Today’s announcement that the New Orleans Pelicans and Washington Wizards will play an NBA preseason game at Rupp Arena in October was cause for celebration, as three of the most beloved Wildcats in Calipari’s tenure will be returning to show off their skills in the professional ranks. For John Wall, this summer has marked a turnaround as he battled injuries and (ridiculous) questions regarding tattoos and whether he was worth a max contract. All of that was put to rest today after news broke that he signed a contract worth $80 million over 5 years. As for Davis, he too battled injuries last season but returns for the 2013-2014 campaign with a new mascot, revamped roster and a shot at becoming an NBA All-Star in just his second season.
Before you dismiss his chances as obsolete, take a look at the state of the NBA’s post positions. Gone are the days of David Robinson, Patrick Ewing and Shaquille O’Neal; players who could outmuscle weaker centers in the post, receive the ball and immediately bring the pain down on their opponents. The centers of NBA past became so dominant that there were changes in the rules to compensate for the lack of competition during games. In today’s league, however, you have a player like Brook Lopez leading all centers in scoring and a 4-team bidding war for Dwight Howard, a center who played with an injured shoulder all last season and is about to suit up for his 3rd team in as many years. The point is, Davis isn’t too far off from becoming a premiere player at his position, given his competition.
Even with injuries that kept him out for some time last season, Davis still averaged 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds a game. Compare that to Tyson Chandler (10.4 & 10.7), Zach Randolph (15.4 & 11.2) and Joakim Noah (11.9 & 11.1), three big men who were All-Stars in 2013, and you realize that Davis doesn’t have to improve all that drastically to be selected. Speaking of improving, it should be much easier to accomplish this season as the Pelicans’ front office has surrounded their prized #1 pick with much better talent than he was playing alongside last year (cough cough Austin Rivers cough couch). As Big Blue Nation mourned the short-lived fantasy of seeing Davis and Nerlens locking down the paint together for the next 10 years, there is no question that getting Jrue Holiday for Noel was a steal for New Orleans. Holiday is a player who blossomed on a terrible 76ers team last year and has gained confidence as each season passes. Throw in the signing of Tyreke Evans, a former Rookie of the Year, and Pelicans returnees Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson, and Davis should have the extra offensive power needed to let him focus on the key areas he will be relied upon for: rebounds, second chance opportunities and blocks.
Next season’s All Star Game is going to be held in New Orleans, and as noted on the site a few days ago, Davis has been selected as one of the NBA’s ambassadors for their Jam Session that will go on as part of the weekend festivities. Having the game in New Orleans certainly helps to improve Davis’ chances of making the team; it would be great PR for the Pelicans as the league’s best players arrive in town for the weekend, fans of Kentucky would have an added incentive to either travel to the city or tune in to the All-Star game, and it would help bring national attention to a Pelicans team that hopes to be in contention for the playoffs at that point in the season. The last time a player from the team located in that season’s host city (except for the 2007 game, held in Las Vegas) was not selected to the NBA All-Star roster was 2005, with Denver and the Nuggets not having anyone chosen. In other words, being a Pelican certainly helps (#NationalGeographicSentences).
Davis has already shown he can compete with the best in the world, having been selected to play in the 2012 Olympics and more than likely chosen again for the upcoming 2014 FIBA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. With expected improvement, a healthy season, an improved roster and being the face of the franchise in the host city, the chances of Anthony Davis putting on a Western Conference All-Star Jersey in 2013-2014 couldn’t be better.