NBA Draft 2012: 5 Reasons Anthony Davis Won't Cave Under High Expectations
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
A little over three weeks away from the 2012 NBA draft and there is one certainty. A big one.
Kentucky big man Anthony Davis is going No. 1 overall, to the New Orleans Hornets.
According to DraftExpress.com, Hornets GM Dell Demps all but confirmed what we already knew about Davis. After leading the Wildcats to a national title and averaging 14.2 points, 62 percent shooting, 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per game while anchoring a team that went 35-1, Davis will be making the Big Easy his home for the foreseeable future.
Being the first pick in any draft brings with it high hopes and lofty expectations. And given what the Hornets franchise has been through over the past couple of years, Davis will be seen as instant savior the minute he walks on stage and shakes David Stern's hand, if he hasn't already.
So how will he handle it? If there was any pressure at UK last year, it was on coach John Calipari, who was fielding his umpteenth phenom-laden squad in a row at either Kentucky or Memphis but had yet to win a championship.
Davis was one of many super prospects, along with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague and so on.
In New Orleans, he'll be expected to be the man from the opening tip of the season. There will be a couple of veterans there to support him. But all eyes will be on him.
Davis seems pretty well adjusted, though. He appears to have a good makeup, has been very grounded from when the Wildcats were on their run to the title through last week's lottery. Add to that his immense talent and reputed excellent work ethic, and he looks like he has what it takes to handle the pressure and scrutiny that will come with his being taken first on June 28.
Here are a few reasons why.
Davis should be a force around the basket on both ends right away.
From a purely basketball standpoint, Davis is a can't-miss prospect.
In addition to his size, his footwork and his hands, all of which should make him a menace in the post, particularly after his 19-year-old frame fills out a bit, he runs the floor like a small forward and possesses incredible ball skills for someone his size.
Maybe that's because he grew eight inches from the fall of 2008 to the summer of 2010, and his former position was point guard.
It may take a little longer for Davis to become more than just someone who can score around the basket or finish with authority from the paint. He has a very good first step, but facing up or putting the ball on the floor and driving are aspects of his game that will need work.
Even so, his incredible physical tools should make him an impact player on both ends fairly quickly. A good point guard, whether it's incumbent Jarrett Jack or someone the Hornets draft with their second lottery pick like Kendall Marshall or Damian Lillard, should be looking for Davis on lobs or back cuts frequently.
And on defense, his shot-blocking ability speaks for itself, after he finished this year's NCAA tournament with 29 blocks in six games, the second-most ever in a single tourney.
That trophy gives Davis a leg up when he gets to the NBA.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
It may seem modest at best, but what Davis experienced at Kentucky this past season will serve him quite well as he adjusts to life in the NBA.
The Wildcats were the favorites all year long, both in the SEC and on the national scene. Again, more pressure was on Calipari than any of the top players on that squad, all of whom were expected to declare for the draft after just one season. But maintaining the focus required to roll through the regular and postseasons the way Kentucky did was a big accomplishment.
Understanding what it takes to win will allow Davis to see that patience will be important in New Orleans. And it will come in handy with giving him credibility with his teammates.
Davis may only be 19. But he seems to be wise beyond his years.
3. The Situation
Ariza and the Hornets are starting over with Davis.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
The Hornets have engendered a lot of sympathy over the past couple of years, being under the league's stewardship and forced to trade off their franchise player, Chris Paul.
There were rumors about NBA basketball leaving the Crescent City for a while before Stern and Co. sold the team to Saints owner Tom Benson. Now finally under new, credible ownership, the franchise has a clean slate to start from scratch.
For this reason, New Orleans is a perfect scenario for Davis. He can grow and develop as the franchise does. It's not even remotely a situation in which the team will be expected to win any time soon, so it, and its franchise player, can come along at their own pace.
4. The Coach
Williams will be a very good influence on Davis.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
In Monty Williams, the Hornets have a very highly regarded, bright, young coach.
New Orleans won just 21 games this past season after trading Chris Paul to the Clippers. The trade created a bit of a circus around the team as well as took away its best talent.
The best player they got back from the Clippers in the Paul trade was Eric Gordon and he missed all but nine games with a knee injury.
But the Hornets played hard all year. Young players like Greivis Vasquez and Marco Belinelli were given big minutes and responded with solid years.
Williams had a lot to do with that. If you know you're at a disadvantage but you play for your coach at all times anyway, he must be pretty good.
Williams is. And he will instill a very positive environment in which Davis can thrive.
5. The No. 10 Pick
If Gordon leaves, whoever the Hornets take after Davis will become his biggest co-star.
Harry How/Getty Images
By being the first overall pick in the draft, Davis will automatically assume the role of franchise player. But lest we forget, the Hornets have another top-10 selection. And whoever that is will be forever linked with Davis regarding the future of the team.
If Gordon, a restricted free agent, winds up elsewhere, whoever the Hornets take at No. 10 will join Davis on the posters, billboards and media guides and will take on some of the pressure as well.
The smart money is on a point guard like Marshall or Lillard. Yet whoever it is, he'll immediately become Davis' running mate.