NBA Early Season Impressions: New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans PelicansFor our early season impressions, I initially planned to cover the Chicago Bulls (Derrick Rose’s return) and the New Orleans Pelicans. I abandoned the Bulls after this happened (my depression didn’t allow me to get beyond a few sentences), so I turned to the Pelicans, and a Team To Be Named Later. Apparently, I am one big, fat jinxing troll:

Screw it, I’m still charging ahead with the Pells, because nothing contained in here has really changed (other than a left hand with a non-displaced fracture). Now, I should warn you that even though the Pells are hovering around .500, and are wildly entertaining thanks to Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson and a rejuvenated Eric Gordon, the fact of the matter is Anthony Davis is who we must focus on here — even if he’s out the next 4-6 weeks. Davis is already a drop-what-you’re-doing League Pass must-watch in just his second season, and it’s worth discussing how we got here so soon.

Back in the spring of 2012, USA Basketball was faced with some tough roster decisions after season-ending injuries to Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose, coupled with nagging injuries to Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, suddenly wiped out one-third of the intended London Olympic team roster. Once Blake Griffin went down with an injury in training (a blessing in disguise, for FIBA purposes), there were rumblings that executive director Jerry Colangelo was going an entirely different direction to fill the extra power forward spot: Anthony Davis.

You can count me among those rumbling the loudest for Davis: First of all, he was essentially the 12th man, and wasn’t going to play much outside of garbage time. Second, it’s a tradition I could get on board with (take the best college player from that year and put him on the national team — just like you-know-who). In the same vein, what better way to market the #1 draft pick than send him on an international journey with the best basketball players in the world? Toss in the whole “The Brow” thing, and it was a no-brainer.

Thus, Anthony Davis spent the first month (or so) of his pro career surrounded by LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and eight more of the best, hardest working players in the world — instead of rookies and journeymen in Orlando or Las Vegas summer leagues. Davis weathered an injury-plagued first year and a second-place finish in Rookie of the Year voting, but there is no doubt that we’re seeing the effects of a summer-long crash course in NBA superstardom — and much sooner than anticipated.

Davis is not quite a 20 & 10 player yet (19.6 points per game — so we’re nitpicking), but he’s shooting 84% from the line (something that can’t be said for most of his big man brethren), and he’s averaging four blocks per game. That full package was on display November 2nd in a game against the Charlotte Bobcats, when his near-5×5 performance — 25 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 steals, 6 blocks — had hoops junkies in a tizzy.

Only one other player in NBA history has ever posted a stat line of 25 points, 8 rebounds, 6 steals and 6 blocks. Hakeem Olajuwon (38 points, 17 rebounds, 6 assists, 7 steals, 12 blocks). That’s it. That’s the list. If you’ll notice, Hakeem’s crazy stat line qualified for a rare 5×5 game, a feat which has been accomplished just 14 times since (Olajuwon accomplished it six times total in his career). We’re not saying Davis is going to become a 5×5 regular on the level of The Dream, but he was one assist shy, merely days into his sophomore season.

If Anthony Davis keeps stuffing the stat sheet like he has, perhaps an even greater statistical achievement is in play: the ultra-rare quadruple-double, which has been accomplished only four times in history. Even if AD never accomplishes either feat, the mere fact he’s a threat to do so on any given night means the future is bright in the Big Easy. Now, if only they’d get rid of this hideous thing.