4 Reasons Anthony Davis Can't Live Up to Lofty Expectations He Has Set
In an interview with the New York Times back in August, Davis said he wants to win Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and make the first team in All-Rookie and All-Defense.
While it's encouraging that the No. 1 overall pick is motivated enough to set the bar so high for himself, what he hopes to achieve in his first season is next to impossible.
Davis was off to a fast start in his first year before suffering a concussion in the team's second game of the season. He leads the Hornets in scoring with 14.5 points per game and is also averaging 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.
Still, there are at least four reasons why Davis won't receive everything on his freshman wish list.
Reason No. 1: No NBA player has ever won Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season
The NBA has seen some magnificent defenders come and go over the years. Many of them made an impact on the defensive side of the ball in their first season. However, not a single one of them managed to win both Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. In fact, no NBA player has even made both All-Rookie and All-Defense first teams in the same year.
That's not to say that it can't be done. It just hasn't been done. Ever.
Even the greatest two-way players in basketball history couldn't accomplish that feat.
Michael Jordan couldn't do it. LeBron James couldn't do it. Historic big men like David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo all managed to win Defensive Player of the Year honors (Mutombo did it three times), but none of them could do it in their first season.
Anthony Davis is a special player. He's the kind of franchise cornerstone that doesn't come around very often.
That being said, it seems unrealistic to believe he can accomplish what more NBA-ready rookies like Jordan and James couldn't. For Davis to pull this off, he would need to have a rookie season for the ages. That can't happen with him still waiting to be cleared to return from his concussion.
Unless Davis comes back from injury as an evolved hybrid of Bill Russell and Tim Duncan, it's safe to say his personal achievements won't be as lengthy as he hoped.
Reason No. 2: There's heavy competition for the Defensive Player of the Year
It's hard to forecast who will take home regular-season hardware after only a week into the season. Still, Davis is up against some tough competition for the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Beyond perennial contenders like Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka or the Lakers' Dwight Howard, there are other defensive stalwarts that find themselves higher on the pecking order, statistically, than "The Unibrow."
Phoenix's Marcin Gortat currently leads the league in blocks with a little over four a game. The Pacers' Roy Hibbert is right behind Gortat, averaging three blocks per contest. Then, you have to factor in guys who aren't at the top of the leaderboards but will garner some attention for the award by season's end, guys such as LeBron and reigning champ Tyson Chandler.
Davis was an amazing defender as a freshman at Kentucky. When he returns, he'll continue to make those that enter the paint think twice with his freakish athleticism and exceptional length. However, he's currently third on the Hornets in blocks, trailing centers Robin Lopez and Jason Smith.
It's still early, and the numbers can change for any of the guys mentioned here, but it doesn't bode well for Davis' chances that he's already running behind in his best category.
Reason No. 3: Damian Lillard will win Rookie of the Year
Of course, it's a moot point to worry about Davis finishing as the league's top defender and top rookie if he can't win Rookie of the Year. The 2012 rookie class is pretty stacked with solid freshman, such as Golden State's Harrison Barnes, Sacramento's Thomas Robinson and Charlotte's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
The rookie that has stole the show so far, however, is Portland's Damian Lillard. Lillard, the No. 6 pick in the draft, is averaging 19.3 points and eight assists so far in his first season. He has been the workhorse for the 2-3 Blazers this season, and he's taken the league by storm in the opening weeks.
Davis' first few games were impressive as well, but Lillard's abilities as a scorer and facilitator have been a huge surprise coming from a kid who played his college ball for a mid-major at Weber State. Lillard hasn't let the huge leap in competition faze him, and as the healthier of the two, he seems to have the inside track over Davis for top rookie honors.
It's still early, and it will be interesting to see how Davis bounces back from his first major injury as a pro. But for now, he's on the sidelines and needs to play catchup against a formidable contender for the title of the league's best rookie.
Reason No. 4: He's already injured
We've dealt with the technical reasons why Davis won't get everything he was hoping for this season. Now, let's get into physical aspects of why things won't go as planned for the No. 1 overall pick.
For starters, Davis has had trouble shaking the injury bug. While he's not nearly as brittle as teammate Eric Gordon, there are reasons to be concerned.
Davis wasn't a Hornet for more than a couple weeks before he sprained his ankle in early July. It was initially believed the injury would keep him out of the Olympics, but he recovered quickly and made Team USA as an injury replacement for Blake Griffin.
Now, he's sidelined with a concussion and has missed two games already. He's questionable to make his return this Friday against the Bobcats. While he hasn't been cleared just yet, it appears Davis is free of any symptoms.
"I feel good," Davis told NOLA.com's John Reid. "I've been on a bike, shooting, running and jumping, just seeing how everything feels."
The concussion was the result of a freak accident. Davis was on the receiving end of an inadvertent elbow from fellow rookie Austin Rivers. Mistakes are going to happen in the heat of the game, and having the misfortune of catching an elbow to the head makes you more unlucky than the second coming of Greg Oden.
Still, it's Davis' second injury in five months, and there was already growing concern about how his thin frame would handle the toll of an NBA season. He may not be the fragile giant that Oden was, but at what point do Hornets fans start to get nervous? Davis is the future of the franchise, and the Hornets have learned with Gordon's tricky knee that you can never be too cautious.
At the end of the day, Anthony Davis has the potential to be a star. The time spent with Team USA has paid dividends and has shortened the 19-year-old's learning curve. When Davis finally returns to action, he will pick up right where he left off and will have a fine rookie season.
It just won't be to the cavalcade of personal achievements that he initially anticipated.
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