Anthony Davis Poised to Make Another Leap?
Last season, New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis emerged as basketball’s newest superstar. Despite being just 21 years old for much of the campaign, Davis was dominant on both ends of the court and finished his third NBA season averaging 24.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.9 blocks and 1.5 steals with an insanely efficient 30.89 PER.
It seems inevitable that Davis will be one of the NBA’s best players for the next decade, especially since he is still so young and (somehow) has untapped potential. While it seems crazy to think that Davis will be even better next season when you look at his numbers, his age and the work he’s doing this summer suggest he’s poised to make another significant leap in 2015-16.
Davis has spent this offseason bulking up (he’s now 253 pounds while staying at just 10 percent body fat, according to Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com) and expanding his jump shot (he says he’ll take more three-pointers next year). In other words, Davis should be even tougher to slow down going forward, which is a terrifying thought for the rest of the NBA.
“I’ve just been really working, man, and staying in the gym; weights,” Davis told SLAM when asked about adding muscle. “That’s the first thing that everybody says when they see me: ‘Oh, you’re getting bigger!’ When you’re going against Dwight Howard and Big Cuz (DeMarcus Cousins), you gotta put on some weight.”
“He’s going to be stronger, faster, quicker and more explosive this year,” New Orleans’ head strength and conditioning coach Jason Sumerlin told Pelicans.com. “He talks about it all the time. He feels it. His trunk stability is a huge thing. Whenever he has been down low with the big guys, he kind of collapses (at his midsection). He’s starting to understand how to use his body more efficiently now. … He has been lifting consistently, doing all the small things perfectly and efficiently. We are more consistent in his lifts and his corrective exercises. He’s lifted a lot more weight – he’s stronger than he’s ever been.”
Not to mention, the addition of new head coach Alvin Gentry should help Davis significantly. Remember, Gentry was the man who helped the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors become juggernauts on the offensive end in recent years. Now, he is tasked with maximizing Davis’ full potential and building an offense around him. Gentry’s first assignment for Davis? Shoot a ton of threes this summer since he wants him shooting more from long range this year.
“We are going to be running a lot, getting up and down and trying to play faster, so that’s definitely exciting,” Davis told SLAM. “If the opportunity is there, I’m definitely going to take [three-pointers]. That’s one thing for sure that Coach Gentry has told me, ‘Shoot the ball,’ ‘Let it go.’ I’ve been working on it and I’m very confident in my game.
“I’ve shot three’s all my life. I didn’t really need to shoot them over the past few years as much, but I’m never going to turn down shooting threes, especially if the coach tells me he wants me to shoot them. It’s something that I’ve definitely been working on. I definitely plan on utilizing it this year.”
Davis is also coming off of his first playoff series (a first-round loss against Gentry and the eventual-champion Warriors), which he says was really important for his development.
“It was fun – I definitely learned a lot about myself, the team and about the playoffs,” Davis told SLAM. “The physicality really is different, the environment is different, the pace of play is different. Everything is different from the regular season. Guys actually step up their games in the playoffs.
“You hear about it all the time, but it really happens. Guys really lock in. It’s tough when you’re playing a team a minimum of four times straight. They know what you’re going to do, you know what they’re going to do and it comes down to who can hoop? That’s what I found out and it definitely motivates me to get back next year and pursue more.”
Davis finished fifth in the voting for the Most Valuable Player award last season, and it’s very possible he’ll be higher next year. He already had the insane numbers, but elevating his game even further and helping the Pelicans win more games and climb up the Western Conference standings could make him a serious candidate to win the award.
There’s no question that, barring injury, Davis will win the MVP award at some point in the near future. There aren’t many players one can confidently say that about, but that’s because there aren’t many players who can impact a game on both ends of the court the way Davis can. It seems inevitable that he’ll one day hoist that trophy, and additional muscle, range and experience may allow Davis to take his game to that level.
Basketball Insiders Podcast: Elfrid Payton
In case you missed it over the weekend, the latest episode of the Basketball Insiders Podcast dropped on Saturday and it featured Orlando Magic point guard Elfrid Payton. Payton joined me to talk about his rookie campaign, his expectations for next year, his journey to the NBA and Orlando’s talented young core. We also had some fun talking about his recent trip to China and, of course, his unique hairstyle. Check it out here:
The next episode of the Basketball Insiders Podcast will be posted on Tuesday, with special guest Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports. Be sure to check back tomorrow for that installment.
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