Ed Davis’ tenure with the Memphis Grizzlies was… interesting.
Boasted as the "power forward of the future" with Zach Randolph heading toward the latter end of his career, Davis' play never lived up to that label (whether the label was deserving is another story for another day). And despite many fans having mixed feelings about the 25 year old power forward, Davis sentiments on his time with the Grizzlies doesn’t reflect the same emotion, simply appreciating what was.
"I enjoyed my time in Memphis," Davis said in an interview with Basketball Insiders. "We went to the playoffs in both years, going to the Conference Finals two years ago and then losing in the first round last year."
Davis, this time speaking at his introductory conference earlier today, also reflected on the opportunity to play alongside, arguably, the best power forward-center combination in the NBA in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
"It was great playing behind both of them, just learning everyday in practice and games, just seeing how they score easy, and Marc just picking his brain on the defensive end. He was Defensive Player of the Year two years ago. Z-Bo, just all the things that coaches can’t really teach you, the stuff that he does, all the intangibles that he has. Just learning from him every night, helped me out a lot."
Of course, it wasn’t all cheers as Davis’ playing time bounced up and down through the last year and a half.
"Obviously, I wanted to play more and be a bigger factor, but it didn’t go as planned."
Under Lionel Hollins, the veteran head coach failed to instill confidence in the forward following a 'blockbuster' trade he found unfavorable. Under Dave Joerger, Davis fell victim to depth as Kosta Koufos exceeded past him on the depth chart. There were even moments where Joerger opted for the sharp-shooting, seldom used four in Jon Leuer instead of Davis.
And when Davis’ free agency rode around, the Grizzlies opted to decline his qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent as opposed to a restricted free agent.
"With the qualifying offer, [Robert] Pera called me and told me that they were going to go in a different direction and what not. I understood it 100 percent and we knew that it would be tough on their books, especially once they re-signed Z-Bo, so I knew I likely wasn’t going to be back there."
Deep Depth Part II: The Front Court of Memphis
In part one of "Deep Depth", the Grizzlies' back court positions were analyzed. Part two covers Memphis' front court, which will likely require a willingness from Coach Joerger to make the right kinds of mistakes in order to get better.
In the eyes of many, Davis’ time in Memphis was a failure. Combining the rumors of his poor work ethic as well as his inability to remain on the floor and you see why, but there’s more to the Ed Davis story than we may realize.
The potential is there. At best, Davis is a big man who can spare the starters minutes, bringing energy and defense to the secondary unit. Stepping away from the clouded space of Grizzlies fanfare and blinded optimism, the situation may not have been the best for Davis. Davis’ best work came in the pick-and-roll situation, scoring 1.26 PPP (points per possession) as the pick-and-roll big according to Synergy Sports. And on a team who recorded the slowest pace in the league last season, Davis’ athleticism is neutered. Put him on a team that runs up and down the floor and bludgeons team with the pick-and-roll and the Ed Davis that shone in Toronto and created a huge internet following may return to fruition.
Now with the Los Angeles Lakers on a two year deal worth $2 million, far below his expected market value, Davis will be presented a chance to raise his stock around the league. But like in Memphis, it won’t be a cake walk doing so. Soon after the Lakers agreed to a deal with Davis, the franchise opted to claim Carlos Boozer off the amnesty wire, adding another body to an already jam-packed frontcourt (Hill, Randle, Kelly, Sacre).
Does Davis steal minutes from sixth overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft in Julius Randle?
Does Davis steal minutes from Jordan Hill who’ll net $9 million this season?
Is he ahead of the veteran Carlos Boozer on the depth? (This is debatable)
With no head coach, it’s difficult to answer any of these questions, but when applying general logic, these answers are already answered, whether we’re satisfied with the results or not.
The journey ahead for Ed Davis will likely set the template for how the rest of his career will play out. Will he live up to the potential? Was Lionel Hollins right? Did Memphis handle him wrong? Nobody knows, but in a way, we're all rooting for the Boss to get his NBA journey on the right path. Everything's in his hands now.
"I feel these past four years I got a lot stronger, grew a lot mentally just understanding the game because it is a big leap from the college to the pros. I’m just going to keep working everyday and just continue to build my game and get better."
Editor's Note: For those interested, Ed Davis has just shown you how to leave Memphis with class. Carry on. -CF