Connect with us

NBA

NBA PM: Anthony Davis Emerges as Superstar

Anthony Davis just turned 21 years old, but he has already made the leap to stardom for the New Orleans Pelicans … Al Jefferson and Blake Griffin are NBA’s Players of the Week … Check out Basketball Insiders’ in-depth March Madness coverage

Alex Kennedy

Published

on

Washington Wizards veteran Trevor Ariza talks about the team’s success, John Wall’s breakout season and much more in this exclusive interview with Basketball Insiders.

Anthony Davis Emerges as Superstar

Until one week ago, Anthony Davis couldn’t purchase alcoholic beverages or check into a room at many hotels. The New Orleans Pelicans power forward just turned 21 years old on March 11, which is a terrifying thought for the rest of the NBA.

It’s easy to forget how young Davis is because he has quickly become one of the league’s best players in just his second NBA season. Four years ago, Davis was a high school student in Chicago. Today, he’s an NBA All-Star and one of the most productive players in basketball.

This season, Davis has made the leap to stardom, averaging 21.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.9 blocks and 1.4 steals. He ranks 14th in the NBA in points per game, eighth in rebounds per game and first in blocks per game. His efficiency rating (27.1) is fourth in the NBA behind only Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Kevin Love. There’s no question that Davis is one of the best two-way players in the league, causing problems for teams on both ends of the floor.

Believe it or not, Davis has been even more dominant in recent weeks. Over his last five games, he is averaging 33.2 points, 14.2 rebounds and 3.4 blocks. He had a 40-point, 21-rebound, three-block performance in a win against the Boston Celtics and a 32-point, 17-rebound, six-block outing in a win against the Denver Nuggets. He has topped his career-high in points in consecutive games, and he has been completely unstoppable despite often being the youngest player on the floor.

“We’re trying to finish this season out and trying to get more wins,” Davis said of his recent success. “My teammates tell me that they feed off my energy and they want me to be great so, I can’t be timid and [need to] do whatever it takes to help my team win. We’re definitely going to enjoy it, but we are not going to stop here. We are going to battle each and every night.”

“He’s playing amazing basketball,” Tyreke Evans said of Davis. “Every night he just brings it. I have to give him credit for his improvement. Through his hard work, he’s become one of the premier players in the league.”

Davis seems like an unfair create-a-player in NBA 2K14 – too athletic, too long, too skilled and too versatile to exist outside of a video game. It’s as if the basketball gods were bored one day and said, “Let’s create a freak-of-nature specimen and turn the sliders all the way up. Oh, and he’ll have a unibrow. This will be hilarious.”

“I think he’s unreal,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said of Davis. “You know, I came into the game in January thinking, ‘Yeah, he’s an All Star.’ I leave here after twice playing him saying, if there are 10 guys better in the league, I haven’t seen them. He’s really a special player.”

“He is so gifted and does things for the right reason,” Pelicans head coach Monty Williams said. “Obviously he has great athletic ability, but some of that stuff is just him. We try to put him in a position where he can be a dominant player. When you go for [40 points and 21 rebounds], that’s a lot of God-given talent.”

Davis has made huge strides this season. To realize just how much he’s grown as a player, consider that he didn’t receive a single first-place vote in last season’s Rookie of the Year race, as Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard unanimously won the award with 121 first-place votes. Last season, injuries limited Davis to 64 games and he battled inconsistency throughout the campaign. Now, you can count on one hand the players who impact a game more than Davis.

Williams believes Davis deserves the 2013-14 Most Improved Player award, and he doesn’t think the race is close. While one could make an argument for Goran Dragic, DeMar DeRozan, DeAndre Jordan and Lance Stephenson among others, Davis’ evolution into a superstar certainly puts him in the mix for the honor.

“For a guy that sets such a high bar, to be [21] years old and have all these expectations, who at [21] is playing like him? In the history of the game, there are very few,” Williams said of his forward. “The way he’s played and as good as he’s gotten, I don’t know who else is going to win Most Improved. Who should be up for it other than him the way he’s improved, just from that standpoint of being able to bounce back?”

