Pelicans Throughout History: Anthony Davis


Welcome to the “Pelicans Throughout History” series.

What I’m going to do in this collection of articles is take the best players from the New Orleans Pelicans, and then dump them in specific historic NBA eras. I will measure for statistical changes, adjust for varying pace, and discuss the non-anylitical differences between the various periods.

To do this, I’ve chosen three NBA seasons to teleport them into: The 1961-1962 NBA season, the 1975-1976 ABA season, and the 1992-1993 NBA season.

The 60’s being a time of legendary stat-lines and unbreakable records, the late 70’s being a time of flashy transition play with little focus on defense, and the early 90’s being a tough and physical era without the advantages of illegal hand-checking and outside shooting.

So, we know how good Anthony Davis is today, but how good could he have been in the past?

Teleportation #1: The 61′-62′ NBA Season

This season is infamous for its unbreakable records.

Wilt Chamberlain averaged an insane 50.4 Points and 25.7 Rebounds for the season, and accomplished his mythical goal of scoring 100 points in a single game, Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double to go along with 30 points as just a 6’5″ point guard, and additionally, teams routinely scored almost 120 points a game due to their insanely fast pace.

Basically, NBA teams in the 60s would make the ’06 Phoenix Suns look like a bunch of old guys at the YMCA.

For example, the ’14-’15 Pelicans averaged a surprisingly slow 91.4 possessions per 48 minutes, which was the 27th fastest in the league. The league average last season was 93.9 though, so it’s not a huge difference.

Conversely, Wilt’s Warriors averaged an insane pace of 131.1 possessions per 48 minutes, which was also only slightly varied from the league average at the time.

If we take Anthony Davis‘ averages from this past season, and adjust it to a 131.1 pace, he would average… wait for it… 35.0 Points, 14.6 Rebounds, 3.1 Assists, 2.1 Steals, and 4.1 Blocks a game.

Mar 4, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward

Anthony Davis

(23) against the Detroit Pistons during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Pistons 88-85. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

But wait, there’s more!

Anthony Davis averaged 36.1 minutes a game, while Wilt averaged a ridiculous 48.5 minutes (literally more than a regulation game). If Anthony Davis played for the Warriors back then instead of Wilt, and they threw him out there for the same amount of minutes (which would be crazy), his season averages would have been…

46.9 Points, 19.5 Rebounds, 4.1 Assists, 2.8 Steals, and 5.4 Blocks.

Is your jaw comfortably resting on your kitchen floor right now? Because mine is.

Teleportation #2: The 75′-76′ ABA Season

The 60s were all about the records. Bill’s 11 rings, Wilt’s 50-25, Oscar’s 30-10-10, but the 70s were a whole different story. The 70s were about straight-up style. Sure, teams still wanted to win titles, and sure individual stats still mattered, but it was more about the spectacle. Especially in the ABA.

The NBA at the time was like the first version-one iPhones. Apple always made them the same way, with the same restrictions, and the same capabilities. Then the ABA came along and jail-broke the NBA, and added all these new exciting apps like “The Slam Dunk Contest Simulator” and “The Three Point Line Version 1.0”

ABA Official Basketball 1970’s

So how would Anthony Davis do?

Well I don’t know, as far as entertaining people go, 6’11” athletic monsters with unibrows are pretty entertaining. Davis would probably play center full-time in the ABA, and would excel in a flashy and fast-paced environment.

His shooting would stretch big men out of the paint, and his athleticism would be unmatched by anyone not named Julius Erving.

Also, if I can go on a quick semi-related tangent; is it just me or are the Pelicans the most ABA team ever? We play basketball in the freaking “Smoothie King Center,” our mascot Pierre was so scary they had to change his appearance to be more family friendly, our star player is literally a pterodactyl with a unibrow, and there is a terror inducing giant baby that hangs around our home court.

Feb 11, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; The King Cake Baby during the Krewe of Pelicans Mardi Gras parade during halftime of a game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Indiana Pacers at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

I mean look at that thing. Look at its eyes.

Okay back to basketball.

The only downside of the ABA for Davis, is that they didn’t really value defense. He would still be a monster on offense, but on the other end, people would never really appreciate his defensive ability, and that might make him less focused on it.

Here’s a possibility though, we know Davis is adding a three-point shot this summer too. Surprisingly, for the first few years of the ABA, basically being able to shoot close to 30% was above average, so maybe Davis becomes a super-stretch-five in that era and relies on being one of the best shooters in the league, and also one of the best posterizers.

Regardless, his stats look really good.

Adjusting for the ABA pace and playing his exact same minutes, Davis would have averaged 28.5 Points, 11.9 Rebounds, 2.5 Assists, 1.7 Steals and 3.4 Blocks per game. I would calculate it with Wilt’s insane minute averages, but truthfully that insane stat-line only belongs in the 60s. For now, we’re just going to play Davis a normal amount of ABA minutes built for a human, and not a cyborg.

Teleportation #3: The ’92-’93 NBA Season

This is the era I love the least for Davis. The 60’s were about the numbers, the 70’s were about the spectacle, and the 90’s were about raw force. Davis is a perfect big man for the modern NBA, he’s fast, he can guard multiple positions, he’s versatile and efficient, but these things weren’t as valuable in the 90s. What was valuable was overpowering strength.

Keep in mind, this isn’t one of those “they were more competitive in the old days, I used to walk through the snow to get to school, technology is ruining America” arguments you hear from old guys at barber shops. It’s more that the big men of the 90s all played a specific style which hinders his strengths. Davis gets a large amount of his blocks off guards and perimeter players who drive into the lane, but in a league which didn’t monitor hand-checking, there isn’t going to be as many slashers for Davis to neutralize.

Instead, teams are going to create offense out of the post. The 90s were filled with huge 260+ pound big men who would manhandle Davis one on one. Karl Malone, Shaquille O’Neil, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutumbo, Alonzo Mourning and Giants like Gheorghe Muresan (7’7″) and Shawn Bradley (7’6″).

Without the advantage of spacing, and being able to receive the ball off drives, Davis would be forced to be an isolation scorer. Basically teams would throw him the ball, and he would need to back down all those 90s giants if he wants a bucket. On the other end, he would need to defend those guys despite his below average strength. Not ideal for Mr. Davis.

Now — I might be blowing this slightly out of proportion.

Davis would still be a great player in any era, but it would be much harder for him to adapt to the grit and grind 90s than any other period. Within a few seasons, could he add 30 pounds and work on his post arsenal?

Probably, but throw him in any other era and he would dominate immediately without the learning curve.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the first article in the “Pelicans Throughout History” series.

Stay tuned into BigEasyBeliever over the next few weeks to find out why Omer Asik would have manhandled the 60s, Ryan Anderson would have revolutionized the ABA, and Tyreke Evans would have been an All-Star player had he been drafted in the 90s.

And of course, a breakdown of the immense cultural impact Kendrick Perkins would have had on society……

Next: The New Orleans Pelicans and the Cost of Continuity