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NBA Saturday: Big Summer Could Help Davis

Anthony Davis could be poised for a superstar leap, and his Team USA experience will only help him … Gary Payton confirms he’ll advise Antetokounmpo.

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Team USA Experience Could Help Davis’ Growth

Many young players who have played for USA Basketball have been able to significantly improve their game thanks to the experience. When a player puts on that Team USA jersey, not only do they get the chance to represent their country on the biggest stage, they also get to play against some of the best players in the world and see how hard they work.

Back in 2012, a 19-year-old Anthony Davis was added to the Team USA roster after Blake Griffin sustained an injury. Even though he was one of the last players on the bench, the opportunity to learn from veterans like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul among others was invaluable.

This summer, during the FIBA World Cup in Spain, Davis played a much bigger role for USA Basketball. He was one of the focal points of the team on both ends of the court, but still got to learn from his peers. Davis, at 21 years old, now has two gold medals.

“[Davis was] the lead dog among alpha dogs,” New Orleans Pelicans head coach and Team USA assistant Monty Williams told The Times-Picayune of Davis.

Davis admitted that this USA experience was different, since he had a much bigger role this time around.

“In 2012, I was kind of like the 12th guy,” Davis said. “It was fun. That was my first time winning something to that extreme. Of course, I won a national championship (at Kentucky), but when you win a gold medal, there’s only a handful of guys who can say they did it. And to do it at 19, that was a big experience.

“But I think this time I was a lot more involved. I was looked upon as one of the guys who got the team going, bringing that energy and effort offensively and defensively. It was fun. If I have a chance to do it again, I think I would.”

Williams saw that even though Davis was one of the team’s leaders, he was still evaluating some of the other stars on the team and taking in how hard they worked.

“I couldn’t tell you the place or the timing of it all, but over the period from Vegas to Madrid, I just watched him watch other people,” Williams said. “He was around a former MVP (Derrick Rose). He watched (James) Harden. People don’t know how hard Harden works. I think A.D. was able to watch him work an hour or two hours before practice with his trainer and then come to practice.

“I think that had an impact on him. The great ones do more. I think he looked at that, and our after-practice workouts when he and I got going, I think that had an impact on him just watching those guys.”

Davis has superstar potential, as evidenced by his elite play toward the end of last season. He averaged 24.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.4 blocks in the month of March last season. On the season, Davis averaged 20.8 points, 10 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 1.3 steals. He ranked 14th in the NBA in points per game, 10th in rebounds per game and first in blocks per game. His efficiency rating (26.5) was fourth in the NBA.

Stardom may have been in Davis’ future either way, but the USA Basketball experience can only help him. It’ll boost his confidence and help his work ethic among other things, as Williams pointed out. Davis admitted that his time with Team USA helped his leadership, and it’s something that he’s trying to carry over into the 2014-15 season with the Pelicans.

“I try to do that here as well,” Davis said of his leadership role. “So it was just kind of an extension of the season. A lot of those guys can lead, as well, are leaders of their team. So I was trying to take some of what they do, how they lead, try to pick it up so I could have it coming back into this season.”

“I think watching him watch those guys helped him to grow,” Williams said. “So I’m sure he’s going to bring a lot of that back to our team. I don’t know what he’s going to add, but it’ll be interesting to see how all that stuff impacted him because I’m sure it did just watching those guys work.”

Payton Confirms He’ll Advise Antetokounmpo

As we covered in yesterday’s NBA Rumor Round-Up, there was a report that suggested Gary Payton would be joining the Milwaukee Bucks’ coaching staff as a special advisor to help Giannis Antetokounmpo make the transition to point guard.

Antetokounmpo, who played point guard during the Las Vegas Summer League, would reportedly continue with the experiment during the regular season.

New Bucks head coach Jason Kidd believes that Antetokounmpo has what it takes to be a floor general in the NBA, so he and Payton will work with the 19-year-old as he adjusts to the new position.

Payton confirmed the report and opened up about why he decided to join the Bucks’ staff.

“When Jason said to me that he intends to use him as a point guard, I told him to stop making jokes,” Payton said, according to Eurohoops.net. “’Gary don’t talk before you see him,’ was his answer and I watched him during the Las Vegas Summer League. He can handle the ball, he can drive, he is smart and he is really athletic. That’s why I was asked to go to Milwaukee during the training camp in order to help him adapt to the demands of the modern point guard position.”

Antetokounmpo is 6’11 and has a 7’5 wingspan, so he could be a huge match-up problem for opposing point guards. Antetokounmpo was a thrill to watch last season. Now, with him playing point guard and handling the ball much more, this is definitely something to watch in Milwaukee next season.

Check out Basketball Insiders’ Milwaukee Bucks 2014-15 season preview.

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.

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