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Old 08-06-2012, 06:06 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Let The Valanciunas, Anthony Davis Comparisons Begin

Interesting read on Valanciunas and Anthony Davis - Who do you feel will come out on top 'career wise' when all is said and done?


Let The Valanciunas, Anthony Davis Comparisons Begin
By: Jonathan Tjarks
Aug 06, 2012 10:38 AM EDT

Neither Anthony Davis nor Jonas Valanciunas, the two youngest basketball players in the Olympics, were much of a factor in Team USAís narrow 99-95 victory over Lithuania. Valanciunas, despite starting for Lithuania, played nine minutes while Davis stayed on the bench in the Americans' first tight game in London.

If David Stern and Mark Cuban donít get their way, that could be a very different story in 2016 (when Valanciunas would be 24 and Davis would be 23), 2020 and maybe even 2024, where they would both be younger than Kobe Bryant is now. Teenagers donít arenít generally involved in high-level international competitions, an indication of what Hubie Brown would call their ďtremendous upside potentialĒ.

But while they both wound up as top NBA lottery picks, they took radically different paths to get there. Itís very Rocky IV: Valanciunas is the Ivan Drago character, signed to a professional contract in his adolescence. Davis is the raw American, emerging essentially from nowhere as a high school junior to become the best player in the country.

Before his late growth spurt, Davis was an unheralded 6í4 perimeter player being recruited by mid-major colleges. Then he suddenly grew to 6í10 without losing any of his foot-speed. The result was the ideal combination of a centerís size and a guardís quickness.

Valanciunas is a more conventional big man, with excellent athleticism for a 6í11, 240 center. He was identified at an extremely young age as a promising prospect, a pro by the age of 16. Two years later, he was playing for Lietuvos Rytas in the Euroleague, the second best pro league in the world.

At Kentucky, Davis was the defensive lynchpin of one of the most talented collegiate teams in a long time. The Wildcats had the No. 1, 2, 18, 29, 42 and 46 selections in the 2012 NBA Draft, and they were far too talented for most of their opponents. Their final record speaks for itself: 38-2, with only three of those wins (and none in the NCAA Tournament) coming by fewer than five points.

Valanciunas, meanwhile, was playing with players twice his age. As a result, he was a role player, rarely creating his own shot. In that context, his 2012 Eurocup stats are fairly impressive: 10.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks on 63% shooting in 23 minutes a night.

Davis was dominant at Kentucky -- 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 (!) blocks on 65% shooting -- but itís hard to imagine him having more success than Valanciunas if their roles had been reversed. When adjusted for pace and per-40 minutes, Valanciunas averaged 18.9 points, 13.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks a game in 2012.

He would have adapted easily to the role Davis had for Kentucky - running the floor, moving the ball and catching lobs at the rim. The talent gap between the Wildcats and the other 11 teams in the SEC was about as wide as the one between Team USA and the other 11 teams in London. Valanciunas, Terrence Jones, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Darius Miller, Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague would still have been a huge favorite to win the Final Four.

Davis, a more fluid athlete, is the better defensive prospect. At 6í11, 220 with a 7í6 wingspan, his quickness, length and defensive timing allow him to be a dominant shot-blocker without getting in foul trouble (only 2.4 a game at Kentucky). In contrast, Valanciunasí biggest problem next year will be his rate of 5.6 fouls per 40 minutes, an improvement from 8.2 per 40 in 2011.

On the other side of the floor, Valanciunas has developed some basic post moves, which is all a player with his size and length (7í4 wingspan) needs to score. He used a jump hook to shoot over the top of Tyson Chandler and Ronny Turiaf in London, and while it didnít always go in, all they could do was wave at the ball and hope he missed. Davis, meanwhile, will struggle establishing deep post position next year, so heíll have to either get stronger or refine his perimeter jumper.

Both are part of a new wave of big men of small-ball centers, making up for what they lack in pure strength with great length and lateral quickness. Neither has the bulk to bang with mammoth centers like Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum, but theyíre well suited to the more perimeter-oriented game the NBA is moving towards.

Where they go from here is unclear: just because a 20-year old could grow into something doesnít necessarily mean they will. Maybe Davis never adds any weight and drifts out on the perimeter, where his skill-set is less valuable. Maybe Valanciunas maxes out as a more skilled version of Andris Biedrins, a big man not good enough to dominate offensively or athletic enough to dominate defensively.

Like almost all young centers, their development will depend heavily on the environment their team puts them in. Davis has a higher ceiling than Valanciunas, but the difference between the two isnít nearly as high as their pre-draft publicity would suggest.

Read more: Let The Valanciunas Anthony Davis Comparisons Begin - RealGM

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