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Home - The NBA’s next big star: Anthony Davis







  The NBA’s next big star: Anthony Davis



February 17, 2015

We have been living in the LeBron James era. Ever since the hype about a hot young 17-year-old had spread to such an extent that LeBron’s high school games were being televised, his spectre has loomed large over the NBA and its annual title challenges.

Kobe Bryant was still the league’s leading star when LeBron entered the league, and he has continued to remain relevant, notwithstanding recent severe injuries and the Lakers’ slide down the rankings.


Time for change

Tim Duncan is another grizzled veteran who will feature prominently in history’s retelling of the early 2000’s, while Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki picked up MVP awards before LeBron finally ascended to the top, picking up the first of his MVP trophies in 2009 and adding three more in the next four years.

It remains to be seen whether LeBron can remain a yearly factor in the title race, and for how long. But Kevin Durant’s rapid rise to legitimate contention for the title of “best player in the world” has been a pleasant surprise for fans who want to see superstars.

Durant was the youngest ever scoring champion in 2010, and he has won that award four times in his first seven years, with last year’s average of 32.0 points per game the highest since Kobe’s 2005-06 season.

Still only 26, this year has been the first time Durant has missed significant time with injury, and it’s hurting the Oklahoma City Thunder badly. Not only are they scrapping desperately to make the playoffs, but one of their rivals is also harbouring a genuine threat to James’ and Durant’s status on top of the world.


New kid

anthony davisOne month away from his 22nd birthday, Anthony Davis has made a massive impact on this NBA season. As Durant sat the first month, and James toiled in Cleveland before taking two weeks off in January, Davis has been lighting it up.

Davis averages a double-double, adding 10.3 rebounds per game to 24.5ppg, good for fifth in the league scoring rankings. He is also leading the league in blocked shots for a New Orleans Pelicans squad which surrounds him with some nice pieces, but that lacks a second star to help lift them to higher contention.

The Pelicans will need to add wisely to their team, as Davis is an absolute gem. New Orleans can’t afford to lose him long-term to free agency due to a desire to compete for championships - it needs to bring title contention to Davis.

That won’t come this year, and in truth it will take a remarkable season from Davis to snare the eighth seed over Phoenix or Oklahoma City in the West. Davis is giving it his all, as seen in thrilling fashion when his buzzer-beating three-pointer sealed victory over the Thunder.
It capped a 41-point performance for Davis that rendered moot Russell Westbrook’s brilliant 48-point game, including three dramatic game-tying free throws before Davis’ intervention.


The shot was incredible too, and it showed the expansion in Davis’ repertoire as he emerges as one of the league’s premier jump-shooters, along with his fantastic physique and ability to finish inside.

A worthy winner?

Can Davis really be a candidate for the MVP award? From a “best player” or “player of the season” perspective, he would have to be considered, but the only comparable seasons recently would be Michael Jordan in 1988-89 or Moses Malone in 1981-82. Both players collected the award despite their squads having just the seventh-best records in the league, and often the MVP conversation begins and ends with “who was the best player on the league’s best team?”

Rivals

The Atlanta Hawks have overtaken Golden State over the last couple of weeks, but it's hard to identify the MVP of their own team, let alone who could contend for the league's overall crown. Jeff Teague, Al Horford and Paul Millsap all bring something different to Atlanta's overall package, and all represented the Hawks at the All-Star Game.

But none of them are among the league leaders in traditional stats, whereas Steph Curry ranks among the top 10 in points and assists. He faces competition from within his own squad, with Klay Thompson also shining brightly for the Warriors, while the league's current scoring leader James Harden will pick up extra recognition for keeping Houston afloat despite Dwight Howard's injury problems.

It's hard to identify other competition for the top award, with teams like Memphis and San Antonio thriving as sums of the collective parts rather than due to one stellar individual. On the other coast, Kyle Lowry and John Wall have helped to establish their teams at the top table, although both Toronto and Washington have had some issues recently.


Joining James, Durant and Harden among last year's top five in the MVP voting were Blake Griffin and Joakim Noah, neither of whom will contend this year. Griffin's teammate Chris Paul figured in 2012 and 2013's best five, and he could rip off a run in the wake of Griffin's elbow surgery, but the LA Clippers squad looks too thin for Paul to do it alone.

Injured parties

Paul George emerged last year as a fully-fledged star before dropping off in the second half of the season and then suffering the horrendous injury to his leg. 2011 MVP Derrick Rose knows all about how injuries can derail a career.

There's still time for Durant or Westbrook to stamp their authority on the second half of the season and lead the Thunder on a run, and LeBron has come back rejuvenated since his break to lead Cleveland up the standings.

But if Davis can steer clear of injuries and doesn't drop off in the second half of the season, his consistency throughout the campaign will earn him extra recognition. And even if his stellar play is not enough to lift the Pelicans into the playoffs this year, it will be fascinating to see whether Davis can continue to develop, and how dominant a figure he can become. We could be about to enter the Anthony Davis era.




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