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Goodnight, sweet Deyonta Davis

It didn’t work in Memphis, but Deyonta Davis’ youth and vast potential can’t be ignored

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

On draft night 2016, the Memphis traded the L.A. Clippers 2019 1st-round pick they had the rights to to the Boston Celtics for the rights to Rade Zagorac and Deyonta Davis.

Rade never played a minute in the NBA. Deyonta, however, played two seasons for the Grizzlies before being traded to the Kings along with Ben McLemore and some change for Garrett Temple this offseason.

Despite being the second-round pick of the Grizzlies that year, he showed more basketball potential in Memphis than Wade Baldwin IV, that year’s first-round selection, showed in his brief stint for the franchise at the time. Davis was considered a much better talent than his draft spot indicated and Memphis rightfully felt like they got a steal with the 31st pick. DraftExpress mocked Deyonta Davis in the lottery for most of draft season, and the lowest he fell in their projections was 16th.

The physical tools were all there. At 6’11”, 240 pounds, Deyonta definitely had and still has the body to become an NBA center. All of his meaningful numbers increased in just about every category of statistics possible, traditional, advanced, per-36 minutes, per-100 possessions, from his rookie to sophomore season. He got more playing time in a rebuilding year, where Marc Gasol missed 10 games and Brandan Wright was bought out mid-season, and proved that he got better on both ends of the court.

So why did Memphis move on from him?

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Deyonta, despite his obvious talent, either couldn’t or wouldn’t assert himself on the basketball court. He appeared disinterested in games even though his playing time was not guaranteed.He hasn’t reached his second contract yet and no one is positive he’ll even reach that.

There are just too many players in the NBA that hustle at 100% and are invested in every play to give a roster spot away to someone who doesn’t. Even giving off the appearance of not trying or caring can be enough to turn a team away from a prospect.

But Deyonta Davis is still 21 years old. He’ll turn 22 in December of this year. This trade isn’t a death sentence for his career, although playing in Sacramento might be one in its own right. But what Memphis thought of Deyonta Davis and the weaknesses he had in his game have not set his career on a permanent course. He has plenty of time to fix those flaws and fully tap in to his full potential.

Again, Deyonta improved between his first-and-second year, a hump some NBA prospects don’t actually leap across. Promise and potential are absolutely there. If things break right, there is absolutely a future where he realistically can become 60-80% of Clint Capela as a player. He has the size and length for protecting the rim and has shown potential as a shot-blocker in the NBA. To say there isn’t room for growth for a 21-year old athletic big would be an absurd judgement.

One of the biggest obstacles in his path will be the roster construction of the Sacramento Kings. They have a seemingly infinite about of bigs on their roster, especially when Harry Giles and Marvin Bagley III make their debuts this year. If Davis does reach that second contract (which should be the summer of 2019), he’ll be better suited to reach that potential for a different team. While the Kings leaned in towards playing prospects and young players over veterans last year,

Davis can still be good, and it’s sad to know that it won’t be for the Memphis Grizzlies. Despite the mental/emotional drawbacks, I’m still going to bet on him. I’m still going to root for him because he’s, again, just 21 years old two years into the NBA. He’s only played 101 games if you include the playoff series against the Spurs a year ago. I was excited to see him reach his full potential in Memphis, but I’ll root for his success anywhere and everywhere else.

I was always a fan of Deyonta Davis. I thought his potential was absolutely tangible and that the Grizzlies were lucky to get him in the second round, despite giving up a future first round pick. I have faith in Deyonta becoming at minimum, a serviceable backup big, and at best, a starting center on a playoff team.

Time will tell if he can actually reach that potential.

Follow @sbnGrizzlies