Disclaimer - This is just a very random thought that I had while on the exercise bike in the gym last night watching PTI. And there is A LOT that has to happen for this to even be a worthwhile discussion (ie. Dwight Howard is not dealt before the deadline, the Nets fail to make the playoffs and the lottery gods smile upon them with the first pick, Dwight signs with the Nets in early July as a Free Agent and the Nets resign Brook Lopez to play PF next to Dwight in the reincarnation of the Spurs Twin Tower movement).
In any event, assuming that all of the above events were to happen, would the Nets draft Anthony Davis with the first pick? I know that many of you will say that if the Nets had the first pick that they would not resign Brook to play the PF position, or would resign Brook to use in trade for a SF. However, I am thinking about what that would actually look like - on a roster with Dwight, Brook and Anthony Davis; as I think this would be a wildly intriguing roster.
Irrespective of whom the Nets take with their first pick - I believe that the backcourt is set with DWill and Marshon Brooks, and the PF/C starting spots are filled with Brook and Dwight. It remains to be seen whether Gerald Green will have a long term role on this team (and until we see him play in more games it is impossible to answer) and if not, what moves the Nets might make in Free Agency to address that SF position.
Watching tape of Anthony Davis what really stands out to me is his length, athleticism and shot blocking skills. I believe he has become a historically top ranked collegiate shot blocker at this point in the season and his ability is a multi-functional result of his length, athleticism and instints (BBIQ). I have seen him blocking shots not just in the paint around the rim, but ranging outside of the paint to swat away jump shots. And what impresses me even more, is that oftentimes he has the ability to keep the ball in bounds and control the possession.
I do think that his body needs at least 1-2 more years of weight training and maturation to have the physicality necessary to compete in the post at the NBA level. This will most likely prove problematic for him when getting posted up in the paint and also on the offensive end. However, like rebounding, shot blocking is a skillset that translates directly from the NCAA to the NBA.
I think his ideal position in the NBA is not as a Center but as a true PF with the ability to get out in transition, affect shots on the perimeter and stretch the court - opening up the paint for penetration or another big man. However, under the above scenario (and the idea came from watching him rotate off his man on the low block and range up towards the top of the key to block a shot - which was purely the effect of his length and athleticism) we would already have not only our franchise center (Dwight Howard) but our franchise PF (Brook Lopez).
I have long been an advocate of a Lopez/Howard pairing, as I think that Brook's strengths will be complementary to Dwight's while Dwight's will be complementary to Brook's. Dwight is solely effective within 3-5 feet of the basket and is the best interior defender in the NBA. However, he is not effective playing away from the basket and becomes a liability in a hack a Dwight game - which is unfortunately going to be every team's strategy in the waning moments of a post season game. Brook has continued to develop an impressive post game but is just as effective operating in the high post or 12-15 feet away from the basket on the offensive end. And as his past few games have shown, it looks like he has added another foot to his range since breaking his foot. And while many fans have been critical of Brook's ability to guard PFs - his length will create issues for the stretch 4s and undersized PFs and he is capable of guarding in the paint. In the instances where an opposing PF gets a step on him and goes towards the basket - Dwight is perhaps the best help defender in the paint in the NBA. That mitigates that concern. And I can't think of very many PFs who are going to be able to guard Brook Lopez. A Dwight/Lopez combination is an absolute matchup nightmare for most teams.
So based on this scenario (where we keep Brook and get Dwight) and my excitement of seeing these 2 guys playing together in our front court; on the surface Anthony Davis would seem like a gratuitous pick for us - as using the 1st pick on a guy to come off the bench would be a waste of his talent and be a large portion of our salary cap allocated to 3 big men.
However, I think that we could absolutely crush teams from a match up perspective under this scenario and draft Anthony Davis to play at the SF position who can then slide into the PF position at end of games when Avery takes out Dwight and shifts Lopez to Center. Granted there are going to be significant growing pains as he adjusts to playing more on the perimeter - both offensively and defensively. However, his length is going to absolutely make it impossible for SFs to shoot over him and actually enables him to play 2 steps off his man. This gives him that extra second to minize an opponent's first step. And in the instances where he is burned off the ball; Dwight Howard is still going to be anchoring the paint while Brook can cheat a step towards the paint as well (again a benefit of his length). Offensively, he will have probably be more effective (at least initially) on putbacks (imagine a SF boxing him out?) and in transition. But with DWill at PG and Dwight commanding a double team in the post and Brooks/Morrow and Lopez stretching the floor - there are going to be considerable opportunities to slide towards the basket in pick and rolls/pick and pops.
On paper a front court of Anthony Davis, Brook Lopez and Dwight Howard might be incredibly unorthodox but creates mismatches from h*ll. And with potentially 2 of the premier shot blockers in the NBA - it is going to become much more difficult for opponents to get off a good shot - and I expect Brooks to continue to develop on the defensive end of the court and learn to use his length to his advantage. I am not suggesting that Davis would have the potential to be the next Kevin Durant at the SF position but this could really offer the Nets the most value at the pick and create a season full of sleepless nights for opposing coaches.
As mentioned in the disclaimer - this was simply the result of my mind wandering while riding the bike in the gym last night and I have not seen enough tape of Anthony Davis to definitively say that he has the ability to contribute at the SF position. But it is an interesting point of discussion and the depth of that team (with the ability of our 3 bigs to play at both front court positions) would be very difficult to game plan against. Interested to hear your thoughts on this.