Anthony Davis appears to be in full-speed-ahead mode heading into his second season. After soaking in and ultimately relishing his opportunity at Team USA's minicamp this summer, Davis has come firing out of the preseason gates.
Evidently, he's a fast learner. Davis started his high school career as a guard, his college career as a defensive center and his pro career as an offensive mismatch.
Even without the additional skills that Davis continues to add, he'll always be a factor as a finisher, shot-blocker and pick-and-roll machine. Once Davis refines his new abilities, he'll be able to make plays because of his size, mobility, length and athleticism.
But right now, it's time for Davis to take the initiative as a go-to guy in the offense.
During his rookie year in New Orleans, he flashed potential in just about every facet of the game. His capabilities are endless.
If Davis wants to exceed expectations and become a superstar in 2013-14, he'll need to increase the spots on the floor where he's a threat to the defense.
What's scary about Davis is his guard skills for a big. He can handle the ball, put it on the floor and attack his man off the dribble. This is notable, especially when you consider his size and the slower big men he's likely to draw on defense.
Check out how badly Davis exposed Houston's defense off the dribble in his first preseason game this year:
In this particular case, Dwight Howard, the responsible help defender, didn't have an eye on his man and the ball and wasn't in position to protect the rim. Chances are he didn't peg Davis as a threat to beat his man to the hole on the weak side.
But let's imagine that Howard did rotate down and stood in Davis' driving lane.
Had Howard been in better position, Davis would have needed a counter to Howard's defensive adjustment. How about a two-dribble step-back jumper? That's what it's used for—to separate for a more balanced look, rather than having to recklessly attack an awaiting defender.
In the mid-range between his man and Howard in the paint, Davis will need to recognize space, get there and then use the room to rise and fire for an uncontested shot.
This is essentially what many refer to as the in-between game—scoring off the dribble in between the perimeter and interior defense.
At this point, Davis is still pretty much a line-drive player. Changing directions off the bounce or separating east and west for a jumper isn't really in his everyday arsenal. Expanding his shot creativity in the mid-range will allow him to score against different defensive looks and from more spots on the floor.
While Davis showed definite promise as a pick-and-pop threat and mid-range shooter, he wasn't able to convert with enough consistency—not that any rookie usually does.
But if Davis wants to emerge as that superstar talent this year, those jumpers will need to start falling with a little more regularity.
Last season, Davis only made 64-of-218 (29.36 percent) of his mid-range shots:
To no surprise, he was incredible at the rim and effective in the lane, but a more reliable jumper in that 12-to-20-foot range will make him a threat to score on nearly every halfcourt possession.
Davis also finished his rookie year without a made three-pointer. It's not much of a concern, but just imagine how tough of a cover he'd be as a stretch forward behind the arc. Increasing his range is more of a long-term project that could eventually put him over the top.
It's not that he doesn't have a post game, but he seems to be more comfortable facing up to the rim. As a rookie, he showed hints of a back-to-the-basket game. Every now and then, he'd sprinkle in a jump hook or fadeaway jumper.
Few players in today's game have a go-to set of moves in the post, but Davis has the skill set to pull it off. When an offensive player is locked into the post, it gives him scoring options—fadeaway, hook shot, a spin baseline, the up-and-under. It makes a player unpredictable with the ball in his hands.
The post game opens up all sorts of opportunities, not just for the scorer but for teammates as well. Playing back-to-the-basket is a good way to space the floor, especially if it triggers the defense to send the double-team.
Putting it All Together
Even his weaknesses aren't that glaring. Davis has hit jumpers, scored in the post and created in the mid-range—all in smaller doses.
To exceed the big-time expectations he has coming for him, Davis will need to show more than just flashes or promise. He'll have to become an everyday threat as an in-between scorer, mid-range shooter and option in the post.
And I sure wouldn't bet against him, given his talent and track record.