|Points Per 36||8.8|
|Rebounds Per 36||9.1|
|Blocks Per 36||2.6|
After taking Wade Baldwin with the 17th overall pick of the 2016 draft, the Grizzlies made a big move, converting the future first rounder they received in the Jeff Green trade with the Clippers (thanks, Roc Divers!) into picks 31 and 35. The 35th pick would eventually become Rade Zagorac. But before that, the Grizzlies used the 31st selection to take Deyonta Davis out of Michigan State.
The fact that Davis was still available so late in the draft came as a surprise to a lot of people, including Davis himself, who said after the draft, “I’m not really sure why I left, I was just told to by my people.” It’s hard to blame him, though. Davis was projected as a lottery talent by many, including GBB’s own Chip Williams.
Early in the season, Davis saw somewhat regular (if still less than desired) playing time, and flashed a skill set that left Grizzlies fans salivating. Davis is athletic, with an ability to finish around the rim; he constantly affects opponents’ shots in the paint; and he’s a natural rebounder.
[At one point, I even argued that Davis would pair well with Zach Randolph, adding better rim protection to the second unit. Fizdale apparently didn’t agree; Davis and Randolph only played 64 minutes together for the season. I guess that's why they pay Fizdale the big bucks, though.]
Brandan Wright’s return to the lineup in January created too much of a logjam in the frontcourt, though, and rather than allow Davis to languish on the bench, the Grizzlies sent him to Iowa, where Davis averaged 10.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks on 27.9 minutes per game.
Over the back third of the season, Davis saw sporadic action, and was about what you’d expect from a rookie playing irregular minutes with no defined role: some good, some bad, not much that you could draw sweeping conclusions from. And while it would’ve been nice to see Davis get more extensive playing time, fans will have to simply look forward to next season for now.
Best Game: November 1, 2016
It feels odd to say it, but Davis’ best game might have actually come in one of the Grizzlies worst losses of the season: the November 1 “throw away” game in Minnesota, which the Grizzlies lost by 36 points. We’ll forgive you if you’ve forgotten it. This performance, along with the loss to the Nets, likely did more damage to Grizzly fans’ livers than any other pair of games combined.
But while the Grizzlies were an abject disaster without Conley and Gasol, Davis was one of the lone bright spots. In his 26 minutes of action (his most of the season), Davis posted 6 rebounds and 2 blocks to along with 17 points on 8 shots. In a game that the Grizzlies were blown out by 36, Davis was only a -9.
I’d offer some highlights but, honestly, I’m sure no one wants to relive any part of that game.
Ways to Improve:
- Between his single season at Michigan State and his rookie season with the Grizzlies (his time in Iowa included), Deyonta Davis has taken a grand total of ZERO three-point shots. It’d be nice to see Davis eventually (even if it’s not an immediate addition) try to add a three-point shot to his game. Given that Marc has added that shot to his repertoire this season, and Marc has apparently taken Davis under his wing as the potential future of the franchise, you’d have to believe that this is certainly something that’s coming at some point.
- It’s possible that one of the reasons Davis fell on draft nights was due to his stoic manner. He’s a reserved, quiet player, who doesn’t show a lot of emotion one way or the other. In most of the pictures you see of him, whether on the sideline or outside of the arena, Davis looks bored. He likely smiles only slightly more than Kawhi Leonard. Oftentimes (and often incorrectly) that sort of thing can come off as disinterest.
Now, I don’t mean to imply that Deyonta needs to become the team’s hype man; I’m not asking him to assert himself as the team’s alpha. But as the eventual anchor of the defense, Davis’ communication skills are important. The good news: according to Coach Cyprien’s latest appearance on Chris Vernon’s podcast (Pro Tip: The episodes with Coach Cyp are legit some of the best episodes of that show), over the course of his time in Iowa, Davis has grown in that regard. And while it’s likely Davis is still a ways away from a finished product, that’s the sort of thing that’s encouraging to hear.
2016-17 Overall Grade:
The crowded frontcourt made minutes sparse for Davis, but in the moments that he played, Davis flashed the sort of potential that made him a projected lottery pick, and he continued to refine his game while playing extensive minutes in Iowa. So while there’s still some rough edges to polish, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Davis is a franchise cornerstone for years to come.