Is Anthony Davis Truly Deserving of #1?
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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We’re at the point of the season where someone typically establishes themselves as the favorite to be the number one pick in the draft. This year Kentucky Wildcats forward Anthony Davis is looking like the best available in the 2012 class. He’s firmly at the top of just about every mock draft board. The second-ranked prospect varies, but the one thing they all have in common is that they’ve got a lot of ground to make up in order to pass Davis.
Is he the real deal? Or is he just another over-hyped collegiate player who will struggle to make the transition to the NBA?
Davis’ game is not without weaknesses. His base is not where it needs to be yet from a strength standpoint. On the offensive end he gets bodied into some tough looks and will sometimes settle for shots going away from the basket. It also prevents him from getting deep position at times. He plays on a team littered with first round picks, though, and is very unselfish. He isn’t overly aggressive in creating his own offense, rather focusing on finishing the high-percentage opportunities that come his way off of his teammates’ creativity and offensive rebounds.
As far as post moves are concerned, Davis actually possesses a nice set. He’s comfortable attacking in each direction on both blocks with his back to the basket. He already has confidence in his left hand and will go to it around the basket. He attacks the baseline most regularly, looking to utilize his incredible quickness for someone who is 6’10. Once he improves his lower body strength, he’ll be someone a team can run plays for in the post. His speed also comes in handy on the screen-and-roll, where he is very effective going towards the basket. If he gets it anywhere around the key, he’s liable to explode and finish.
Davis’ jump shot is good enough at this point of his career to where it’s safe enough to expect it to become a reliable weapon with more work. He doesn’t need to get set up as a spot up shooter either, he can also rise up and score off of the dribble. He’s shooting just under 70% from the free throw line this year. After going 4-10 against LSU on January 28, he’s made 13 of his last 15. So, while not immune from the occasional off night, Davis can be counted on at the charity stripe.
Defensively Davis’ lack of lower body strength comes into play too. Stronger players can establish deep position on him. However, by virtue of being ridiculously long, explosive and possessing great timing, Davis is difficult to score on no matter how far you back him down. He leads the nation with 4.8 blocks a night. He’s blocked five or more shots 12 times this year and recorded a career-best eight twice.
He’s active as an offensive rebounder, but prioritizes grabbing defensive boards, which is almost as important as his shot blocking.
Out on the perimeter Davis holds his own on the pick-and-roll. He’s quick footed enough to pick up the ball handler on the switch or get back to his man if he hedges. His length is just as troublesome away from the basket, where he uses it to get deflections and steals.
Obviously, the positive aspects of Davis’ game greatly outweigh the few negatives, none of which appear to be of any serious long-term concern. One positive that hasn’t even been mentioned yet is his youth. Although he doesn’t look like it and never plays like it, Davis is only 18 years old.
It’s almost scary to think about how good he’ll be when he’s 21. By then he’ll have two years of NBA coaching under his belt, a significantly stronger physique and a more polished offensive game.
There are a few NBA players who Davis will remind you of. The first one is Portland Trail Blazers center Marcus Camby. They have similar builds, great shot blocking instincts, and the ability to hit the mid-range jumper. His all-around game will also give flashbacks to a young Boston Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett. There was a time and period where Garnett was almost a mirror image of Davis now. We never got to see Garnett play collegiately, but he too lacked strength at 18 and was much more of an impressive athlete than finished project back then.
It’s not really fair to compare any freshmen to a Hall of Famer, but if there’s anyone worthy of it it’s Davis. Nothing against North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes, UConn’s Andre Drummond or even his teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Davis is the number one pick regardless of the winner of the draft lottery. If the season ended tonight, the Charlotte Bobcats, New Orleans Hornets, Washington Wizards, Detroit Pistons and New Jersey Nets would have the best odds to land the top pick. Not only would they each take Davis, he’d play big minutes for them immediately as a rookie.
Five Games to Watch This Week: 2/13: Syracuse at Louisville (7 PM EST), Iowa State @ Baylor (7 PM EST), 2/16: North Carolina State at Duke (9 PM EST), 2/18: Saint Mary’s at Murray State (6 PM EST), Ohio State at Michigan (9 PM EST).
Senior NCAA and NBA analyst Yannis Koutroupis will be hosting his weekly chat at 11 am EST this Friday February 17 at 11 am EST. You can get your questions into him here.