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NBA Roundup: Anthony Davis Tops DeMarcus Cousins in Battle of Best Young Bigs

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistNovember 19, 2014

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Welcome to the next generation of Western Conference playoff hopefuls, a movement headlined by the two most dominant young big men in the game. 

By their individual numbers, there wasn't a significant gap between Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins in the New Orleans Pelicans' 106-100 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night. The former finished the game with what's become a typical line of 28 points, nine rebounds, three blocks and two steals, while the latter tallied 24 points, 17 rebounds, three assists and two blocks of his own. 

For the season, Davis' numbers have been slightly more impressive—especially on the defensive end.

But make no mistake about it: Both of these guys have been transcendent this season (and last), returning a level of intrigue to the painted area not seen since Dwight Howard began turning heads with the Orlando Magic.

Having helped the Pelicans to an early 6-4 record, the 21-year-old Davis may even find himself in the MVP conversation in the event his team continues to be successful. Though his 2014-15 sample size remains small, he's already flirting with some rare and lofty statistical heights. The Washington Post's Michael Lee posted a statistical comparison between Davis' PER and that stat for three NBA greats:

Michael Lee @MrMichaelLee

Anthony Davis has got now, not next. His PER is 37.11. Wilt's best: 31.82. Jordan's best: 31.71. LeBron's best: 31.67 (h/t @jasonrmcintyre)

That mark will likely come back down to earth in time, but there's no denying how much impact the Kentucky product is making in just his third season.

The Washington Post's Neil Greenberg notes that, "Through the early part of this season, Davis leads the league in win shares (2.4) and is averaging 0.353 win shares per 48 minutes. Plus, he has a true shooting percentage of 61.8 percent and has been a force inside the paint."

Excepting his relative inexperience, it's hard to find much fault with Davis' game.

He tied a season high with 31 points in a 102-93 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night. Even in a losing effort, he made an impression. 

"He's a difficult guy to double-team," Blazers coach Terry Stotts told reporters after the game. "He doesn't play off the dribble much. It's usually one or two dribbles, and he's pretty quick. You've just got to make him work, just like all great players. You go down the list, you've just got to make him work for his points."

Impressive as Davis has been so far, he can't take all the credit for New Orleans' strong start. Now that his supporting cast (including Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson) is healthy, this team could well find itself in position to squeeze out an incumbent playoff team from the race out West.

Now with a 6-5 record, Cousins' Kings aren't far behind.

And while Cousins—also a Kentucky product—may not be generating much MVP clamor, he's coming into his own as a well-rounded, All-Star post presence. He's even doing his best impersonation of Davis with seemingly impossible run-down blocks.

Behind the highlights, there's also plenty to like about Cousins' consistency, as highlighted by ESPN Stats & Info:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

DeMarcus Cousins (SAC): 8th double-double this season, tied with Nikola Vucevic (ORL) for most in the NBA

If he and swingman Rudy Gay maintain this pace, the Kings may well challenge the Pelicans as the West's most dangerous new kid on the block—even if Round 1 between the two sides didn't go their way.

Around the Association

Kobe Joins 32,000-Point Club

Coming off a 44-point season high in a lopsided 136-115 loss to the Golden State Warriors, it took just 28 points from the league's leading scorer for the Los Angeles Lakers to claim their second victory of the season against the Atlanta Hawks by a final score of 114-109. 

With his 27th point, Bryant reached a milestone achieved by the rarest of company. He is now in the company of three of the best players to ever take the court, as ESPN Stats & Info shared their names:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Kobe Bryant becomes the 4th player in NBA history to surpass the 32,000 point mark (Jordan, K. Malone, Abdul-Jabbar)

Just days after the iconic shooting guard set an all-time record for missed field goals, Tuesday's achievement strikes a far more Kobe-like tone. And he's about to start piling on with the legacy stuff. As Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News and Baxter Holmes of ESPN tweeted, he's getting close to Michael Jordan's third-place ranking on the all-time scoring list:

Mark Medina @MarkG_Medina

Kobe now 291 points of tying MJ for third place on all-time scoring list

Baxter Holmes @Baxter

If Kobe keeps up his scoring pace (let’s say 27/game), he ought to pass MJ on the scoring list in a/b 11 games: by Dec. 9 or around there.