The Pelicans haven’t lived up to heightened expectations this season, as they currently sit in the Western Conference’s 12th seed with a 27-39 record. Injuries have been a big reason for their struggles, with Davis, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, Tyreke Evans and Jason Smith among others missing time due to various ailments. However, Davis is remaining positive and believes it’s just a matter of time until New Orleans can become a competitive team in the West.

“We are getting better,” Davis said. “Collectively, we are getting better each day, each week and each practice. I think over the course of time, we are getting better, especially with the injuries we have had. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell when you don’t have all of your guys.”

Davis has certainly gotten better as an individual, and his best basketball is very likely still ahead of him since he’s so young. For some perspective, incoming draft prospects such as Doug McDermott, Rodney Hood and Mitch McGary are older than Davis.

The Anthony Davis era is here, and the next decade should be fun.

Jefferson, Griffin Named Players of the Week

The Charlotte Bobcats’ Al Jefferson and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin today were named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, March 10, through Sunday, March 16.

Jefferson led the Bobcats to a 4-0 week behind averages of 24.3 points (second in the conference) and 11.5 rebounds (fourth in the conference). He logged 37.7 mpg (tied-eighth in the East) and posted point-rebound double-doubles in three-of-four contests. On March 12, Jefferson tallied 26 points (13-of-20 field goals) and 10 rebounds as the Bobcats beat the Wizards 98-85 at Verizon Center.

Griffin helped the Clippers to a 4-0 week with averages of 27.0 points (third in the conference), 9.3 rebounds (ninth in the conference), 4.8 assists and 1.5 steals. He logged 36.9 mpg (eighth in the conference). Griffin tallied 20-or-more points in all four games and eclipsed the 30-point plateau twice, including on March 12, when he scored 30 points and added 15 rebounds, three assists and three steals during a 111-98 win over the Golden State Warriors.

Other nominees for the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Atlanta’s Kyle Korver, Indiana’s Paul George, Memphis’ Mike Conley, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, New York’s Carmelo Anthony and Tim Hardaway Jr and San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili.

March Madness is Here!

The 2014 NCAA Tournament is about to get underway, and Basketball Insiders has the most in-depth coverage of March Madness you’ll find:

Want a preview of every single NCAA Tournament game? Click here.

Check out a breakdown of the tournament field by clicking here.

Who are this year’s Cinderella teams to keep an eye on? Find out here.

Who needs to do well in the tourney to help their draft stock? Click here to find out.

Can Wichita State win it all after going undefeated? An interview with their star.

Check back over the next few days for more coverage of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Advertisement




6 Comments

NBA

NBA Saturday: Kuzma Is The Main Attraction In Los Angeles

Kyle Kuzma, not Lonzo Ball, is the rookie in L.A. that is turning heads around the NBA.

Dennis Chambers

Published

on

Out in Los Angeles, there is a dynamite rookie first-round pick lighting it up for the Lakers, invoking memories of the days when the purple and gold had homegrown stars.

That’s Kyle Kuzma. He was the 27th pick in the NBA Draft. Twenty-five picks after Lonzo Ball, the rookie that first sentence would have presumably been about had it been written three months ago.

Ball’s early season struggles are well-noted. He’s missing shots at an all-time bad clip for a rookie, his psyche seems a bit rattled, and he isn’t having the impact most Lakers fans would have hoped he would from the jump.

All of that has barely mattered, though, in large part to the show Kuzma has been putting on just 16 games into the 2017-18 season. In Friday night’s loss to the Phoenix Suns, Kuzma put up 30 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers, the most by an NBA freshman so far this year. That performance was Kuzma’s sixth 20-point game of the young season, another rookie best. And to top it all off, Kuzma was the first rookie to reach the 30-point, 10-rebound plateau since none other than Magic Johnson, back in February of 1980.

