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X's and O's -- Anthony Davis Still Learning Defense

Anthony Davis is a phenom, but he's not infallible.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Davis does so many things well and he is rightfully showered with praise, but he's still got several things that could use some improvement. This past Saturday, Blake Griffin took advantage of AD to the tune of 10 points in the first half. Although the Pelicans got run out of the gym after halftime, the game could have at least gone a bit differently if Davis and his teammates better understood how good offenses will try and exploit them.

At the outset of the game, Blake Griffin goes for one of his patented moves -- in transition, he loves to pin his man underneath the rim. Time and time again, Griffin abused Davis on this exact play last season; thus, it was a bit deflating to see it happen so quickly on Saturday.

Fortunately, there is a quick fix. Considering Davis' athleticism, he should always remain between the ball and his man. Griffin wouldn't be able to suddenly pin him, nor should he ever score on an alley-oop with AD patrolling the skies.

Here, Davis gets burned over the top. Before he can get his arms up to contest a shot, Griffin explodes up and over him flipping a hook shot that rolls in.

Now, we know Griffin is a beast and Davis has to use all his strength to prevent him from getting any closer to the rim, but AD has to learn how to keep one of his arms vertical at all times. This would deter any offensive player to even consider shooting over him.

And, as for Griffin pounding his way closer to the rim, AD could take a page out of Ryan Anderson's book and take a charge. I've seen many a player coordinate one of Griffin's back-in pushes and tag him with a timely offensive foul.

Here, the Clipper's shooting guard, J.J. Redick sets a back screen on Anthony Davis. Now, most of the fault is on Austin Rivers for leaving his help position early, but Davis could have mitigated it by falling back into the middle of lane more quickly once the ball started to move away from him on the floor. Either way, it needs to be corrected one of those two ways because look below!

Later in the half, the Pelicans get burned on the exact play as above -- a backscreen on AD by Redick. Unlike Rivers, who paused briefly, Tyreke Evans never gives help defense a second thought so look how open Griffin ends up on the play. Quite inexcusable.

Anthony Davis is fifth in the league in steals, but on this play it wasn't wise to go for the gamble. He legitimately didn't have a chance at the swipe, and more importantly, it happened on a very vulnerable part of the floor. By the time the rest of the Pelicans noticed, it was too late to stop Griffin going in for the dunk.

For the third time in 24 minutes, Anthony Davis gets back screened by a guard (this time CP3) and it leads to more trouble. Jrue Holiday did a much better job than both Rivers and Evans as he stayed with Blake until Davis was just four feet away and closing. However, AD didn't move as quickly as he could, took a wrong path in recovering to a good position and underestimated how quickly Griffin would be once he gained possession.

Result: Davis' 2nd foul of the half and a trip to the bench (remember Monty and his two fouls in the first half methodology with some players). Thankfully, Griffin missed both freebies and the Pelicans went on to score 5 points to tie the game; however, the Pelicans are usually not as fortunate when Davis has to sit with foul trouble.

Final Thought

Both Davis and the team were punished for 10 easy points by Blake Griffin that should have been better deterred. In this game, the Clippers were hot from all over the floor, so chances are they would have still gone on to win the game.

Regardless, in closer games, these flaws will likely make a larger impact. Anthony Davis and the rest of the Pelicans need to develop a better understanding of what elite individual players and superb offensive teams are trying to do. New Orleans defense will never reach elite status if they continue to allow themselves to be victimized for so many easy scores.