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Should Anthony Davis Be Doing Even More?

Mainstream media has finally caught on, but now, his apparent lack of touches are not nearly as large of an issue.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, Pelican fans were bemoaning the lack of touches by Anthony Davis. In our gamethreads and recaps, not to mention among the fanbase on twitter, we were consistently pointing out the number of times within a game Davis' teammates were missing him floating around open somewhere in the paint area.

Well, it appears the rest of the universe has joined the bandwagon.

This morning, Tom Haberstroh made mention of it too is his column:

I'll echo the thoughts of renowned NBA bettor Haralabos Voulgaris about Anthony Davis. The SportVU cameras tell us that Davis averages 5.2 close touches per game, which ranks 25th in the NBA. How is that not higher? I mean, Tim Duncan averages twice as many in fewer minutes. It always seems New Orleans' ball handlers look for Davis only as a bailout option when they foolishly leave their feet with nowhere to go and frantically chuck it in his general direction. Davis deserves better.

Anthony Davis has put together a string of MVP performances to start the 2013 campaign, but likely because he is doing so, mainstream has picked through his statistics and are suddenly concerned. Should they be?

Davis is not a prototypical big

First, it appears many have centered around on his close-in touches numbers. Davis being only 26th on any list sounds like there is a problem. However, ask yourselves, where does he touch the ball on most possessions? That's right, Monty Williams has him catching it outside of the paint in most offensive sets. Davis isn't a back to the basket post player, at least not yet in his career.

Have a look at all the names ahead of AD on the list -- they're all players who possess and rely on a post game for a significant part of their offensive makeup. When AD is catching the ball in low, it's exclusively limited to fast breaks, rolling towards the rim in a pick and rolls or a cut of some sort through the lane.

Last season, Davis' close-in touches were more problematic. He averaged 4.0 touches per game which put him 45th in the NBA. More importantly though, the Pelicans had no other significant inside threat. The next player on the list in 2013-14 was Ryan Anderson with 2.9 close-in touches. This year, Asik is taking up a lot of real estate inside. Despite being somewhat offensively challenged, he is receivinging 5.3 close-in touches, good for 22nd in the league. Two Pelicans in the top 30 is a significant improvement from last season. Especially when the team's offense does not include a post game.

Front Court Touches are up

You may remember, less than a month ago, I touched on this very topic of AD touches in the third part of Winning Moves series.

Anthony Davis mark of .65 points per half court touch placed him 5th in the NBA (out of players averaging 25+ minutes a game). On the other hand, his 32.2 front court touches ranked 159th.

From that article, those 32.2 front court touches were good for sixth (!!!) best on the team. Considering Davis was on the verge of superstardom last season, that was completely unacceptable. The Pelicans averaged 279.5 front court touches per game. That means Davis touched the ball 11.5% of the time once the team had crossed half court in a non-fast break situation.

Yes, this year his front court touches have only mildly improved to 34.7 and he is now touching the ball 12.8% of the time. However, he now ranks third on the team in front court touches. Only Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans remain ahead of him on the list.

Natural Progression

Despite a 13th offensive rating, the Pelicans attack was woefully deficient in numerous categories last season. In addition to failing getting their best effective weapons involved at proper rates, the ball movement and floor spacing were nearly non-existent.

Pace Points in the Paint Three Point Rate AST% Offensive Rebounds TOV%
2013-14 Pelicans 94.5 (22nd) 45.5 (8th) 19.3% (29th) 56.3% (23rd) 26.9% (13th) 14.5% (7th)
2014-15 Pelicans 95.4 (18th) 48.6 (1st) 23.5% (21st) 60.3% (12th) 28.3% (9th) 11.7% (2nd)

In most facets, the Pelicans offense has improved in their rankings and versatility. For a roster that didn't have much time together due to injury, they are still learning to play with one another. This isn't a scenario where only several pieces were added to a long-standing core.

Final Thought

Unusually skilled power forwards like Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett took a long time to reach the correct usage rates their accompanying numbers screamed for. Currently, Anthony Davis is ahead of both of them. In his age-21 season, Davis is leading the team in usage, he is 4th in the league in scoring and his touches in the right locations are up.

However, we must not forget the Pelicans are not that far removed from the 2012 Draft that brought Davis and Austin Rivers to the team, acquired Holiday and Evans before the start of last season and added perhaps the most important piece in a Monty William's defense merely months ago. Omer Asik is still likely adjusting to playing 30 minutes a game, let alone positioning himself properly at all of Monty's schemes.

Sure there will continue to be times we miss an open Davis flashing to the middle. Considering his athleticism, it shouldn't be all that surprising he can get himself open more times than any opponent he faces. Nevertheless, since all the numbers across the board are moving in the right direction, I urge patience -- the team is still gelling. The amount of minutes the top 7 of our players have played together is ridiculously small, but in even that short amount of time, they have already shown improvement.

Anthony Davis is undoubtedly one of the best players in the game; however, like his fellow roster, they haven't yet accumulated the requisite experience together. In time, that will change and thus a weapon like Davis will eventually be utilized to the fullest of his capabilities, but don't be shocked if this transcendental talent manages to strongly be considered for an MVP first.