Kuzma’s path to the NBA was much different than Johnson’s, though, along with his rookie counterpart Ball. Those two prospects were highly-touted “superstar potential” guys coming out of the college ranks. Kuzma? Well, he was a 21-year-old junior out of Utah who didn’t make the NCAA Tournament his last year and was a career 30 percent three-point shooter as an amateur.

The knocks on Kuzma began to change during the NBA Draft process and came to a head for the Lakers when long-time scout Bill Bertka raved about his potential.

“He got all wide-eyed,” Lakers director of scouting Jesse Buss told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “And he said, ‘If this guy isn’t an NBA player, then I don’t know what the f— I’m looking at.'”

The Lakers took a chance on the 6-foot-9 forward who had a rare combination of a sweet shooting stroke to accompany his low-post moves that seemed to be reminiscent of players 20 years his senior.

Fast forward from draft night to the Las Vegas Summer League, and everyone could see with their own two eyes the type of player Los Angeles drafted. The numbers were startling: 21.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.1 steals, and 48 percent from beyond the arc out in Sin City for Kuzma, all capped off by a Summer League championship game MVP.

Summer League stats should be taken with a grain of salt, but what Kuzma did in July was proved he belonged.

Through the first month of Kuzma’s rookie campaign, when the games are actually counting for something, all he’s continued to do is prove that his exhibition numbers in Vegas were no fluke.

After his 30-point outburst, Kuzma now leads all rookies in total points scored (yet still second in scoring average), is fourth in rebounds per game, third in minutes, and third in field goal percentage.

By all accounts, Kuzma is outperforming just about every highly-touted prospect that was taken before him last June, and sans a Ben Simmons broken foot in September of 2016, he would be in line for the Rookie of the Year award if the season ended today.

Following Wednesday night’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, head coach Brett Brown had more than a few nice things to say about Kuzma.

“He’s a hell of a rookie,” Brown told NBC Philly’s Jessica Camerato. “That was a great pick by them.”

Brown went on to commend Kuzma for being “excellent” Wednesday night, when prior to his game Friday against the Suns, Kuzma set a career-high by scoring 24 points.

For all of the praise and the scoring numbers Kuzma is bringing to the Staples Center, his Lakers team sits at just 6-10 on the season, and has been on the wrong end of a number of close games so far this year.

While that’s good for second in the Pacific division right now, behind only the Golden State Warriors, it isn’t likely that type of success (or lack thereof) will get the Lakers to the playoffs. So, despite all of the numbers and attention, Kuzma isn’t fulfilling his rookie year the way he had hoped.

“It is cool, but I’m a winner,” Kuzma told Lakers Nation’s Serena Winters. “I like to win, stats don’t really matter to me. I just try to play hard and I want to win.”

Few projected the type of impact Kuzma would have this early on in his career, and even fewer would have assumed he’d be outperforming the Lakers’ prized draft pick in Ball. But surprising people with his game is nothing new to Kuzma.

From Flint, Michigan, to Utah, to Los Angeles, Kuzma has been turning heads of those that overlooked him the entire time.

With one month in the books as the Los Angeles Lakers’ most promising rookie, Kuzma has all the attention he could’ve asked for now.

Continue Reading

NBA

Kelly Olynyk Strengthens the HEAT Bench

David Yapkowitz speaks to Kelly Olynyk about his early showing in Miami.

David Yapkowitz

Published

on

The past few years, Kelly Olynyk carved out a nice role for himself as an important player off the Boston Celtics bench. He was a fan favorite at TD Garden, with his most memorable moment in Celtic green coming in last season’s playoffs against the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

With Boston pushed to the limit and finding themselves forced into a Game 7, Olynyk rose to the occasion and dropped a playoff career-high 26 points off the bench on 10-14 shooting from the field in a Celtics win. He scored 14 of those points in the fourth quarter to hold Washington off.

