Both Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson bring a different dynamic to the frontcourt of the New Orleans Hornets. Standing at the same height of 6’10”, there are different aspects to their overall game that have allowed each of them to see success in the NBA.
Anderson is known for his shooting while Davis is more known for his shot-blocking, making Anderson an offensive presence and Davis a defensive presence.
The question we now face is, are these guys the solution to the Hornets’ frontcourt in the long-term?
The answer, simply, is yes. We’ve seen the leadership qualities of Anderson and the star potential of Davis. Each knows their role in the team's system, and each is committed to coach Monty Williams.
There is a lot of money invested in Anderson and Davis, who have quickly become the heart and soul of the Hornets. Anderson is in the running for Sixth Man of the Year, and Davis is at least in the Rookie of the Year conversation, though there is a very slim chance either of them actually take home an award.
That’s partly due to the change in his approach. His physicality was tested in a February loss to the Chicago Bulls, causing Williams to sit down with the 2012 No. 1 draft pick.
According to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, Williams saw that game as a turning point for Davis,
Boozer made a point of trying to hurt him, basically. He just tried to smash him every play. I thought, 'This could be ugly for him if he doesn't get stronger.' I started talking to him about, 'Right now you have to use your quickness because you can't out-strength these guys.'
As he started to show that speed and agility, his production increased. With his gifted athletic ability, he is a double-double waiting to happen on any given night.
Coming into his own, Davis put on display his mid-range jump shot and ability to get to the rim with a quick first step. In the clip below, from April 5 where Davis scored 24 points, blocked three shots and grabbed 12 rebounds, you can see his versatility at work.
This is just a small sample of how Davis operates. He runs the floor, finds space, takes the open shot and plays tremendous defense. In his rookie season, he has 112 blocks and has averaged 8.2 rebounds per game.
He can also play multiple positions. He's seen action at both power forward and center, plus he has shared the floor with Anderson a lot this season.
When they are on the court together, Davis has shifted to play center. It may come as a surprise, but Davis has actually produced better at the five than at the four. It may be where he is most comfortable and, if that's the case, the duo has something special brewing.
Though his points per 48 minutes are virtually the same at both positions, 22.1 at power forward and 22.5 at center, Davis gets to the line more when playing center, and has a higher number of rebounds and blocks per 48 minutes, from 82games.com.
He has to gain some muscle and put on a little weight to be able to match the physicality of the opposition, but, he's a ball hawk and is still averaging 1.8 blocks per game. He has blocked a career high five shots on two separate occasions this year.
Here you can see his defensive presence. He has one eye on the ball the entire play and when he sees the drive to the basket, he comes from the other side of the paint to help Greivis Vasquez and swat the ball out of play.
This has happened on many occasions over the course of the year, where Davis has wowed the crowd with his defensive prowess.
Anderson and Davis complement each other on the court. Where one struggles, the other excels. If you discount ball-handling (though for big men their ball-handling is quite good), every skill in the game is executed between the two players.
Value on the offensive end comes from Anderson. He is a lights out shooter with a quick release who is a great catch-and-shoot player, and can score off the dribble as well.
This season, his first in New Orleans, Anderson is second to only Stephen Curry in converted three-pointers, with 206. He is averaging 16.1 points and has a steady 18.31 player efficiency rating while grabbing just over six rebounds per game.
With both of these players, since they aren't the primary ball-handlers, most of their scoring is assisted. The guards have helped Anderson become a scoring threat anywhere on the court. All they have to do is get him the ball.
This clip shows exactly what Anderson brings to the table. It was his best offensive performance of the season, and you can see the amount of contested shots he was able to drain, no matter how off-balance he was. He used his size to shoot over the defenders.
With the unique skillset at the power forward position, the Hornets have an advantage over most, if not all teams in the NBA.
What's really working for them is the fact that Anderson has bought into his role off the bench. He's still getting the same amount of minutes as he was while starting in Orlando last season.
Anderson told Terrance Harris of the New Orleans Times-Picayune,
As a competitor and a player, you always want to start but on this team I know my role. I’ve learned how I can try and take advantage of that role as best I can. (Hornets Coach Monty Williams) has done a great job because I don’t necessarily feel like I’m coming off the bench where I have to watch what I’m doing. He has given me the green light.
With the confidence that is instilled in him, Anderson has taken advantage of that and is the most consistent scorer on the low-scoring Hornets team.
He has proven he can take over a game, and he's still just 24 years old. Williams praised Anderson's transition into the leadership role in the same Times-Picayune article.
Anderson is mentoring Davis and spoke in January about the potential of his teammate:
Granted this clip is early in the season, but their roles haven't changed. At 2:57, where I've started the video, Anderson explains his view on coming off the bench for this team and the development of Davis.
The biggest thing the Hornets need is for these players to commit and make it work, no matter the situation. It's clear this year was all about rebuilding, and that includes building the foundations of the relationship between the star power forwards.
In the years to come, the familiarity and chemistry between these players will make the Hornets a tough team to beat. It takes talent, but it also takes heart and hard work. Being able to develop and fine-tune their crafts together is a huge advantage.
Davis and Anderson put in the time and commitment to becoming the players the Hornets envisioned, and there's still plenty of room for growth. The different dimensions of their play enables them to share the court without any problems, and that should continue into next season.
Both of these players have height and length on defense while able to ignite the scoring on offense.
It's up to Vasquez and the backcourt to get the ball into the hands of the playmakers, and if that happens, there's no reason to think this duo can't thrive together in New Orleans.