Managing Expectations for Anthony Davis
When Anthony Davis asserted that he had his eye set on not only the NBA Rookie of the Year award but also a first-team All-Defense selection and the Defensive Player of the Year trophy, he stole quite a few headlines and likely ruffled a few feathers. After all, when it comes to expectations set for first-year players, the most prestigious of awards—the MVP and the aforementioned DPOY, for example—typically remain off limits.
But Davis set the bar for his own first-year performance rather high, and the New Orleans Hornets are undoubtedly expecting great things from a talent projected to be a franchise-changer. That doesn't mean we on this side of the wall have to follow suit; Anthony is an understandable Rookie of the Year favorite and should do fine work this season, but his comments are best met with a chuckle or a shrug.
The best in the game have a tendency to hold themselves in such lofty regard, and though that level of audacity doesn't always give them the most accurate view of their NBA standing, we on this side of the divide have the valuable benefit of distance and the responsibility to know better.
As brilliant as Davis may someday be, there's little value in projecting immediate award dividends for a player who will be so obviously useful. There's such tiny potential for Davis to bust that the possibility can be written off entirely, making these kinds of benchmarks almost beside the point.
Davis is certain to be an exceptional defensive big in the pro game, and whether or not he ascends in his first season or in any other isn't a matter for value judgment. He's already changed the trajectory of the Hornets' future, and together with head coach Monty Williams, he stands to eventually reach many of the goals he so clearly has in his sights.
Yet in another way, it just seems silly to use accolades as a measure of expectation or evaluation, even if players understandably vie for those individual honors. The best defenders naturally want their name engraved on a Defensive Player of the Year trophy, and Davis isn't wrong to stake an early claim to all kinds of prestige. But those marks shouldn't be held against him as he finds his footing in the NBA game and shouldn't be used to evaluate his success in the short or long term.
New Orleans drafted a player to anchor their defense and transform their franchise, and it's those standards against which Davis can be fairly held. The rest is based in politics and a strict numbers game. And one can only hope that awards—or a lack thereof—aren't used to validate Anthony Davis' performance or career in one way or another.
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