2013 NBA All-Star Game

Can Anthony Davis Be an All-Star as a Rookie?

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 12:  Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Hornets is seen prior to the start of the game with the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center on October 12, 2012 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistOctober 16, 2012

LeBron James didn't do it. Kevin Durant couldn't either. But Anthony Davis can.

Anthony Davis has been pegged as a future superstar, but will he parlay that potential into an immediate All-Star selection in 2013?

It's extremely difficult to be named to an NBA All-Star team, but it's become borderline impossible to do so during an inaugural campaign. In fact, such a feat has been conquered just five times in the last 20 years.

But can Davis overcome the odds? Is he capable of undertaking the onerous task that dictates he separate himself from established stars, heralded athletes and All-Star fixtures out the gate?

Simply put, yes, he can.

It's not going to be a cakewalk, nor is Davis likely to start if he earns a selection, but it can be done. Especially now.

Come again?

In the last 20 years, there hasn't been a better time for a rookie of Davis' caliber to capture an All-Star appearance as part of his professional commencement.

I could tell you it's because Blake Griffin accomplished the feat in 2011—after sitting out his official rookie season—and Davis' two-way skill set is much more polished than his was, and I'd be relaying the truth. But I'd be lying if I told you that was the only reason, or even half of the reasons, why it's possible.

Yes, Davis stands to make a much greater impact on both sides of the ball than Griffin; he's the most versatile athlete to come out of the draft since LeBron himself. He has an aptitude for clogging the passing lane and blocking shots, he hoards rebounds like they're a life-saving elixir, he's got the handle of a point guard as a power forward, his jump shot knows no bounds, he's extremely comfortable playing above the rim and his mobility is matched by no one his size.

But it goes beyond his varying bag of tricks—beyond the 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.7 blocks and 1.4 steals he averaged per game at Kentucky—and into the reality of circumstance.

The Western Conference is preparing for a shift in the balance of power, and I'm not just speaking of the Lakers' attempt to dethrone the Thunder as the team to beat.

I'm referring to the balance of power at the forward position, where only Kevin Durant and Kevin Love are comfortably situated.

When you look at the West's All-Star rosters over the past decade, you see forward fixtures such as Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki, two athletes who total 29 years of NBA experience with an average age of 35.

Attachment to either athlete aside, Duncan is 36, and the state of Nowitzki's knees is finally catching up to the 14 years of wear and tear he put on them. Could this be the first time in 12 years neither forward earns a spot on the All-Star roster?

With a budding young stud like Davis, who has the potential to match either athlete's impact, you bet your lucky stars there's a strong possibility at least one of them misses out.

As much as we attempt to ignore it, there comes a time when All-Star staples fall from their pedestals and land in the backseat. For Duncan and Nowitzki, that time could be now.

What about LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin?

Aldridge means as much to the Blazers as anyone else in the league does to his team, but he's notoriously overlooked.

Many consider him a top-five power forward—and rightfully so—and he did earn his first All-Star selection in 2012, but what about his 2010-11 campaign?

You know the one I'm referring to. It was the year Aldridge put up MVP-caliber numbers and never received recognition in the form of an All-Star roster spot. Who's to say the perpetually overlooked forward doesn't remain that way?

As for Griffin, his high-flying antics almost guarantee him a spot, but his twice surgically repaired knees say otherwise

Case in point—the West's forward docket isn't set in stone. If anything, it's porous, leaving plenty of room for a new face to emerge.

Enter Davis.

While a large part of his immediate All-Star potential is out of his hands—in a good way—he cannot traipse his way into Houston; he has to give fans and the league a reason to embrace a shift in power and popularity.

That comes down to his ability to prove his worth to New Orleans, the franchise that hopes to build an eventual contender around him.

At this point, that's a mere formality.

Though the Hornets spent a pile of money improving their roster this offseason, their dynamic rests almost solely on Davis' shoulders.

The hope has been that he would come to form a dynamic duo with fellow stud Eric Gordon. But the combo guard, Davis' supposed partner in crime, is still fighting a losing battle with his right knee.

According to John Reid of The Times-Picayune, New Orleans is hopeful Gordon can see action before the preseason is out, but there is no set timetable for his return. Yet even when he is cleared to play, there is no guarantee that his surgically repaired knee holds up and no guarantee the guard who has appeared in just 205 games in four years has the type of impact he's supposed to.

That leaves Davis to carry the two-way burden for the Hornets.

Ryan Anderson may be the reigning recipient of the NBA's Most Improved Player award, but he's one-dimensional, and after four years, it's clear he's not a viable pillar.

There's also Austin Rivers, who has a ceiling that matches Gordon's, but as he makes the transition into a primary facilitator role, there are bound to be some significant, widely publicized growing pains.

Davis, though, is in a much better situation. Whether or not he spends most of his time at center or power forward is irrelevant; he has an athletic edge over most of the NBA's big men.

Few bigs have the defensive anticipation Davis does, few frontcourt staples have the ability to score from anywhere on the floor the way he can and even fewer are the perpetual double-double machines he already is.

Will there be bumps in the road, moments when Davis' inexperience prevails? Most definitely, but this is a kid who was selected to the Olympics basketball roster before playing a minute of pro ball. This is a player who will be—at the very least—as integral a member to the Hornets as Griffin was to the Clippers in 2010-11.

Most importantly, though, this is a rookie who will have plenty of opportunities to shine from Day 1, who has already become his team's most valuable player and who enters the Western Conference at a time when it's searching and pining for the next elite frontcourt talent.

Davis has already been deemed that future talent. But history dictates rookies don't normally make All-Star teams.

Well, forget history. Durant and James aren't any less heralded because they didn't see the light of an All-Star roster immediately, and Davis' inclusion won't make him the superior athlete.

It still comes down to circumstance.

Yes, Durant and James were the immediate faces of their respective franchises, but they played a "popular" position and more common role. Sure, they're forwards, but more emphasis is placed on and more recognition is given to big men who excel as rookies as opposed to perimeter scorers.

Those five rookies who made an All-Star team over the last 20 years we talked about earlier? Four of them were power forwards or centers. Just like Davis.

So, while we cannot allow the rarity that is a rookie All-Star selection to cloud our judgment, we must acknowledge that history, in a positional regard, is on his side.

Considering that the West is ready for a positional shakeup of its own, and that Davis has been given both the necessary tools to succeed and the means to implement them, questioning if the rookie forward is capable of becoming an immediate All-Star is almost futile.

Courtesy of numerous mitigating circumstances, this is the real question: Why can't Davis be an immediate All-Star?

 

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