My emotional, teary eyed recount of Anthony Davis' season:
We've talked a lot in 2013 about Anthony Davis' surprisingly effective offensive ability. Once billed as a defensive stalwart and an offensive project, AD has surpassed all expectations (even the most optimistic ones) with regards to his offensive ability. He's shown pretty varied ball screen action attack -- a player who's very adept at being the roll man or the pop man (whichever option is most viable). He's also shown the ability to make the extra pass to the weakside off a ball screen (the pass that San Antonio and Tim Duncan have perfected over the years).
Not only that, he's also shown the ability to recognize space and attack it -- a rare skill for a big man, especially someone as young as him.
Anthony Davis' concept of spacing on offense is pretty impressive. Never in the way. Rare for a young big.— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) February 3, 2013
Here's an entire article on how Anthony Davis attacks the baseline -- the "super high way of off ball cutting".
In fact, as Rohan has stated numerous times before, Anthony Davis is well on his way to stardom as PER -- primarily an offensive one-in-all metric -- might indicate. And in fact, if you looked at his overall statistical profile (not just PER), it's even less in question. Check this out.
That's a list of all the rookies who averaged at least 28 minutes per game and had a PER of at least 20. The list speaks for itself -- Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, David Robinson, Yao Ming, Tim Duncan, Abdul Jabbar, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Chris Paul, Hakeem, Baylor, etc.. It's a roll call of superstars of the past 40 years.
Looking also at his WS/48 (a by product of ORTG and DRTG), he ranks 27th -- a list that's also among the best in the business.
But both those all-in-one metric answers only part of the question.
Season in Review
He started his season with a bang -- when he almost won the opening game for the Hornets, scoring 21 points (on 12 shots) and making it seem like this was his team to carry. He'd follow that game against San Antonio with an 8 point (on 6 shots and just 14 minutes) effort against Utah - a game where he got an elbow to the head, sidelining him for the next two games because of concussion policies.
He'd quench all doubt about his status when he had another excellent game against Charlotte (that unforgettable BJ Mullensshowdown) with 23 points on 18 shots, 11 rebounds, 5 blocks). That was followed by 2 mediocre performances (totaling 16 points on 21 shots and 15 rebounds and 5 blocks). And then there was that Milwaukee game where he scored 12 points in that 4th quarter, none more impressive than his consecutive and-1 baskets (one was an awkward floater variation that he can hit) to pull the Hornets to within 2. They would ultimately fall short, losing that game by 4 points. Optimism was high, and everybody was excited to finally have someone who could dominate the game on both ends.
But then came the stress reaction. Injuries like this (especially to players with frail frames like Davis') instill fear even in the most devoted fans. Hornets brass made the bold decision to sideline him for a good two weeks. They reasoned that it would be far more damaging to continue playing him with a stress reaction (which can and would probably lead to a more serious injury. For reference, doctors of Kevin Ware believed that his freak bone injury was caused by undiagnosed stress fractures).
Anthony Davis would return against the Wizards -- with the Hornets already holding a 5-15 record. Over the next 35 games, he'd be nowhere near the game changer he was in his first six games. He would still be impressive had he been measured like a regular rookie -- TS% of 54.3%, rebounding splits of 9/22/16, ORTG of 108. Problem was, he wasn't just a regular rookie. He was Anthony Davis -- top overall pick of a decorated 2012 draft, heir apparent to Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, the revolutionary player that would usher the new generation of "small" ball in the NBA and savior of a franchise still rebuilding from the ashes of a point god's departure.
To a degree, he was still good and improving (albeit, little by little). If you clicked the links above, you'd know that Anthony Davis grew more comfortable operating in a ball screen as the season went along. His jumper would continue to see minuscule improvements (less awkward, more fluidity, higher arc, better follow through, fewer hesitations signaling confidence). But you watch him in those games and he was clearly not the same player that we saw in his first 6 games prior to the stress reaction.
The pessimist will reason that his first 6 games set him up for failure since he played so well that people actually expected a 19 year old rookie with pencil thin arms and legs to continue producing at such a high level. Also, he was clearly still being hobbled by that stress reaction.
The optimist will reason that it's hard to come back from an 11 game absence, especially if your coach keeps giving such inconsistent rotation patterns (for the record, he had 6 games where he played less than 20 minutes, 8 games where he played between 20-25 minutes, 11 games where he played 11 games where he played 25-30 minutes, 10 games where he played between 30-35 minutes and 4 games where he played more than 35 minutes). His injuries are no more than just isolated events.
The realist will say that that's the life of a rookie -- a never ending battle with inconsistency where they'll exhibit ups and downs. They'd also argue that it was expected that Davis will struggle with the physicality of the NBA.
I for one didn't know what to think. I was, in all honesty, bordering on all three levels at some point in that 35 game run.
His shoulder injury did not help the pessimistic thinking.
And then, he returned and had a dominating game (17 points on 13 shots, 15 rebounds and 4 blocks).
He'd have an above average game the next game (13 points on 8 shots, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks). and then another dominating one (20 points on 20 shots, 18 rebounds) and another (18 points on 14 shots, 10 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block) and another...
19 games later, and we saw an even BETTER Anthony Davis than what we saw in those first six games. In 19 games, Davis would average All-Star numbers with 16 points (on 11.8 shots and 4.4 FTs), 9.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 1.7 blocks, 1.5 TOs. His advanced numbers would paint a rosier picture -- rebounding splits of 12/26/19, TS bordering on 60%, TOV% below 10%, ORTG of 119. Those are not just All-Star numbers but those are close to superstar numbers (you know, the game changers).
Finally, we're back to celebrating Davis' domination. We were still losing games (thanks to our poor perimeter play, both offensively and defensively) but his streak of awesome-ness couldn't come at a better time (towards the end of the season).
And then he-who-must-not-be-named landed, butt first into Davis' pencil thin knees (with more of the impact being felt on the exposed side, the left one). Our budding franchise player would grimace on the floor. Everybody was holding their collective breath.
At least he could walk, right? But wait, players with ligament damage can sometimes walk after their injury. Heck, Rondo played five more minutes after his injury. Why world, why?!
Almost 24 hours of suspense filled waiting and we finally had our news -- Unibrow's season was over. Davis sprained his MCL and got a bone bruise on his left knee (news here). That's a less grim injury than the dreaded "A" injury that seems to be a fad nowadays (Gallo, Rondo, Williams, Rush, Rose, Rubio, Shumpert).
Looking back, I think Anthony Davis' season perfectly encapsulated the Hornets 2012-13 season -- injured, inconsistent but showing just enough signs of greatness. His season -- imperfect as it may be -- was exactly what the Hornets needed -- great enough to give us hope for the future but not great enough to overall affect the direction of this club (Translation: Another high lottery pick).
In terms of wins and losses, AD's season wasn't impressive (the Hornets will end with the 5th worst record in the NBA). But taken in and of itself and with the expectations fans had, he was both underwhelming and overwhelming at the same time.
There will be a lot of time to talk about lottery balls, odds, prospects, how to wade through free agency, which players to keep. But for now? With his season now coming to an abrupt end, I think it's time to appreciate the product that we had for 64 games.
Anthony Davis has arrived.