SLAM Top 50: Anthony Davis, No. 8

Perhaps no player on the #SLAMTop50 has more to prove in terms of their superstardom this season than do-everything big man Anthony Davis.

As he embarks on his sixth year with the New Orleans Pelicans–and at just 24 years old–Davis has already made four All-Star Games (earned MVP in last year’s game) and two All-NBA First Teams. He carried the Pelicans to a 45-37 record, and a playoff berth, during a dominant 2014-15 campaign and ascended to No. 2 on the #SLAMTop50 heading into the next season.

He checked in at No. 6 prior to last year, and is down a couple slots to No. 8 this time around. Don’t get it twisted, it’s not as if he’s regressed as a player—he’s gotten better each year. Ant averaged career highs in points (28.0) and rebounds (11.8), while blocking 2.2 shots per game a while earning All-Defensive Second Team honors for the second time in his career last season. So why the dip in ranking?

The Pelicans have made only one postseason appearance during his young career, and the eventual champion Golden State Warriors swept them in the first round.

Last year the Pelicans were never serious playoff contenders, finished 34-48 but made major waves at the trade deadline by acquiring three-time All Star center DeMarcus Cousins. New Orleans went 10-12 with the twin towers on the court together.

One-time All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday re-upped with the Pelicans through 2021, and Rajon Rondo signed for one year to try and help New Orleans feed both Davis and Cousins. With a full offseason and preseason to try and figure out a winning mix on the court, expectations are tricky because the West is absolutely loaded. Though the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers could potentially take a step back from last season, the Timberwolves, Thunder, Nuggets, Grizzlies, and Blazers all figure to be squarely in the mix for one of the eight postseason slots along with the Warriors, Spurs and Rockets as well.

Davis has added wrinkles to his offensive game each season, making him a challenger for the League’s scoring title every season from here on out. If he and Boogie develop a two-man game, as each are capable passers, the League is going to have a hard time slowing them down.

If you take a gander at Davis’ game log from last season, there are countless holy shit stat lines. In case you forgot, you’d have to remove your jaw from the floor when you remembered he posted a 50-point, 16-rebound, 7-steal, 5-assist, 4-block line on opening night. The ability to completely own a game on either end of the court makes Davis a perennial All Star. Compound that with the fact he has been the main focus of the opposition’s defense every night without any killers on the wings, you’d be hard pressed to find any real holes in his game.

Though predicting success for New Orleans as a squad is fuzzy at the moment, you can expect Davis to continue to show out with silly statistical performances.

The Pelicans lack depth but boast two of the best frontcourt players in the world. They have a couple guards who have both been All Stars at various points in their careers. But in order for Davis to earn superstar status, and enter back into the conversation as best player in the league, wins and playoff runs are going to have to follow the stats.

For someone who has garnered as many accolades as he has this early in his career, Davis still has plenty to prove. That is even scarier than the numbers he does in the box score.

Previous Rankings:
2016: No. 6
2015: No. 2
2014: No. 4
2013: No. 41

Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2017-18—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.

No. 50 – Dion Waiters
No. 49 – Ben Simmons 
No. 48 – Brook Lopez
No. 47 — Harrison Barnes
No. 46 — Jrue Holiday
No. 45 — Lonzo Ball
No. 44 — Myles Turner
No. 43 — Goran Dragic
No. 42 — Andre Drummond
No. 41 — Al Horford
No. 40 — LaMarcus Aldridge
No. 39 — Kevin Love
No. 38 — Paul Millsap
No. 37 — Hassan Whiteside
No. 36 — Andrew Wiggins
No. 35 — Marc Gasol
No. 34 – DeAndre Jordan
No. 33 — Bradley Beal
No. 32 — Kemba Walker
No. 31 — CJ McCollum
No. 30 — Devin Booker
No. 29 — Nikola Jokic
No. 28 — Joel Embiid
No. 27 — Mike Conley 
No. 26 — Kyle Lowry
No. 25 — Rudy Gobert

No. 24 — Gordon Hayward
No. 23 — Kristaps Porzingis
No. 22 — Carmelo Anthony
No. 21 — DeMar DeRozan
No. 20 — Blake Griffin
No. 19 — Draymond Green
No. 18 — Chris Paul
No. 17 — Klay Thompson
No. 16 — Jimmy Butler
No. 15 — Isaiah Thomas
No. 14 — Karl-Anthony Towns
No. 13 — Damian Lillard
No. 12 — DeMarcus Cousins
No. 11 — Kyrie Irving
No. 10 — John Wall
No. 9 — Paul George