The New Orleans Hornets earned the right to draft Kentucky product Anthony Davis last night, and the gasps and cheers you heard from around the NBA were warranted.
It is not exaggerating to compare Davis’ game to a young Kevin Garnett.
I don’t want to do any heavy lifting on statistical grunt work here, and you probably don’t want to read all of that anyway. (Besides, Rohan did it all for me a couple of months ago.) What I can do is try to make some sense of the numbers, and hopefully explain what it is about Davis that makes him so special.
The easiest and most remarkable stat to wrap our heads around is his block to foul ratio — roughly two and a half blocks for every foul — an absurd figure that demonstrates how dominant a defender he truly was last year.
Don’t see it? Try this on:
He led the nation in blocks (5.8 per 40 minutes).
Yet he only committed two and a half fouls per 40 minutes.
So basically this guy was the most dominant shot blocker in the nation, AND he didn’t foul. So there was essentially no way to attack him (with any consistency, anyway). Entire gameplans revolved around avoiding him completely. I’ve seen that phenomenon before, but to this degree was something else entirely. I honestly can’t remember a defensive presence that dictated an opposing offense’s strategy like that, and it made watching Kentucky basketball appointment television.
He’s going to bring that to New Orleans — we’re already seeing that with the ticket office getting flooded with calls last night.
Of course this doesn’t even touch on his offensive game, which is only slightly less ridiculous. He notched a two-point percentage that was one of the best 15 marks of the past decade, a 35.4 PER (the highest of any player in the last four years), and his turnover rate was just nine percent (another shoutout to Rohan for compiling these numbers).
What that stuff all means, in order, is that he’s sort of ridiculously efficient at scoring (via dunks and putbacks), his team excels on offense with him on the court (meaning he’s an impact guy and a help to his teammates), and he doesn’t turn the thing over (meaning even if his offensive game is off, he isn’t hurting you).
So basically, we’re talking about a prospect who’s as sure a thing as the NBA Draft has seen in five years (at minimum).
Understandably, the rest of the dregs of the NBA hated missing on him, and the barbs directed the Hornets’ way no doubt primarily emanate from there. If I were a Wizards fan (or employee), fresh off a half decade of irrelevance (not to mention that whole stupid Arenas situation), I’d be pissed too. If I were stuck with a team in Charlotte that Michael Jordon continues to run into the ground, I’d probably hate the world. And if my one shot at being decent just dissipated for another year, as it did for the sadsack Kings fans, I’d direct a little anger New Orleans’ way too.
None of this should be a surprise. This is jealousy.
And for all the silly drama and ridiculous conspiracy theories, for my own part, I can admit that I enjoy the notion that the NBA could be fixed. I mean, it just feels more fun that way, doesn’t it? I think this quote from Chuck Klosterman, via Andrew Sharp, explains why:
“The NBA is like life. We have no control here, but at least as NBA fans we can commiserate about how little control we have, and make jokes about how badly we all got screwed. I think we like it that way.”
This news doesn’t fall on the “screwed” end of the spectrum for Hornets fans. And I’m so glad for them, particularly the die-hards who went to games in a half-empty arena cheering on players who were neither Chris Paul OR Eric Gordon (Really, how miserable was THAT?). Congrats guys, and drink it in. You’ve earned it.