At last year’s trade deadline, the New Orleans Pelicans went all-in on Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.
Since drafting Davis in 2012, the Pelicans have made a mess drafting players and signing sub-par players to overpaid contracts. Last February, however, the Pelicans took a leap of faith that the two towers could co-exist by shipping out their top prospect Buddy Hield, offensive wing Tyreke Evans and their own first round pick to the Sacramento Kings for Cousins.
The Pelicans went on to miss the playoffs, as the Western Conference was stout top to bottom and the Pelicans were already in a hole when the trade went down. This year, however, the Pelicans were rolling with both Davis and Cousins having all-star starter caliber seasons.
The addition of Rajon Rondo took the load off Jrue Holiday having to be the floor general and allowed Holiday to move to a more comfortable role scoring the ball. Everything was clicking perfectly. Their role players were staying healthy and so was Davis (who has been plagued by injuries in the past).
That is, until Boogie went down.
The entire NBA was crushed when it was clear Cousins had torn his achilles right before the all-star break. However, no one was more crushed than Davis and the rest of the Pelicans. For the first time in his career he had been paired with an elite star and had a quality supporting cast.
After seeing his running mate fall, however, Davis refused to let his team go into the tank.
There are currently 10 teams in the Western Conference with a record better than .500. There are only eight in the depleted East. Losing a player like Cousins would likely tank any team not named the Golden State Warriors or Cleveland Cavaliers. But 15 games later, the Pelicans are sitting in the fourth seed, just a game back of the third seed and Davis is playing the best basketball of his career.
The Brow is averaging 33.1 points, 13.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.4 steals and 2.5 blocks during this 15 game stretch. He’s also been lights out all over the court, shooting 50.1% from the field, 37.3% from behind the arc and 84% from the strike.
So if Davis is playing at such a high level, why is his name just now being mentioned in MVP talks?
There’s this guy in Houston, who goes by James Harden, who is averaging 31 points, 5.9 rebounds and 8.9 assists for the SEASON. He’s shooting 44.9% from the field, 38% from behind the arc and 86.4% from the strike. His team is also the best in the NBA, sitting atop the Western Conference with a half game lead on the reigning NBA champion Warriors.
There’s also Lebron James, who has been The King of the NBA for more than a decade. His Cavs have had their struggles this season but he’s arguably had his best season ever (on offense). When you’re the best player, your name is always in the discussion.
There are other names, like Steph Curry who is having a career-year in efficiency and his running mate Kevin Durant could certainly make a case as well. Damian Lillard, who just made his first all-star game appearance, has his Blazers as the third seed in the West and is clearly the driving force of his team. Then there’s Demar Derozan, who is having his best season as a pro and has his Toronto Raptors atop the Eastern Conference with a two game lead on the Boston Celtics. Of the Celtics, former Cav Kyrie Irving has also had a career-year in efficiency.
It certainly feels like Davis is in the top-3 mix as of right now, with Harden and James likely ahead of him. But if he can lead the Pelicans in full stride down the stretch, it’s hard to make a case he isn’t the MVP.
It would be the first for Davis, as he finished fifth back in the 2014-2015 season.
With 18 games left on their schedule, Davis doesn’t have a lot of time to make up ground. However, if he continues at this rate, 18 games should be all he needs to put his stamp on this year’s league MVP trophy.