He was a free agent at the end of the season, and instead of coming back to the Celtics, he became a casualty of their roster turnover following Gordon Hayward’s decision to sign in Boston. Once he hit the open market he had no shortage of suitors, but he quickly agreed to a deal with the Miami HEAT, an easy decision for him.

“It’s awesome, they got a real good culture here,” Olynyk told Basketball Insiders. “The organization is great, the city is great, the staff from the top down they do a good job here.”

Olynyk was initially the HEAT’s starting power forward to begin the season. In their opening night game, a 116-109 loss to the Orlando Magic, he scored ten points, pulled down five rebounds, and dished out three assists.

The very next game, however, he found himself back in his familiar role as first big man off the bench. In that game, a win over the Indiana Pacers, Olynyk had an even stronger game with 13 points on 50 percent shooting from the field, including 60 percent from three-point range, eight rebounds, and four assists.

Throughout the first eight games of the season, Olynyk was thriving with his new team. During that stretch, he was averaging a career-high 11.4 points per game on a career-high 55 percent shooting from the field and 60. 8 percent from downtown.

“I’m just playing, I’m just playing basketball,” Olynyk told Basketball Insiders. “They’re kind of letting me just play. They kind of let us all just play. They put us in positions to succeed and just go out there and let out skills show.”

For a HEAT team that may not be as talented on paper as some of the other teams in the Eastern Conference, they definitely play hard and gritty and are a sum of their parts. Night in and night out, in each of their wins, they’ve done it off the contributions from each player in the rotation and Olynyk has been a big part of that. Through Nov. 16, the HEAT bench was seventh in the league in points per game with 36.6.

In a win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 5, Olynyk was part of a bench unit including James Johnson, Tyler Johnson, and Wayne Ellington that came into the game late in the first quarter. The score at that point was 18-14 in Miami’s favor. That unit closed the quarter on a 16-6 run to put the HEAT up double digits. After that game, head coach Erik Spoelstra recognized the strength of the HEAT bench.

“Our guys are very resilient, that’s the one thing you’ve got to give everybody in that locker room, they’re tough,” Spoelstra said. “This is all about everybody in that locker room contributing to put yourself in a position, the best chance to win. It’s not about first unit, second unit, third unit, we’re all in this together.”

In Boston, Olynyk was part of a similar group that won games off of team play and production from every guy that got in the game. They were also a tough, gritty team and Olynyk has recognized that same sort of fire in the HEAT locker room.

“It’s a group of hard-nosed guys that can really grind it out and play tough-nosed basketball,” Olynyk told Basketball Insiders. “We can go a lot of places. We just got to stick together and keep doing what we do. We can compete with anybody and we just got to bring it every single night.”

At 7-8, the HEAT currently sit outside the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. Olynyk has seen a bit of a decrease in playing time, and likewise in production. He’s right at his career average in points per game with 9.5, but he’s still shooting career-highs from the field (54 percent) and from three-point range (47.4).

It’s still very early, though, and only one game separates the 11th place HEAT from the 8th place Magic. The HEAT are definitely tough enough to fight for a playoff spot, especially with Olynyk around helping to strengthen their bench.

Continue Reading

NBA

Defensive Player Of The Year Watch – 11/17/17

Spencer Davies updates the list of names to keep an eye on and who’s in contention for DPOY.

Spencer Davies

Published

on

We’re exactly one month into the season now, as the NBA standings have started to take shape headed into winter.

A couple of weeks ago, Basketball Insiders released its first Defensive Player of the Year Watch article to go in-depth on players that could compete for the prestigious award. Since then, there have been injuries keeping most of the household names out of the picture.

Guys like Rudy Gobert (knee) and Al-Farouq Aminu (ankle) have been or will be sidelined for weeks. Kawhi Leonard has yet to make his season debut recovering from a bothersome right quad.

While that isn’t the best news for fans and the league at the moment, it’s likely that those players will be just fine and return with the same impact they’ve always made. In the meantime, there are opportunities for others to throw their names in the hat as elite defenders. With new names and mainstays, here’s a look at six healthy candidates.

