SLAM Top 50: Anthony Davis, No. 2

I need to try harder with Anthony Davis.

I should really like this guy. I do really like this guy. I just barely ever see him to root for him.

It’s not that I don’t know how good AD is. Most likely I knew before you did. I profiled him for SLAM five years ago, back when he was a senior in high school, which I realized doesn’t exactly qualify as finding dude under a rock. And to be fair, I suppose I didn’t “know,” not for sure.

This wasn’t 17-year-old LeBron. This was a skinny-ass kid who had grown six inches over the previous six months without losing his skill set, a guy in the “Kevin Durant mold,” I wrote, because what else would you say about a 6-10 guy with handles in 2010?

But I didn’t know, because nobody really knew, because how could anyone know that just five years later, he’d be…this?

So, yes, five years: A dominant senior season of high school ball. A single, terrific season at Kentucky. A very good if not quite earth-shattering rookie year with the Pelicans, and then the explosion in Year 2, and then a somehow-even-better Year 3.

And now he’s damn near sweeping the if-you-could-build-a-team-around-one-guy category in the annual GM survey, and people are finding different ways almost daily to measure how insanely statistically amazing he was last year. As if a League-high efficiency rating of 30.3 wasn’t amazing enough.

So Anthony Davis is phenomenal, and still so young and therefore almost certainly nowhere near done improving and basically daring all of us to draw a ceiling on a career trajectory that really increasingly looks like it should have no ceiling at all.

Chef Curry might’ve won MVP last season, but it’s no diss to call him a fluke; ironically for the son of an NBA player, there is no real father to his style. But AD? AD is the next step in the evolution of the game itself.

This time a year ago, I wrote about why LeBron James was still the best player in the game. That piece won a Pulitzer Prize for Writing About Basketball Rankings, in part because of the staggeringly prescient point I made about how knocking LeBron off his perch would require something like “Anthony Davis taking a few more giant steps along his path to freakish dominance.”

Granted, I also mentioned Durant and Derrick Rose and Chris Paul and Blake Griffin as guys who might replace Bron atop the pile, while I pointedly did not mention Curry, because the possibility of what that dude did last year had not even occurred to me.

But back to AD, who I think we can agree took another giant-AD-sized-stride or three last season, and for whom “freakish” is about the most accurate and complementary adjective I can think of.

He scores at an elite level. He rebounds at an elite level. He shot blocks at an elite level. He could get those assists up, I suppose—and here we’ll spare any discussion of the caliber of his teammates—but he also barely turns the ball over, and if you doubt for a second that his range will continue to expand like the universe, well.

Does he take the crown this season? Next? I can’t call it, other than to say that When? now seems like a better question than If?

I started this with a mild lament about not seeing enough of Anthony Davis to really fall in love with him. He seems like a good kid, and he plays in what is my favorite American city that I’ve never actually lived in, and also he’s not Steph Curry with a meme-friendly toddler and Larry O’Brien trophy under his roof, meaning there seems to still be plenty of room on the bandwagon.

It’s only because I’m old and have to get up for work early and don’t have League Pass anymore that I too rarely get to see him play. But I feel like that’s about to change. I feel like regular national telecasts are about to be a thing.

I feel like this might be the year he goes mainstream. I’m ready for the takeover.



SLAM Top 50 Players 2015
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Rajon Rondo Kings PG 14
49 Giannis Antetokounmpo Bucks SF 8
48 Rudy Gobert Jazz C 10
47 Al Jefferson Hornets C 9
46 DeMar DeRozan Raptors SG 7
45 Goran Dragic Heat PG 13
44 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 11
43 Jeff Teague Hawks PG 12
42 Bradley Beal Wizards SG 6
41 Joakim Noah Bulls C 8
40 Eric Bledsoe Suns PG 11
39 Tony Parker Spurs PG 10
38 Andrew Wiggins T-Wolves SF 7
37 Kyle Lowry Raptors PG 9
36 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 10
35 Gordon Hayward Jazz SF 6
34 Pau Gasol Bulls PF 9
33 Paul Millsap Hawks PF 8
32 Mike Conley Grizzlies PG 8
31 Andre Drummond Pistons C 7
30 Dirk Nowitzki Mavs PF 7
29 Draymond Green Warriors PF 6
28 Kobe Bryant Lakers SG 5
27 Dwyane Wade Heat SG 4
26 DeAndre Jordan Clippers C 6
25 Tim Duncan Spurs C 5
24 Derrick Rose Bulls PG 7
23 Al Horford Hawks C 4
22 Paul George Pacers SF 5
21 Chris Bosh Heat PF 5
20 Kevin Love Cavs PF 4
19 Dwight Howard Rockets C 3
18 Jimmy Butler Bulls SG 3
17 Klay Thompson Warriors SG 2
16 Damian Lillard Blazers PG 6
15 Kyrie Irving Cavs PG 5
14 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 2
13 Carmelo Anthony Knicks SF 4
12 John Wall Wizards PG 4
11 Kawhi Leonard Spurs SF 3
10 LaMarcus Aldridge Spurs PF 3
9 DeMarcus Cousins Kings C 1
8 Blake Griffin Clippers PF 2
7 Chris Paul Clippers PG 3
6 James Harden Rockets SG 1
5 Russell Westbrook Thunder PG 2
4 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 1
3 Kevin Durant Thunder SF 2
2 Anthony Davis Pelicans PF 1
1 LeBron James Cavs SF 1

Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2015-16—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.