I have a confession to make. As big an NBA fan as I am (and that’s big—about 6’5”, 225), until Monday night, I hadn’t watched Anthony Davis, you know, play. In the NBA, that is.
Oh I saw him play in college—he was the guy killing my alma mater in the NCAA championship game, right? And I’ve taken several a gander at his stat lines on my fantasy team (thankfully). But for whatever reason—be it his injury-shortened 2012-13 compounded by the league’s aversion to televise his team’s games, his injuring himself in his first locally viewable game in my market this season, or some sick plot to ruin a second thing this year that I once thoroughly enjoyed (seriously, thanks for Seasons 1 and 2 though, Homeland), I hadn’t sat down and watched Anthony Davis play even an entire half as an NBA player, let alone a game.
So when I came across the start of the second half of New Orleans Pelicans-Sacramento Kings on NBA TV on Monday night at 11:30 p.m. while debating retirement to bed over the last spoonfuls of a quart of Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream (don’t judge me, I’m asking for a gym membership for Christmas), I snatched at the chance the way I was about to watch Davis snatch at boards for the next 24 minutes of basketball.
What did I see in that second half? Offensively, nothing flashy. He hit only two field goals on eight attempts, both wide open flushes on nice feeds from Tyreke Evans. But he did manage to hit all eight free-throw attempts—itself an advantage over most fellows Davis’ size—and earned the attempts about as effortlessly as he stroked them into makes: twice facing his defender from 20 feet and taking a long, quick step around on his way to being forced to the ground; following his own miss on an 18-foot catch-and-shoot; and being held as the roll man after a pick (more on this later).
And the rebounding. Oh, the rebounding! How he only managed one board in the first 24 minutes, I’m not sure. But there he was in the second half, bouncing up like a pogo stick and extending his arms out of his area to one-hand-snatch rebounds he had no business snatching, inches away from the outstretched arms of would-be rebounders. He Inspector Gadgeted his way to 10 in the half.
Which brings us to Blink-182’s favorite part of Davis’ game: all the small things.
Whether he finished with 21 and 11 or not (he did), the threat of a player of Davis’ size, quickness, and jumping ability helps his teammates immensely.
He had zero of his signature blocks. But, as every announcer is obligated to relay at least twice during any game featuring a player averaging more than two blocks per game (no really, it’s in the by-laws), he affects so many shots whether his hand actually knocks them out of the air or not. Some days he’ll come up empty, some days he’ll total 17 swats in consecutive games. Coming into the Monday night’s game, he averaged 3.3.
He’s an ideal defensive matchup for what’s becoming one of the tougher covers in the NBA: the stretch 4. He has the length and quickness to defend the Paul Millsaps and Josh Smiths on the perimeter and interior, and with his man spotting up in the corner Davis finds himself in great position to fly in for his specialty weak-side block parties. In this game, Rudy Gay caught a pass in Rudy Gay Heaven, the top of the key (his name for it, not mine), took a few seconds to look from one end of Davis’ wingspan to the other, and swung the ball.
Being fast helps, too. Four of his points came simply by getting down the floor faster than his Sacramento counterparts. And if he’s not involved in finishing the break, it’s often because his quick rebound and outlet pass created it, although that still doesn’t preclude him from ending the break with a Brow Smash.
Oh, and the aforementioned foul he drew as the roll man in a pick-and-roll? That happened 20 feet from the basket, before his teammate had even decided whether to use the screen or not. With teams that concerned with sucking into the paint out of oop-fear, marksmen like Ryan Anderson and slashers like Evans have all the more space to exploit.
As if the blocked shots-affected shots cliche weren’t enough, there are a few more rightfully attached to Davis in regards to elevating his game. He does need to add weight. He can be a better passer. And it’s not hard to fathom a summer under the post-play tutelage of Hakeem Olajuwon. Regardless of how his game grows from here, Anthony Davis is special.
Featured Image courtesy of dpmzcnrd.