Anthony Davis established his otherworldly studliness around the league some time ago; however, one critical component has always been amiss: the ability to consistently make teammates better.
In the blowout victory over the Houston Rockets on opening night, Davis finished with a line of 32 points, 16 rebounds, three steals, three blocks AND EIGHT ASSISTS!
Maybe AD is right: He is the NBA’s most dominant player in the game today.
Last season, Davis averaged 2.3 assists per game which did set a new career high; however, both this rather unimpressive number and our eyes told us that he still lacked the ability to put the entire weight of the team on his shoulders on offense.
Oh, he could pile up points in bunches. Smother any opponent scoring threat — whether in the paint or out on the perimeter. Get to the free throw line and convert in crunch time. Completely tear apart opposing defenses with his immense gravity. Yet, if asked to make a play for someone else when the inevitable double team arrived, a pass back out to the perimeter to reset the offense was the usual result — pray not a difficult shot attempt or a turnover.
Against the Rockets, Davis actively sought and found open teammates. #AllNightLong
And as for that missing assist from the collection above, undoubtedly the fanciest pass on the night was when AD hit a cutting Jrue Holiday with a behind the back diaper dandy!
AD with a career-high 8 assists #DoitBIG pic.twitter.com/3rqDVYyeoK— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) October 18, 2018
Who needs Rajon Rondo, when Rajon Rondo is coursing through Anthony Davis’ veins!
Not only did those eight assists mark a new career high, they also displayed the growth in Davis from last season. Too many have been waiting for him to add a three-point shot to his game for over the last few years, but the real key has always been becoming an above average playmaker. Just think Giannis Antetokounmpo, one of the favorites for this season’s MVP. Or, take a gander at history because precedent is strong.
Here’s the last five instances of big men hoisting the trophy awarded to the best player.
|2017-18 Anthony Davis||28.1||11.1||2.3||1.5||2.6|
|2006-07 Dirk Nowitzki||24.6||8.9||3.4||0.7||0.8|
|2003-04 Kevin Garnett||24.2||13.9||5.0||1.5||2.2|
|2002-03 Tim Duncan||23.3||12.9||3.9||0.7||2.9|
|2001-02 Tim Duncan||25.5||12.7||3.7||0.7||2.5|
|1999-00 Shaquille O'Neal||29.7||13.6||3.8||0.5||3.0|
Notice the commonality shared among all of the winners in the assist category. Even big men seemingly have to show the ability of being able to directly function as a funnel for the rest of the offense — no dependencies allowed!
Anthony Davis, while literally great at everything else, was a step or two below this group of incredible talents as late as last season. Most definitely the number of wins a team accumulates helps to ultimately decide MVP winners but possessing an inability to initiate scores from teammates is also determinative in being a legitimate candidate.
Following a Houston defensive switch that left a guard on him, Davis punished the smaller defender with an overpowering move to the rim and easy score. When Houston sent various double teams, Davis time and again found an open teammate for more easy points.
We could be looking at an Anthony Davis who likely has no more weaknesses. If so, be sure to enjoy this new era of dominance in the NBA, one that could lead to the first of possibly several Most Valuable Player Awards in less than a year’s time.