Every time Team USA gets together, there's talk of how players return to the NBA better. They can see how other stars work, go against them in practice and refine their individual games. If there's one guy this summer who people are talking about using this experience as a springboard to superstardom, it's New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis. His college coach, Kentucky's John Calipari, is doing nothing to temper those expectations, via USA Today's Sam Amick:
"Right now, you look at (Davis) and say, 'Man, in five years, he could be the best player in the NBA,' " Calipari said. "And this USA Basketball stuff pushes that date sooner. Again, here's what it does for him: how to work, new things to add to his game, and confidence like, 'These are the best in the world, so I'm all right.' "
Pelicans head coach Monty Williams, an assistant on Team USA, said something similar, adding that even if Davis spent his time working out with other pros, nothing would prepare him for next season like this:
"He's understanding that he is a lead dog among a number of alpha dogs. Mentally, he has taken it up a few notches, and I think Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) has been a big part of that, pushing him to be a leader, pushing him to be a guy on the team. You think about the names on this team, and you look at the impact on the game that he has, and you seldom say there's a better player on the floor than Anthony. That's got to help him from a confidence standpoint…and I think that's just going to help us going forward."
Watching the 21-year-old Davis, it's impossible not to get excited. I wouldn't say it's a sure thing that Davis will be the best player in the league in the next four or five years, since Kevin Durant is only 25, but it's certainly possible given his potential dominance on both ends. I can picture him as a top-five player this coming season, which is just bonkers.
We've simply never seen anyone quite like Davis before, not with that combination of size, agility, skills and timing. It's no coincidence that both of his coaches used the word "confidence" when talking about how he's growing, and that's a huge part of reaching his potential as a professional. It started last year, with Davis being New Orleans' leading scorer and becoming its leader. It's continuing now, and the Pelicans are going to reap the rewards.