Anthony Davis has arrived.
Though he might be only the second-most menacing Pelican in New Orleans (after this guy), Davis has put together a superstar-level first week of this NBA season. His line through three games would bring a tear to the eye of any big-man aficionado: 23.7 points per game, 12.3 rebounds per game (six offensive) and four blocks per game. He has been nothing short of a scoring, boarding, shot-blocking machine.
This is the kind of production the Pelicans probably dreamed of when they drafted Davis first overall in the 2012 NBA draft. Instead, Davis suffered an injury early and flew under the radar for most of his rookie season.
But if you look closely at Davis' numbers from last year, this kind of production shouldn't come as a surprise.
Efficient, Under-the-Radar Rookie
For a No. 1 pick, Davis received little publicity through his rookie season: partly due to his injury, and partly due to playing for a bad team in a small market. Davis lost out on the NBA Rookie of the Year award to Portland's Damian Lilliard.
But Davis' rookie season was anything but disappointing. While Lillard won the award on the strength of his volume stats, Davis quietly had a far more efficient season.
Among all 2012-13 rookies who played at least 1,000 minutes, Davis, Lillard and the Pistons' Andre Drummond ranked in the top three in most categories. Check out how each player ranks in Player Efficiency Rating, Basketball Reference's total wins shares and win shares per 48 minutes:
|Name||G||MP||PER (Rank)||WS (Rank)||WS/48 (Rank)|
|Anthony Davis||64||1846||21.7 (1st)||6.1 (1st)||.159 (2nd)|
|Damian Lillard||82||3167||16.4 (3rd)||5.8 (2nd)||.088 (6th)|
|Andre Drummond||60||1243||21.6 (2nd)||4.5 (3rd)||.172 (1st)|
Lilliard was certainly a deserving winner, based on how well he played over many more total minutes. Still, Davis was perhaps the best rookie in the NBA when he was on the court.
More Minutes, More Responsibility
The Pelicans played it safe with Davis during his rookie season, playing him an average of 28.8 minutes per game.
This season, though, the training wheels are off: Davis is averaging 37.7 minutes per game so far, an increase of nearly nine minutes per game.
Not only are the Pelicans playing Davis more, they are also running through him more often than in 2012-13. Check out the difference in his numbers per 36 minutes:
The biggest jump this season is in field-goal attempts: Davis is getting 4.6 more shots over the same amount of minutes last year. He's spending more time near the rim, resulting in more free-throw attempts and offensive rebounds.
A Natural Evolution
Yes, Davis is making "the leap" this season. No matter how high the Pelicans finish in the standings, Davis will excel. He has a legitimate chance to be an All-Star this season.
But there's nothing magical happen down in New Orleans. This is all perfectly natural.
After the Pelicans' first win of the season on Saturday, November 2, Davis provided some insight as to why his game has taken off to a new level at the start of the 2013-14 season (via Associated Press):
I'm just trying to hustle and everything I need to do to help my team win. If it's me diving on the floor to save the ball, or making transition buckets, that's what I'm going to do.
We were doing a great job of talking. When we talk and communicate with each other we are a tough team to beat.
Davis' maturation into a true NBA superstar is a simple matter of a franchise nurturing and developing its most talented player. Davis is healthy and hungry, and nothing can stop him from reaching his superstar potential.