Anthony Davis sitting pole position in NBA MVP race

The New Orleans Pelicans star is already reaching the lofty expectations his potential suggested, writes Jonathan Raymond, and making an early case for the NBA's top individual award.
Anthony Davis and the Pelicans are 11-11 this season, even with the Suns by percentage for the Western Conference's No 8 seed. Chris Graythen / Getty Images / AFP
Anthony Davis and the Pelicans are 11-11 this season, even with the Suns by percentage for the Western Conference's No 8 seed. Chris Graythen / Getty Images / AFP

If there is an NBA MVP race to handicap about a quarter of the way through the season, the New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis is off and running way, way away with it.

That’s not to discount what the likes of James Harden, Stephen Curry and Marc Gasol have done so far, stepping up and leading what have probably been the three best teams in the league so far this season. But, just 21 years old, Davis is simply on another planet right now, fulfilling nearly all of the outsize potential he displayed at the University of Kentucky only three years ago.

He’s scoring 24.3 points per game, grabbing 10.2 rebounds and blocking 2.7 shots. He is making a crazy 57.4 per cent of his shots. He’s nearly unstoppable right around the rim, where he has made 69.2 per cent of his 195 attempts this season – over half his overall total and roughly 14 per cent better than the league average.

That’s a level of efficiency no one can match right now.

By almost any advanced measure, Davis is well ahead of the field. It also helps that his game is a joy to watch. Someone that big shouldn’t be able to 1) handle a ball like that 2) shoot like that or 3) be that quick.

Defensively he’s still the most intimidating inside man in the league, once again leading the NBA in blocks.

As a team, the Pelicans are still going through some bumps and growing pains, and there’s a traditionalist argument that would say Davis’ team simply isn’t good enough for him to really be the MVP.

But they have time to get better, and they’re already set to vastly improve on a 34-48 record from last season. Surely Davis is the most significant reason why, and surely that should count for something.

In any case, it’s hard to deny the Pelicans’ young phenom has been the best player in the league this year. Continue this trajectory, and he’ll get a trophy eventually.

The week that was:

Players of the week:

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder: Has returned like a man possessed, scoring 29.3 points per game in three wins this week with 7.0 assists per contest while shooting 54.2 per cent.

Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies: Scored 30 in a big win over Dallas, blocked six shots against Charlotte and scored 18 with nine rebounds v Philadelphia as the Grizzlies went 3-0 this week.

Teams of the week:

Washington Wizards: Showed perseverance with a double-overtime win against Boston and buzzer-beating victory against Orlando before a truly impressive eight-point win against the Clippers.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Having Westbrook and Kevin Durant back helps: Extended a five-game win streak with three victories, including one over LeBron and Cleveland, this week.

Duds of the week:

Phoenix Suns: Hanging on for dear life in the Western play-off race after a baffling loss to Detroit made it four defeats in a row for fading Phoenix.

Blake Griffin, LA Clippers: Went quiet in back to back losses against the Wizards (14 points, only two rebounds, five turnovers) and Bucks (10 points, six rebounds).

Games of the week:

Golden State at Memphis, Tuesday: Meeting of the teams with the two best records in the NBA.

New Orleans at Oklahoma City, Sunday: This year’s leading MVP candidate, Davis, steps onto the court with last year’s MVP, apparently no-worse-for-wear Kevin Durant, back and healthy.

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Published: December 14, 2014 04:00 AM

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