http://grantland.com/features/building-the-brow/It’s telling that the comparisons have mostly stopped. When Anthony Davis came into the league, with ridiculous arms and guard skills honed before a late growth spurt, everyone rushed to find his NBA analogue.
Kevin Garnett was a popular choice. Comparisons with Tim Duncan dominated the lead-up to Davis’s regular-season debut against San Antonio, even though Duncan as a rookie was older and stouter and he had a back-to-the-basket game that was historically great almost from the moment he entered the league.
Davis has murdered this parlor game. People around the league don’t know what to make of him anymore. They are just terrified, especially after having watched Davis average 30 points, 13.5 rebounds, and three blocks per game on 55 percent shooting over a 10-game stretch in March — a period during which he turned 21 freaking years old. He’s already fourth overall in Player Efficiency Rating, behind only LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kevin Love. His game has so many elements on both ends of the floor, it’s going to take years for the Pelicans to figure out the optimal uses and roster construction for him. It’s hard to decide what someone is best at when the answer might be “everything.”
The race to surround him with the right talent, and to figure out his ideal positional use, is already on. The Pelicans will have only limited cap flexibility in each of the next two summers, and the Magic and Cavaliers can testify about the fragile and fleeting chance of surrounding a true superstar with the right pieces — especially since that superstar will likely take his team out of the lottery.1
“He is going to be his own player,” says Monty Williams, the team’s coach. “People try and think back to re-create another A.D., but he’s not like anyone we’ve ever seen.”
“I’m not sure he reminds me of anyone now,” says Dirk Nowitzki. “In my 16 years, I’ve never seen anyone like him.”
The new parlor game is to compare isolated parts of Davis’s game to their equivalents belonging to someone else. He’s so dangerous on the pick-and-roll, capable of snagging insane lobs and catching and dunking from the foul line without a dribble, that he sucks in defenders like Tyson Chandler and Dwight Howard — only Davis is also a 79 percent foul shooter. One opposing assistant coach says Davis is the first player since prime Rasheed Wallace who is fast and long enough to help off Nowitzki on a pick-and-pop, and then recover back to Nowitzki before the big German can release his deadly jumper. Another assistant offered up the comparison to a prime Cliff Robinson — a 6-foot-10 guy with elite outside-in ballhandling skills, only Davis, of course, has more potential in almost every other facet.
And the Pelicans? They’re trying to mold Davis into some unholy amalgam of Nowitzki, Hakeem Olajuwon, and whichever pick-and-roll smasher you prefer.
“He’s his own player,” says Kevin Hanson, the Pelicans’ player development coach, who works closely with Davis. “He’s got some Dirk, some KG, and some Hakeem. I don’t think we’re even going to see what he really is for at least a couple of years.”