Reflecting on Anthony Davis’ Incomparable Year

Posted by Brian Joyce on July 9th, 2012

NEWS FLASH: Anthony Davis is an extraordinary talent. You didn’t need me to tell you that. But the quality that makes him great is that he’s unlike any player we’ve seen before. Anybody can look at his 14.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game and know that he was good last season at Kentucky, but you have to look past the box score to know his true effect. His uniqueness at the college level can be difficult to quantify. Sure, his statistics were solid, but it really only tells part of his story. What center before him had a similar game? Who did he play like? Who could block three-point shots like Davis? Those can be difficult questions to answer. Or perhaps it’s not difficult at all, because the answer is nobody. His uniqueness made him marketable and his marketability helped elevate him to another level. What other player could trademark something as odd as his notorious unibrow?

The fact is that Davis didn’t fit into the box of typical college centers. For that matter, he didn’t fit into a mold of any college player. But we had no way of accurately describing how truly different he was… until now. The good folks over at Statsheet.com have found a way to compare individual players using 12 statistical categories:

  1. Offensive Rating
  2. %Possessions
  3. %Minutes
  4. Points/40 Minutes
  5. Assist Rate
  6. Turnover Rate
  7. FTA Rate
  8. 3PtA Rate
  9. OR%
  10. DR%
  11. Steal%
  12. Block%

And of course, as I do with all the new Statsheet features, I played around with the tool for hours. What I found after comparing countless SEC players is what I thought to be true all season — Davis’ game has no comparison. Most SEC stars’ profile compares to other players in the 90th to 95th percentile. Try it out for yourself here. But when comparing Davis, he is truly unique.

Davis in comparison to all other NCAA players in 2011-12 (the % reflects similarity score, meaning that Quincy Acy was 87.2% similar to Davis, statistically speaking):

All 2011-12 NCAA players:

Score Player Team
87.2% Quincy Acy Baylor
85.5% Andre Roberson CU
85.5% Jeff Withey KU
85.0% Jack Cooley ND
84.5% Cody Zeller IU
83.9% Jared Sullinger OSU
83.5% Tyler Zeller UNC
83.4% John Henson UNC
83.3% Terrence Jones UK
83.3% Meyers Leonard Illini

And when compared to other UK players since 1996, there’s even less of a comparison.

All UK players since 1996:

Score Player Team Season
83.6% Randolph Morris UK 2006-07
83.6% Nazr Mohammed UK 1997-98
83.3% Terrence Jones UK 2011-12
82.7% Terrence Jones UK 2010-11
82.6% Patrick Patterson UK 2008-09
81.7% Randolph Morris UK 2004-05
81.7% Patrick Patterson UK 2009-10
81.7% Michael Kidd-Gilchrist UK 2011-12
81.4% Chuck Hayes UK 2003-04
81.0% Marquis Estill UK 2002-03

And the only player in the SEC over the last fifteen years who has even come close to Davis’ statistical profile is Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado.

All SEC players since 1996:

Score Player Team Season
90.2% Jarvis Varnado MState 2009-10
87.7% Tyrus Thomas LSU 2005-06
87.6% Jarvis Varnado MState 2008-09
87.4% Stromile Swift LSU 1999-00
86.3% Brandon Bass LSU 2004-05
86.3% Nick Davis Arkansas 1997-98
85.6% Richard Hendrix Alabama 2007-08
85.3% Anthony Evans UGA 2000-01
85.3% Glen Davis LSU 2004-05
85.2% Delvon Johnson Arkansas 2010-11

This might not mean much until you compare another college player, for example, Davis’ teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

All 2011-12 NCAA players:

Score Player Team
94.4% Jesse Perry Arizona
93.6% Jamar Samuels K-State
92.0% Gilvydas Biruta Rutgers
91.7% Quincy Acy Baylor
91.7% Aaron White Iowa
91.6% Devin Booker Clemson
91.5% Aaron Fuller USC
91.4% Carlos Emory Oregon
91.1% Victor Oladipo IU
91.1% Harper Kamp California

All ten are over 90%. What about when compared to other UK players?

All UK players since 1996:

Score Player Team Season
91.0% Chuck Hayes UK 2002-03
91.0% Terrence Jones UK 2011-12
90.9% Michael Bradley Villanova 1998-99
90.8% Patrick Patterson UK 2007-08
90.0% Erik Daniels UK 2000-01
89.5% Chuck Hayes UK 2003-04
88.7% Scott Padgett UK 1997-98
88.2% Terrence Jones UK 2010-11
88.0% Chuck Hayes UK 2004-05
87.4% Jared Prickett UK 1996-97

Or other SEC players since 1996? Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has comparisons in the low to mid 90s.

All SEC players since 1996:

Score Player Team Season
94.5% Brandon Crump Tennessee 2003-04
94.0% Jabari Smith LSU 1999-00
93.5% Chuck Davis Alabama 2004-05
92.6% Jonas Hayes UGA 2003-04
92.4% Mario Austin MState 2001-02
92.0% Anthony Evans UGA 1999-00
91.5% Mario Austin MState 2002-03
91.5% C.J. Black Tennessee 1998-99
91.4% Ansu Sesay Ole Miss 1996-97
91.4% Julian Terrell Vandy 2003-04

Compare any SEC player you choose, and you are likely to find the same is true. But not with Anthony Davis. We all knew this. People realize when a unique talent comes along, and everyone knew Davis was different. It certainly didn’t take me or a statistical comparison to tell us what we already knew to be true. But take a moment to consider how truly unique he was in his single season on campus. Of all the players that have put on the Kentucky uniform in the last 15 years, nobody accurately compares to Davis, or maybe ever. And perhaps the same is true for the entire college game. Maybe players like Kevin Garnett or Amare’ Stoudemire would have had comparable games to Davis at this level, but we never got the opportunity to enjoy them in college. We should all be thankful we got to see Anthony Davis’ college career, even if it was only for one year. We may never see another year like it.

Brian Joyce (289 Posts)

Brian Joyce is an advanced metrics enthusiast, college hoops junkie, and writer for the SEC basketball microsite for Rush the Court.


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