PBT’s Top 10 NBA stories of 2014, No. 10: Anthony Davis’ breakout

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He’s got next.

As in, Anthony Davis is the guy after LeBron James who will hold the title “Best Player on the Planet.”

His college coach at Kentucky John Calipari said that could happen in five years. He may have underestimated his former pupil.

Anyone who watched the Pelicans last season knew Davis was special and he was going to grow into maybe the game’s best player (just not a lot of people watched because the Pelicans don’t get on national television often). It has just happened a lot faster than anyone thought — after a summer as a lynchpin leading Team USA to gold at the FIBA World Championships, Davis’ play through the first third of the NBA season has seen him be the best player in the league.

Think of it this way: Davis’ PER so far this season is 32.5, the highest PER in NBA history for a season is Wilt Chamberlain in 1962-63 at 31.8.

And Davis is just 21 years old. In just his third NBA season. He’s just starting to tap into his potential.

“The Brow” does pretty much everything well — and he seemed to get better at all of it this season. He can score around the basket or with a midrange jumper, or he can make a quick move and with a couple dribbles be at the rim. He works well off the ball and puts himself in smart positions to make plays (he has a very high IQ game). He can run the floor in transition. With all that he is putting up 24.4 points a game with a ridiculous .618 true shooting percentage this season. And coming out of college scouts thought his offense would lag behind his defense. He is blocking 2.9 shots a game on average and is pulling down 10.2 rebounds a game. He’s taking on more of the Pelicans offense — he uses more than 26 percent of the Pelicans’ possessions when on the court — and turning the ball over less often.

And he’s ending up on SportsCenter and other highlight shows almost nightly because of finishes like this.

Or this.

Fans are noticing — Davis is the leading vote getter so far among Western Conference front court players in the fan voting for the 2015 All-Star starters. He’s ahead of Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and everyone else.

But maybe the highest praise comes from coaches, both the ones that have him on their team and the ones he goes against.

“We think he’s one of the top players in the league and we need for him to be that five that nobody else has,” coach Mike Krzyzewski told ProBasketballTalk during Team USA training camp last summer. “Everyone talks about things we don’t have, well they don’t have him.”

“He’s a difficult guy to double-team,” Portland coach Terry Stotts told Sean Highkin of PBT after Davis went off for 31 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks on his team (and the Pelicans lost when the guards went away from feeding him in the fourth). “He doesn’t play off the dribble much. It’s usually one or two dribbles and he’s pretty quick. You’ve just got to make him work, just like all great players. You go down the list, you’ve just got to make him work for his points.”

Coaches are trying to make him work for those points, but it’s not that easy.

Davis’ play has him mentioned as an MVP candidate. He likely doesn’t win this year — not because his play isn’t good enough but because the team around him isn’t, the Pelicans likely will miss the playoffs in a deep West. A lot of voters gravitate toward the stars of winning teams.

But Davis’ time will come. For MVP’s and much more, he is going to be the world’s best player.

In 2014 we just got to see the start of it.