The Western Conference was filled with deserving players to take Kobe Bryant's spot in the 2014 All-Star Game, but selecting Anthony Davis was a simple choice. The second-year big man has played at an historic level, and he's been the lone bright light in a down year for the New Orleans Pelicans. His incredible season earned him the right to wear an All-Star jersey Sunday night. The festivities being held in New Orleans all but sealed the deal.
Don't confuse his selection as anything but deserved, though. He's averaging 20.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game. His nearly seven-foot wingspan is the final line of defense for an otherwise-woeful defense, and he's limiting opponents to 45.9 percent at shots he defends at the rim. He's 20 years old, has hardly tapped into his potential and already looks like he'll be a lock for the All-Star Game for years to come.
The next challenge for New Orleans will be to build around him. The major roster shifts the team made over the summer -- trading the rights to Nerlens Noel to the Philadelphia 76ers for Jrue Holiday and signing Tyreke Evans -- haven't amounted to success immediately. The three-guard rotation that seemed fascinating in August has been disappointing come February. But Davis has been anything but disappointing.
The All-Star Game isn't about how teams across the league are doing. It's a time to forget about the 82-game season, the injuries and the playoffs and take a step back to enjoy the NBA for all of its weirdness. It's about bringing stars together for basketball fans to kick back, relax and enjoy.
And Davis has already put himself in that conversation. Watching him reject a shot attempt, bolt up the floor ahead of everyone else and bring the thunder when he dunks has become an expectation when he's on the court. This is just a sliver of what he can do, though, which makes him one of the most fascinating two-way players.
Mind-blowing moments like the following play -- switching onto Deron Williams, getting momentarily shaken up only to recover to block the shot and flush the transition dunk on the other end -- is what will keep Davis in All-Star Games for the next decade.
This is how he's obliterating the NBA, and he's only in the second year of his career. You can almost see Defensive Player of the Year trophies dripping off his giant wingspan.
If you think he's all dunks and blocks, you'd be mostly justified right now. The rest of his game -- the off-screen mid-range jumpers and such -- is still a long way away from being refined. But it's already proving to be there, more progress in work than work in progress. He's shooting 41.7 percent from 15-19' out. He's shooting 43 percent in catch-and-shoot opportunities -- defined as any shot taken from 10 feet or more where the player held the ball for no more than two seconds and never dribbled -- which is higher than teammates Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson. Yes, better than the shooting guard and prototype stretch 4.
Of course, the shooting stats are just a small sample size. He only attempts 3.5 catch-and-shoot attempts per game, for example. But that shouldn't deter people from the fact that he can hit from mid-range. Instead, it should open up his ceiling. What if he can become an even more serious mid-range threat? What if he's the NBA's next great inside-out player? What if that brewing potential is something like the fusion of Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki if it reaches its peak?
It's intoxicating to daydream about how great Davis can become, and that's all right. It's perfectly fine to embrace the extraordinary, celebrate the amazing and ponder the possibilities. Potential and reality are on a one way trip to greatness with Davis. Enjoy the pit stop in New Orleans in the meantime.