By Casey Gisclair
It is so difficult to be a columnist assigned with covering the New Orleans Pelicans right now.
Sure, the team is entertaining and competitive – two major pluses. But there just isn’t a ton of mainstream storylines to spew about. Sure, there’s Monty Williams and his job status. We’ve been there and done that.
There’s the team salary cap situation and New Orleans’ lack of financial flexibility both now and into the future. Again, we’ve been there and done that.
And, of course, there’s also Anthony Davis – the dominant, fascinating NBA big man that becomes better by the second. We’ve written about Davis before in these pages, but we will attack his stature from another angle this week. More specifically, we will talk about how our state’s basketball star is also the MVP of the NBA – and it’s not close.
There, I said it.
He is the player in the league that holds the most value to his team. With him, the Pelicans are a team that can hover around .500 in the brutally difficult Western Conference. Without him, the Pels would struggle to win 25 games and would be one of the worst teams in the association.
Never was that more evident than on Saturday night against the Bulls.
In the opening minutes of Saturday night’s game with Chicago, New Orleans was holding its own. Davis wasn’t dominant, but he was effective. He had the usual stat line: eight points and five rounds with a block and a steal. When he was on the floor, the Pelicans had a slight advantage and were playing with the Bulls in a close, hard-fought game.
His presence and stature were impacting everything that was going on. The Bulls had to defend Davis – sometimes with more than one body – and that presented New Orleans with opportunities to have a more balanced, diverse offense where guys like Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans and Ryan Anderson to get off and score some points.
Then it all changed.
As Davis glided through the air for an alley-oop and landed awkwardly, falling firmly on his shoulder, New Orleans’ entire plans folded.
What was a close game immediately became a blowout. What was looking like a chance at another tough, gutsy win immediately became a 35-point home blowout loss. What was supposed to be a fun, competitive second half was instead won by Chicago by a 59-33 margin.
To me, that shows the value of Davis to this franchise, and it should also show voters that he is the MVP of the league.
Right now, the favorite in the clubhouse is probably Stephen Curry – the hot-shooting, dynamic point guard for the Golden State Warriors – the best team in the NBA. But if you take Curry away from the Warriors, you still have a playoff-level team. If you take away Davis, you simply do not.
Also probably ahead of Davis on the current totem pole are Houston Rockets guard James Harden and, of course, Cleveland Cavs guard LeBron James.
The argument for LeBron is hard to ever argue because he is unquestionably the best player in the world. But statistically, this is one of the worst seasons of his career. Can someone truly win MVP in his worst season of the past half-decade?
That then leaves Harden – a guy whom I love, as I’ve been a lifelong fan of the Houston Rockets. But for as amazing as Harden is on the offensive end of the floor, his defense still leaves a lot to be desired. For an award that’s as all encompassing as the league’s MVP, I have a hard time honoring a guy who is a one-way player. James Harden will have his time, but his true value needs to grow before he can be the NBA’s MVP.
So with those points all made, I think it’s time that the national media open up and realize that Davis is the best of the bunch.
There is no one in the NBA more important to his team than AD – no one. To me, that’s as good of a sign of being ‘valuable’ as there is.
Get well, big fella. As long as you’re on the shelf, your team will have an awfully hard time making up ground in the Western Conference playoff chase.