By: Darrell Harris
The eye test is an age-old measuring system used to analyze talent and potential. While the eye test is far from conclusive, first impressions are everything as they say. Michael Jordan possessed eye-popping athleticism to complement a killer competitive drive. Shaq was a mammoth of a man disguised in shorts and sneakers. Dominance was inevitable. Kevin Durant, at 6’10 in shoes with arms that touch his knees, the handle of a guard, and a deadly jumpshot passes with flying colors. Today we have Zion Williamson, or should I say Lawrence Taylor?
At the turn of the decade however, there was this dude Anthony Davis. Nearly 7 feet tall, 220 pounds soaking wet, rocking a unibrow. A question mark when applying the ol’ eye test, until his freshman year happened.
Coach Calipari’s highly touted recruiting classes rarely disappoint, churning out pro after pro. Only one Kentucky squad would capture the Naismith National Championship, however, the one led by the Brow. In the 2011-12 season, The Wildcats ran amuck through the NCAA en route to a 38-2 record. AD, the No. 1 overall recruit, lived up to they hype averaging a team high in points, rebounds, steals, blocks, and field goal percentage. By the way he averaged 4.7 blocks a game. (the only freshmen in NCAA history to best this number is 7’6 Shawn Bradley, and Hall-of-Famer Alonzo Mourning). Davis should be a unanimous selection for the Mount Rushmore of Big Blue nation.
Defensive prowess was The Brow’s calling card entering the draft. Questions remained about his unpolished offensive game though. Growing from 6’2 to 6’10 between his sophomore and senior seasons in high school, it was visible that AD hadn’t grown into his body yet. But if he did, you’d better watch out.
Fast forward seven seasons and Anthony Davis is the premiere big man in the NBA, and just entering his prime. He is a 6x all-star, 3x all-defensive player, and All-star game MVP (record-setting performance below). His current statline of 29 points and 13 rebounds per game are better than Tim Duncan’s career highs. AD’s career average player efficiency rating is 27.45 – third all-time only behind Michael Jordan and LeBron James. (PER is regarded as the best statistical measure of an NBA player’s output)
Still, what makes Anthony Davis so special? Think of the NBA as an Apple product, every so on there is an update that makes the same old game feel new and improved. The current league is perimeter centric, fast, and extremely dynamic thanks to 6’5 point guards everywhere and centers who hoist threes.
Anthony Davis is a hybrid. He runs end to end fluid like a gazelle, one of the best signs in a big man. He anchors his squad defensively; teammates can be more aggressive knowing if they get beat The Brow is looming, daring a guard to try and finish over him. His shooting touch is silky smooth and now comfortably stretches beyond the 3-pt line. Even better, is that he isn’t in love with the three as many bigs are. He’d much rather operate in pick and roll where he’s absolutely lethal, or hang around the elbow and break his defender down with his advanced footwork. There is a visible poise in his play; one that translates to his team and makes lopsided matchups seem more balanced (evident in last year’s playoff when the Pelicans swept the higher seeded Trail Blazers). As a result, the game boils down to a possession for possession battle – and you’d rather have Anthony Davis than not.
If history means anything, and it should, we’ve seen this before. The bidding war on Anthony Davis has begun. Rumors of trade packages across the Association have fan bases concerned that their favorite player or bright young cornerstone may be packing their bags once the season is over. The very public negotiations between New Orleans and Los Angeles set the league on notice that NOBODY is safe. Magic Johnson was prepared to auction off the entire lot, what many fans considered to be too much.
My friends… when an undisputed 5-star player is on the market, nobody is off-limits. In fact, remember the wise words of one Lindsay Lohan, “THE LIMIT DOES NOT EXIST.” Historically when teams have went all in on transcendent players, the team landing the superstar soon reaps the benefit.
|Exhibit A: 2008 Boston Celtics|
|Celtics lost: Jeff Green, Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Delonte West|
|Celtics acquired: Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Glen Davis.|
|They won the championship that season and returned the next year. The era of big 3s began again.|
|Exhibit B: 2008 Los Angeles Lakers|
|Lakers lost: Kwame Brown, Aaron Mckie, Javaris Crittenton, rights to Marc Gasol, 2 first-round picks|
|Lakers acquired: Pau Gasol|
|A year later they would attend three straight NBA Finals, winning two championships.|
|Exhibit C: 2011 Miami Heat|
|Heat lost: Two first-round picks, two second-round picks, $15M trade exception|
|Heat acquired: LeBron James|
|Many believe this was just a free agency signing when in fact it was a sign and trade. Boom, two NBA titles and a gone-too-soon Heatles era that never missed The Finals.|
|Exhibit D: 1975 Los Angeles Lakers|
|Lakers lost: Brian Winters, Elmore Smith, Junior Bridgeman, and Dave Meyers|
|Lakers acquired: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar|
|Resulted in 3 MVPs for Cap and 5 Los Angeles NBA Championship banners.|
One more, for good measure.
|Exhibit E: 1995 Chicago Bulls|
|Bulls lost: Will Purdue and cash|
|Bulls acquired: Dennis Rodman|
|Rodman, along with the returning Michael Jordan terrorized the league. The Bulls dynasty rattled off another 3-peat.|
I rest my case. Anthony Davis has made it clear, he cares about his legacy more than the dollars. The man wants to win, and doesn’t see a future in New Orleans. For the team willing to pay the right price, they will be very satisfied with their return on investment.