Mar 30, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies power forward Ed Davis (32) goes up for a dunk past Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Dante Cunningham (33) and power forward Derrick Williams (7) in the first half at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Thinking About the Grizzlies Cubs, Part 4: Ed Davis

A little while ago, I introduced my Grizzlies Cubs series, in which I ran some stats to project how good the young Grizzlies players can end up being in the immediate future and at the peak of their career.

Last time we did Mike Conley, and today we’re going to do Ed Davis.

Before we start, I’m going to do a quick reminder of how this works:

How it Works:

What I did, using the average peak age and experience data (the average player peaks after 5.8 seasons in the league and around the age 27), is I plugged the players’ growth from one year to another, along with the probable peak season, into my calculator to get a basic equation describing the players’ growth. Using that equation, I could then do just a little bit of calculus to get a projected career performance arc.

I did this for PER, Net Efficiency in Points per 100 Posessions (Points scored per 100 possessions minus Points allowed per 100 possessions), and Win Shares per 48 minutes. I used those three because they’re all “comprehensive” metrics to tell us how good a player is, but they all tell us slightly different things.

PER tries to tell us how good a player is, objectively, but is still remarkably bad at accounting for defense. As well, because PER doesn’t really take minutes into account, it’s bad at telling us the impact a player has on a team. Net Efficiency, on the other hand, does tell us about defense and impact, but since it’s basically just an upgraded +/- system, it does a very poor job of telling us just how good the player is, isolated on his own merits. Win Shares is a nice mix of the two, really.

If you go back to the original article, I tried this technique on an already-retired player, Mark Aguirre, and included the results for you to see.

To be able to say that these all of these pairs of graphs are describing the same relationship, the correlation coefficient for each would need to be at least 40%. To be able to say that these two graphs are definite, absolute projections, the correlations would need to be above 90%.

For PER, the correlation was 70.79%. For Efficiency, it was 71.70%. For Win Shares, it was 83.69%.

It’s flawed, but it has some pretty darn good value as a predictor of peak production.

The Black Sheep: Ed Davis

Ed Davis is an interesting figure for the Grizzlies. Davis has spent the last 2.5 years in Toronto and has been between solid and pretty good, though over the first half of the last year, Davis started to break out and, low key, performed incredibly well for the Raptors. Every member of the Grizzlies has absolutely glowed about Davis, saying that he’s smart, talented, athletic, and growing and that he has a bright future in the league. The PF position for the Grizz is absurdly shallow, and Davis is a high-motor guy who can get the offense moving off of the bench.

And yet…Davis has seen very little playing time for the Grizzlies. It’s a weird mystery that a lot of people can’t put together.

As a result, no one entirely knows what’s going to happen with Davis moving forward. In his limited time on the court last season, he was ABSURDLY efficient (113 points scored per 100 possessions and 96 points allowed), yet he played a much slower, post-oriented game with Memphis — in contrast to his blitzkrieg Pick and Roll game in Toronto.

So, it’s hard to know what exactly his role will be (will he finally get more minutes? Will he be the roll man more often? Will he have a jumpshot? Will he embrace the high post game?), but the hope is that with new coach Dave Joerger in tow and with Darrell Arthur and Austin Daye off of the Grizzlies’ roster, Ed Davis is finally going to get real playing time next season.

In fact, CBS Sports’ Matt Moore suggested in an Eye On Basketball Podcast that Davis could — or should — get as many as 22 minutes per game.

So, given significant minutes, what could Davis’ career look like as he continues to grow? For one, Kevin did a great piece about Davis’ improvement going forward; but here, we’re going to look at some numbers to project his growth.

Davis has been growing at a pretty steady rate, and if he continues to improve, the numbers were fairly encouraging. His PER would peg him as an outstanding player with real star potential (if not true superstar status), while his Win Shares indicate that he can be a really high impact role player — a borderline star, maybe — but nothing more. In truth, he probably lands somewhere between the two.

I couldn’t run a projection for his net efficiency per 100 possessions, because his improvement in efficiency from Toronto-Memphis was so drastic that it threw his entire projection out of whack. The efficiency increase is likely a result of both playing alongside Marc Gasol and the limited sample size given his relatively short playing time in Memphis.

At any rate, I doubt that we can expect him to be a net 50 points per 100 possessions positive in his prime.

Here’s the graphs for his PER and Win Shares per 48 minutes:

For reference, his real PER’s in his first three seasons were 15.8, 14.2, and 17.8. So, this projection is a little high. However, what’s interesting is that Davis has actually grown consistently throughout his career, with the exception of just the second half of his second year. So, while this is certainly a little high, maybe it’s not too crazy to expect Davis to grow into a real force at the rate he’s been going. A 19-20 PER at his peak certainly wouldn’t be out of the question.

Honestly, I think that this graph is much closer to accurate for his career. 19 win shares is a really stellar number, but it’s not really even an All-Star number. It’s more like a really great — almost ideal, even — role player. 

Davis has the potential, then, to be a game changing power forward role player, but the big questions with Davis are going to be whether or not he gets the opportunity to capitalize on this potential in Memphis’ rigid system. And, of course, the other question will be whether or not Davis himself can play up to his potential in the new, unfamiliar Memphis system.

I, for one, really want to see Ed Davis get some playing time.


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