6) Joel Embiid

Trusting the Process in Philadelphia was worth the wait. As polished as the seven-footer is with the ball in his hands on offense, he might be even more dangerous as an interior defensive presence.

One of ten players in the NBA averaging at least a block and a steal per game, Embiid makes a world of a difference for in limiting opponents. Through 14 games, the Philadelphia 76ers are allowing just 96.4 points per 100 possessions with him playing. Furthering that, he’s the only one on the floor who dips the team’s defensive rating below 100 and has the second-highest Defensive Real Plus-Minus rating (3.03) in the NBA.

5) Kristaps Porzingis

Like Embiid, it’s been an incredible season for the one called The Unicorn. Before the season started, Porzingis stated it was a goal of his to accomplish three things—an All-Star game appearance, Most Improved Player, and Defensive Player of the Year.

So far, he’s on the right track. Outside of being the league’s third-highest scorer (28.9 points per game), the Latvian big man is hounding and deterring shot attempts nearly every time inside. According to SportVU data, Porzingis is allowing his opponents to only convert 35.1 percent of their attempts at the rim, which is the lowest by far among his peers seeing at least four tries per game. Oh, and when he’s off the floor, the Knicks have a 112.4 defensive rating, which is 9.3 more points per 100 possessions than with him on.

4) Nikola Jokic

At the beginning of the season, it looked like the same old story with the Denver Nuggets defense, but their intensity has stepped up on that end of the floor for the past couple of weeks. Playing next to new running mate Paul Millsap has taken some getting used to, but it seems like the two frontcourt partners have started to mesh well.

Though it might not have been the case a season ago, the Denver Nuggets are a net -12.4 per 100 possessions defensively without Jokic on the court as opposed to a team-best 100.1 defensive rating with him on. A huge knock on the Serbian sensation last year and before then was his inability to defend. He’s still got things to work on as a rim protector with his timing, but the progress is coming. He’s seventh in the league in total contested shots (168) and has been forcing turnovers like a madman. Averaging 1.6 steals per game, Jokic has recorded at least one takeaway in all but two games.

3) Draymond Green

In the first DPOY watch article, the Golden State Warriors had been better off defensively with Green sitting. That right there should tell you how much we can really put into data in small sample sizes. It’s changed dramatically since that point in time.

Without Green playing, the Golden State Warriors have a defensive rating of 105.4 as opposed to 98.4 on the same scale with him on the floor. His matchups are starting to grow weary of driving on him again, as he’s seen less than four attempts at the basket. Currently, in DRPM, he ranks eighth with a 2.60 rating.

2) Al Horford

The Boston Celtics are still the number one team in the NBA in defensive rating. Horford is still the straw that stirs the drink for Brad Stevens. If you didn’t see that watching that knockdown, drag-it-out game against the Warriors on Thursday, go back and watch it.

He has the highest net rating on the team among starters and is leading the team by altering shots and grabbing rebounds with aggressiveness we haven’t seen since he played for the Atlanta Hawks. Ranking fourth in Defensive Box Plus-Minus and in DRPM, Horford is continuing to make his presence felt.

1) DeMarcus Cousins

Dominance is the word to describe Cousins’ game. With a month-long absence of Gobert, he has a real chance to show fans and voters that his defensive side of him is no façade.

Next to his partner Anthony Davis, Boogie has kept up the physicality and technique of locking up assignments. The third and final member of this list averaging at least a block and steal per game, Cousins is at the top of the mountain in DRPM with a 3.13 rating.

The New Orleans Pelicans significantly benefit with him on the hardwood (102.3 DRTG) as opposed to him on the bench (112.7 DTRG). He’s one of six players in the league seeing more than six attempts at the rim, and he’s allowed the lowest success percentage among that group. He’s also contested 193 shots, which is the second-most in the NBA.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending Now