A year ago, SLAM ranked LeBron James as the League’s best player. Anthony Davis was second, Kevin Durant was third, Steph Curry was fourth. Davis had just posted the League’s highest PER—the 11th best mark of all time—and dragged a mediocre team to the postseason. There, he averaged 31.5, 11 and 3 in a quick four-game set. We wondered if Davis would soon become the League’s best player.
Then the new season started, and by the time Davis got his first win, Curry was already 8-0, LeBron was 7-1. Davis missed four of the next five games with an injury. The window for Davis as Best Player slammed shut. The Pelicans won just 30 games.
Davis was very good last year, but not otherworldly—24 points, 10 boards and 2 blocks (down from 3) nightly, while shooting 49 percent overall (down from 54). He played in 61 games—his fourth time in as many years falling short of 70.
Indeed, it was a small step backward for Davis. But let’s not get distracted: Brow remains one of the League’s undisputed great players. In fact, he is likely the NBA’s best two-way player. Davis protects the rim as reliably as DeAndre Jordan and, last season, was the only player to average 4 buckets in the restricted area, 1.5 inside the paint (outside the RA), and 3 from mid-range. Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett each averaged 24, 10 and 2 just once in their respective careers—Davis just did it on a down year.
Davis is only 23, and will, amazingly, continue to improve. The only question is whether his team will slow him down (again).
Over the summer, New Orleans lost Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson via free agency. Rookie Buddy Hield and forward Solomon Hill will struggle to replace them. Tyreke Evans may not play until the new year. Sadly, Jrue Holiday is dealing with the most severe of personal problems. Langston Galloway, Tim Frazier and E’Twuan Moore will have legit roles here. Lance Stephenson lurks. Last week, Davis sprained his ankle, and is questionable for opening day.
The Pelicans may struggle again, leaving Davis to stall for another season, an incredible player on a bad team that’s never on TV. It’s a common and frustrating situation, but that’s no excuse to forget about him. Do not sleep on Anthony Davis. In about a week, he will return, scoring 34, rejecting 9, gliding across the court, forcing the viewer once again to wonder if there’s anybody better.
ANTHONY DAVIS SLAM TOP 50 HISTORY
|SLAM Top 50 Players 2016|
Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2016-17—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.
Follow the entire SLAM Top 50 countdown.