A new season is upon us, and with it comes plenty of intriguing storylines. From massive traves and superstar uncertainty in the East to a West perhaps the deepest it has ever been, here is an early season NBA Power ranking.
Anthony Davis vs Antetokounmpo: Battle of the Freaks
The Brow vs. The Greek Freak
Last season Kobe Bryant took to twitter challenging Antetokounmpo to win the MVP and this season Anthony Davis has proclaimed that he is the best player in the NBA. Both have started the season with incredibly stat lines, with Davis (27p, 13r, 5a) leading the Pelicans to a 4-0 start and Antetokounmpo (26p, 16r, 7a) leading the Bucks to a 5-0 start which brings up the question which is better now and which is better going forward? We have the answer.
Before we start the comparison, it is important to acknowledge what makes the Brow and the Greek freak unstoppable. Hovering around 7-feet tall with disproportionally long limbs, long powerful strides and a guard's skillset both players have been blessed with God giving size and athleticism. However, both use their superhero-like abilities in two very distinct ways and that is mainly due to Antetokounmpo's inconsistent jumper.
Take this season for example, so far Anthony Davis has converted 57% of his three point shots while Antetokounmpo is hitting about 6% of his three pointers. Those numbers will move closer to the mean as the season grows but it is worth noting that both AD's career three-point percentage and free throw percentage are superior to Antetokounmpo and highlights the fact that Anthony Davis is a much better scorer. However, being a better scorer does not automatically make you the better player offensively.
Where Antetokounmpo makes up ground is his playmaking ability. Much is documented about Anthony Davis's guard play pre-growth spurt but it holds no candle to Antetokounmpo's endorsement from hall-of-fame point guard Jason Kidd. While coaching the Bucks, Kidd was a huge advocate for playing Antetokounmpo at point guard due to his incredible court vision and playmaking ability. The Greek Freak has averaged four or more assists in each of the last three seasons while Anthony Davis is yet to average more than 2.3 assists over a full season. Anthony Davis is the better scorer but offensively Antetokounmpo is actually the better player.
Both are great offensively, but what about the other side of the ball?
It isn't close, Anthony Davis is a much better defender than Antetokounmpo. This isn't to say the Greek freak is a bad defender, rather that Anthony Davis is arguably the best defender in the league and while Antetokounmpo is a good defender he is not at the level of Anthony Davis. AD has led the league in blocks in three of his six seasons not to mention his three all-defensive team nods.
Okay so AD takes the edge defensively, but what about playoff intangibles?
Minor red flag for Antetokounmpo, historically superstars are expected to improve their output in the playoffs but in two of his three playoff appearances his output has decreased . . . while at the same time Anthony Davis performs better in the playoffs. This isn't to suggest that Antetokounmpo can't handle pressure situations or struggles with increased expectations, I think he falls short because teams tend to close up the paint in the playoffs which hinders superstars like Antetokounmpo who struggle to shoot the ball. Going forward Antetokounmpo will have to improve as a shooter if he wants to take the Bucks to the next level.
The most important part of an overall comparison is an analysis of their respective injury history. While Antetokounmpo is rarely ever injured, Anthony Davis is notorious around the NBA for his injury history. But it is worth noting that Anthony Davis seems to have turned the corner in that regard playing 75 games in each of the last two years an improvement on the 65 games he was averaging the four seasons prior.
You can't go wrong with either but lean towards Antetokounmpo. His playmaking ability sets him apart and at 23 he is only going to become a better shooter as his game matures. Anthony Davis's numbers have stalled at 28-11-2 in each of the last two seasons which is a telling sign of a player near his ceiling while Antetokounmpo has seen a steady increase year after year. Yes Anthony Davis is better now but he may be near his peak while Antetokounmpo has only just begun his upward trajectory.
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