Anthony Davis - A Rookie Season Comparison


[We'll be having a bunch of A. Davis season recap action over the next couple weeks; today, usnfish hits it out of the park as usual in the FanPosts. -R]

The purpose here is to compare Anthony Davis to the two players he was most often compared to coming out of college; Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.

First a personal note, I think the comparison to Kevin Garnett is significantly more appropriate. The players are similar not only in body type but also their skill sets. Kevin Garnett to this day focuses his offensive production on facing up rather than with his back to the basket, although he has improved significantly on the block from the rail thin teenager that entered the NBA. Even still much of his back to the basket game is centered around turnaround fadeaways on the left block. Tim Duncan has a different offensive skill set, both as a rookie and today. I do not believe it realistic to expect Anthony Davis to become the force on the block that Tim Duncan has been the past 16 years in the NBA.

To begin, I present you with a comparison of each player's rookie season in the NBA. Despite joining the NBA immediately out of high school Kevin Garnett was only two months older (May 19th vs. March 11th) than Anthony Davis to begin the season.

Tim Duncan - 21 Anthony Davis - 19 Kevin Garnett - 19
PER 22.6 21.7 15.8
PP/36 19.4 16.9 13.1
RP/36 11.0 10.2 7.9
AP/36 2.5 1.2 2.3
BP/36 2.3 2.2 2.1
SP/36 0.6 1.5 1.4
TS% .577 .559 .522
eFG% .549 .516 .497
ORB% 10.5 10.6 9.1
DRB% 23.8 23.4 17.0
TRB% 17.6 16.9 13.1
ORtg 108 113 107
DRtg 95 104 107
Team Record 56-26 27-55? 26-56

Considering the difference in age between Davis and Duncan I believe their statistics are very close. Also remember that Tim Duncan started alongside David Robinson his rookie year. Robinson at that point was no slouch. The Admiral averaged 21.6 and 10.6 while posting a respectable 27.8 PER, good for third in the league that year behind Shaq and Karl Malone. Yes, ahead of Michael Jordan in his last year with Chicago.

It is clear that Davis has had a much more successful rookie season than Kevin Garnett. Now to examine what some were saying before AD played a game in the NBA.

Kevin Garnett is simply bigger. He weighs 253 pounds, and while that alone doesn't make him a better defender it means he plays with a different style than the skinnier Davis. You wouldn't expect a 210-pound running back to run the same way as a 240-pounder. It's the same with big men.

While Davis is a very good rebounder, he isn't nearly on Garnett's level. While he averaged an excellent 10.4 boards per game, it must be noted that he didn't play with any other real big men.

The beginning statement ignores what Garnett was as a rookie, weighing in at 220 pounds. Interestingly enough, Anthony Davis is currently listed at 6'10" 220 pounds. The second paragraph is fundamentally untrue with a year of information. AD's 10.2 Rebounds per 36 minutes equals or exceeds Kevin Garnett's yearly performance in each of the past six seasons, his entire career in Boston.

One of the West general managers said Davis "is probably going to be better than Blake Griffin," and his GM colleague upped the ante by saying he expects him to be better than 14-time All-Star and future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett.

"There's not one doubt in my mind that he's going to be way better than Blake Griffin," the second GM said. "I don't even think it's going to be close. I think he might end up being a little better than KG.

"He may be the quiet, humble [player] who's not as great as Tim Duncan, but [he'll be] that kind of a person, and maybe have the game to back it up. I don't think he gets to that [Duncan] level, but he's going to be pretty good."

One of the West executives wasn't ready for such ambitious comparisons.

"I have times when I wonder, 'Is he Marcus Camby, a great defensive player who alters the game defensively' " but doesn't have much offense? he said. "And then there are days when I say, 'Oh, no, he has much more offense to his game. He has this, he has that.' Plus, I think Anthony Davis is a pretty cool kid."

Again here I think the shadow of who Kevin Garnett is (and especially what he was in his prime) clouds the judgement of what Anthony Davis needed to demonstrate as a rookie. Davis has more blocks, steals and a lower Defensive Rating than Kevin Garnett as a rookie.

While Tim Duncan had a more impressive rookie season, especially when considering per game statistics where Duncan's 10.3 additional minutes per game become a dramatic factor, Anthony Davis does hold up when focusing on advanced and per minute production metrics. And it cannot be overstated that Duncan entered into a lineup coached by Gregg Popovich and starting beside David Robinson. Both individuals are Hall of Famers. While the Spurs were 20-62 the year before Duncan's arrival they were 59-23 the year prior with David Robinson and Sean Elliott both healthy. Rarely does the lottery winner have such talent on their roster.

Finally, do allow for a moment the gravity of these comparisons to hold a moment. We are comparing Anthony Davis to two of the greatest power forwards in NBA history. And from an analytical standpoint Davis holds up quite well.