Breaking Down Where Anthony Davis Needs to Improve His Game for the NBA
When the New Orleans Hornets won the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery, that wasn't the headline. Instead, the focus was on the obvious No. 1 pick, Anthony Davis, as basketball fans finally knew where the Naismith winner will be headed to play professionally.
In Kentucky's run to the National Championship last year, Davis averaged a double-double in scoring and rebounding while leading the nation in blocks with 4.7 per game.
Even when Davis struggled to score the basketball, he had a direct impact on the game in other aspects.
In the Championship against Kansas, Davis shot just 1-10 from the field and scored only six points, but he made up for it by grabbing 16 rebounds, dishing out five assists, and blocking six shots. Despite a mediocre game scoring the basketball, anyone who watched the game still was in awe of his constant impact on the game.
Despite having one of the most diverse skill sets of any post player in recent memory, Davis is not a "can't miss" prospect, and he clearly has some deficiencies in his game.
What are they? Here are a few.
1) Must Become More Comfortable in the Post
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Kentucky rarely ran its offense through Davis last season. Although he averaged 14.3 points per game in college, most of that production came from grabbing offensive rebounds or picking up lose balls.
According to Synergy Sports Technology, only 20 percent of Davis' offensive production last season came off isolation plays whether it be posting up or spotting up. While it is acceptable for a defensive-minded NBA player to simply "pick up the trash" on the offensive end, Davis will need to improve his post game if he wants to live up to his potential as the top pick in the draft.
There aren't many dominant back-to-the-basket post players at the college level, so Davis isn't at all behind the curve.
Since he's just 19 years old, Davis is only scratching the surface of his potential. He was largely unknown until two summers ago, but now he's the hottest name in the sport of basketball. Davis grew eight inches in 18 months, so he's still getting used to his own skin on the basketball court. With proper coaching and a strong work ethic, he could develop into one of best post players in the game...quickly.
2) Be More Assertive on Offense
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The most natural aspect of Davis' game offensively is his mid-range jump shot.
Growing up, Davis played primarily guard before becoming the 6'11" athletic freak that he is today, and he still plays like a guard in some ways. Davis has a fundamentally sound release and is comfortable shooting the basketball from about 18 feet.
It's uncommon for a player of his caliber to be criticized for being "too much of a team player," but that may be the case with Davis at times. In order for his offensive skills to be on the same level as his defensive dominance, Davis must aggressively hunt shot opportunities.
He's a good enough shooter to take ten to twelve shots per game, but he only averaged 8.4 attempts at Kentucky, most of which came directly from offensive rebounds. Davis is a smart kid, and by all accounts, has an exceptional work ethic, so one would expect him to correct his weaknesses.
However, when it comes to shooting the basketball, Davis can't rely on tweaking his form in practice to improve his shot, he must actively pursue shots in actual game action.
3) Must Bulk Up, Add Strength
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This is the most obvious weakness of Davis' game.
Davis is built like Kevin Durant. The only difference is that Davis will at times be required to out-muscle bigger and stronger players in the post, whereas Durant uses his length to his advantage in creating his own shot away from the basket.
If he wants to become a well-rounded, multidimensional presence in the post, Davis should follow the body transformation that Kevin Garnett went through as a young player. Garnett came into the league as a very long and extremely thin power forward and transformed himself into a physically-imposing post player, while still maintaining his elite athletic ability.
Without losing his superior athleticism, Davis should be able to gain a solid ten pounds relatively quickly in his NBA career. A few years down the road, he could have an entirely different physique, which will be scary for the 29 NBA teams playing outside of New Orleans.