Not that he's too concerned about that as he modestly spoke about the record, per Medina: 

Mark Medina @MarkG_Medina

Kobe on if he's gunning to surpass MJ's scoring record: "There's always something. I'm not going to waste my time trying to shut people up."

His return to action this season may not save the Lakers, but it's certainly given us a reason to watch them again.

Knicks Can't Blame Defense on Triangle

Just 12 games into Derek Fisher's stint as the New York Knicks head coach, one wonders whether the 40-year-old already misses life as a wise veteran at the end of a title-contender's bench. 

While the implementation of a new triangle offense had drawn some headlines, it's this team's effort on the defensive end that deserves early scrutiny. The Knicks entered Tuesday night's game giving up 107.3 points per 100 possessions, ranking them 25th league-wide in defensive efficiency, according to Hollinger Stats.

That defensive futility was on full display in Tuesday's 117-113 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, and Fisher knows it.

"The challenge for every coach in this league is convincing players that defense is the way to win," he told reporters after the game.

Now saddled with a 3-9 record, that challenge is taking on increased urgency. 

Bucks Pass .500 for First Time in Long Time

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 4: Head coach Jason Kidd of the Milwaukee Bucks celebrates during a game against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on November 4, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees t
Jeff Haynes/Getty Images

New York's continued pain was Milwaukee's long-awaited gain.

After a 15-67 2013-14 record that qualified as the league's worst, somehow the Bucks are 6-5 under new head coach Jason Kidd. And for what it's worth, they remain the only team to have beaten the Memphis Grizzlies this season.

It's the kind of above-average feeling this team never experienced a season ago. Per The Associated Press (via ESPN.com), "[Tuesday] was the first time the team had a winning record since March 20, 2013, when it was 34-33."

It's probably still too soon to welcome Milwaukee back to the land of the living, but it's fair to say this rebuild appears headed in the right direction.

OKC Offense Suffering Separation Anxiety

You didn't need any advanced metrics to know the Oklahoma City Thunder would struggle to score points without reigning MVP Kevin Durant and his superstar sidekick Russell Westbrook

Head coach Scott Brooks' shorthanded squad dropped its third straight game Tuesday, losing by a 98-81 margin to the Utah Jazz. It also marked the third straight game in which the Thunder failed to score at least 90 points.

Entering Tuesday's contest, OKC was scoring just 94.3 points per 100 possessions, the 29th-ranked offensive efficiency, according to Hollinger Stats. That's not particularly familiar territory for a team that ordinarily boasts the best scorer in the game.

The Return of Swaggy P, and Tuesday's Quote of the Night

Shooting guard Nick Young returned from a thumb injury that sidelined him for L.A.'s first 10 games. He debuted with 17 points and five rebounds off the bench in an efficient 6-of-10 shooting effort.

Young may not radically alter the Lakers' fate this season, but he did make a difference in their second win. He shared his thoughts about the game, courtesy of Lakers Nation:

Lakers Nation @LakersNation

"It's just the SWAG effect!" - Nick Young on his return, Lakers winning via @Lakers_Examiner. http://t.co/fk7p7J2a3y http://t.co/laKgi00O2f

Ah, the SWAG effect—maybe that's what it was.

While this team's most fundamental problems remain at the defensive end, Young will play a pivotal role as this team's sixth man. He has the scoring instincts to become a second option behind Bryant in the offensive pecking order.

Without Bryant on the floor last season, Young posted a career-high 17.9 points per contest while draining 38.6 percent of his three-point attempts. 

[Vine]

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