(Doesn’t ever get old posting this picture).
The June 28th NBA Draft is nearly upon us and you know what that means; time for John Calipari’s annual infomercial to potential recruits telling that they virtually have no choice but to attend the University of Kentucky. Last season saw one of those recruits, Anthony Davis, have the best Freshman campaign in history, winning nearly every single award possible for a collegiate basketball player. Davis will be the first player taken in the Draft to the New Orleans Hornets and is drawing some serious praise from even the most critical of people.
Bigot Unbiased Analyst Bob Knight has even come out and said the following, “I’ll tell you exactly what Anthony Davis is — he’s a young Bill Russell … And Russell was by far, and will always be, the most valuable player ever in sport.” That’s certainly high praise, but it begs the question, is Anthony Davis really that good? Certainly there has to be something in his game that raises a red flag, right? Given that I am the ultimate skeptic, I wanted to look through all of Davis’ numbers from the past season (advanced in particular) to determine if he did, in fact, have any weaknesses and then determine how successful he could be at the next level.
First we’ll analyze what Davis is most know for, his stellar defense. Last season Davis finished with an NCAA Freshman record of 186 blocks, forced 54 steals, and pulled down 296 defensive rebounds. The most spectacular thing about his defense was his ability to do all this without fouling, averaging only 2.4 fouls called per 40 minutes! These spectacular stats produced an unbelievable Defensive Rating of 80.3 (points allowed per 100 possessions) which when worked out to Defensive Win Shares (a formula that estimates how many wins a player’s defense contributed) it comes to a total of 7.1 wins produced! Just by playing defense Anthony Davis won 7 games for Kentucky. For perspective, former one-and-done and nude male model, Greg Oden, only produced 4.3 Defensive Win Shares his freshman season. I have trouble even writing this because there’s no precedent for me to compare him to, if he was that good his freshman season against the nation’s best competition just what will he be capable of next year or the seasons after that? If he improves his defensive game like all players do throughout their late teens and early twenties, I see no reason why he couldn’t become one of the best defenders the game of basketball has ever seen. Some may consider those to be unfairly high expectations, but based off his athletic ability, timing, and freshman numbers it remains a distinct possibility.
His offensive game is where his critics have some actual credentials, or so outdated stats like points per game would say. Last season Davis finished with an average of 14.2 points, 2.9 offensive rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game. This is where advanced stats like Offensive Ratings and Win Shares are useful, because they get rid of all biases like tempo and per game averages. During his freshman season Davis finished with an Offensive Rating of 133.5 while using 19.3% of possessions. When it comes to Offensive Win Shares, Davis produced a total of 4.8 wins. After Kevin Durant’s spectacular Freshman season he only produced 4.7 wins. That’s right, one of the best offensive seasons in NCAA freshman history was outproduced by Anthony Davis who has been criticized for not being a polished offensive player. (Note: Texas won 7 fewer games in Durant’s Freshman campaign so that skews the Win Share data in Anthony’s favor, but even if Texas had won 38 games the difference would not be much different). These numbers are computed solely by efficiency, and was Davis ever efficient. He connected on 65.3% of his twos, 70.9% of his free throws, turned the ball over on a mere 9.9% of personal possessions, and rebounded 11.5% of available offensive rebounds. When people say his offensive game isn’t polished I laugh and often think to myself, “compared to who?”
To conclude, I tried to find a weakness, I really did, but it just isn’t there. What about his three point shooting you ask? Sure he only shot 15% (3-20) last season, but he has a smooth stroke for someone his size and showed great improvement in the later part of the season (not to mention 20 shots is a terribly small sample size). Being a skeptic, you always laugh when you hear the hypothetical statements like “player X is the next Jordan” or “player Y is better than LeBron at age 18,” but this time you can’t laugh it off. Literally every statistical characteristic you can look for is there and is exceeded. While you’re always hesitant to say someone is bust proof (there are too many cautionary tales that exist) even the most skeptical person must concede that we could be witnessing the rise of one of the all-time greats.
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Bill Keightley Report : Never to be forgotten.
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