Is Anthony Davis the Next Kevin Garnett or Marcus Camby?
I would lean toward "Garnett" over "Camby." Slightly related, It would sure be nice to see him play a bit more in these Olympics. Anthony Davis has become something of Team USA's victory cigar, only deployed when leads are absolutely safe. In this brief FIBA action, the 19-year-old has looked understandably tentative. His normally impeccable timing on blocks has not been there, and bulkier players have had success pushing him out of the lane via the sharply jutted rump.
In other words, he's an NBA rookie. Davis is enormously talented, but still has a ways to go. He did not arrive in London as a finished product, nor should he have been expected to be one. This is a learning process for a defensive prodigy, and past experience says that AD possesses a steep learning curve.
But have we learned anything about what he will become? Based on the early returns, I still like the KG comparison.
The Camby comp was made because Anthony Davis is skinny and blocks shots. That's about it, as far as I can see. It isn't as though Davis has a loping, overhead set shot. It isn't as though Davis blocks shots outside the flow of a defense, often exposing his team on that front.
While I like Marcus Camby as a player, I fear that such a comparison is unfair to Anthony Davis. Camby is a plus defender, but he lacks the mobility and schematic understanding of say, Tyson Chandler or Kevin Garnett. He's a weakside block artist with little else to boast, defensively.
In college Anthony Davis was like a defensive quarterback, not only blocking everything in his purview, but moving like a guard on the perimeter. In this way, AD was like KG. He's capable of stuffing a driver at the rim, but equally capable of scaring the hell out of a point guard on a switch.
For all his strong suits, Marcus Camby does not possess such a skill. When he "hedges" above the three-point line, he's not significantly better than your average big man at moving beyond the arc.
Also, basing a Camby-Davis comparison on shot-blocking undersells Davis' shot-blocking. As a freshman at UMass, Camby claimed a 3.6 block-per-game average. Impressive, certainly, but Marcus also racked up fouls to the tune of 3.5 per game. His best block mark was 3.9 in his third year, wherein he curbed the fouls to 2.6.
Anthony Davis blocked an absurd 4.7 shots in his single season of college play. He did so amid an even more staggering feat. The lanky first-year power forward only fouled 2.1 times per contest. This is historic, to the point where it is difficult to project what Davis will do because no one has done anything like this.
So compare Davis to Camby based on shot-blocking, but also know that AD comes out far ahead. The shot-blocking gap between college Davis and college Camby is analogous to the shot-blocking gap between Andrew Bogut (1.6 college career blocks per game) and Jeremy Lin (0.6 college career blocks per game).
We do not know what Kevin Garnett's block numbers would have looked like on a college team. I'd err on the side of "impressive," but this is not what currently impresses about KG's game. Garnett's defensive game is special because he flaunts considerable range on the defensive end. No other player covers as much vertical and horizontal space on a pick-and-roll, save for Dwight Howard.
Anthony Davis is also blessed with such range, though you mostly see it on highlight blocks. Davis can be out of the picture frame, then suddenly surge forth, redirecting a shot like a mysterious, sudden wind gust.
Offensively, Anthony Davis might be closer to Camby. His skills are unrefined and his jumper appears a shade shakier than KG's beautiful, arcing 18-footer. Though, to his credit, Davis might have superior hands to both players. There's a reason why everyone seems to be throwing lobs in this guy's direction.
I'm a Davis believer, so I believe he'll trend closer to the better player (Garnett). Part of what makes the kid so exciting, though, is that I can envision multiple trajectories for a fantastic career.
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