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Anthony Davis will carry less of the offense, be more efficient thanks to DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo

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Alvin Gentry took the training wheels off two years ago. Now enough talent exists for Davis to spread his wings.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Davis had arguably the most efficient season for a 21-year-old in NBA history just two short years ago. He was the darling of the league, the favored building block of NBA GMs, and a legitimate MVP candidate according to the esteemed Zach Lowe.

All of that, even in retrospect, made sense.

Davis was going to be unleashed in Alvin Gentry’s go-go offense and AD had posted an absurd 30.8 PER the year before with the far less respected offensive mind of Monty Williams calling the shots. Here is the list of players to ever post a 30+ PER and notice it is stacked with Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers. Davis did it at 21 — no one had ever accomplished that feat so young.

The head coach’s plan has not taken flight, and that motto itself has been shown the door. Yet, I believe Davis is on the cusp of reaching those heights, and even higher.

Let me explain.

The Monty Williams plan can best be explained as training wheels. Anthony Davis was rarely asked to create his own shot beyond attacking the offensive glass. He was the world’s most overqualified garbage man by cleaning up misses at the rim from (mostly) Tyreke Evans, hovering along the baseline for highlight slams, and shredding the net as a deadly pick and pop threat. Gentry arrived, injuries (not his fault) came along too, and the training wheels were forcibly removed.

In the past two years Davis has seen his usage increase substantially. The vast majority of that increase can be tied to AD cooking for himself rather than allowing a point guard to serve him the dishes we were all used to under Monty. Like many kids without training wheels or young adults living on their own for the first time, there were mistakes. Many, many mistakes. In the last two years Davis has posted an eFG% more akin to his rookie season than that of the world beater we saw in 2015. Turnovers have increased; shots in the restricted area have diminished.

All along, be mindful of the fact that Davis has improved.

Each summer Davis comes back better, yet it has shrouded by the ever present request to do more from the coaching staff. 22.7% of AD’s shots came off two or more dribbles last season according to NBA Stats, nearly double what it was (11.9%) in 2014-15. Working alone in the NBA is harder than working together.

Davis should ideally do less of the job by himself in the upcoming season. Over the past two seasons, his work load has only grown as the proportion of shots after two seconds or two dribbles has steadily increased.

Anthony Davis Shot Tracking Data

Anthony Davis Tracking Touch 2+ Secs eFG% 2+ Dribbles eFG% USG% eFG%
Anthony Davis Tracking Touch 2+ Secs eFG% 2+ Dribbles eFG% USG% eFG%
2014-15 31.5% 42.4% 11.9% 42.3% 27.8% 53.6%
2015-16 32.2% 37.4% 14.7% 40.4% 29.6% 50.8%
2016-17 39.5% 42.9% 22.7% 47.5% 32.6% 51.8%
NBA Stats

Playing alongside DeMarcus Cousins, Jrue Holiday, and Rajon Rondo, New Orleans should ask Anthony Davis to do far less of the lifting on his own. The addition of Chris Finch as well should alleviate some of AD’s burden as more inventive methods of operation are implemented. Crashing the offensive glass more should be on the table, adding more easy baskets for a team that may at times struggle to space the floor.

Looking at Davis and Cousins, one would assume that Davis would be the one to float around the perimeter to give way to Boogie in the paint. Despite appearances, it is DeMarcus Cousins who is far more suited to playing around the elbows thanks to his superior passing ability and long range shooting acumen. I hope for less isolation post ups and more rim running and baseline prowling from AD in the upcoming year. Toss in a license to crash the glass and Davis should discover more attempts within the restricted area than he’s seen thus far under Alvin Gentry.

Creating less of his own offense (thanks to a changing role and being surrounded by better creators), more shots closer to the basket, and the ease of fewer double teams are on tap for Anthony Davis. The lessons he learned when Gentry took off the training wheels should now be better applied. And Davis will, even with all these environmental improvements, himself come back better after a healthy summer to focus on his craft without distraction of injury rehabilitation.

While I’m no fan of Rajon Rondo, acquiring another legitimate NBA shot creator will make Anthony Davis better. A healthy summer to tinker with his game and a training camp to get Davis and Cousins on the same page with assistant coach Chris Finch should also prove incredibly valuable.

2014-15 Anthony Davis was incredible. The ideal building block. An MVP candidate. This year, expect Anthony Davis to be even better.