Sports Illustrated finished unveiling their 2017 top 100 NBA players list yesterday and Anthony Davis winded up placing eighth overall. LeBron James topped the entire league for a fourth consecutive year, and he was followed respectively by Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard and James Harden .
According to Rob Mahoney, a combination of personal injuries and other New Orleans Pelicans issues have prevented Davis from rating higher, but given his age, it is likely his best is yet to come. Here is Davis’ breakdown word for word:
Injuries to and around Davis have sloped his entire NBA career uphill. The circumstances are never quite right for the Pelicans to take off, though their baseline is always raised by having a skilled big of such extraordinary influence. Davis takes the appeal of a premier finisher and expands upon it—with a face-up game, ball skills, and a solid jumper. His mobility in itself is a weapon. No big in the league can navigate the floor as smoothly and effortlessly as Davis, which forces opposing bigs out of their normal scope of responsibility to track him wherever he goes. Davis can flutter through the lane and draw in several defenders only to curl out for a jumper when they finally exhale. Davis doesn’t dominate the ball in terms of time of possession but his presence is a consistent tax on the defense. Losing track of a player this tall, this bouncy, and this roundly capable will often end in disaster. Keep in mind that we still haven’t seen anything near the best of Davis, either. Not only will the 23-year-old naturally develop as he goes along, but Davis has spent long stretches of recent seasons operating alongside stopgap starters in cluttered lineups. Unsurprisingly, Davis’s game sang whenever he played with Jrue Holiday, who was New Orleans’s best playmaker last season by far. Working alongside Holiday got Davis more shot attempts at the rim and turned awkward, desperation jumpers into clean catch-and-shoot attempts. Davis doesn’t need a ton. Give him even the slightest bit of creative help and his production will pop. Bring him along in the right kind of defensive ecosystem and he’ll cover ground as effectively as any big in the league while swatting away anything within his incredible wingspan.
One year ago, Davis ranked third overall, finishing behind James and Durant, and fourth overall the season prior.
It is clear that in order for Davis to jump to the head of the class, he will have to start avoiding the injury bug and help the Pelicans achieve a more prominent position in the Western Conference.