Comparing Anthony Davis NBA Skillset to Hakeem Olajuwon

Matt ShetlerCorrespondent IMay 8, 2012

HOUSTON - DECEMBER 29:  Former Houston Rockets Hakeem Olajuwon waves to the crowd as he is introduced to the crowd at Toyota Center on December 29, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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Kentucky's Anthony Davis will be the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and whether you like him or hate him, you can't knock his potential. Quite simply, Davis is one of the best big men prospects to come along in quite some time, possibly since Tim Duncan in 1997 or Dwight Howard in 2004.

Davis' skill set has already drawn comparisons to another former No. 1 pick in Hakeem Olajuwon, who put together a fantastic NBA career averaging 21.8 PPG, 11.8 RPG and 3.1 BPG.

There's no doubting that Olajuwon was one of the best NBA big men of all time, but let's take a look at how the young Davis' skill set compares to that of a legend.


Body Size

Davis has a wingspan that reaches over 7'6" and it's his biggest strength. The Dream also had outstanding length and reach, which makes the two similar in stature.

As for muscle, Olajuwon came into the league bigger and more NBA-ready, but also remember that he was 21 years old and Davis is only 19. Olajuwon ended up weighing over 250 pounds after he added muscle throughout his NBA career. Davis will be entering the draft at around 220 pounds.

He's going to have to add some muscle to that slender frame.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 31:  Anthony Davis #23 of the Kentucky Wildcats reacts in the first half while taking on the Louisville Cardinals during the National Semifinal game of the 2012 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at the Mercedes-Benz Sup
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Both guys have superb athleticism on their side. Olajuwon had the agility of a guard and could handle the ball like one, part of the reason why he was so dangerous.

Davis on the other hand, was a 6'3" guard just two seasons ago before a sudden growth spurt turned him into a beast of a defender. Watching him play, he's as smooth and fluid of a pure athlete as we've seen in the college game in quite some time.


Defensive Ability

I will start with defense because the two are extremely comparable. Olajuwon could block anyone's shot at anytime and wasn't afraid to muscle up any opponent. Watching Olajuwon's gifts defensively, his greatest asset may have been his mind as he often seemed to out-think his opponent as if it were a chess game.

Sure Davis needs to add muscle, but he has the potential to be an outstanding defensive big man. He has that rare package of speed and athleticism to go along with his length and explosiveness that could make him one of the better shot-blockers the NBA has ever seen.

Here's a look at the scouting report from scout Adam Ganeles (via as it relates to the potential of Davis as a defensive player.

Davis is a game wrecking defensive presence and disruptor unlike any incoming draft prospect in quite some time (4.8 BPG) ... He combines the physical shot blocking package of a 7’6 wingspan and quick leaping ability with a relentless motor and high-level defensive intelligence ... In addition to his length, the speed at which he chews up ground allows him to affect shots all over the court ... He has phenomenal recovery speed and can cover up the defensive blemishes of teammates ... Single-handedly suffocates opponents physically and mentally, as they know all attempts within his vicinity will be heavily contested at minimum ..

Inside Scoring

Olajuwon didn't have one flaw in his game and he was just as good offensively as he was on the defensive end. He shot over 51 percent from the floor for his entire career. He had a stunning array of post moves to go along with a devastating baby hook that he could shoot with either hand. If you wanted to create the perfect post player, it was Olajuwon.

Looking at Davis, some feel he doesn't have an offensive game, but nothing can be further from the truth. He shot over 63 percent from the floor as a freshman, so he has a soft touch around the rim and is a more explosive finisher than even a guy like Olajuwon.

Footwork is a strength of both men as Davis has advanced fundamentals for a 19-year-old. He will have to continue to develop his post moves to succeed at the NBA level, but the foundation is already there.

Here's a look at Ganeles' take on Davis as an offensive player:

Not afraid to mix it up on the interior despite his frail build ... Highly efficient offensive weapon (13.8 PPG, 65% FG) ... Predominantly an off-the ball target, cleaning up on alley-oops both off the pick and roll and dribble hands offs ..While not necessarily a power finisher, his explosiveness of the deck is effortless ... Capable of mid-air body adjustments on errant passes ... Displays the body control to hang and alter release to finish through a bump ... His jump shot form is aesthetically pleasing (71% FT), and its effectiveness certainly can be cultivated with work and experience ... Shows glimpses of pick and pop aptitude .


Outside Scoring

Davis has a smooth looking jumper that could turn into a weapon in the NBA, but The Dream had a simply unstoppable fadeaway.

Davis could become a guy with pretty decent range, but I don't see him, or anyone else for that matter, ever developing a near unstoppable go-to move such as Olajuwon's fadeaway.



A strength for both guys as Olajuwon was one of the better fundamentally good rebounders I've ever seen.

The difference between the two is that Olajuwon used his head along with great strength and positioning to become a great rebounder.

Davis on the other hand, just utilizes his freakish gifts as he can explode off the ground. He's extremely solid at crashing the offensive glass and keeping plays alive.


Passing/Ball Handling/Hands

I grouped all these traits into one and again, both are somewhat comparable. But if I had to give Davis an edge in one area it may be here.

He's outstanding at firing outlet passes quickly and accurately and has the hands and the length to catch almost any pass thrown to him. Also being a former guard, Davis handles the ball very well for a big man.

Olajuwon was similar and had very good hands. If I had to criticize any part of his game it would be his ball-handling as he averaged 3.0 turnovers throughout his career, but that would be nothing but nitpicking.

This is by no means to compare Davis to Olajuwon nor is it to suggest that the two will finish with similar NBA careers. It just illustrates the fact that the comparisons between the two based on their skill sets may not be as far off as people think.