When the 2014 NBA All-Star Game tips off next Sunday in New Orleans, it will feature a member of the hometown team. New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis has been chosen to replace injured Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant on the Western Conference All-Star team, the league announced Friday. The news was first reported by Sam Amick of USA TODAY Sports.
Davis was already going to be participating in All-Star Weekend as a member of Team Webber in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge on Friday. Now he'll be working Sunday night, too, becoming the 10th player in the 26-year history of the Hornets/Pelicans franchise to receive an All-Star nod, and the first since Chris Paul in 2011. (That ought to help his steadily rising profile.)
It's the first All-Star appearance for Davis, a 20-year-old sophomore whom the then-Hornets selected out of Kentucky with the No. 1 pick of the 2012 NBA draft. He's the sixth first-time All-Star in this year's game, joining Western Conference teammates Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors and Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, and Eastern Conference reserves DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors, Paul Millsap of the Atlanta Hawks and John Wall of the Washington Wizards.
After a rookie season in which injuries and team-wide struggles kept him from quite living up to the mountain of franchise-altering hype built during his lone collegiate campaign, Davis has emerged as one of the brightest young talents in the league as a second-year pro. He is one of only four players averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game, alongside fellow Western All-Stars Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge, as well as very-near-All-Star-miss DeMarcus Cousins. He leads the Pelicans in team in per-game scoring (20.5 points) and rebounding (10.5 boards), and he leads the entire NBA in total blocks (132), blocks per game (3.3) and block percentage, the share of opponents' offensive possessions that end with him swatting a shot (7.6 percent). He ranks fifth in the league in player efficiency rating, behind only LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Love and Paul, and is on pace for arguably the best season by any 20-year-old in NBA history.
Davis' stellar play earned recognition from NBA fans, who voted him seventh among Western frontcourt players behind Durant, Blake Griffin, Love, Dwight Howard, Aldridge and Tim Duncan, but only the top three vote-getters were named starters. And while he didn't join Howard and Aldridge as one of the players chosen as a Western reserve by NBA coaches, that was apparently a very close call; according to Howard Beck of Bleacher Report, Davis received the most coaches' votes of any player not to make the West squad.
Now, thanks to the vote of new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver — and, really, of league president of basketball operations Rod Thorn, according to Amick — he's made the roster in place of Bryant, who was voted a Western Conference starter despite being limited by injury to just six games this season and despite asking his fans not to vote for him. As it turns out, Bryant's rehabilitation from a left knee fracture has taken a bit longer than initially anticipated, pushing his return to the Lakers to the other side of the All-Star break and opening the door for a commish-selected injury replacement. Who will take Bryant's place in the starting lineup remains unclear, however; that decision falls not to Silver, but to Western Conference head coach Scott Brooks of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Of course, one young man's good news means heartbreak for another, and Davis' selection means that any of a number of other deserving players haven't been chosen. One such player, Cousins of the Sacramento Kings, appears to be less than pleased:
— demarcus cousins (@boogiecousins) February 7, 2014
Cousins certainly has a case — he's one of just three players in the top 10 in both scoring and rebounding (along with Love and Aldridge), he's sixth in the league in PER (just behind Davis), and he's playing remarkably efficient and effective offensive ball despite having a massive offensive workload, using a league-leading 33 percent of Sacramento's offensive possessions. He would have been a fine choice; so would Mike Conley of the Memphis Grizzlies and Goran Dragic of the Phoenix Suns. The Western Conference, as you might have heard, is stacked with excellent players.
None of that takes away from how sensational Davis has been this year, though, and his selection was very well-warranted. Here's hoping this is just the first of many, many times we'll be seeing the Pelicans' rising star big man in the league's signature midseason exhibition event.
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