It's getting awfully hard to come up with new adjectives to describe Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis' play on the basketball court this season. The soon-to-be-No. 1 overall draft pick already looks like the most iconic player of the John Calipari era in Lexington, and we still haven't even sniffed March yet. In a word, the kid is ridiculous.
The 14 points and 10 rebounds he adds per game are each impressive on a team loaded with weapons, but what truly separates Davis from his peers, as we all know, is his elite-level shot blocking.
Currently he leads all of college basketball with 4.8 blocks per game, outpacing his closest competitors (William Mosley 4.17, Damian Eargle 4.17) by a surprisingly wide margin. As far as most people are concerned, the NCAA's Defensive Player of the Year award has been a one-man race since Christmas.
The goal of a shot blocker, at any level, is simple: To alter the ball, or the shooter himself, by any means necessary. This requires a varying mix of positioning, timing, body control, and athleticism, all specific to each individual possession and situation. But one huge aspect that often gets overlooked is the amount of fouls these players are whistled for on a per-40-minute basis. An elite shot blocker is of no use to his team if he can't stay on the floor, and especially if he's sitting on the pine with the outcome hanging in the balance.
After 25 games, Davis averages a miniscule 2.6 fouls for every 40 minutes he's on the court. And while that number might not jump off the page for everyone, to truly put it into perspective, consider that Greg Oden, widely viewed as the most tactical freshman shot blocker many scouts had ever seen, averaged 3.8 as a freshman. Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut's 7'3" freakshow of a center, averaged 4.3 in the same season. Even VCU's freshman big man Larry Sanders, who led the NCAA with a 19.3% block rate the following year, averaged an insanely-high 6.8.
The more time you spend parsing through the stats of former first-year standouts, the more you begin to fully appreciate what Davis is doing at the defensive end. But to use only block totals and block percentages to rank shot blockers across the board is a decidedly-flawed measure and doesn't tell the whole story, mainly because each stat values aggressiveness over smart, instinctive play. The best shot blocker in the country isn't necessarily the guy with the best numbers, but the one who walks the line between blocking everything in sight and still managing to avoid foul trouble. And, make no mistake, Anthony Davis does this better than anybody we've ever seen.
But for as dominant as he's been, there are still so many questions that can be explored about his presence at the defensive end. At what point in games is Davis getting his stats? Is he more dominant in the second half, or the first? What specific stretches is he the most, and least prolific? To find some of these answers, I dug through every game log of Davis' illustrious college career. Instead of scatter-plotting you to death with the results, here are a few interesting observations, followed by a handy table, after the jump....
25 games in...
*Average game time it takes for Davis to block his first shot: 6:30
*Average game time between Davis' first and second blocks: 7:23
*Average number of blocks in the first five minutes of the opening half: 0.80
*Average number of blocks in the first ten minutes of the opening half: 1.48
*Average number of first half blocks: 2.24
*Average number of blocks in the first five minutes of the second half: 0.92
*Average number of blocks in the first ten minutes of the second half: 1.60
*Average number of second half blocks: 2.56
*Games with at least one block in each half: 23
*Games with at least two blocks in each half: 14
*Games without a second half block: 0
*Games with at least one block in the opening two minutes of either half: 13
*Number of opponents that Davis has single-handedly out-blocked this season: 18
*If he only played the first ten minutes of each game, Davis would still rank in the top 125 nationally in blocks per game.
*If he only played the first half every time he suited up, Davis would rank 35th in the country in blocks per game.
*To break things down even further, here's what Davis has done over four-minute stretches this year:
|Four-minute stretch||Total Blocks||Blocks/gm|
|1H 20:00 - 16:00||16||0.64|
|1H 15:59 - 12:00||15||0.60|
|1H 11:59 - 8:00||8||0.32|
|1H 7:59 - 4:00||9||0.36|
|1H 3:59 - 0:00||8||0.32|
|2H 20:00 - 16:00||19||0.76|
|2H 15:59 - 12:00||14||0.56|
|2H 11:59 - 8:00||11||0.44|
|2H 7:59 - 4:00||15||0.60|
|2H 3:59 - 0:00||5||0.20|
The consistency in the table above is startling when you consider that Davis usually plays around 28-34 minutes each night. It appears he's at his best in the first minutes of each half, and usually tapers off his aggressiveness as the half wears on. This can be attributed to couple of factors, but mostly that Davis is more likely to be on the bench getting a breather or is actively trying to avoid another foul before heading into the break. Those two scenarios are much less likely to occur in the opening minutes of each half, so it's feasible that the statistical discrepancy here is even smaller than we think.
The only real outlier in the data above is that Davis has only blocked five shots in the final four minutes all season long. This seems oddly low for a guy who already owns a couple of game-sealing rejections, but it's worth noting that Kentucky usually has the game wrapped up by this point anyway. You'd expect a low number of blocks in this stretch from virtually any high-volume shot blocker out there, but it'd be for entirely different reasons. Most guys would have fouled out, whereas Davis is already celebrating a win with his buddies on the bench.
People love to talk about the endless potential this kid has, and the great things he'll eventually go on to achieve. Right now, though, the consistency at which he's blocking shots is the main story. In every single game, every single half, every single minute, you absolutely know what you're getting from Davis. And because of that, you literally cannot praise him enough. In a word, he's still ridiculous.