On the eve of the 2014-2015 NBA regular season, the bright lights are on Anthony Davis to lead the New Orleans Pelicans back to the promise land. The promise land being the playoffs; a place the Pelicans have not seen since 2010-11 season.
Davis has received nothing but praise during the NBA off-season. Thunder superstar Kevin Durant dubbed him as "next in line" and his former coach, John Calipari, spoke highly of him as well.
"Right now, you look at (Davis) and say, 'Man, in five years, he could be the best player in the NBA,' " said Calipari in an article on cbssports.com.
ESPN conducts its highly debated NBA player rankings each year and Davis is number 3 on the list this season. This is 30 spot jump from his 33rd ranking the previous year. He is also the highest ranked power forward on the list.
This ranking coincides with a recent poll done by ESPN the Magazine. They polled a representative from each of the 30 NBA teams. They asked the reps to choose the NBA's third best player behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Davis beat out Chris Paul by one vote.
In the annual NBA GM Survey, Davis was highly regarded. According to the GMs, if they were starting a franchise today and could sign any player, he would be the second option behind LeBron James. They also voted him most likely to have a breakout season in the 2014-15 season.
All eyes are on Davis as he enters his third NBA season. Though only 21-years-old, he is already a force in the league. He has statistically improved in every category in the jump from his rookie to sophomore season. He has also made an All-Star team and has proven he can dominate on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
Davis' best game so far in his career occurred in an overtime win against the Boston Celtics. Not only did he hit the game winning shot but he also landed career highs in both points and rebounds. He posted the franchise's first 40/20 game with 40 points and 21 rebounds.
It will be essential for Davis to have more breakout games like that one to compete in the highly competitive Western Conference. The Pelicans won 34 games last season. The Phoenix Suns won 48 and still missed the playoffs in the West.
Not only is the conference tough but Davis's team is in potentially the toughest division in the NBA. The Pelicans were the only team in the Southwest division to not have a winning record and miss the playoffs. The division winner was the 2013-14 NBA Champions San Antonio Spurs.
The division also hold some of the league's best big men. The Spurs have arguably the best power forward of all-time in Tim Duncan. The Mavericks have a future of hall of famer and former league MVP in Dirk Nowitzki. The Memphis have one of the toughest front courts in the NBA led by Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Last but not least, the Rockets have the dominant Dwight Howard at Center.
What sets Davis apart from the others is the diversity of his game. Besides his length and athleticism, he can score inside the paint and outside on the perimeter with his steadily improving jump shot. His has great handles which is uncommon for big men. He runs the court extremely well resulting in easy transition buckets and defensive stops. He is also aggressive on the defensive and can guard multiple positions.
Davis focused on the weight training this summer. He knew bulking up would be pivotal for additional success in the upcoming season. He feels it will make a big impact.
"I feel a lot stronger and more confident making plays I never would've made last year," Davis said in an interview with Jim Eichenhofer with NBA.com. "And that just comes with confidence, just knowing that you got stronger and more confident in your game, driving ability and post-up ability. I definitely got a lot stronger and I definitely feel it."
Because he is still young, this is not a make it or break it season for Davis but the bright lights are on him. Will he live up to expectations and guide his team to the playoff promise land? Or will the pressure be too much to bare for the rising star? Fans will be watching to find out.
Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans tip-off their season at home on October 28th, 2014 against the Orlando Magic.