Biggest Moments from Anthony Davis' Rookie Year so Far

Dave Leonardis@@FrontPageDaveContributor IIIMarch 25, 2013

Biggest Moments from Anthony Davis' Rookie Year so Far

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    New Orleans Hornets rookie Anthony Davis' rookie season has been solid, but not spectacular. While it may not have lived up to the heightened preseason expectations, the No. 1-overall pick's first year has had its bright spots.

    "The Unibrow" didn't turn around the Hornets' fortunes in his first season. He won't even finish this year as the NBA's top rookie, as Portland guard Damian Lillard seems to have a lock on Rookie of the Year. For all of the hype, Davis' big games have been few and far between.

    However, he's managed to show glimpses of being the franchise cornerstone he was drafted to be. As of March 24, Davis leads all Hornets in rebounds (averaging eight boards a night) and blocked shots (just under two a game).

    His offensive output has been a work in progress, as he's averaging just 13.2 points per game. Still, Davis has really come along as of late, averaging 16.3 points and 10.6 rebounds per game for the month of March.

    If he and guard Eric Gordon can manage to stay healthy, the future looks bright for this New Orleans tandem. Let's take a look at some of the highlights of Anthony Davis' rookie season.

Stellar NBA Debut vs. San Antonio Spurs

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    It was arguably the most anticipated debut of this season. On Oct. 31, all eyes were on Anthony Davis making his home and pro debut against the San Antonio Spurs. It was a showdown of old school versus new school as Davis shared the court with the great Tim Duncan.

    While the Hornets didn't leave New Orleans with the win that night, the No. 1-overall pick still managed to impress in his first NBA game. The dynamic forward out of Kentucky finished with 21 points and seven rebounds. He even added a block and a steal for good measure.

    In 29 minutes, the rookie shot 50 percent from the field and hit all nine of his free-throw attempts. Davis' versatility on offense was a nice surprise. He scored a bulk of his points in the paint, but managed to nail a few mid-range jumpers.

    Duncan led all scorers with 24 points, while Davis' 21 was tops among all Hornets. "The Big Fundamental" may have left the game as the better man that night, but Davis proved that he's more than capable of carrying the torch whenever Duncan is willing to pass it over.

First NBA Double-Double vs. Charlotte Bobcats

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    Anthony Davis' NBA debut whet the appetites for fans across the league excited to see if the top pick could live up to the hype. After dropping 21 points against the Spurs on opening night, the question became what was next for "The Unibrow."

    Unfortunately, Davis found himself on the receiving end of an inadvertent elbow from fellow rookie Austin Rivers. The blow to the head left the big man with a concussion and forced him to miss the third and fourth games of the season.

    In his triumphant return to the court against the Charlotte Bobcats on Nov. 9, Davis proved to be worth the wait. Facing off against his former Kentucky teammate, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 1-overall pick bested the man taken after him, notching his first career double-double.

    Davis scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against the Bobcats. He looked a lot like the kid who set NCAA records for blocked shots as a freshman at Kentucky by swatting five shots that night. He once again shot 50 percent, going 9-of-18 from the field.

    It was a fantastic all-around performance and Davis helped lead the Hornets to a 107-99 win over the Bobcats. The double-double would be the first of Davis' 16 (and counting) this season. That total is good for second on the team behind point guard Greivis Vasquez, who has 24.

Offensive Explosion vs. Milwaukee Bucks

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    Anthony Davis left Kentucky with a reputation for being an elite shot-blocker and rebounder. Offensively, he had some unique gifts, but was still a bit raw. It was going to take some time before the rookie developed into being a true scoring option in the post.

    That time came sooner than expected when Davis took on the Milwaukee Bucks on Nov. 17. His 28 points that night remains his career high. While he showed off his jumper in his big debut against San Antonio, the big man opted to score mostly in the paint against the Bucks.

    Davis also added 11 rebounds against Milwaukee, which gave him his second double-double for the season. He shot nearly 77 percent from the field, nailing 10-of-13 shots.

    However, in what would become an unfortunate theme during the first half of Davis' rookie season, an injury would suck out any momentum the No. 1 overall pick was gaining early on. As if losing 117-113 to Milwaukee on this night wasn't hard enough, Davis would miss the next 11 games with an ankle injury.

