based on at least five attempts.) It's one spot ahead of Roy Hibbert, the Indiana Pacer who is currently being praised for defensive prowess, and well ahead of players like Tim Duncan, Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler. And before you point to Davis gaudy block numbers, consider this:
Are the league’s block leaders also near the top of that list, or are there shotblockers who sacrifice other shots around the basket by being too aggressive? DeAndre Jordan ranks 14th at 1.8 blocks per game, but opponents have shot 60.7 percent against him at the rim (and the Clippers rank last in defensive efficiency).
The start of Anthony Davis 2013-14 campaign has certainly gone off with a bang. He's deservedly earning early All-star and Most Improved recommendations. However, he's been so good, especially defensively, that the conversations should also start including the lofty Defensive Player of the Year Award. 77 more games remain and they'll ultimately decide the legitimacy of this article. Yet, isn't it already just astounding enough to be considering this award for a 20 year old, someone who should be entering the junior year of college?