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After a career game from Anthony Davis, we’re taking the long view and putting his career year in the context of his Hall-of-Fame resume.
Anthony Davis’ masterful destruction of the Washington Wizards — 55 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks on 22-of-30 from the field — will drive some narratives today. And there are plenty of questions worth asking:
Is this the Anthony Davis MVP campaign we were hearing about in the preseason?
It seemed somewhat laughable at the time considering his health history and a historically strong field. But Davis is up to No. 7 in Basketball-Reference’s MVP tracker (a prediction model based on stats and team record). He’s only missed two games, is currently averaging career-highs in points, rebounds and true shooting percentage and has put up 34.2 points, 15.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.9 blocks per game on 63.3 percent shooting over his last 10 games. Yes, he’s in the MVP conversation.
Has Anthony Davis surpassed LeBron James as the Lakers’ best player?
This is hard to answer definitively because it’s not clear whether LeBron’s down season is a blip waiting for progression to the mean, or whether it’s his new normal. What is not disputable is that Davis has been much better this season. He’s played four more games than LeBron, is shooting a better percentage from the field, the 3-point line and the free-throw line, and is leading the team in points, rebounds, steals, blocks and free-throw attempts. If what we’ve seen from LeBron this season is his new baseline, then yes, Davis is the Lakers’ best player.
How good can the Lakers be with this version of Anthony Davis leading them?
I’m not sure at this point, but I would guess they still top out in play-in tournament range in the standings, considering the dramatic shortcomings in their depth and supporting cast.
You’re going to read a lot of takes today dancing around those three questions, but I’m going to take this in a slightly different direction, using a slightly longer lens.
Is Anthony Davis a lock for the Hall-of-Fame?
This question doesn’t really have anything to do with his 55-point game, but I thought it was worth unpacking considering the downward trajectory his career was on the past two seasons for bouncing upward this year.
I think if you asked 100 NBA fans for a gut-check answer to the question above you wouldn’t get an overwhelming majority in either direction. He’s been among the most productive players in the league for his entire career but he’s never really been in the MVP conversation and he’s known as much for health problems and missed games as he is for his two-way dominance.
But Basketball-Reference’s Hall-of-Fame projection model absolutely sees him as a lock, giving Davis a 98.86 percent chance of making it in, about the same as Kevin McHale, Bob McAdoo, Steve Nash and George Gervin (the model provides retroactive odds for historic players as well). No eligible player with higher odds than Davis has missed inclusion in the Hall-of-Fame, and Larry Foust (who played from 1950 to 1962) is the only eligible player with odds above 90 percent in Basketball-Reference’s model who has not been inducted.
So, based on the historical record of inclusion and Davis’ resume, he is about as close to a Hall-of-Fame lock as you can get.
Basketball-Reference’s model is based on height (perhaps capturing a lingering historic bias towards big men), championships, All-Star selections, peak Win Shares and points based on top-10 finishes in stat leaderboards (10 points for leading the league in scoring, 1 point for finishing 10th in blocks per game, etc.)
The lone title with the Lakers certainly helps Davis’ case but even with all his missed games, he compares fairly well to the Hall-of-Fame power forwards from the generation right before his.
Davis will likely add a few more All-Star appearances to his resume and another championship with LeBron, while unlikely, would be a significant data point in this comparison. In terms of leaderboard points, Davis versatility stands out compared to Nowitzki and Webber, while his unavailability because of injury is a clear separation point between him and Duncan and Garnett. For what it’s worth, Davis is currently third in the league in blocks and second in rebounds which would add another 17 leaderboard points to his total.
But the most interesting point here, for me was Davis’ peak Win Shares and the fact that they came during his third season in the league. That we saw him peak (in terms of total productivity) so early and then watched him struggle so mightily to stay on the court (he’s appeared in just 425 of a possible 576 games, 73 percent, since that season) certainly colors our perception of him.
Still, Davis won’t turn 30 until March. He’s in the midst of an MVP season and even if he’s only playing in 3-out-of-every-4 games over the next few seasons he’s likely to strengthen what is already a Hall-of-Fame resume. So, whether you’re sold yet or not, Anthony Davis is almost certainly a future Hall-of-Famer.
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Trae Young, Nate McMillan have reported feud
All is not well with the Atlanta Hawks.
- The feud: Trae Young and Nate McMillan disagreed on a plan to see if Young was good enough to play off an injury over the weekend. McMillan essentially told Young to plan to come off the bench or not come to the arena according to Shams Charania. Young didn’t show for the game.
- Outcome: The Hawks won the game on Friday, 117-109 over the Nuggets.
- Who’s at fault?: At first glance, one has to side with the coach here, but when you consider the fact that McMillan had trouble connecting with some of his Pacers players toward the end of his last coaching stint, it raises some questions on both sides.
- All look bad: In the end, the truth is it looks bad for everyone in the Hawks organization. McMillan and Young will need to work this one out and fast so as to not waste a pretty good start to the season.
James Harden set to return for Sixers
It seems as though the Sixers are getting a major piece back.
- Harden on track to play Monday: Harden was listed as questionable Sunday and will see how he feels for Monday’s game, but the messaging appears to align with Harden returning. Harden practiced 5-on-5 for the first time on Sunday according to Keith Pompey.
- The injury: Harden has been nursing a tendon strain in his foot. He hasn’t played since November 2.
- Performance so far: Harden has appeared in nine games and averaged 22.0 points 7.0 rebounds, and 10.0 assists per game.
The entire internet got duped by Steph Curry hoax video
Let this week be a lesson to us all: Just because there’s a video to go along with a claim doesn’t make it real in 2022. After some on the internet fell for an attempted viral stunt to market a sportsbook company where Drew Brees was apparently “struck by lightning,” several places, including us at first, fell for an amazing Steph Curry video.
- The video: Steph Curry hits five straight, full-court overarm heave shots and leaves the floor.
- It seeming valid is crazy in itself: As Brad Botkin pointed out at CBS Sports, the fact that it was even plausible credits how amazing Curry’s talent is.
- Information literacy… Where did it go? I’ll admit, I didn’t look at the video closely, but when I saw it on my timeline I chalked it up as an amazing, but likely unrepeatable feat from Curry. I consider myself pretty vigilant when it comes to fake news, so now I’m questioning just about everything I trust.