The relatively young prospect that came back in the Rudy Gay deal alongside veteran Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis proved to be a nice young piece for the Grizzlies to develop. Davis had really begun to grow into his own in Toronto with the Raptors, and while he didn’t receive as much playing time with the Grizzlies, he still proved to be a serviceable player with nice role player upside.
While Davis could really go anywhere from here, it’s likely that the Grizzlies’ long-term plan for him is to continue to develop and take on a larger and larger role, allowing them to give Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol more rest. In fact, Z-Bo is 32 now with two years (provided he opts in for 2014-15 with his player option, which is very likely). While it’s unlikely that Davis is seen as a likely replacement for him at the moment, he’s certainly in the cards for such a role and at the least, the playing time can be balanced a bit more evenly as Randolph inches closer to his mid-30s.
For now, however, the most important thing for Davis to do is to improve. A borderline contender like the Grizzlies won’t give their young players significant playing time just for the sake of playing them. Davis needs to be able to contribute if he wants to see impactful minutes on the court, now and down the road.
At the moment, Davis still has a long way to go in rounding out his game as a whole. While he produced to the tune of a 17.8 Player Efficiency Rating last season, he still has work to do to find significant playing time in the Grizzlies’ frontcourt.
Davis has already established himself as a solid boards and blocks-type big man. Per 36 minutes, he averaged 10.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks last season. He does a great job establishing position under the rim, and takes advantage of his length both on the glass and in turning away shots at the rim. However, it wasn’t a flawless performance on that end of the floor. Davis weighs just 225 lbs, and this was very noticeable as big men consistently backed him in the post last season. It certainly didn’t help that at 6’10″, Davis was already slightly undersized for a big man.
Davis did make up for his lack of weight through his length and smarts. He challenged shots well, used his hands to bother opposing bigs, and fronted in the post well. However, bulking up will be vital for his game in banging with bigger forwards, defensively and on the glass. It’s especially important as this is a Memphis Grizzlies team that prides itself on throwing their weight around down low, rather than one that allows itself to be knocked around.
One more area Davis would do well to work on would be in reading the pick-and-roll as a defender. His agility and length would make him a potentially great pick-and-roll defender, but he still has a tendency to linger around the ball-handler too long. The extra time he spends guarding the ball rather than the screener often leads to an open shot opportunity for the opposing team. Watch the following video, as Davis hangs around Greivis Vasquez long enough for Vasquez to hit the open screener for a jumpshot.
Offensively, Davis has already shown flashes of being able to fit into what the Grizzlies do. Much of their offense takes advantage of low-post opportunities and the high-low connection between Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Davis can come in as relief for Z-Bo, and fill the same role.
Davis has proved to be a quietly capable facilitator from the elbow and even the post, and while his assist numbers are unimpressive, he’s a solid passer nonetheless. In the paint, Davis struggles to finish through contact but still manages to score relatively efficiently for a big man through his athleticism, shooting 60.5% from within five feet of the basket. He also has a very nice left hook in the post, but struggles to do anything with his right hand (he’s left-handed).
For Davis, the improvement should be in refining what he already works with. He doesn’t need to add anything to his game, but further development across the board would serve him well in becoming a usable option offensively, important for a Grizzlies team that doesn’t have a true go-to scorer.
What this means is, Davis should work on finishing through contact and developing his right hand around the rim. Improvement in those areas will allow for the Grizzlies to juice as much as they can out of Davis in pick-and-roll or post-up opportunities, or even as the “low” big in the Grizzlies’ high-low sets.
Also, while Davis already does a good job of this, seeking to make the pass more actively will also help. He has good court vision and already knows not to force shots. Taking advantage of that more often will make the Grizzlies playing him as the “high” big with Gasol as the “low” more often a viable option. In fact, that may be the ideal set-up given Gasol’s superiority to Davis as a low-post/short corner scorer.
One area of interest will be Davis’ jumpshot. It has seen gradual improvement since Davis cracked into the league, and while still a work in progress, Davis has shown more and more confidence in taking jumpers. Look at his shot chart from last season:
The most noticeable takeaway from this shot chart is that Davis is a reasonably reliable shooter from 8-16 feet, although he seems to struggle from the right side specifically. Conversely, the left side of that range was his strongest suit, with a significantly higher number of attempts and a slightly better percentage than the other areas.
If you look at Davis’ shot charts from years past and compare it with this year’s, you can see that the number of attempts away from the rim have increased from year to year. The percentage of those shots versus shots in the paint increased drastically in year 2 compared to year 1, although they were drawn back a little this year (the actual number of attempts still increased as Davis’ field goal attempts went up overall, but the percentage fell). Efficiency plummeted in year 2, but went back up this year to around 40% overall, a reasonable number from mid-range.
Davis’ ability to hit a midrange shot will be very helpful. The improvement doesn’t need to be right away, but if the gradual improvement can continue and Davis can become more efficient while slowly increasing his range, the Grizzlies will benefit hugely. They employ both Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol as shooters from midrange, and if Davis can knock down the same shot, he can be used in the same way. The left short corner seems to be a great place to slot Davis in, and if he can knock down the shot from the elbow consistently, playing him as the “high” big will be even more viable.
Davis’ improvement will be a trend for Grizzlies fans to watch, hopefully for multiple years to come. His rookie-scale contract expires after this season, although it’s likely that Memphis would make a strong effort to retain him after snagging him in the Rudy Gay deal. If Memphis keeps him, how Davis develops two or three years down the line could be very important. He could find himself being a vital sixth man or even a starter for (hopefully) a contending team if all goes well.
Before we can realistically expect that much, however, Davis will have to prove to us that it’s realistically in the cards. Right now, it’s a little too early to be saying. We’ll have to how he fares with the Grizzlies for a little while longer.