Los Angeles Lakers star forward Anthony Davis is set to make his first return to New Orleans to take on the Pelicans.
Davis spent the first seven seasons of his NBA career in New Orleans, tallying six All-Star appearances, three All-NBA honours, three All-Defensive Team honours and an All-Rookie nod.
A.D. led the Pelicans to the playoffs twice, winning one playoff series in his time with the franchise. You could make the case that he's the greatest player in franchise history, though he still may face some boos in his return game based on the way his tenure with the Pelicans ended.
Ahead of Davis' first game back in New Orleans, or NBA.com staff discusses how they'll remember his time with the Pelicans.
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): What might have been.
There are so many moments along the way that feel OHSOCLOSE to uncovering something special.
Two years before drafting Anthony Davis, New Orleans held the 10th pick in the draft. They drafted Cole Aldrich and immediately traded him to Oklahoma City. But what if Paul George, taken ninth by the Pacers, had slid one more spot? Who knows, maybe Davis gets drafted onto a team with a young PG13?
What about the 2013 draft? They had the sixth pick in the draft but traded that pick away for Jrue Holiday. But what if they held onto the pick? What if instead of Nerlens Noel, New Orleans instead rolled the dice on a raw talent named Giannis Antetokounmpo who went 15th?
What about the DeMarcus Cousins trade? There are two interesting scenarios at play here starting with the obvious... what if Cousins never got hurt? The ill-fated torn Achilles came back in January 2018 in the closing seconds of a statement win over the Houston Rockets. The AD-Boogie pairing was just starting to gel and then it was over. Somehow they still managed to sweep the Trail Blazers before bowing out to the Warriors. But can you imagine Davis and Cousins attempting to knock off the small-ball Warriors?
What if the trade for Cousins itself never happened? In today's NBA, there aren't many shooting guards that would be more perfect playing alongside Davis than Buddy Hield - the prized asset sent to Sacramento in that trade. But that's not all they gave up. They also sent the 10th pick in the 2017 draft out, a pick that eventually turned into Zach Collins. What's more fun to think about than Collins? How about the fact that Donovan Mitchell went three picks later! There's a world in which Davis is playing alongside a three-headed backcourt trio of Hield, Mitchell and Holiday.
We're not done yet.
Because the biggest 'what if' of all is the pairing of Davis and Zion Williamson.
What if the Pelicans decided to hold onto Davis? A frontcourt of Davis and Williamson could have transformed the NBA and given the Pelicans perhaps the single most talented frontcourt ever. Think that wouldn't have been fun?
Davis is in a great spot with Los Angeles and the future is undoubtedly bright in New Orleans. But I'll always look back on the Anthony Davis era in New Orleans with the lingering feeling that it just didn't go down the way it was supposed to.
It wasn't supposed to be this way.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): The one playoff series win.
This isn't a slight - Anthony Davis was ridiculous in the first round of the 2018 Western Conference Playoffs, leading the Pelicans to a sweep over a good Portland Trail Blazers team.
They were the underdogs in the series but you never would have guessed it with the way Davis dominated those four games. Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo deserve a lot of credit for shutting down Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum too, but A.D. was the force that made this sweep possible.
He started and closed the series with remarkable performances. He had a 35-point double-double with four blocks and two steals in their Game 1 win and to close out the series with a sweep, he dropped a 47-point double-double with three blocks.
He averaged 33.0 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, 1.8 steals and 1.3 assists shooting 57.6% from the field over the four-game sweep and was so unstoppable that some started mumbling that he may be able to lead the Pelicans past the Golden State Warriors.
Davis has long been considered one of the premier players in the NBA and that series may have been the most dominant we've seen him through his eight-year career.
However, I do believe as a perennial top-10 player in the NBA even in a brutal Western Conference, Davis should have been able to bring those Pelicans teams to the playoffs more than twice and should have won more than one playoff series. Other superstars have done more with less.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): It's oddly specific, but I always think of his 45-point, 17-rebound performance against the Warriors early in the 2016-17 season.
The Kevin Durant era had just begun in The Bay and the Pelicans welcomed the eventual champions into the Smoothie King Center in the second game of the season. With Jrue Holiday taking a leave from the team to tend to his wife, the 23-year-old Davis was essentially the only Pelican that the Warriors defence needed to focus on, yet he still found a way to dominate.
In addition to different looks from Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Zaza Pachulia and Durant, AD saw double and triple teams… it didn't even matter.
New Orleans really didn't stand a chance to win the game yet I remember watching the game in awe of the things that Davis still found ways to do to keep his team within striking distance.
Taking a step back, it almost feels like this game was a microcosm of the better part of Davis' seven years in New Orleans - he would showcase his ability as a generational talent but, to no fault of his own, it wouldn't be enough to lead the team over the hump.
Admittedly, at times, it was due to circumstances that were simply unfortunate, like the situation facing Holiday during that year., which does cause me to wonder what could have been as Micah said.
While Davis' time in New Orleans will often be looked at for more of his shortcomings than his successes, it's performances like this one that shouldn't allow us to lose sight of how special he truly is.
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