Ed Davis has been a hot button topic for discussion this off-season, nowhere more than this site. Is he ready to step to Z-Bo's throne? Is he immature both physically and emotionally? Is he an unproven commodity who has the dreaded "potential?" Across the board, opinions have been pretty mixed on the Richmond, Virginia product. But one thing is sure; whatever happened last season cannot, and will not, happen again. Darrell Arthur is gone, with a great back-up center in Kosta Koufos replacing him, improving front-court balance. Lionel Hollins, the former Grizzlies coach who seemingly held a grudge against Ed for being the centerpiece of the trade for the Hollins favorite Rudy Gay, is no longer at the helm. All obstacles in the path of Ed Davis have apparently been removed, and the rise of the physically gifted Davis for the Bears on Beale can begin.
However, Ed still has pretty big holes in his game. He is still thin; even with word that he has added some muscle to his frame, he will never be mistaken for Z-Bo or Shaq when it comes to girth. That can allow for bigger post players to abuse him at times. For example, I will never forget Emeka Okafor taking him on several post-ups against the Wizards last season.
Free throw shooting is a glaring weakness, as well. Ed's percentage from the line was 57% last season, a scary number for sure. As a matter of fact...almost all of his numbers were down last year! His shooting percentage, his offensive and defensive rebounds per game numbers, his assists and points! Why did we even trade for this bum?
NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND! The most important number that went down last year as a Grizzly as compared to his time with Toronto is MPG- minutes per game. In two and a half seasons with the Raptors Ed Davis averaged 24 minutes per game. During his time in Lionel's doghouse, he averaged 15 minutes per game. That 9 minute span can make the difference between bench warmer and role player, especially for a young player like Davis who could use the live work against the NBA's best. In those Toronto years, for example, Davis had an average FT% of about 63%, better than the 57% he posted in Memphis. He also rebounded at a much better pace (6.8 as compared to 4.4) and was more able to be a part of their offensive and defensive scheme. More minutes, more production and focus from Davis.
So, what is the end game for Ed Davis this season?
Best Case Scenario- He gets 22-24 minutes backing up Z-Bo and Marc, starting in spots to get Zach rest. In those minutes he builds upon his shot blocking ability and uses his length to defend the post more effectively, forcing bigger bodies outside the paint. He would do this all while using his athleticism to finish in the lane and gets his foul shot percentage up to about 65%. He positions himself to either get an extension with Memphis and expedite the departure of Zach Randolph or get a good deal in restricted free agency from the Grizzlies or another team this summer.
Worst Case Scenario- He starts slow out of the gates, showing that his struggles understanding offensive and defensive scheme were not lack of minutes and opportunity but lack of comprehension. His free throw shooting stays in the tank and he cannot rebound as consistently as necessary, especially in smaller lineups. His minutes dwindle down until he eventually is included in a trade involving Tayshaun Prince at the trade deadline while he still has value.
Ed Davis could be the long term answer at the power forward position, as he was traded for to be. He could also be too thin, too inconsistent and too much of a liability from the foul line to contribute to the level necessary. As Matt wrote about a week ago, this season is crucial for the future of Ed Davis, not just as a Grizzly but as an NBA player. And the way the story ends, at least in Memphis, will be entirely up to Ed.