Anthony Davis is Having the Best Season You’re not Talking About

Anthony Davis MVP
Photo Cred: USA Today Sports

You’ve heard the buzz all season. Whether triple-double by Westbrook, or another 40 and 10 performance by James Harden, the league has been enraptured by gaudy stats this season. But in a season where we are talking about players like Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant, LeBron James and even Giannis Antetokounmpo – all with very good reason no less – there is one name who has fallen into a bit of obscurity this season: Anthony Davis. Anthony Davis is having a career season down in New Orleans, easily his best yet, but it is receiving very little fan fare on a national level this year. What gives?

The lack of attention could most easily be linked to his team’s performance. After making a surprise appearance in the Western Conference playoffs two seasons ago, where they were a pesky eighth seed who even stole a win away from the eventual champions Golden State Warriors, last season was a flat out disappointment for the franchise. After parting ways with previous coach Monty Williams, and hiring Alvin Gentry, what was supposed to a season where the Pelicans continued to evolve turned into a 30-52 season that made them one of the unanimous disappointments of the season. And much of that disappointment went squarely on the shoulders of “The Brow”. After coming into the 2015-2016 season as a prohibitive MVP candidate, the season became to many a step back in Davis’ stardom. The results were that while Davis had a very similar season statistically to the one prior, he did not make it onto an All-NBA team – which greatly impacted his earning power.

And once again this season his team’s lack of success is impacting the attention being given to Davis this year. New Orleans currently sits 10th in the Western Conference at 15-24, despite Davis’ stellar season. In fact, Davis is still only 4th among Western Conference Frontcourt players in All-Star voting. You would think by now Davis would be a lock to start an all-star game even among the fans with how great a year he is having, especially considering the All-Star game will be held in New Orleans. But just how good of a season is Davis having exactly? This season marks Davis’ 5th in the NBA. To date he’s averaging 29.1 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 2.5 bpg this season with a TS% of .574 and the highest usage rate of his career at 33.5. Alvin Gentry has put more on Davis’ shoulders this season, and he’s answered rather impressively. Davis is also posting a 28.3 PER this season, the second highest of his career. Note how this number ranks with other notable big men of recent memory in their 5th season:

PER Comparison of Anthony Davis with historical big men.

PER Comparison of Anthony Davis with historical big men.

That is some pretty impressive Anthony Davis is keeping. And he is still only 23 years old. For reference, Davis is tied with Kevin Garnett as the youngest players in this chart playing in their 5th season. Robinson was in his prime at 28 years old, and Olajuwon and Duncan were not far behind at 26 and 25 respectively. Davis is by no means a finished product but is already showing the prowess of an elite player in the NBA. The Pelicans, however, continue to fail at putting together a team that can help him compete on a consistent basis. They can still make the playoffs though as they are only two games behind the Portland Trailblazers at this point who hold the 8th and final playoff spot. It would do Davis a world of good to get another taste of the playoffs, both for his development and for public perception. Otherwise, he will continue to find himself in a similar situation to Kevin Garnett during his younger years in Minnesota.

Davis signed an extension in the summer of 2015, so the Pelicans still have some time to get things corrected. Let’s hope that they do. Anthony Davis is too good of a player to wallow in obscurity.