Watching Anthony Davis dominate fools in the London Olympics has been nothing short of stupendous. He’s been playing like a video game where the difficulty’s on easy, and someone set the “alley-oop” game slider to 100. I know, because that’s exactly what I do. It’s the only way I can win. Davis is going into these games with absolutely nothing to lose, and it shows in the casual, “no pressure” approach to his minutes that’s allowing him to really shine as only the second college-level player to make an Olympic appearance.
But, even though New Orleans is claiming that Davis is still under “no pressure” once he gets to the NBA, is the level of success he’s enjoying en route to a probable gold medal surreptitiously raising that bar for him? Expectations are always a double-edged sword for any rookie, especially a big man drafted so high. Just ask Greg Oden or Hasheem Thabeet. To paraphrase Uncle Ben, with great talent comes great expectations, and Davis oozes talent, even more than those other two guys.
Paul Ables of Bleacher Report is taking notice that Anthony “is having the single greatest season by any college basketball player in history.” And he’s exactly right; the amount Davis has achieved is literally unprecedented. Anthony is to college ball what Michael Phelps is to swimming and smoking pot. How can such a decorated player not have a certain level of expectation going into his rookie season? According to Ables, Davis’ first year in the league will look something like: “Rookie of the Year winner, high-impact starter, near the league lead in blocks.”
That’s certainly a daunting prediction, especially the “Rookie of the Year” part. It’s very possible that another player who gets more focus on offense, like MKG with the Bobcats or Bradley Beal with the Wizards, could sneak in and snatch that award from Davis’ dextrous fingers. If it’s MKG, well I don’t think we’ll mind as much. Heck, Anthony probably wouldn’t mind if Mike nabbed it, either. But to already decide that Davis will be Rookie of the Year, especially when playing with volume scorers like Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers, puts a lot of pressure on his play, particularly the defensive end.
Even if the level of expectation is rising, it’s only fair to acknowledge that, because he’s the one doing it, he’ll be able to live up to the hype. After all, he’s the one making Tunisians look silly on international television. But surely New Orleans fans are watching him play in London just as intently as UK fans. Actually, I take that back. Nobody watches basketball as intently as UK fans, but I’m sure Hornets fans are paying attention. They’re seeing the auto-lob in full effect, and it has to be making them salivate, at least a little. They’ll be hungry when the season starts to see what Anthony can do against other NBA-caliber competition; we know as well as anyone that Davis is likely to meet, if not exceed, those expectations.
So while folks knew that Davis was good during the NBA draft, the world is really starting to see just how good he really is. Is it raising expectations? Probably, if even just a little. After all, this is a pretty big stage he’s playing on. But even with the increase in pressure, there’s no indication that Anthony won’t be able to go into New Orleans and produce and have a solid-to-great rookie campaign. I don’t just hope that, I expect that. And I think that’s okay; he’s shown he’s earned a little pressure.