Why Anthony Davis Will Soon Be the Best Big Man in the NBA

Jon Wu@jonwu190Contributor IIIFebruary 10, 2014


At the age of 20, Anthony Davis has just made his first All-Star Game before he has taken his first legal drink.

As a phenomenal talent with a recognizable unibrow, he shows the agility and explosiveness of a point guard while displaying the length and mindset of a big man. Much of that is attributed to his massive growth spurt just a few years ago, transforming him from a 6’ 3” guard to a 6’ 10” versatile beast.

Before he was drafted as the first overall pick in 2012, he drew comparisons to future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. It’s safe to say that he’s on pace to match and perhaps even surpass those expectations.

The Brow can play both power forward and center, and he displays the skills to dominate on both offense and defense.

But what qualities will make him be the best big man in the NBA? Let’s take a deeper look at his specific qualities on both sides of the court.

High-Flying Athleticism

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Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

When Anthony Davis entered the NBA, his ability to elevate was his calling card. Many scouts saw him as a raw prospect who would take some time to develop an offensive game, but nobody doubted his knack to get up into the air.

And they were right.

He’s absolutely unstoppable on pick-and-rolls, as he can cover the floor in no time. After setting screens, he is able to cut to the basket hard, catch the pass in stride and finish in a blink of an eye.

Or he can just throw down any lob that’s anywhere near him. That works too.

His athleticism combined with great timing allows him to put back almost any shot that clanks off the rim. Essentially, he can rebound and dunk back almost anything in the air:

And don’t forget that he used to be a point guard. 

As a result, there are few that invoke terror on the open floor like Davis does while going from coast to coast. With his speed and ability to handle the ball, he’s an absolute beast on transition. He can outrun point guards and finish with an array of moves.

Only a handful of players are able to fully take advantage of their crazy athleticism, and Davis is certainly one of them.

Blossoming Jump Shot

Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

This year, Davis has also made vast improvements to his jump shot.

He is averaging 76.6 percent on his free-throw attempts this season, which is impressive for a big man. 

Currently, he’s also shooting just under 40 percent from over 10 feet to the three-point line. Those numbers might not be elite, but defenders still have to respect his shot. That will free up space for his cuts to the hoop, which is his deadliest weapon.

What’s also encouraging is that Davis’ shooting improved drastically from 30.1 percent in that range last year. 

In addition, Davis’s catch-and-shoot field-goal percentage is 43.7 percent. For comparison, Kevin Love, known for his shooting prowess, is converting 42.7 percent of these opportunities

Davis has great mechanics, and his shooting form is top-notch for a big man, which is a great sign for his shooting going forward:

If he can average 20.7 points on 52.1 percent from the field right now, just imagine what he can do as he develops his jumper over the next few years.


Elite Defensive Instincts

Matthew Hinton / AP

Averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds is a benchmark for an elite big man in the NBA. 

But only two players in NBA history has averaged more than 20 points and 10 rebounds in addition to three blocks and 1.5 steals per game for a season: Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson. Considered as two of the best centers of all time, they each had at least 10 All-Star appearances and took back at least one MVP and Defensive Player of the Year award.

Davis is on pace to be the third player in that exclusive club. That’s certainly not bad company, and for Davis to be close to achieving this feat as a 20-year-old is unprecedented.

Per-Game Averages
A. Davis (2014)20.710.43.21.5
H. Olajuwon (1992)20.611.54.21.7
D. Robinson (1995)

The New Orleans Pelicans may be 25th in the league in defensive rating, but that isn’t from a lack of effort from Davis. His long wingspan allows him to clog the passing lanes, and any player brave enough to drive into him shouldn’t expect anything less than to have their scoring attempt swatted away into the stands or pinned to the backboard.

Davis is leading the league in blocks, beating out defensive stalwarts like Serge Ibaka and Roy Hibbert. There are times when he’s out of position or caught in the air biting on a pump fake, but he has become much more disciplined since last year.

And the results show the defensive improvements he has made.

According to Synergy Sports, Davis has allowed opposing roll men to score just 0.73 points per possession in pick-and-rolls, and only 0.8 points per possession on isolation.

He is even above average in guarding post-ups, which is surprising considering his perceived lack of strength.


In addition, opponents shoot a measly 45.7 percent at the rim when Davis plays. That’s comparable to big men like Serge Ibaka (44.1 percent), and Joakim Noah (45.5 percent). 

And unlike those two players, Davis does not have the luxury of being part of a top-three defensive team. Rather, he is able to do this with the sixth-worst defensive team in the NBA.

What’s scary is that Davis is still using his skills to improve his defense. It’s tough to think that he won’t continue doing so in the next few years.


Howard Smith / USA Today Sports

As long as Anthony Davis stays healthy, he will remain an absolutely dominant player on both sides of the court.

Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge and Dwight Howard are among the names in debate for the best big man in the NBA right now. But in a few years, there won’t be any doubt for whom that title will belong to.

With a signature look and a complete game on offense and defense, Anthony Davis will be a superstar for years to come.