NBA Sunday: Was Davis the Right Choice?
Eric Maynor - VIDEO OF THE DAY
After being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers this season, Maynor has done his part in trying to fortify the Blazers' paper-thin bench. Maynor is eligible for a Qualifying Offer of roughly $3.3 million this summer with Portland holding the cards as to whether the fourth-year point guard will return. HOOPSWORLD recently caught up with Maynor to gauge his thoughts on his NBA future.Watch More Video Here
Was Anthony Davis the Right Choice?
The battle for Rookie of the Year for the 2012-13 NBA season has been virtually a two-man race all year long. Number one overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft Anthony Davis and sixth selection Damian Lillard have distinguished themselves as the cream of the crop of this past year’s draft class this season.
Lillard led all rookies in both points (19) and assists (6.5) per game this year for the Portland Trail Blazers. Meanwhile, Davis finished first in rebounds (8.2), steals (1.2) doubles-doubles (20) and blocks per game (1.8) to go along with being fourth in points per (13.5) among first year players.
Even though Lillard would’ve looked great in a New Orleans Hornets’ uniform this season, Davis – when healthy – has been one of the season’s most promising rookies. Tack on the fact that third-year point guard Greivis Vasquez has come into his own this season, finishing third in the NBA in assists per game at nine per contest, and Davis may be the better fit.
“No doubt, no doubt in my mind,” forward Ryan Anderson told HOOPSWORLD of Davis’ ability to lead New Orleans into the future. “He’s a tremendous player. Obviously, his skill set, his size, his ability to defend, there’s not a lot of players like him out there. It’s been exciting seeing him grow this year and go through those rough patches and kind of answer those rough patches with great games. He finished off the season extremely well, and I think he’s just going to keep getting better and better and he’s going to keep showing people why he’s the number one pick. He’s a tremendous talent.”
In speaking with both veterans and rookies alike, the Hornets’ believe Davis was the right choice then and the right player now to lead New Orleans in their rebuilding process.
“For sure, Anthony deserved to be what he was,” fellow top-10 overall pick Austin Rivers told HOOPSWORLD. “There’s no doubting that. (Damian) Lillard played great, but it’s all about the situation you’re in. It’s not about how many numbers he puts up, or this guy puts up, or that guy puts up, but every player is in a different situation. Anthony (Davis) wasn’t a guy that came out where people we’re like, ‘He’s going to get thirty right away, every game.’ He’s a guy that’s going to take time. You can see already what he’s doing right now. He has things that most big guys are still trying to work on now: he can catch, he has footwork, he can run the floor, he’s in good shape, he can already shoot the mid-range jump shot. Those are things that big guys spend years in the league trying to get; those are things he’s coming into the league with already, so the only thing he needs to do is strength and other things.
“So if that’s all he needs, it’s only a matter of time and the sky’s the limit for him, so I have no doubt in my mind that he’s the right pick and he fits us perfectly,” Rivers explained. “I think every pick that we got fits us perfectly and I’m not just saying that because those are my teammates, I really like this team and I like we’re we are headed: in the right direction. I take my hat off to Lillard and what he’s been able to do in Portland, but he’s in Portland and that’s where he should be and we have A.D. in this is where he should be.”
There’s also evidence that Davis is evolving and beginning to understand the NBA game at a rapid pace. Addressing areas that need to get better this offseason is going to be crucial and an presumably bulkier Davis is more likely to be handle the 82-game rigors of the NBA next season. One thing that separated these two players was that Lillard played all 82 games this season while Davis missed nearly 20 contests due to injury.
“He’s going to get stronger and that’s going to help him get a little more consistent for him,” Hornets’ head coach Monty Williams said. “This summer he’ll have time to think about everything and that’s usually the time when players start to take that jump. I’ve talked to him about playing more ball against pros this summer, even if we have to go to LA or different places around the country where he get around other pros, because I think that’s how you get better. Couple that with the individual things that we do as a staff and he’s going to get better. I don’t want to make assessments about his game, I like where he is going. He was able to make adjustments that most guys couldn’t make, realized he’s not strong enough to play against bigger guys.
“In January, February, you start to see his game develop more he really started to really use his speed and was out running guys and that helps our team,” Williams said. “The moment for me was when he out-ran LaMarcus [Aldridge] at our place against Portland for a layup and got fouled. I started to realize that he started to pick it up, but he had to make adjustments, it was a good sign.”
The 20-year old Davis is only going to continue to evolve at the NBA-level and there’s no hesitation from New Orleans that they made the right selection in last year’s draft. Over the next few seasons, the development of players like Davis, Rivers, Vasquez and Eric Gordon is going to be crucial in the future Pelicans rise from the depths in the Western Conference.
Los Angeles Clippers: The West’s True Sleeper Team?
Despite amassing the best record at 56-26 and first Pacific Division title in franchise history this year, the Clippers have been overlooked heading into the 2013 postseason.
An impressive 112-91 stomping of the stout Memphis Grizzlies may put any talk of the Clippers not being ready to contend to rest as LA showcased it’s elite depth in the dominating win. Seven players featured double-digit point totals for Los Angeles as the Clippers steamrolled a trendy pick to make it out of the Western Conference.
“It was a total team effort,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro told The LA Times. “Our guys had to battle.”
The starting five for the Clippers kept the game within reach for three quarters before the reserve core broke the game wide open in the fourth. The Clippers bench scored nine straight points to start the quarter, helping LA surge to a nine-point lead midway through the final frame. LA rode that run to take a double digit lead just minutes later and didn’t look back for the rest of the contest.
“I think it’s a unique thing to have the depth we have, so why not use it?” Del Negro said. “They deserve the right to be out there.”
LA features a Sixth Man of the Year candidate in Jamal Crawford to go along with key role players like Eric Bledsoe, who was 7-7 from the floor in Game 1 against the Grizzlies – including 13 of his 15 points in the pivotal final frame. Oh, and did I mention Chauncey Billups is healthy and back in the starting lineup for the postseason?
Billups started just 22 games for the Clippers this season and his highly anticipated return could pay dividends in LA.
“I think I bring a lot of stability to the team,” Billups told the LA Times. “With my experiences, I think that guys pull from that confidence from what I’ve seen and what I’ve been through.
“They trust me. I just kind of tell them how I feel and not how I think they want to hear it. I think a lot of guys respect that from me. They probably don’t like it sometimes. But that’s kind of the way I was taught. I know it worked for me. And I think that they need that from me and that’s the role that I play.”
Conceivably healthy for one of the few times all season long, these Clippers could be in position to make a deep run this summer.