Anthony Davis’ Nuanced Pick And Roll Game

The scouting report on Anthony Davis when he came into the NBA was that he was an excellent defensive player with a ton of athletic ability who would be quite raw on the offensive end. How wrong that has looked. Davis has shown a versatile, nuanced offensive game – something not expected from a rookie, especially one who was thought of as an offensive project by many.

The most impressive part of Davis’ offensive repertoire may be his varied pick and roll game. He is scoring 1.06 points per play as the pick and roll dive man, good for 28th in the NBA.  He shoots 52.4% and draws a shooting foul a 9.3% of the time on the play. It isn’t just these superb stats though. It’s the beyond-his-years way he has been playing in the pick and roll; knowing when to roll, when to pop, and when to pass.

Davis was supposed to be a guy who just rolled straight to the rim and either dunked it or drew the foul. However, Davis has actually been popping instead of rolling a good amount – 39% of his pick and roll finishes have been jumpers. It has helped the Hornets’ offensive spacing and made him even more of a threat when he does decide to roll. A couple examples:

Of course, Davis is still finishing at the rim 61% of the time. His incredible athleticism, soft hands and excellent body control already combine to make one of the most deadly players in the NBA straight diving to the rim.  His quickness and finishing ability make him tough to check on the dive, and once he gets to the rim, it’s all but over.  His excellent touch has helped him to the 13th best at the rim shooting mark in the entire NBA. He’s put these skills to great use in the pick and roll:

Sometimes the main effect of his rolls isn’t even scoring. The mere threat of Davis on the roll is deadly, and it opens up all kinds of options in the Hornets offense. As he rolls, a weakside wing/corner player has to crash into the lane, leaving his man open along the three point line. The much improved Greivis Vasquez has been able to find these open players on the perimeter when they are sucked in by Davis’ roll:

Davis has also been excellent passing to the weakside corner off the catch. It cannot be understated how important this pass is for a big man. The weakside corner man is consistently open in pick and roll situations and many bigs can’t or don’t see the opening,p and just continue on a blind drive to the rim. Part of what makes players like Andrew Bogut and Marc Gasol so good is their ability to make this pass. Examples of Davis making it:

While Davis has struggled with injuries, when he has played, he has been extremely impressive and not just on the defensive end. He has the third highest PER among rookies this season and has contributed more offensive win shares than defensive. When you combine this surprising offensive success with his already excellent defensive game, there’s no reason why he can’t become the next great power forward in the game.

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