On December 30th, the New Orleans Pelicans took on the visiting Portland Trail Blazers, who were at the top of the Western Conference in that moment in their home arena.
In a night where Jrue Holiday reminded us why he was an All-Star last season and Tyreke Evans showed flashes of his amazing talent as he nailed the game winning shot, it was Anthony Davis with his defense who stood out most in the Pelicans’ 110-108 victory over the Blazers.
The outstanding sophomore has risen to stardom this season. Anthony has shown tremendous improvement so far, especially on the offensive end. However, it is still his play on the other end, despite his improved offense, that make him the star player he is today.
The 20 year old Davis possess nice physical tools, a superb skill set, high intelligence and instincts to excel on defense like very few can nowadays. Despite his age, he’s arguably the best defensive player in the NBA right now.
He has the needed size (6’10 and still has room to grow) and athleticism to battle big men in the post, the needed quick footwork and speed to stay with the smaller guards and forwards on the perimeter, the length (7’6 wingspan) to bother shots everywhere on the floor and the nice instincts and timing to make the right play in the right time.
He usually guards elite big men down like Aldridge, Love, Gasol etc and stays on the perimeter with the likes of Durant, Turner among the rest on the perimeter switches where he is very successful in those situations. His versatility just adds even more to him being even more dominant presence out there.
Anthony is arguably the most elite help defender in the league. He blocks a lot of shots and bothers even more at the rim, he is great at defending the pick n’roll, is capable to get out to the three point line to make it a tough situation, doesn’t miss rotations and is fantastic in transition for a big man.
This can be backed up by the fact that Davis is the NBA’s leader in blocked shots with 3.2 blocks a game and is averaging 1.4 steals that is good enough for just outside the top 20 as well. How about the fact that he’s the first player since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1987 to post six steals and six blocks (while scoring 20+ points )in the same game?
Let’s not forget the fact that he’s the first player since Olajuwon and Robinson to post 3+ blocks (and 15 points) in his first team’s five games as well? The achievements and numbers certainly add even more praise to his abilities so far.
Anthony is an elite man to man defender as well. He keeps his hand up on his man, has nice footwork, doesn’t fall too often on fakes, is capable to force the attacker into a bad situation and low percentage shots. Just ask guys like Young, Pau, Aldridge, Love and so on who all had issues scoring against him.
Thanks to his work in the off-season, Davis has added at least 10 pounds of muscle to his frame and has more success against the strong opposition. Although there is still room to improve upper body strength and more weight, as the Unibrow struggled against strong center in Dwight.
Considering his work ethic, he will get there very soon. Anthony is a commanding rim protector defensively for the Pelicans, who even with him allow 105 points and without allow 2.1 points even more. Even though only Holiday is the other worthy defender, the young uprising center-forward manages to keep the bad New Orleans team defense from being the league’s worst.
Davis isn’t a clear cut No.1 choice right now (no one is), still needs to add weight and improve upper body strength to efficiently defend strongmen in the post but overall he has been consistent and fantastic on defense the entire season.
If there is someone who has put on display his ability to defend to stand out and has made an impact on his team (not the top one, but there is still some even in those circumstances), Anthony Davis has been the best defender in the league so far for the 2013-14 season.
(Article via Hoops-Nation.com / The Future - forum user)