    Without Davis and Eric Gordon for that stretch, the Hornets would go 2-9 and further hinder their playoff hopes. Davis would return on Dec. 11 against Washington and would start a 10-game streak where he scored in the double-digits.

    Davis has missed just two games since coming back against the Wizards and the ankle injury proved to be more of an aberration and less of a concern that the big man was injury-prone.

Big Nights vs. Golden State Warriors

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    Throughout the season, Anthony Davis seemed to have some of his best games against the Golden State Warriors. In his first game against the Ws on Dec. 18, The Brow had a monster game with 15 points and 16 rebounds. Davis also nabbed four steals and added a blocked shot.

    Golden State still managed to leave with the victory, topping the Hornets to the tune of 103-96. In their second encounter, Davis stepped it up a notch. He scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. He did his thing on defense yet again, swatting four shots and coming up with a steal.

    However, the Warriors would escape New Orleans with a 116-112 win on Jan. 19. Their third showdown came recently on Mar. 18. While Davis' numbers weren't as stellar as the previous two contests, he still managed a respectable 16 points and seven rebounds. He also blocked a couple shots and finished with a steal.

    As you may have guessed, the Warriors ended up winning this one as well. This time, Steph Curry and company trounced the Hornets with a 93-72 beatdown. While he may be 0-3 against the Warriors, Davis seems to fare well against Golden State when he's up against them.

    In those three games, Davis averages 17 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and two steals per game. He's also shooting nearly 65 percent from the field against them. The Hornets have one last game against the Warriors on Apr. 3. It will be interesting to see if the rookie can finally pull out a win that night.

March Madness vs. Memphis Grizzlies

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    The Golden State Warriors aren't the only team that Anthony Davis seems to enjoy playing against. The Memphis Grizzlies can sympathize with having to watch the No. 1-overall pick running roughshod whenever they play New Orleans.

    In the case of Memphis, however, they've managed to be victimized by "The Unibrow" twice in the same month. Davis' best statistical performance of the season came in the first of two March clashes against the Grizzlies. On Mar. 9, Davis scored 20 points and grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds in a 96-85 road loss.

    13 days later, Davis had revenge on his mind when the Grizzlies came to New Orleans on March 22. This time around, Davis dropped 18 points and grabbed 15 boards. He also blocked a couple of shots as the Hornets pulled off the 90-83 upset.

    In his only game against the Grizzlies prior to these two March games, Davis scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds. He also added two steals and two blocks in a 91-83 victory in Memphis on Jan. 27.

    He only played 24 minutes that night, as the team was still bringing him along slowly. In these most recent clashes, Davis logged 38 and 37 minutes, respectively, against the Grizz.

    Davis' numbers against Memphis are particularly impressive because the Grizzlies have an excellent frontcourt duo in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Both of those men have a distinct strength advantage over the lanky rookie, yet Davis has managed a combined 33 rebounds against them in the last two games.

Buzzer-Beater Tip-in vs. Boston Celtics

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    In his most recent game against the Boston Celtics, Anthony Davis scored just nine points. However, it was the circumstances of which he scored the final two of those that tell the story.

    Prior to the game, Davis was listed as a game-time decision as he battled flu-like symptoms. He didn't participate in the morning shootaround and his low scoring output snapped an eight-game streak where he notched double-digits.

    Still, with the Hornets down by one in the closing seconds of the game, Davis mustered up enough strength to outreach two Celtic defenders for the game-winning basket. The rookie's tip-in off of an errant Eric Gordon shot was the first buzzer-beater of his career and led the Hornets to a surprising sweep of the Celtics.

    "His first game-winner comes on a night when he's sick and puking and doesn't feel his best," said head coach Monty Williams after the game. "So, kudos to him."

    Davis played just 28 minutes in this March 20 showdown and spent most of his time on the bench with his head buried in his arms. In addition to his nine points, he also grabbed eight rebounds and blocked two shots. All of those numbers pale in comparison to his final play of the night.

    The game-winning shot was a impressive display of toughness for a 20-year-old kid. It is also another feather in the cap of what has become a strong second half of the season for the No. 1-overall pick.

    At 24-46 with 12 games left to play, the season has been over for New Orleans for quite some time. Still, the team can use performances like these to build confidence and momentum as they retool for next season.