New Orleans Pelicans

Anthony Davis Is a Top-10 NBA Star Right Now

AUBURN HILLS, MI - JANUARY 24:   Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans stands on the court before the game against the Detroit Pistons on January 24, 2014 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Dan Lippitt/NBAE via Getty Images)
Dan Lippitt/Getty Images
Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2014

Anthony Davis continues to remind us there's no such thing as too much Anthony Davis.

Unless you're a member of the opposition, that is.

The 20-year-old has spent all of 2013-14 dominating the competition, posting gaudy stat lines and rendering an injured and browbeaten New Orleans Pelicans team watchable and interesting. He alone has given them hope for the future, despite the underwhelming narratives surrounding Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans.

In doing so, he's made himself an All-Star. We think. If he's not picked as a reserve for the Western Conference team, it will be a travesty. He's been that good. All one needs to do is look at his performance against the reeling Cleveland Cavaliers, during which he registered 30 points, seven rebounds and eight—yes, eight—blocks.

It was an All-Star display from an All-Star-caliber player. An outing worthy of deep thought and consideration.

Another reminder that Davis is a top-10 superstar, playing out a bright future that's more blinding than his present success.

 

Already Standing Tall

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 18: Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans runs out on the court against the Golden State Warriors during an NBA game on January 18, 2014 at the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ack
Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

There's a 6'10" joke in here somewhere, but I'm not going to look for it. This is serious business. Sarcasm is not allowed.

Now, about this one-eyebrowed belfry we're all enraptured with these days...

The first step to establishing yourself as a top-10 superstar is to rival the production and value of—you guessed it—other top-10 superstars. Davis has done this, and more.

When thinking about the league's best players, our minds typically drift toward LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Paul George, LaMarcus Aldridge, Stephen Curry and players and talents of similar ilk. Rightfully so, too. They're some of the best. 

And so is Davis.

Among all players logging at least 30 minutes per game, Davis' PER (26.7) ranks fifth, behind only Love Paul, James and Durant. That puts him ahead of Griffin, George, Anthony, Aldridge, Curry and so many others who are part of the top-10 discussion. 

With his 20.4 points per game, his scoring stands up against the best as well, as does his efficiency. He's one of 16 players recording a true-shooting percentage of at least 57 while attempting 14 or more shots per game.

The minutes aspect of this is uber important. Great players are able to sustain brilliant numbers in conjunction with extensive playing time. Last season, when Davis was seeing under 30 minutes a night, (feeble) cases could be made that he was capitalizing on limited exposure.

Not this season. Davis has been thrown to the wolves without reservation when healthy; he ranks in the top 30 of minutes played per game (35.6).

Then there's the substance his numbers come with. Only four qualified players are posting an offensive rating above 117 accompanied by a defensive rating under 104—Love, Durant, Paul and Davis—attesting to the sophomore's two-way potency.

These ratings aren't the be-all and end-all, but they're most definitely telling. Look at how Davis' offensive rating coincides with his defensive rating compared to other top superstars:

Infogr.am.

Only four other players have maintained the kind of balance Davis has to date—James, Durant, Paul and Love. Davis has everyone else beat.

Superstar rankings are subjective, but this list of 15 players includes some of the best talent—sans the injured Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose—that should make up most of the top-10 lists out there. And yet again, Davis stands the test.

So let's give him one more.

Win shares are one of the most valuable metrics out there, specifically win shares amassed per 48 minutes. In this category, Davis ranks sixth in the league among qualified players. Sixth. On a Pelicans team that doesn't figure into the playoff conversation.

Infogr.am.

Using the same list of stars as before, Davis looks pretty good, checking in at No. 6 out of 15. But when pointing to these types of stats, the question is: Are they relevant?

Determining that is easy. Just look at his company. 

Of the stars listed, nine of the top 10 win-shares-per-48-minutes averages make up nine of the top 10 league averages.

Davis finishes sixth in both instances, joining Love as the only player on a non-playoff team making a top-10 appearance. What does that tell you?

 

History, Sweet History

Jan 10, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis (23) dunks against the Dallas Mavericks during the first quarter of a game at New Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

Top-10 superstars tend to make history (see: Durant going bonkers on everyone), and Davis is making plenty of history.

With averages of 20.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game, Davis is trending toward even more good company:

Joining Shaquille O'Neal is just the beginning.

If his current numbers hold, Davis will become just the third player in NBA history to go for at least 20 points, 10 boards, three blocks and 1.5 steals per game for an entire season, pinning him next to Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson. And he's only 20, making him the youngest player ever to register such marks.

Are your socks blown off yet? Well put them back on, because we're not done. 

Davis isn't done.

At this rate, Davis is poised to set the all-time PER record for qualified players under 21, exceeding James' record 25.7 with a 26.7 showing of his own. He's also the quickest player ever to hit 1,600 points, 900 rebounds, 230 blocks and 130 steals, and it's not even close.

It took Kevin Garnett 157 games to total that many points, rebounds, blocks and steals. Took Dwight Howard 164 games to do the same thing. It's taken Davis 101. That's 56 contests less than his closest challenger (Garnett).

Is that type of dominance even allowed?

Infogr.am.

Finally, Davis is on pace to set the league record for win shares every 48 minutes for players aged 20 or younger (.213), shattering averages posted by James (.203), Magic Johnson (.180) and Paul (.178). 

Inserting obligatory "whoas" is the usual course of action right about now, but that would suggest this is close. 

Which it's not.

 

Unfair Dominance

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Playing against Davis already isn't fair.

At only 20 years old, he's obliterating the competition, emerging as a triple-double threat when he's not even an accomplished passer. What does that tell you about his shot-blocking abilities? His defense overall? His offense overall?

Davis is the entire package. A unique amalgam of athleticism, length, smarts and everything else you look for in a franchise cornerstone.

"People keep talking about should he be an All-Star," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said following Davis' performance against Cleveland, per Pelicans.com's Jim Eichenhofer. "All you've got to do is look at tonight."

People need to stop asking if Davis is an All-Star. The answer is a wholehearted, resounding, don't-even-have-to-stop-and-think "yes."

Start asking if he's a top-10 superstar instead. It's then you'll be left searching for new ways to say "yes" while making it seem like you actually needed to think about it. Because you don't. Not anymore.

Davis has done all the necessary legwork, forced himself into all the right conversations and rivaled all the elite talents, rendering this a question with one answer and one answer only: Duh. 

 

*Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference and NBA.com (subscription required) unless otherwise noted.


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