New Orleans Hornets rookie forward Anthony Davis has progressed faster on offense than anyone initially thought. Davis left the University of Kentucky as a raw freshman who was a fierce rebounder and defender, but still needed some time to develop as a consistent scorer.
Instead, Davis has become one of New Orleans' better offensive weapons. He's averaging 14.6 points per game and shooting a little over 50 percent from the field. Prior to going down with an ankle injury, the No. 1 overall pick lit up Milwaukee on Nov. 17 with a career-high 28 points on 10-for-13 shooting.
The breakout performance against the Bucks was the third time this season Davis has scored more than 20 points. In 10 games this year, Davis has managed to score in double-digits seven times. Davis just missed going 10-for-10, as he scored eight points in the other three games he's played.
One of the intriguing aspects of Davis' offensive game is his ability to make plays off the dribble. For a big man, he handles the basketball like a guard.
Every now and then, the team draws plays for "The Unibrow" that allow him to take the ball on the outside and make his move to the hoop off the dribble. That's a rare talent for a 6'10" forward.
A good example of this unique part of Davis' game came in his big night against Milwaukee. As you see in the clip above, the play starts with Davis setting the pick to try and free up point guard Greivis Vasquez. Instead, both defenders close on Vasquez, and he has no choice but to get rid of the ball. He splits the defense with a pass to Davis along the key.
From there, Davis penetrates to the hole. He makes an awkward move to the basket, but uses his body to protect the basketball. He takes the contact from Bucks forward Mike Dunleavy Jr., who proceeds to bounce off of Davis like he's just been hit by a Mack truck. Davis maintains control of the basketball and lets off a circus shot to get the hoop and the harm.
Davis' outside jumper is also progressing. With his rail-thin body lacking the bulk to bang with bigger forwards inside, it is nice that Davis is developing a mid-range game as a Plan B if he can't get things going in the paint. Celtics forward Kevin Garnett perfected his mid-range jumper over his career, and now it is one of his go-to weapons.
When you take a look at this shot chart, it shouldn't surprise you that a brunt of Davis' points come around the basket. With his length and athleticism, a majority of Davis' offense will be put-backs, dunks and shots around the rim.
However, look at Davis' percentages when he takes shots outside of the paint. He is hitting jumpers along the left baseline at an astounding 66.7 percent. From the other side of the court, he's 3-of-9.
He needs to get better shooting along the wing, where he's a combined 4-for-13. You can also see that he isn't afraid to try his luck from behind the arc as well, although he's missed both attempts.
Davis' offense was also on display against the Charlotte Bobcats. In this highlight reel from New Orleans' Nov. 9 clash with Charlotte, you'll see a number of the things discussed here in plain view.
At the 23-second mark of the clip, you'll see Davis get the ball on the outside and drive to the hoop. He stops just short of the paint and unloads a floater over the defender for the bucket.
At the 1:01 mark, he takes the inbounds pass and dribbles to pretty much the same spot as the last play and hits a jumper. These are two examples of Davis making plays off the dribble and showing improvement with his jumper.
You'll also notice throughout the clip how soft Davis' hands are. Vasquez routinely fires the basketball inside, and Davis plucks those passes out of the air effortlessly. The ability to make those kind of catches makes the plays run smoother. There's no time wasted bobbling passes or trying to re-adjust.
The Hornets have brought their rookie big man along slowly since his comeback on Dec. 12 from an ankle injury. Davis has responded by scoring in double-digits in each of the four games since his return.
Sadly, all four of those games ended in losses, the most recent one ending on a buzzer-beating three-pointer from fellow rookie Damian Lillard.
Davis is still a work in progress offensively, but he's further along than many expected. At only 19 years old, he's emerged as one of the team's better weapons, and things will only get better for the rookie once Eric Gordon returns to the court to help open things up inside.
It seems the time spent overseas with Team USA has shortened the learning curve for Anthony Davis. It was only a matter of time before the No. 1 overall pick put it all together and became the star he was projected to be. Luckily for the Hornets, the progression on offense is something that has happened sooner rather than later.