Given the right setup, he could thrive as an all-around star in 2012-13.
The 2012 NCAA champion and Olympic gold medalist still has room for growth in his outside shooting and ball-handling, but there are several offensive sets and plays that Monty Williams can use to enhance Davis.
We all know pick-and-rolls and predetermined lobs are Davis' most dangerous weapons, but how exactly can the Hornets make it work against NBA defenses? If Eric Gordon and Co. can stay healthy, Davis will have an exciting rookie year.
1. Elbow Pick-and-Roll
This is a setup that both Kentucky and Team USA used to free Davis for lobs, and it's frequently executed in the NBA.
Davis starts just above the low block, with the primary ball-handler (Eric Gordon, Greivis Vasquez or Austin Rivers) dribbling on the wing. Davis then comes up to the elbow or further to set the screen on the ball-handler's defender.
If the pick is set up for the ball-handler to go sideline/baseline, then Davis rolls to the paint and has room to work with for a toss or dish.
That's a great option, but the upside of the ball-handler dribbling to the middle means he has more options besides lobbing. For example, he would be in better position to dish to Ryan Anderson spotting up.
Russell Westbrook and Davis work the elbow screen to perfection at 2:27 (below). There is also a variation of it with James Harden at 3:50:
2. Dribble Handoff Alley-Oop
The dribble handoff alley-oop gives both Davis and his teammates freedom. Since he has a decent handle, he's able to pull it off.
He starts with the ball at the top of the key, slowly dribbling toward the left. Eric Gordon comes from the block up to the elbow extended to receive the handoff. Once the ball changes hands, Davis heads for the hoop, and Gordon lobs it to him.
Meanwhile, the forward on the same side of the court pops out toward the sideline to clear space and make himself available on the perimeter. The players on the weakside screen for each other.
Davis and Gordon must read the defense on this play. If the defense overcommits toward Gordon, even for a split-second, it should give Davis room for the lob.
Before the ball is exchanged, Davis also has the option of keeping the defense honest by faking the handoff and driving toward the rim. Check out Kentucky's execution at the beginning of the following clip (and at 1:06; fake at 1:19):
3. Baseline Spacing
Davis does some of his best work when he's lurking on the baseline. Most good NBA defenses will keep a close eye on him there, but every once in a while, a slight lapse in focus or positioning will give him an opportunity.
Getting Davis the ball on the baseline is heavily dependent on the playmaking skills of New Orleans' guards.
Eric Gordon is an elite, dynamic talent who can get into the paint and score in a variety of ways, so his penetration will require help defense. Davis will be waiting for a bounce pass or toss. While the play develops, Davis can drift from the high post down to the baseline if he's not already there.
If Gordon's drive doesn't materialize, the setup isn't a failure. Good spacing will allow Davis to post up quickly or flash high post for a high-percentage opportunity.
4. Back-Screen Attack
Back screens are an effective play at any level, and giving Davis copious back screens will make the defense work. Baseline back screens are tough to guard, but elbow back screens are dangerous in a different way.
If Davis is at the elbow, a back screen on his defender will give him a free step or force a switch as he curls or dives toward the hoop. Even if he only gets one step on his defender to receive a pass from the wing, it will be enough for him to score or draw a foul.
As with any good screening play, the screener must turn toward the ball, because Davis' rim run might draw both defenders and leave him wide open.
The worst case of this play results in Davis not getting a pass as he cuts to the hoop, but he should still be isolated enough with one defender for a post-up.
The Hornets are too young to be an offensive juggernaut in 2012-13. But if Coach Williams utilizes Davis properly, New Orleans will stay competitive, and Davis will be a force in the Southwest Division.