Setting a Reasonable Bar for Anthony Davis in 2015 by Nigel Broadnax

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Won’t be long before a 3rd #23 enters the pantheon…

Over the last few weeks, the Anthony Davis hype train has revved to full-speed-ahead mode en route to the start of the season. The New Orleans Pelicans power forward enters his third year, and many expect him to quickly continue his development and become a superstar.

Let’s discuss this prototype for a moment. It’s almost as if he was constructed in a lab by a team of basketball scientists and engineers (the same team who assembled LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin). He’s of a similar specimen Kevin Garnett was back in the late ’90’s, but with a more modern flair. Flat out, he’s just a dream-concept basketball player.

He’s still relatively fresh off of his second stint with Team USA — as he was one of the key components to the Americans winning gold in the FIBA World Cup last month. His play was electric, and one could only imagine the momentum from that will carry on into the 2014-15 season.

Davis’ first two seasons were impressive, (the latter being more impressive than his rookie campaign) but his game still had a raw aura attached. A round of games against international teams, and a second full off season as a pro has been enough to convince people that he has expelled the rawness to potentially put together an elite third season.

Perhaps the biggest sign of the Davis bandwagon piling up by the ton is ESPN placing him third in their annual pre-season player rankings, jumping 30 slots ahead from a season ago.

The buzz is certainly swarming from all angles.

The 21-year-old did nothing at all to hush the buzz as he broke loose in the Pelicans’ opener against the Orlando Magic on Tuesday. He compiled an Olajuwonian stat line of 26 points, 17 rebounds, nine blocks, three steals and two assists. That sounds like great game statistically speaking, but it’s even more gratifying in visual form:

 

 

As if we needed any more reason to yearn over the big fella.

He’s off to a monumental start, but is production of this level a practical expectation moving forward?

Now, I don’t want to completely rain on the parade. I have a seat on the Davis bandwagon, and I have my ticket for the hype train. However, I fear the expectations are just a notch too high.

Davis’ season premier has ignited talk of his MVP chances this year. As far as his individual play, his season could have the kind of feel.

The biggest addition by New Orleans over the summer was former Houston Rockets center Omer Asik. His presence at the five position will free Davis to roam outside the paint on defense and not be limited to perpetual rim protection.

Asik is an able interior defender. Having him around allows Davis to utilize his full array of defensive gifts. He’ll be able to act as essentially a free safety on the hardwood, swiping passes and racking up on weak-side blocks. His speed and footwork are comparable to a perimeter player, and he has a wingspan of an orangutan. Those traits get a much better use when he has some mobile freedom.

I see his season averages jumping from last season– albeit, plummeting from his Tuesday’s performance– to 23 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks, a shade under two assists and 1.5 steals. Those are certainly MVP numbers, but his production likely won’t match his team’s.

There’s a solid chance the Pelicans miss the playoffs in the war zone we call the Western Conference. Davis throwing up gaudy stat-stuffers every now and then will certainly give them a fighter’s chance, but I’m currently leaning towards them falling in ninth or 10th place out west. They still need some time to round their chemistry, and they aren’t particularity deep.

Recent history shows that MVP’s play on upper-echelon teams, while The Brow and company are still a growing squad.

Davis will create must-watch television from now to April. He’ll be a God among fantasy league owners all over. He could very well start in the All-Star Game.

But, I still think we’re one more year away before he climbs to the top tier of players in the NBA. He has one last layer of rawness to slice through before you can respectfully place him ahead of guys like Westbrook, Griffin, Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Stephen Curry, James Harden and even Derrick Rose.

Next season he’ll be able to haul his team into the playoffs. Next season he’ll be a bona fide  individual brand. For now, he’ll begin to shed his final growing pains.

Through this last learning period, he’ll have a bandwagon full of supporters in awe of every stat he records.

Stay tuned for my article a year from now as I try to talk everyone down from dubbing him as the GOAT.

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