clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

A journey of expectations: Anthony Davis' road to NBA dominance

New, 4 comments

The road of Anthony Davis' career is one that has been patched with continuous, extreme expectations. Many have forgotten just how good the Brow is at the game of basketball

NBA: Golden State Warriors at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

A common narrative has always seemed to follow the likes of Anthony Davis, almost since his college days at Kentucky. Expectations have never been soft for somebody who only had one college offer, from Cleveland State, throughout a majority of his high school career.

As a 6'2" point guard for Perspectives Charter School in Chicago, a program far from heralded in terms of basketball success, Davis was unheard of in the college recruiting world up until his senior year. Rapid growth spurts saw a young Anthony Davis grow to 6'7" his junior season, then to a full 6'10" by his senior.

After that, a nationwide buzz found its way to Davis, eventually becoming the top overall recruit in the college basketball class of 2011. He then committed to Kentucky, a program that is well experienced to success.

Expectations of the highest level were given to Davis, who had the task of trying to live up to the likes of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Brandon Knight, players who were heralded superstars.

Not only would the Brow live up to high expectations, he became one of the best the game had ever seen. Going on to be the second college freshman ever to win the National Player of the Year award, the first being Texas' Kevin Durant, Davis was the most dominant player in college basketball.

He averaged 4.8 blocks per GAME, shot 62% from the field, and led Kentucky to a 38-2 record; winning the national championship for the first time in what felt like an eternity.

The day is June 28, 2012, the day Anthony Davis was selected with the first overall pick by the New Orleans Hornets. Expectations continued to rise; now it's if Davis could live up to the "number one pick" hype. A defensive star in the making, there was no doubt about.

Could his offense keep up? Could he increase his 220-pound frame? Could he lead an NBA team?

Davis averaged 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game as a rookie. He showed flashes of greatness; 21 points in his NBA debut, a 23 point-11 rebound-5 block performance a week later, a 28 point-11 rebound game a week after that. With great flashes also came the start of what would be a common negative throughout his career.

Davis missed two games with a concussion a day after his debut, missed 11 games later in November with what was a stress reaction in his ankle. Barely a week after being cleared from that, a sprained shoulder made him miss another week. Then on April 10th, after a magnificent month of March, Davis' season was ended with an MCL strain.

Davis came back in the 2013-2014 season with a breakout season; averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds, and an NBA-leading 2.9 blocks per game. Davis was beginning to take the league by storm. On November 2nd, 2013 Davis became the first player in 25 years to put up 25 points-6 blocks-6 steals in a single game. On November 8th, Davis put up a career-high 32 points with 12 rebounds and 6th blocks; the youngest player ever to have such a game.

Davis continued to put up exceptional numbers, as well as fight off more nagging injuries, up to his first career 40 point- 20 rebound game. Davis earned his first All-Star Game selection, replacing Kobe Bryant in the game.

Then, throughout March and the rest of the season, Davis began suffering more injuries. A sprained ankle, followed by continuous back spasms, Davis ended the season on the team's inactive list.

Throughout the summer before the 2014-2015 season, talk began circulating on just how good Anthony Davis could become. Some would even say that the Brow was on his way to becoming the best player in the NBA.

Davis proved that this wasn't a far-fetched assumption, and went on to take the league over.

What Anthony Davis did in 2014-2015 goes down as one of the best single-seasons in NBA history. A Player Efficiency Rating of 30.9 is currently the 12th highest in NBA history, with the only players ahead of him being Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Wilt Chamberlain, and Stephen Curry.

Davis dominated the league with an average as 24.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game; leading the league in blocks for a second consecutive season. Davis was a First Team All-NBA selection, the first time since Derrick Rose's MVP season that a player within his first three seasons received that honor.

The Pelicans found themselves playing in the postseason, against the eventual champion Golden State Warriors. All Davis did was average 31.5 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in the four-game series. Davis became the fourth player ever to averaged 30-10-3 in his first playoff series; joining Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, and Bob McAdoo.

Davis solidified himself as one of the best players in the NBA, if not the best already. Just being signed to the largest contract in NBA history, the expectations for Davis reached all-time highs. Everyone expected Davis to put up ridiculous numbers for the following season, to do things the league hadn't seen before.

When the season opened on October 27th, 2015 the Pelicans were taking on the defending champion Warriors on national TV. Davis could only muster 18 points and shot a horrific 4-of-20 from the field. What at the time seemed like a one game fluke, was the beginning of what would be a major downfall.

Davis was far from bad, averaging similar numbers to the year before. However, things were far from the same as the year before. Teams found a way of, to an extent, keeping Davis from dominating. Double teams were sent almost every time the ball was in his hands, sometimes was even triple teamed. It was obvious that this continuous harassing defensive game-plan kept Davis uncomfortable all year long.

Davis' field goal percentage dropped from 53.5% to 49.3%, his turnovers rose from 1.4 per game to over 2 per game. His free throw percentage even dropped from 80.5% to 75.8%. The Pelican's were absolutely devastated by injuries, and not only did that drastically affect Davis on the floor, he himself couldn't stay on the court.

A series of nagging injuries forced Davis to miss 21 games, and in the offseason it was announced that he was playing through a torn labrum in his shoulder. While Davis still had stretches of fantastic play, his team's porous record and constant time missed with injury threw him into oblivion.

Davis entered the season as top-five player, undoubted superstar, and being argued to go down as one day being the best power forward to ever play the game. He exited forgotten, criticized, and having lost $21 million of his contract due to not being able to make an All-NBA team.

Throughout all the negatives and "disappointments," there was one performance that still showed what Davis was made of.

On February 21st, 2016 in a mid-afternoon game at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Davis put up one of the greatest performances ever. In a victory against the Detroit Pistons, the Brow put up an astonishing 59 points and 20 rebounds. That performance stands unparalleled to all except Shaquille O'Neal's historic 60-20 game a decade before.

Throughout the summer leading into this season, that game was commonly looked at, and it brings up a common question. Is this actually how good Anthony Davis can be?

Only Davis himself can answer that. So far throughout the 2016 season, he has.

In just four games of the early season, Davis is living up to the enormous expectations that have been labeled on him in years prior.

Right now averaging 37 points, 13 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks per game, Davis is doing things that haven't been done since the great Michael Jordan.

In the common era, the only player to score as many points as Anthony Davis has through four games has been Michael Jordan himself.

The road of Anthony Davis' career is one that has been patched with continuous, extreme expectations. Many have forgotten just how good the Brow is at the game of basketball, and right now he is undoubtedly playing beyond the level that even the highest of critics expected him to.

Now that Davis has reached this level of dominance, it is unlawful to think that he is ever coming back down. Rather, he seems to only be just beginning.