By Nathan Grubel @The_Only_Grubes on April 18, 2014
Anthony Davis showed up this season for the New Orleans Pelicans, and even though the team finished with a 34-48 record in the Western Conference, that should not take away from acknowledging the fact that Davis has grown in one season from being a high draft pick with upside to a flat-out star player. Here are five reasons why Davis should be named the 2014 NBA Most Improved Player.
One of the most obvious improvements to Davis' game this past season was his ability to score the basketball. Davis improved his scoring average dramatically from 13.5 points per game in his rookie season to 20.8 points per game this past season. Davis was the alpha dog on offense, and improvements in shooting (43.1% from 10-16 feet as opposed to 37.3% in his rookie season) as well as his free throws (79.1% to 75.1%) allowed him to be that guy.
Davis was billed coming out of college as one of the best shot blocking prospects the NBA has arguably ever seen. While he made an impact in that area during his rookie season (1.8 blocks per game), his improvement in his sophomore season trumped that. Davis averaged 2.8 blocks per game this past season, showing his improvement in reading the defense and adjusting the timing necessary to block NBA players who are craftier than college players.
Davis is a long and lanky athlete (6-foot-10, 220-pounds) who is not expected to have such an impact rebounding the ball. Yes Davis has the length to be a factor, but his frame does not say that he is ready to bang down low with the likes of NBA big men. Davis went out and got stronger, and it showed in his improvement in rebounding the basketball. He averaged 10.0 rebounds per game this past season and showed he can be an anchor down low.
One of the hurdles that coaches in the NBA have to deal with in terms of young players coming into the league is getting them to play with intensity and hustle and play hard on both ends of the floor. Davis plays as hard as anyone when he is on the court, and his willingness to go out there and be a force who gives it his all speaks to his development as a mature NBA player. That really deserves to be recognized.
Davis is a pure mismatch in the post, and he has figured out how to take advantage of it. Davis has the speed and ball-handling skills of a guard, allowing him to be a face-up nightmare for his bigger opponents. When down low in the post, Davis can rise above the other big men and finish over them, making him a very dangerous player. Davis learned how to take advantage of his physical traits, which was a big reason for his improvement.
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