Kobe Bryant. LeBron James. Anthony Davis?
According to Kevin Durant, the New Orleans Pelicans’ third-year forward is the next big thing.
“I know how good he’s going to be,” Durant said after a USA Basketball practice. “I know how good he is now, but I know how good he’s going to be. He’s an MVP-caliber player. So he’s next. He’s next in line – a guy that has grown so much in just a year. I’m excited to see what he does from here. He’s definitely on pace.”
When measured by career Win Shares to date, an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player, Davis’ 16.5 mark is better than all players during their seasons at the same age with the exception of one: James (19.4).
And that contribution comes at a higher usage (23.7 percent of plays) than Tracy McGrady (23.5 percent), Chris Bosh (20.1 percent) and Kevin Garnett (19.7 percent) in their combined age 19- and 20-year-old seasons.
Offensively, Davis was remarkably efficient last season as a threat from inside the paint and via the mid-range jumper. His 58.2 percent true shooting percentage, a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account two-point field goals, three-point field goals, and free throws, was good for 13th best in the league among players with at least 2,000 minutes.
But Davis was drafted as much for his offense as he was for his defense, and he hasn’t disappointed. According to Synergy Sports, Davis held roll men in pick-and-rolls to score just 0.79 points per possession (25th best in the league) and 0.73 points per possession on isolation (70th best). And his defensive impact is felt all over the court.
Below is his adjusted defensive impact graph during the regular season. Warm colors (red and orange) indicate that offensive players shoot better when Davis is on the court. Blue colors indicate the opposite and as you can see, there weren’t many spots on the floor where the opposing team has the advantage last season.
Is all this enough to make him the next great NBA star? It’s a bit too early to tell after just two seasons, but signs are pointing that way. Here are the forwards since the 1979-80 season who have been used at least as much as Davis (USG% of 20 percent or more) before turning 21 years old, have accumulated 10 or more wins shares over that span while posting a true shooting percentage of 57 percent or more: Tim Duncan.
That’s not bad company to be in.