Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis were the two biggest additions to the New Orleans Hornets over the summer. They are two talented young big men with unique skill sets that will help the Hornets in numerous ways.
The question is how will these two succeed on the court together?
Anderson is the quintessential "stretch 4". He can crash the boards and do some things in the post, but his bread and butter is being able to shoot the three. Anderson averaged 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game last season for the Magic and won the NBA's Most Improved Player Award.
He's a versatile offensive weapon that can play a number of positions and score from the inside or out.
Davis is coming off a championship season with the Kentucky Wildcats. He set records for blocked shots in college and is the kind of once-in-a-generation defender teams dream of building around. While he only played sparingly, Davis contributed at times for Team USA and added to his accomplishments by taking home a gold medal.
Davis looks like he'll start the season as the starting power forward. As the No. 1 overall pick and potential face of the franchise, there is a clamoring to see what this talented big man can do. The team can certainly use his elite shot-blocking and rebounding skills. Davis also has a sneaky jumper, which he showed off at times both at Kentucky and in London.
Anderson's role isn't as clear-cut. Davis has the power forward spot locked down and Robin Lopez was acquired from Phoenix to be the starting center. Al-Farouq Aminu, who was brought in via the Chris Paul trade last winter, looks to be the starting small forward for now. That potentially leaves Anderson as the team's best option off the bench.
That doesn't mean the Hornets won't take advantage of their surplus of athletic bigs and play Anderson and Davis together. Anderson's ability to play either forward spot or center allows New Orleans to utilize the former Cal Bear in many ways.
I will break down a series of videos to show you how these two can share the court.
In this first video from the Christmas opener against Oklahoma City, we see many of Anderson's skills on display. The biggest thing you'll notice is Anderson's three-point shooting. The Magic used Anderson in catch-and-shoot situations, utilizing his height advantage and quick release. You also see Anderson showing great hustle on the boards.
Those instincts will come in handy if Davis decides to step out and try his jumper. It will force Davis' defender to step out to contest the shot but Anderson's presence in the paint would give New Orleans another rebounder on the inside. You'll also see how Anderson feeds Dwight Howard the ball in the post from the perimeter.
While Anderson doesn't have the greatest court vision, he passes well for a big man. The attention paid to Anderson on the outside opens up more space for Davis on the inside to operate. Anderson is selfless enough with the ball to give Davis opportunities to score in the paint with good passes.
In the second video, we see more of Anderson's inside game. With Dwight Howard out against the Sixers, Anderson had to be more of a physical presence in the paint and rely less on his outside game. The result was a 26 point/16 rebound performance against a solid defensive team in Philadelphia. The highlight reel shows off Anderson's versatility.
Even though the main focus of the second video is Anderson's post game, you still see how Anderson's height advantage makes it hard for defenders to contest his shot on the outside. Even an athletic defender like Andre Iguodala couldn't get up high enough to get a hand on Anderson's shot. Anderson's ability to score from anywhere can allow the Hornets to run plays for Davis in different spots on the court.
Now, let's look at what Davis can do.
In this compilation of highlights from Davis' only season in Kentucky, Davis' best talents stand out from the get-go. The first few seconds start with a look at Davis' magnificent wingspan. From there, you see the defensive capabilities that make Davis an elite talent. Even on blocked shots his team doesn't recover, Davis keeps his position and keeps attacking the basketball.
Davis' defensive presence in the paint not only makes up for Anderson's defensive woes, but it also allows Anderson to play on the perimeter where he's more comfortable. The Hornets don't need Anderson to be an excellent defender. Anderson picks up Davis' slack on offense while Davis returns the favor on the other side of the ball.
Another big thing to watch for when looking at Davis' defense is his willingness to step out and challenge shots on the perimeter. Against Arkansas, Davis helped out a teammate who bit on the pump fake by rejecting a Razorback player's three-point attempt. Davis also stepped in front of a pass against Kansas and went coast-to-coast for the score. That's not the kind of athleticism you normally see from a big man.
In the second video, we see a bit of Davis brings to the table on offense. While the Kentucky alumni game was an exhibition and there wasn't a lot of tough defense, Davis still impressed on the offensive end. Most of Davis' points in college came from dunks and alley-oops, but Davis shows off the range on his jumper in this highlight reel.
Davis is still very raw, especially on the offensive end. Still, he's someone who can get his share of points if you leave him alone inside. Defenses will still need to pay attention to Davis on offense, even as his game is a work in progress. That will open things up for Anderson, especially on the perimeter.
At the end of the day, Davis and Anderson will benefit from playing with each other. Davis' defense will lead to many fast break points and scores in transition. Anderson's ability to shoot from the outside will give Davis more room on the inside. They will develop into a solid inside-outside combination as Davis matures more as an NBA pro.
Their combination of height, shooting touch, rebounding ability and athleticism is an advantage New Orleans will use to their benefit. As long as these two are on the court together, the Hornets will have a mismatch they can exploit for years to come.