Hornets rookie Anthony Davis got the chance to learn from one of the greatest players to ever live when he participated in workouts with Spurs' legend Tim Duncan. The hope for Davis and the Hornets is that time spent working closely with "The Big Fundamental" pays dividends going forward.
As if Davis didn't get enough experience this summer playing for Team USA in the Olympics, Davis and a few of his teammates volunteered to travel to San Antonio to work out with Duncan. Duncan is the kind of basketball technician that is the perfect role model for a potential franchise cornerstone like Davis. Hornets fans dream of Davis' career rivaling what Duncan managed to accomplish so far with the Spurs.
Davis is considered the best big man prospect to enter the league since Duncan came aboard in the 1997-98 season. In his first season in the pros, Duncan averaged 21.1 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. He went on to win the NBA Rookie of the Year and, in his next season, won his first NBA championship.
Those accomplishments might be a bit far-fetched for a prospect as raw as Davis and a team as young as the Hornets. Duncan did spend four years at Wake Forest, after all, compared to only one season at Kentucky for Davis.
However, while Davis will be hard-pressed to mirror Duncan's rookie numbers, "The Unibrow" could benefit from learning a thing or two from "The Big Fundamental." There are facets of Duncan's game on and off the court that Davis should definitely try to emulate after working out together.
On the court, the first thing Davis can learn is Duncan's textbook bank shot. No big man is better at facing up against his opponent and nailing a jumper off the glass than Tim Duncan. Davis has shown range on his jumper in college and in London. Davis also doesn't have the strength yet to rely on a post-up game. By utilizing Duncan's jumper, Davis could be more of a factor on the offensive end.
Here is a short highlight reel of what Duncan does best. Duncan has spent 15 years in the NBA making the backboard his best friend. Whether he uses it in a turnaround or simply squares up and lets it go, Duncan's bank shot is next to unstoppable. In the video, you see Duncan breaking down what he wants to do when using his jumper and also comments from victims of Duncan's go-to move.
Davis has uncanny length and wingspan. If he can develop a bank shot somewhat similar to Duncan's, it will be tough for NBA big men to defend. It will also give the Hornets a way to get their young big man involved in the offense beyond lay-ups and alley-oops. It's also a great weapon to have when Davis gets older and can't rely strictly on his athleticism to get buckets.
The biggest thing Davis can learn from Duncan is leadership. Like Duncan, Davis is quiet and unassuming. He doesn't have the in-your-face intensity of a LeBron James or Kevin Garnett. Instead, both Davis and Duncan handle their business in a calm and cool manner and let their play do the talking.
Duncan has become the backbone of a Spurs franchise that has won four championships during his era. He is one of the biggest reasons San Antonio continues to be a factor in the playoffs, even as he gets long in the tooth. Duncan's leadership isn't about flash or appealing to the media. He leads with a strong dedication to winning and intense focus.
Davis, meanwhile, is coming off a championship season with Kentucky and winning a gold medal in the Olympics. He brings a winning attitude to a Hornets team that finished with the worst record in the West last season. By becoming more of a leader like Duncan, Davis can quickly establish himself as a franchise cornerstone on a team that needs a reliable face.
Currently, the case can be made that Eric Gordon is the Hornets' franchise face. However, Gordon has only played nine games in his Hornets career and isn't durable enough to be counted on as a dependable leader on the court. Davis has more of a winning pedigree than Duncan did as a rookie and now has learned under some of the greats of the game. He's the perfect person to take charge of this young Hornets team.
The hope is that working out with Duncan did more than give the Spurs' big man a peek at what he'll be facing when the Spurs face the Hornets on opening day. Tim Duncan is a four-time champion and two-time MVP. He's a sure-fire Hall of Famer and the perfect blueprint for a rookie like Davis.
We know Davis will block shots and dominate the boards, much like Duncan has throughout his career. The key things Davis should have taken away from working with Duncan is Duncan's command of the court and his textbook jumper.
Rookies normally don't get the chance to spend their first summer as a pro learning from the best. Anthony Davis has gotten that rare opportunity. For his and the Hornets' sake, here's hoping all of that extra work pays off just like it has for Tim Duncan.