The last time a freshman forward received as much attention as Kentucky's Anthony Davis has received this year, his name was Kevin Durant. So it's fitting that Davis is the currently the favorite to win the Naismith Player of the Year Award this year, which will make him the second freshman to do so. In 2007 while playing small forward for Texas, Durant went on to become the first ever freshman to win the Naismith Player of the Year Award.
But the comparisons don't stop there. Anthony Davis will almost assuredly be the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. If the the 2007 NBA Draft could be done over today, Kevin Durant would be the top selection too, but the Portland Trailblazers accidentally selected Greg Oden No. 1 overall.
If you stood Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant next to one another, you'd notice they had even more in common. They're both tall and long, like, really long. Kevin Durant is 6'9" with a 7'5" wingspan. Anthony Davis is 6'10" with a 7'4" wingspan. And Davis compares very favorably to Durant in terms of college accomplishments, but while performing the eye test on him, their games are very, very different.
Kevin Durant dominates in the NBA. He's got other-worldly talent and is an incredible athlete. He's got serious handles for a guy his size and has ice water in his veins. He takes LeBron to school, as evidenced by the 28 he dropped on James in their recent match-up (he also held LeBron to just 17 points), which resulted in a win for the Thunder.
Anthony Davis has been dominant in college basketball this season. While he doesn't average as many points or rebounds as Kansas' Thomas Robinson (17.7 pts, 11.8 rebs), who is projected to be the runner-up to Davis in the voting, he impacts the game on the defensive end in more ways than anyone else in college basketball. Davis has built a nice resumé, which includes averages of 14.3 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.9 steals and an NCAA-leading 4.61 blocks per game. All of this while shooting 63% from the field, 71% from the stripe and committing fewer than one turnover.
Should Anthony Davis be drafted #1 overall?
And while basketball fans everywhere remark about how they cannot wait to watch Davis take over the NBA next season, there is reason to question if he will never dominate in the NBA. Take, for example the comparison between him and Durant physically. Durant plays the small forward and weighs 235 lbs. That's ideal size for an NBA small forward. But Davis weighs just 220 lbs and will be asked to play power forward (and at times, center). For comparison sake, New York Knicks' shooting guard JR Smith also weighs 220 lbs. If Davis fails to add size and strength, he will be bullied to no end in the post by the bigger, stronger players he'll be forced to play against in the NBA.
It's no secret that Anthony Davis really "grew up" in high school. At the start of his junior season, Davis was a guard who stood just 6'3". By the time he finished his senior year, he was a 6'10" big man. Imagining a player of Davis' size who possessed the skills of a guard would cause many NBA coaches and GMs to begin frothing at the mouth, and the Magic Johnson comparisons would never end.
But Davis wasn't a highly-touted guard prospect before the growth spurt. Yes, he's an incredibly versatile player who can handle the ball better than most his size. But no one is ever going to confuse him with the point guard of the Show Time Lakers. Others continue to boast of his guard-like abilities, saying that he's got the ability to shoot from outside, but he's shot a miserable 15% for the year behind the three-point line.
But it's not his shortcomings as a guard that should worry NBA teams, but rather that he's a guard-converted-forward who still has to learn to play in the post. NBA big men are notoriously difficult to develop. Between the footwork, adding bulk and adding post moves to your repertoire while perfecting your go-to move, it's an incredibly difficult process that few ever complete. And to dominate in the NBA, that's what you've got to do. Hakeem Olajuwon is considered by many to be the most dominant offensive post player in NBA history, and he had it all- the size, quickness, agility, athleticism and arsenal. Hakeem truly Dominated.
When it boils down to it, whoever drafts Anthony Davis will likely be getting Marcus Camby 2.0—which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Camby won the Defensive Player of the Year Award in the 2006-2007 NBA season. Camby and Davis are remarkably similar. They're practically the same height, same weight and same length. They had the same coach in college, and even John Calipari thinks Davis is the next Marcus Camby.
And their games are incredibly similar. On offense, they're capable of consistently hitting shots out around the elbow, and while Davis is the better jump shooter, he's behind Camby in terms of post scoring. On defense, it's the same story—they both use their length to force shooters to shoot over them and rack up blocks coming from the help side.
But Camby has never dominated the NBA. He's got lifetime averages of 9.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. And given the long road that lies ahead of Davis, it's far from a guarantee that he will ever dominate in the NBA the way he has dominated college basketball this season.