So how did Anthony Davis do on his first NBA game? Not bad, not bad at all. He finished with 21 points and 7 rebounds, spending a lot of time guarding and attacking against one of the greatest big men in the history of the NBA, Tim Duncan. Individually, he had a promising debut. The New Orleans Hornets still lost the game.
There’s talent on this Hornets team, but with 8 new players and still without the injured Eric Gordon, it’s going to take quite a while for this team to come together. Greivis Vasquez is an exciting point guard to watch, but his decision making at times while making those speedy penetrations don’t do his team and him justice. Al-Farouq Aminu is an exceptional athletic talent, but there’s nothing organized or team-like about his style. He makes big plays happen on defense, which makes for a formidable tandem alongside Davis, but his offense is too individualistic and erratic to be counted upon each and every night.
And lets not forget – The Hornets played the Spurs who are much slower than them, at least when it comes to defense. But their cooperation and coordination offensively is probably unmatched around the league, pretty much returning the entire lineup that finished with Western Conference’s best record last season. And when their game wasn’t working to perfection, Tim Duncan simply lowered his head and went to work.
If Anthony Davis could have gotten a lesson from anyone about how hard life is going to be in the NBA against other big men, it was Tim Duncan that you want in front of you. Duncan led all scorers with 24 points and 11 rebounds, playing 34 minutes against a younger and more athletic guy, but someone who still hasn’t begun to learn the meaning of what being a real successful NBA big man is all about, with all the moves and nuances that comes on both offense and defense.
How to screen, what fakes not to bite on, movement, decoys, deception. Davis was too much for Duncan when the game was running quick or flying high, but he struggled when it came to defensive fundamentals of keeping a tab on your guy while trying to help your teammates. Davis was caught in between too many times, but he’ll realize pretty soon that this isn’t Kentucky or College. He’s too much of a great talent to not catch up to all that at some point. He was actually a bit surprising with his offensive ability, making the most from his visits to the line with 9-9.
The Hornets have a nice front line this season, with Ryan Anderson and Jayson Smith on the bench. Monty Williams, at a certain point, will probably try and start Anderson next to Davis in the frontline, while Robin Lopez, less effective offensively, taking a step back in terms of his role. The Hornets bigger problems will be in their backcourt. Until Eric Gordon gets back, Austin Rivers fills in home, quite unsuccessfully so far. Both him and Vasquez are bad defenders, which will force Davis to work much harder and drop his assignments until that issue is fixed.
The Hornets shouldn’t be judged by this game, or by the first five. The Spurs are miles ahead of them in terms of preparation and cohesion of a squad. There’s more talent, and much more hope this season in New Orleans. There’s something nice that can be built around Davis and a young athletic squad. All they need is patience, and the right kind of guidance to make them better.