Anthony Davis is a scary player. His mere presence creates a sense of danger and urgency for opposing teams, because all it takes for him to score is a quick move to create space. And on defense, Davis is a tenacious shot-blocker and rebounder. His ability to make electrifying plays and his overall importance to the New Orleans Pelicans have made him the front-runner for the NBA MVP so far.
One cannot understate how important Davis has been to the Pelicans offense this season. Averaging 24.1 points per game, fourth-best in the NBA, he has proved this season that he can hurt defenses in a multitude of ways, but his real dominance has been in the paint.
Davis leads the NBA in shots attempted and made, and he makes 56 percent of those shots, which is seventh in the NBA. He's not afraid to take shots, which is totally fine, because he consistently nails them.
According to TeamRankings.com, Davis and the Pelicans are the best in the NBA at scoring in the paint. Averaging 47.1 points in the paint per game, the Pelicans are nearly unstoppable near the rim. Considering that the Pelicans average 101.3 total points per game, Davis' frontcourt play is essential to the Pelicans scoring 100-plus every game.
Davis' 24.1 points per game make up nearly a fourth of the Pelicans' average points per game. The next highest contributor to the team's total scoring output is shooting guard Tyreke Evans, who is averaging 16.9 points per game, a full seven points below Davis' average.
Finally, an important but understated part of Davis' offensive impact is his ability to get to the line. He's sixth in the NBA in free throws made and attempted, sinking 81.8 percent of them.
While Davis is an incredible scorer, he's probably more popular for his incredible shot-blocking ability.
He is merciless when it comes to blocking, and his 7'7" wingspan is near impossible to avoid. He averages 2.9 blocks per game, the highest in the NBA. His incredible stature and nose for blocking shots allow him to create momentum for the Pelicans.
A perfect example is his astounding game in the Pelicans' 97-90 win over the San Antonio Spurs, the NBA defending champs, on December 26. His terrifying rejection of Manu Ginobili's shot, as well as blocks on Boris Diaw and Tim Duncan, created a momentum shift to allow the Pelicans to take the lead late in the third quarter and never look back.
He also averages 1.5 steals per game, which is the second in the NBA for power forwards, behind only the Atlanta Hawks' Paul Millsap.
Davis' next incredible defensive stat is his 10.4 rebounds per game, 11th in the NBA. He doesn't dominate offensive rebounds (mostly because he's the one taking the shots), but on defense, he consistently beats big men around the NBA for boards.
Of the top 15 shot blockers in the league, Anthony Davis ranks second to last in terms of opponent field goal percentage at the rim according to NBA.com’s defensive tracking numbers. Additionally, only two players, Brandan Wright and Rudy Gobert, contest fewer shots at the rim per game. Both Wright and Gobert play significantly less minutes than Davis, greatly affecting their per game numbers.
Way makes a good point. Davis isn't the most consistent defender; however, his role for the Pelicans isn't as a shutdown defender and never will be. The Pelicans brought in Omer Asik last summer to have a big, defensive-minded player. And as for Davis, they turn to him for big plays and a sheer presence more than anything else, and he does that just fine.
Importance to the Pelicans
NBA.com's PIE (player impact estimate) statistic is "an estimate of a player's contributions and impact on a game." The statistic shows what percentage of game events a player has achieved.
What is Davis' percentage? 19.4 percent.
Unsurprisingly, his percentage is the highest in the NBA. It means that he contributes almost one out of every five events in a typical game and make a larger impact than any other player in the league.
The Pelicans' dependence on Davis is monumental. He is the focal point of the offense and a key playmaker on defense. However, he matters even more as a leader.
Davis has taken leadership of the Pelicans at the young age of 21. He's the youngest captain in the NBA, and he's taken the role and run with it.
The fact that he offers more offensive production than any other player, can create huge plays on defense in an offensive-orientated league and is statistically the most impactful player in the NBA has to make him the current top candidate for the NBA MVP.
And if that all wasn't enough, here are the stats that Davis is in the top 10 for:
|Minutes Played||35.9 (10th)|
|Points Per Game||24.1 (fourth)|
|Field Goals Attempted Per Game||16.7 (first)|
|Field Goals Made Per Game||9.4 (first)|
|Free Throws Attempted Per Game||6.6 (sixth)|
|Free Throws Made Per Game||5.4 (sixth)|
|Defensive Rebounds Per Game||7.8 (ninth)|
|Blocks Per Game||2.9 (first)|
|Player Impact Percentage||19.4 (first)|
|Field Goal Percentage||56% (seventh)|
You can sum up Davis in one word: beast.
Disagree and think someone else is the front-runner instead? Post in the comments below.
All statistics were found at stats.nba.com unless otherwise stated.
Evan Reier is a first-year journalism major at the University of Alabama and a member of Bleacher Report's APSM program. Follow Evan on Twitter and Instagram at @evanreier.