Davis isn't the official top pick yet, but the attention that accompanies it is starting to come his way.
Take this article by Bethlehem Shoals in ESPN The Magazine for example. The comparisons between Davis and all-time great Bill Russell are tackled in depth, as is the topic of exactly what kind of impact Davis could have. The piece is complete with quotes from Larry Brown ("When he enters the draft, the team that gets him is gonna win over 50 games."), Pervis Ellison ("That young man is going to be a special player.") and even a complimentary Bob Knight ("He's a young Bill Russell.").
ANTHONY DAVIS DIDN'T EVEN NEED to block a shot to seal Kentucky's victory against Kansas. He just had to imply it. With under a minute left, the Jayhawks had the ball. They had reduced Kentucky's once-commanding 18-point lead to six. Kansas guard Elijah Johnson received the ball in space out on the left wing off an interior screen with an opportunity to create against the rotating Kentucky defense. Davis' legs are so long that he typically covers ground effortlessly, almost laconically. But in that moment, sensing the urgency, he surged toward Johnson and leaped at full extension. It was a pre-emptive strike, shot blocking as playmaking, and the effect was mesmerizing -- as if someone had hurled an extension ladder at Johnson.
Johnson, having already opted for what he thought was a wide-open jumper, was hardly expecting company. Davis soared above him like the sword of Damocles. Johnson flinched in midair like a man who suddenly wanted to be somewhere else -- anywhere else. While in midair, he tried to bounce the ball to reset his dribble. The referee called a travel.
Game over. NCAA tournament over.
Moments like these have helped to turn the scouting report on Davis into a combination of slack-jawed awe and contemporary hoops realpolitik. The creativity, the timing, the strategic sense of how and when to strike, all are light-years ahead of the standard help-side shot swatter. Or, considering the many comparisons to Bill Russell, perhaps they're 50 years behind. But what to make of those comparisons to Russell -- the equivalent of wallpapering Davis' face on Mount Rushmore? Are we not engaging in basketball heresy?
The story does more than blow smoke though. It takes a critical look at just what kind of difference Davis will make at the next level, suggesting he may be a "one-trick pony" for whom shot-blocking is his only elite skill. I understand the point being made, but I think Davis proved down the stretch of last season that he's much more than a defensive terror. As the year progressed, he showed (and was allowed to show) more and more of his offensive game and I don't believe he's as much of a "blank slate" as the piece suggests.
Regardless, it's an interesting and detailed read, so check it out.
LINK: Davis is the next Russell. Maybe.