Defense. It’s an underappreciated art form in the modern day National Basketball Association. Star players gain notoriety for their outstanding scoring ability, for hitting clutch shots and electrifying the crowd with thunderous dunks destined for the highlight reels. One player could help the spotlight shine a little brighter on the defensive end once again. Anthony Davis was selected by the New Orleans Hornets as the first pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. In his only year at the University of Kentucky, Davis played well offensively, but was heralded primarily for his defense. His ability to alter and block shots impressed everyone from fans and scouts to coaches and opposing players. Following the college season, there was little doubt Davis would be taken first in the draft. As he begins his career in the NBA, expectations for the 6-10 Hornets rookie are through the roof.
Davis was the heart of a Kentucky Wildcats team that dominated college basketball and won the 2012 NCAA Championship with relative ease. He averaged a double-double during the season, dropping in over fourteen points per game and ripping down more than ten boards per contest. Quality numbers, but what really jumps out from his stat line is blocked shots. Davis swatted away 186 shots, an average of 4.7 blocks per game. No one else even came close to matching those numbers. His extraordinary college season led to comparisons being drawn between him and some of the greatest big men in NBA history, such as Bill Russell and Hakeem Olajuwon. Those players, like Davis, had built a reputation that was based as much on their defense and rebounding as it was on their offensive prowess. The 19-year-old Davis is so highly touted that he is among the finalists being considered for the United States basketball team at the London Olympics, despite having never played in an NBA game. All of the other finalists have NBA experience, and most have been NBA All-Stars at some point in their career.
Will Davis live up to hype? It’s impossible to say for sure, but provided he remains relatively healthy, Davis should put together an excellent NBA career. A primary reason to believe that Davis will be able to successfully adapt to the NBA is the way he plays the game of basketball. Because his game revolves around his ability to defend and rebound, Davis is much better off than if he was mainly a scorer. A defensive-minded player doesn’t have to worry if he’s having a cold shooting night or gets in a bit of an offensive slump. Unlike great scorers like Carmelo Anthony or Ray Allen, Davis brings far more to the game than just offense. Whether or not Davis is shooting the ball well on any given night, he can still have a huge impact because of his defensive presence on the court. Not only that, but making quality plays on defense tends to help boost confidence on the offensive end as well.
The New Orleans Hornets still face an uphill battle as a franchise, but they are fortunate to have a player like Anthony Davis to build around. Meanwhile, teams like the Charlotte Bobcats are left to wonder why the lottery balls didn’t fall their way. In today’s NBA, players like Davis are extremely rare. A tall, athletic player who rebounds the ball well and makes even the game’s most prolific scorers think twice about driving the lane, Davis energizes the team through his defense and is a threat on the offensive end as well. Davis joining the Hornets is like a breath of fresh air for the city of New Orleans, where negative stories surrounding the Saints alleged bounty system and contract disputes with Drew Brees have dominated the headlines. No matter what happens during the football season, New Orleans fans can genuinely look forward to the upcoming NBA season. Beginning with defense, Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Hornets are ready to return to relevance in the Western Conference.