In fact, Anthony Davis is in a five-man cluster on the MVP leaderboard along with – in no particular order – Stephen Curry, LeBron James, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. But when most people are forced to pick one and only one name, you rarely hear the words “Anthony” and “Davis.”
Pelicans coach Monty Williams can’t believe it.
“AD is not like anybody I’ve ever seen,” Williams said. “That’s why I’m not frustrated, but I just kind of laugh at the MVP stuff. The guy dominates on both ends of the floor and we only talk about guys who are dominating on one end of the floor, so it’s tough for me to listen to all that when I’ve got a guy who absolutely dominates on both ends. His ceiling is – I don’t think there is one right now. He’s just got to keep working and keep the same mentality.”
Davis is on pace to become only the fourth player in league history with a PER above 31. Michael Jordan surpassed that plateau four times and Wilt Chamberlain and James did it three times.
If Chamberlain, Jordan and James aren’t enough elite company, his coach added three others with star power to the list.
“Tracy McGrady was probably the most talented guy I played with and AD is like Tracy,” Williams said. “They can do pretty much anything on the floor. Grant (Hill) was like that. Allen Iverson was like that. They’re just off the chart talented so you never put a ceiling on those guys because they can do anything on any given night on both ends.”
If the Pelicans make the playoffs in the vaunted West with close to 50 wins, expect Davis to receive strong consideration for the award – especially since key members of his supporting cast have been sidelined.
The top six players on the Pelicans’ roster – Davis, Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Omer Asik – compare favorably to any other six-pack in the league. But Holiday, Gordon and Anderson have missed 62 combined games, and Evans recently joined that list with an ankle injury.
Davis himself has missed a dozen games, most recently returning last week from a shoulder injury and averaging 33.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.5 blocks in four games before managing 15 points, six rebounds and three blocks in limited action against Brooklyn.
Right now, Davis is getting the most help from Norris Cole, who wasn’t even on the team three weeks ago but has become the starting point guard in the absence of Holiday and Evans.
“He’s just brought a winning mentality,” Williams said. “Defensively, he’s above average. He makes winning plays. He’s not afraid of the moment, which is something I like a lot. I think any time when you come from good coaching, good systems and winning teams, it helps your program.”
New Orleans is 9-2 with Cole in the lineup since he was acquired from Miami in a three-team trade at the deadline. On Tuesday, Cole had his best performance thus far with 16 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals in the romp at Brooklyn.
If Davis somehow leads the Pelicans into the playoffs – they are in a virtual tie with Oklahoma City for the eighth and final spot – without significant contributions from Holiday, Anderson and Evans the rest of the way, his historical season may be recognized with the MVP award.
“I think the people that know basketball know and appreciate what he does every night,” Williams said. “I think in the end, we may see a different result if he continues to play the way he’s played.”
However, Harden, Westbrook, Curry and James aren’t going away.
Harden was Player of the Month in December and January while carrying the Rockets to third place in the West without Dwight Howard for 23 games and counting. He also leads the league in free throws made (520), free throws attempted (599) and win shares (13).
Westbrook became the flavor of the month in February when he averaged nearly a triple-double of 31.2 points, 10.3 assists and 9.1 rebounds. Those numbers are hard to replicate in NBA 2K15, let alone real life. He currently leads the league in points per game (27.4), assist percentage (48.5), usage percentage (38.5) and triple-doubles (7). After teammate Kevin Durant won the award last season, Westbrook has taken the spotlight this season and run with it in Durant’s absence.
Curry was the consensus favorite heading into All-Star Weekend where he won the 3-Point Contest. Fittingly, he leads the league in 3-pointers made (207) and attempted (490). In addition, he has also improved as an on-the-ball defender and leads the league in steals per game (2.2). Currently, he’s the best player on the best team, which has always played a key role in the voting process.
And don’t forget James, who has won MVP four times in the last six years and is merely averaging 26.0 points, 7.3 assists and 5.8 rebounds for the surging Cavaliers.
When you consider both ends of the court, Davis appears to be doing more than all of them, and with less around him. Although he turned just 22 today, he knows what may be the most important factor in MVP consideration: winning.
“Just trying to get us to the playoffs,” he said. “Knowing that I’m the leader of the team, a lot falls on my plate. I just try to go out there and play as hard as I can and the rest of the guys are going to follow.”
If Davis has his way, they will follow him right to the postseason.