Let us go through this past offseason in the NBA, specifically the Western Conference. The West got even more stacked than last year. Jimmy Butler was traded from the Chicago Bulls to the Minnesota Timberwolves to pair up with young studs Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Then we have Paul George and Carmelo Anthony moving to Oklahoma City to create a so-called “Big Three” with last year’s MVP Russell Westbrook while Chris Paul went to the Rockets to team up with James Harden. Oh, and the Warriors still have Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson.
After the flurry of moves, most people had the four teams I mentioned as the top seeds with the Spurs being put in that conversation as well. Too bad people can’t see the future because at this point in time, the New Orleans Pelicans are sitting at the four seed.
By the way, NOLA is without DeMarcus Cousins, who is constantly discussed as a top 10 player in the league, because of a tear in his achilles.
So how are the Pelicans sitting pretty with no Cousins? Well, it sure as hell isn’t because they decided to sign 35-year-old Emeka Okafor. It is because of one man and one man only: Anthony “The Brow” Davis.
Davis has pushed himself into the NBA MVP conversation with his recent play.
His dominance over the past few weeks has been the driving force behind the Pelicans playoff push and 9 game win-streak. With a team made up of E’twaun Moore, 32-year-old Rajon Rondo, Jrue Holiday, Nikola Mirotic, and Solomon Hill people would not consider the Pelicans any sort of threat. Davis has changed that narrative. In February, Davis averaged 35 points-per-game, 13 rebounds-per-game, and 2.2 blocks-per game.
In addition to that, in the 13 games Davis has played in since the start of February, he has 11 double-digit rebound games and six 40+ point games.
He has also been super-efficient when it comes to his scoring by shooting over 50% from the field and near 35% from beyond the arc.
There is nothing this guy can’t do. The Pelicans front office must have scrambled eggs for brains if they have actually seriously considered trading Davis (which has been reported on multiple occasions).
Shifting focus from his offense to his defense, Davis’s 7’0” wingspan clogs the lane for any opposing player and if they get lucky enough to put up a shot on Davis he will smack the ball out of the air and into the stands.
Currently Davis ranks 22nd in the league with 0.045 defensive win shares (according to nba.com) while the two front-runners for MVP, LeBron James and James Harden, are behind the likes of Mavericks point guard Yogi Ferrell in terms of defensive win shares.
What is even more impressive about Davis is the fact that he is not used on the offensive nearly as much as some of the top guys in the league.
He has a 27.3 usage rate which ranks behind Tyreke Evans and even rookie Dennis Smith Jr. while Harden and James both lie in the top five according to ESPN.com.
Will Davis win MVP? Probably not. People love to drool over LeBron James even though he has been virtually no help on defense while turning the ball over two times more a game than Davis. The same thing can be said about Harden who will probably end up winning the award even though he has help from guys like Eric Gordon, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela.
The one thing I can say is that the Pelicans would be no where without Davis.
Actually, I’m wrong. They would be somewhere, and that somewhere would be the NBA Draft Lottery. Instead the former Kentucky Wildcat has defied the odds and has put his team in prime position to make the playoffs.
-Jarrod Ribaudo (@Jribs53)