Anthony Davis, Nene Hilario,

United States’ Anthony Davis (14), of the New Orleans Pelicans, dunks over Brazil’s Nene Hilario, of the Washington Wizards, during the first half of an exhibition basketball game Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, in Chicago.

With NBA basketball buried in the middle of the offseason, International Basketball Federation (FIBA) competition and international play are going to be the pulse of the hardwood for the next 30 days. After losing Kevin Durant and Paul George over the last few weeks to fatigue and injury, the roster for Team USA is ripe for someone to step up and take the reins of the team.

After his performance Aug. 16 against Brazil, it is clear Anthony Davis’ future might be bigger than expected. Davis put his lanky 6-foot-10-inch frame on display, flying in for alley oops, wreaking havoc in passing lanes, and swatting shots away on defense. His 20 points and five blocks fueled a 95-78 rout as onlookers at Chicago’s United Center cheered and chanted with every highlight.

Derrick Rose’s return to competition was designed to be the focal point of the evening, and while Rose was definitely impressive, Davis’ agility simply took over the contest. The city of Chicago has already seen one of its own blossom into an MVP caliber player, but they may have caught a brief glimpse of the next big thing.

Fresh out of his second full season in the league, Davis has a chance to become the top power forward in the NBA next year. A cross between Kevin Garnett and Kevin Durant, there’s a reason scouts pegged Davis as a lock for a No. 1 draft selection even before he declared for the NBA in 2012. The 21-year-old mixes the offensive repertoire and quickness of an NBA guard with the defense of a power post player. If Saturday night was a preview of the type of NBA season Davis is going to have then the league should prepare itself for a new MVP candidate.

When Garnett was labeled the “Big Ticket” coming out of high school in 1995, we marveled at his size (6-foot-11), skills, and defense. That combination later led to a MVP season from Garnett in 2004, a full decade ago. Davis has all of Garnett’s potential with a better offensive game, making him flat out scary.

The 2003 draft class is lauded as one of the best crops of players to be developed, ever. However, as LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Carmelo Anthony move into the 30-year-old versions of themselves, the time is ripe for a player like Davis to carve out a place alongside the great players of the league. The talent and the skills are there and he’s made himself marketable, thanks in large part to his infamous unibrow. Davis takes the imperfection and uses it along with an ever-developing game to saturate the market with highlights of his on-court prowess. So when it comes to branding, Davis is already there.

Aside from Durant, there is not a player in the league under 25 as tantalizing as Davis. His career could definitely go the way of Garnett’s – being the biggest thing in a small city and dominating until there is an opportunity to seize a bigger stage elsewhere. And while New Orleans fans may cringe at the thought of losing their precious power forward, containing megastars has always been a challenge for small market teams. It’s the reason the franchise lost players like Chris Paul and Baron Davis to bigger market teams in California.

As Davis has just scratched the surface on his career, his display on Saturday night definitely turned some heads league wide. With the world watching, New Orleans’ innocent secret just leaked out into the mainstream. The city of New Orleans could revolt or rejoice after this weekend. Both their team and their star player are slated to hit the map for show time and bigger things. Which, judging by history, should have the team and its fans terrified.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO