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  years old and have all these expectations, who at  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:
Check back over the next few days for more coverage of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.