NBA Star Power Index: Anthony Davis going beast mode; De’Aaron Fox on fire; Ben Simmons answers Philly bell

Welcome back to NBA Star Power Index: A weekly gauge of the players getting the most buzz around the league. Inclusion on this list isn’t necessarily a good thing — it simply means you’re capturing the NBA world’s attention. This is also not a ranking. The players listed are in no particular order. This column will run every week throughout the regular season. 

Davis has been an absolute monster of late for the Lakers, and he put up a stat line against the Suns on Tuesday you have to see to believe: 37 points, 21 rebounds, five steals and five blocks. Since blocks and steals became an official stat in 1973, Davis is the only player to put up those numbers. 

Davis’ shot diet is much more palatable this season. He’s trimmed his long midrange attempts basically in half, doing the majority of his damage in the paint (prior to Phoenix, which cut off a lot of his downhill rolls and post-ups, he’s been catching lower and starting his moves closer to the rim; one dribble or one hard step and he’s in the paint and attacking the rim) and at the free-throw line, where he’s averaging 12 attempts over his last four games. 

Asserting himself in the paint and forcing his way to the free throw line is what will sustain this kind of production for Davis without having to rely on jumpers falling. He made 15 of 16 free throws on Tuesday after making 18 of 21 last Friday vs. Detroit. That is not happening by accident. He’s not getting a lucky whistle. He’s going beast mode. Playing to his size and strength and leaving teams, especially those daring to play small, with no choice but to wrap him up. 

The Lakers (5-11) lost in Phoenix, but they’ve won three of their last four and are expecting LeBron James back on Friday against the Spurs. If Davis, who has joined Shaquille O’Neal and Elgin Baylor as the only players in Lakers history to post four consecutive 30-15 games, keeps playing like this with James back in the lineup, maybe the Lakers can start to string something real together. 


Light the beam, baby. The Kings have won seven straight, and if Fox keeps playing like this it’s going to be next to impossible to keep him out of his first All-Star Game. Fox went for 32 points in Sacramento’s win over Memphis on Tuesday, 33 in a win against Detroit on Sunday, and he’s shooting career bests from everywhere on the floor — including 81 percent at the rim and 58 percent between 4 and 14 feet, both registering as the top mark in the league among guards, per Cleaning the Glass. 

His shooting splits during this win streak are brilliant. 

Fox is also shooting a career-best 40.8 percent from 3 (he hit 5 of 8 on Tuesday); among the league’s top-20 scorers (Fox ranks 14th), that’s the fourth-best clip from deep, trailing only Stephen Curry, Donovan Mitchell and Tyrese Maxey. 

Fox is still Sacramento’s engine with a heavy pick-and-roll diet, but he’s thriving with a bit more variety to his touches than in years past as the Kings have more avenues through which they can initiate half-court action, namely Domantas Sabonis at the high post or as a dribble-handoff activator. 

Fox’s midrange jumper is falling at an efficient clip, and it gives him a release valve coming downhill to not have to force his way into traffic; he’s making three shots per game between 5 and 14 feet, per tracking, which puts him near the top of guards and right in line with Luka Doncic. 

All of this is to say, Fox is balling. And the Kings are no joke. 


In his return to Philadelphia, Simmons met the challenge of a semi-hostile crowd (he jabbed at the Philly faithful afterward saying he thought it would be louder) with 11 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. All things considered, I thought Simmons was poised and aggressive and, frankly, didn’t give Philly fans any kind of negative energy to latch onto. Even when he went to the free-throw line (he did only make 3 of 6) he didn’t shrink from the spotlight. He stepped up, took his shots and was fine. 

Despite Simmons playing pretty well, the Nets lost the game to a Sixers team that was without its three best players in Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey, which is discouraging. Simmons at center (it’s tough to play him alongside Nic Claxton for spacing issues) is a problem on the boards, where Philly killed the Nets, whose defense in general has been better under Jacque Vaughn but is still an issue. Simmons going scoreless in the fourth quarter was a familiar sighting for Sixers fans. 

All that said, Simmons’ overall performance is a good sign of things to come in the big picture. This is three straight very solid games for him. It’s enough of a sample to say he’s turning a significant corner. Simmons’ double-double in Philly came on the heels of a 15-13-7 showing against the Blazers and a 22-8-5 line against the Grizzlies, both wins for the Nets. 

It’s just a different energy that Simmons is playing with at the moment, and by extension, there’s been a different energy about the Nets of late, the Sixers loss notwithstanding. This is the kind of play from Simmons that gets into the spirit of an entire team. 

Vaughn has said Simmons is playing with “force.” That’s the best way to say it. Simmons is attacking whatever space is in front of him, pushing the pace to either find 3-point shooters in transition or proceeding into the paint himself if no one steps up to stop him. Give him a runway, and he’s flowing into a post-up or Eurostepping to the rim. 

In the half court, he’s making quick decisions as a DHO initiator, flowing into ball screens and rolling hard, forcing dropping bigs to honor him as a scorer. If they do, the handler has a clear lane to the rim. If they don’t, Simmons is ready to finish. That’s the key for Simmons. Pose a threat. If they give you space, eat it up, and don’t stand still for long. Even when he’s in the dunker spot, he’s not settling as a statue. He’s ready to flash. Keeping his head up for drop-off passes. 

This is the Simmons that the Nets hoped they would get at some point, and if it keeps up, they’ll be a much better team for it. 


Thompson, who has struggled to find his sea legs all season, finally broke out with a vintage 41-point performance in leading Golden State to its first road win of the season (1-9) vs. the Rockets. Thompson drained 10-of-13 3-pointers and was aggressive (which isn’t ever a problem for him) from the start. 

This performance marked the sixth time that Thompson has made at least 10 3-pointers in a single game — the second-most such outbreaks in NBA history behind Steph Curry’s outrageous record of 22. Thompson, along with Curry, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins, sat out the next night in a blowout loss to New Orleans, and will look to keep his hand hot on Wednesday at home against the Clippers. 


Curry has 101 points over his last three games, highlight by the 50-piece he hung on the Suns last Wednesday. It wasn’t enough. The Warriors still lost in Phoenix. But Curry did give us another in his long list of viral shots against the Rockets, punctuating Thompson’s aforementioned performance with a “night-night” moon-ball. 

Curry continues to play at an insane level every night. He’s been the best player in the league, and if the Warriors can get their stuff together and climb the standings, he’s going to be right in the thick of the race for his third MVP.  


Young is yet to find his consistent shooting stroke. He’s under 40 percent overall and 30 percent from 3. But he lives in the paint and continues to get to the free-throw line over eight times per game, and for my money he’s the best passer in the world. This pass below wasn’t a terribly difficult one for a facilitator of Young’s caliber, but what a heads-up decision to know exactly how much time he had to toss this game-winning alley-oop to A.J. Griffin as time expired against the Raptors. 

The Hawks don’t do much in the way of an offensive system to create shots for their scorers. They basically rely on Young, and to a lesser degree Dejounte Murray, to generate everything off their own individual ability. Only with a player as great as Young can you do that, but I still wonder about the viability of such a individually intensive half-court scheme in a playoff setting. We saw what the Heat did to Young last season in basically removing him from the equation. This year at least the Hawks have a second creator in Murray. We’ll see if that’s enough or if they evolve offensively as the season progresses. 

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