New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis had been a popular breakout pick in league circles long before Tuesday. Now it's easy to see why. The No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft torched the Orlando Magic for 26 points, 17 rebounds, nine blocks and three steals in a 101-84 win, cementing his status as one of the league's up-and-coming stars on the first day of the season.
Davis was a force on both ends for New Orleans, showing a more polished game on offense and his usual combination of mobility and verticality on the other side of the floor. The numbers speak for themselves, and signal a player who could be ready for a monster third season in the NBA.
Fans will surely focus on the huge point, rebound and block totals, for good reason. Davis fell just short of recording a triple-double, but still had an opening night that's practically unprecedented in league history. The last time someone posted a 26-15-9-3 line was Hakeem Olajuwon, 24 years ago. It's been more than 30 years since someone recorded more blocks in a team's season opener. At age 21, Davis is quickly establishing himself as a player capable of doing some pretty special things.
One particular aspect of his game that deserves extra attention is his discipline. Young players who rack up blocks and fill such huge roles on offense tend to be mistake-prone, but Davis recorded just one personal foul and zero turnovers on Tuesday. Not only was he a completely dominant force on both ends, he did it without committing many errors.
There are obviously things the Pelicans need to address if they're going to make a run for the playoffs, including staying healthy, but there might not be a more exciting young player in the NBA. Davis is the rare franchise cornerstone who can do it all on both ends, and partnered in a new-look frontcourt with Omer Asik, it appears he'll have the freedom to melt minds with regularity. The duo partnered for 40 points, 34 rebounds and 14 blocks on Tuesday, and appears to be meshing quite well.
Now, we just need to talk to the Pelicans' broadcast team about their choice for player of the game. Seriously, how was a Davis graphic not completed midway through the third quarter?
3 other things we learned
The supposedly underwhelming opening night was awesome: A lot of basketball fans looked at the league's opening schedule for Tuesday night and probably didn't see a lot to love. However, if this was any indication of how the season will go, everyone should probably buckle up. The first two games of the night were fantastic, with Davis lighting up the Magic and Dallas giving the Spurs everything they could handle. While the Lakers unsurprisingly couldn't keep up against Houston, the NBA quickly reminded us why we missed it so much in the summer.
It's going to be a long year in L.A.: Things were already getting ugly at Staples Center in the Lakers' lopsided opening loss to Houston, but the broken leg suffered by rookie Julius Randle in the fourth quarter leaves the team with some major questions after its first game. Randle was supposed to be one of the bright spots on an otherwise unexciting roster, but now we're all waiting for the timetable on his return. If the current diagnosis is confirmed, Randle will at least be out for months.
The Spurs' machine remains well oiled: Gregg Popovich will surely focus on those 20 turnovers, but otherwise San Antonio showed up in a 101-100 win over the Mavericks and looked like its usual, methodical self. The Spurs shot 50 percent from three-point range and 53 percent overall, and five different players scored at least 13 points. Dallas isn't exactly a daunting defensive team, but Tim Duncan and company didn't appear to miss a beat in their season opening victory.
Play of the Night
Deciding the top play of opening night was more or less an exercise in sorting through Davis highlights. The third-year forward had a number of eye-popping dunks against Orlando, including a big breakaway slam just minutes into the contest. However, this play under the basket, where Davis corrals the ball, puts it on the floor, turns around and slams it home while drawing the foul was a merciless master class. He has arrived.