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Early Season Surprise: The Offensive Excellence of Anthony Davis

Coming into this season, nearly everyone predicted Anthony Davis would be an automatic game changer defensively but a work in progress on the other end of the floor. So far, reality has decided to flip the script.

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Today, SB nation is focusing on early season surprises. Many expected Anthony Davis to make a mark during his his NBA rookie season, but for vastly different reasons. From Michael McNamara at Hornets247:

Anthony Davis isn’t LeBron James, but it is not unreasonable to think that he can have a similar impact in his rookie season. LeBron gave the Cavaliers a clear center point with which they can run the offense through and Davis should be a similar foundation for the Hornets defense.

From Chris Mannix at Sports Illustrated:

Ultimately, Davis will be the class of the '12 draft. His defensive instincts remind me of Ben Wallace's and his offensive game will polish in time. But the ROY award often goes to the player who puts up big numbers, and I think there will be rookies who have better statistical seasons than Davis.

We could continue going through a hundred more expectations, forecasts and predictions for Unibrow's rookie season, but it'd be pointless as they would essentially echo the same thing: Anthony Davis will be fantastic on the defensive side of the ball but he'll need time offensively.

Well, according to synergy sports, Anthony Davis is already a marvel on offense, averaging 1.09 points per possession. This is good for an overall ranking of 27th, ahead of guys like Kevin Durant (44th), Lebron James (48th) and Carmelo Anthony (77th). He is averaging 16 points per game, but this number would be much higher if his minutes were more in line with other starters in the league (ie. a PER36 of 20.3 points per game).

Meanwhile, his defense hasn't been remotely as stellar as Davis is currently giving up 1.14 PPP, good for a rank of 268th!? Opponents from PnR's, spot ups and post ups are all shooting better than a 50% clip! Dare we use a word like disappointing?

Not so fast. In his defense, small sample sizes must be taken into account as these numbers are based on only 36 defensive instances. In addition, his defensive rebounding percentage sits at 19.9% (good for 44th among NBA players who have played a minimum of 150 minutes), his block percentage is at 6.3% (10th) and his steal percentage is at 1.9% (26th if you exclude NBA guards).

So what can we conclude from these numbers this early in the season? It shouldn't be inconceivable that a 19 year old whose body hasn't fully matured is struggling somewhat defensively against vastly larger and more experienced competition. However, his strong fundamentals and high basketball IQ could help improve these underwhelming defensive synergy statistics.

Meanwhile, his offensive talents were far more suppressed than anyone imagined. Undoubtedly, we shouldn't discount real improvement, yet it might be just as surprising if he were to sustain his strong 49.3 FG% and 83.9 FT% for the entire 2012-13 campaign. Don't forget that during the preseason, Davis struggled both from the floor (43.2 FG%) and the line (59.3 FT%). In his one year at Kentucky, he was below average at the charity stripe (70.9%).

It's not surprising Anthony Davis is very good at basketball but it was certainly unforeseen by all as to how he'd make the greatest impact this early in his career.