Anthony Davis Is Perfect Specimen for NBA's New Breed of Fleet-Footed Centers
While the position revolution starts to take hold in the NBA, the New Orleans Hornets are moving forward by playing Anthony Davis at the power forward spot. By all rights, that's the knee-jerk place to put Davis.
As it seems right now, Davis has a build that would keep him from playing center, but he's got the chops to play the biggest position on the court. Even after just six quarters of basketball from Davis, we've seen him run the floor, take control of the ball and play defense against some very good big men.
What really seems to be keeping Davis from swinging up to the center spot (aside from Robin Lopez's presence at the 5) is the fact that he's still not built his body mass to hang with some of the big bruisers around the league.
Even still, I'd argue that the Hornets aren't playing as position revolutionists would want them. The basic idea floating around is to start your two best backcourt players and three best frontcourt players, which would mean Ryan Anderson starting instead of Lopez.
Putting together a five-man lineup of Greivis Vasquez, Austin Rivers, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis would be ideal, and not that out of the ordinary.
What makes Davis capable of playing the "center" spot in a traditional NBA lineup is the death of the traditional big man. There are but a few true centers left in the league, and even those guys would have trouble with the way Davis plays the game.
Davis' unique combination of athleticism, speed and guard skills make him absolutely devastating to big men forced to guard him. He can beat them off the dribble or jump over them for an alley-oop—it makes no difference.
There's a feeling of revolution hanging in the air as big men start to be recategorized, and even the NBA is taking notice. With the elimination of the "center" spot on the All-Star ballot, the league is basically underscoring how antiquated the idea of specific positions for players actually is. All you need is two backcourt guys and three frontcourt guys, and you've got a lineup.
A few big men who are traditionally power forwards have tried to revolutionize the center spot, but they have had problems with their new position.
Chris Bosh is the most obvious non-center playing as the biggest guy on the floor in the league right now. He's ideal as a power forward, spacing the floor, grabbing mid-range rebounds and scoring from multiple angles, but he has issues playing center. He isn't physical, he's had problems positioning well for rebounds and he's got little intimidation factor at the rim.
Elsewhere, Kevin Garnett has quietly filled in as the Boston Celtics' biggest guy. He's taken the physicality part to the max, but he took over the position as an old man. Were Garnett still 25 and flying around the court, it would be a different story, but his skill set has diminished with age.
You could say that Davis has the potential to be a combination of Bosh and Garnett, at least as far as skill set goes, but I'd say that's not going far enough. Bosh has a beautiful bit of finesse about his game, while Garnett has a powerful post game. Davis is capable of both, but he's twice the ball-handler that either of them are.
Davis brings a skill set that makes him able to play like no other center in the league could. What really revolutionizes things is his combination of size, speed and skill with the ball. Few centers have two of those three skills.
Davis gives a team the ability to run an extremely fast-paced and complex offense while still being defensively sound. He can get up and down the court, run a fast break and play a mid-range or post game, but he can also hunker down in the post and play defense or chase around a finesse guy like Bosh.
Of course, Davis is still very young and has to grow into what I'm expecting of him here, but all signs point to the possibility of him becoming a revolutionary big man. Plus, New Orleans would have to make the simple move and make him the anchor of its frontcourt.
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