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The Deyonta Davis dilemma

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Do they keep him, or let him go?

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Lakers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Remember this?

Almost a year and a half later, and Deyonta Davis’ back is against the wall, as his roster spot is in jeopardy.

During his rookie season, Davis possessed upside as a starting-caliber center. He has flashed upside as a rim-runner and protector, as well as a lob threat. However, he hasn’t really improved all that much since his rookie season.

What happened to this “future of the franchise” talk? How did everyone’s opinion shift from “he could be the starting center after Marc” to “he shouldn’t make the team next season?”

Did we just have clouded judgement?

Was he never really the good?

Or did he actually not improve?

It’s a frustrating issue, to be honest. At times, he can be a rotational big man, and perhaps even a starter. On the other hand though, he can be near abysmal — a product of his low motor.

With Jaren Jackson Jr. and sophomore big Ivan Rabb in the picture, could Davis’ days on the Memphis Grizzlies be numbered? Why should they Grizzlies keep them? Why would he get cut?

Let’s dive in:


Why they should keep him

  • High-efficiency, low-usage

The “high-efficiency, low-usage” big man is a commodity in today’s NBA. Most of the great teams have perimeter players as their “go-to” players, which reduces the number of touches a big man receives. However, guys like DeAndre Jordan and Clint Capela have made their money on making their touches matter, as they usually receive the ball in dump-off or lob situations. You’ve also seen this to a lesser extent with guys like Brandan Wright.

Deyonta Davis could fall in the same category.

Last season, you could count on at least one Deyonta lob a game. He established great continuity with Chandler Parsons and Tyreke Evans in the pick-and-roll, where he converted on most of his lobs.

Last season, no Grizzly big man was better at screening and rolling than Davis. When he’s engaged, this skill makes him a commodity in the second unit.

  • Rim protection

Rim protection is what keeps Davis in games. We’ve seen what he can do when he’s engaged:

He can be a great rim-protector as a second-unit big or a fringe starter. Aside from Jaren Jackson, the Grizzlies don’t have a guy that can protect the rim — yes, I know Marc Gasol is still on the team.

Though he’s not a crazy-fast big man that can switch on guards, he’s proven that he can stay in front of them and alter their shots. This is big for the Grizzlies as Gasol continues to age and decline defensively.

  • A true 5 behind Marc

Marc Gasol will be 34 years old next season; he can’t play 35 minutes a night over an 82-game stretch ... again. Jackson will probably see more reps at the 4 than the 5 next season. Ivan Rabb needs to add more muscle before he battles legitimate NBA centers. JaMychal Green and Jarell Martin aren’t physically fit to play the 5.

Soooooo why not have at least one other true center on the team?

Deyonta Davis has the size of a legitimate center — 6’11” and 240 pounds. In addition, he lacks the foot speed and jumper to play minutes at the 4.

I’m personally not a fan of thinking you need to have more than 1 “true center” on the roster, especially when you have two 4’s that could play the 5. However, given Marc’s age, it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to keep Deyonta on the roster for another season for depth purposes.


NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Why they should cut him?

  • Lack of progress

I’m not one to put people on blast for Summer League performances, but as a third-year rotational big man, Deyonta Davis should be dominating these guys. He should really be a man among boys out there.

Instead, he looks lost and disengaged, which is absolutely alarming for a guy that’s played actual NBA minutes.

Aside from Summer League play, there isn’t any skill he’s vastly improved in. His post game hasn’t evolved. He hasn’t really shot the mid-range too well or often. The skills he has shown — being a roll man and rim protector — were ones he was already regarded for coming into the league.

Why stunt the development of guys like Rabb and Jackson for a big that hasn’t shown much improvement in over 2 years?

  • Crowed frontcourt

The Memphis Grizzlies’ frontcourt is PACKED. Obviously, Jaren Jackson, Marc Gasol and JaMychal Green are going to receive the majority of the minutes at the 4 and 5. Jarell Martin made strides in his game last season and could find himself a spot in the rotation next season. Ivan Rabb could play minutes at the 5, as he’s flashed potential as a solid in-between scorer and passer at that position.

This crowded frontcourt doesn’t even include Kyle Anderson and Chandler Parsons, two players that could very well see minutes at the 4. The inclusion of these guys could open up minutes for Jackson and Green at the 5.

Is there really a need for Davis at that point?

It’d make a lot more sense to keep that roster spot open for a wing shooter or for a mid-season veteran pick-up if

possible.

  • Lack of a consistent motor

Have you noticed how I’ve said “when engaged” quite a bit over the course of this article?

Deyonta Davis is a frustrating player. He has all the talent in the world to be a starting-caliber center — a DeAndre Jordan-esque big man, perhaps. However, at times, it just doesn't look like he cares all that much.

(Short pause: Doesn’t it remind you of Grizz legend Stromile Swift?)

Former GBB writer Andrew Ford highlighted a perfect example of this flaw:

What is this??? This isn’t a lack of skill; it’s a lack of effort and a killer instinct.

There are also many times over the course of a game where Davis loafs down the court. Does he even want to be there?

Most of the successful “low-usage, high-efficiency, roll man” centers have an insane motor. Look at guys like Capela, or even Tristan Thompson, their motor is high about 90% of the time. On the other hand, Davis’ motor is off 90% of the time.

There’s time for Deyonta to turn it around, but as long as he doesn’t consistently play hard, he won’t be deserving of a roster spot.


NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Brooklyn Nets Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

I just don’t know if there is a spot for Deyonta on this team. Jaren Jackson looks like a unicorn in the making. Marc Gasol is still going to play 30-35 minutes a night, for better or worse (for an aging big man with a recent injury history). The Grizzlies have a crowded backcourt behind those 2 players.

Davis has shown what he could do for a NBA team, but hasn’t done it consistently enough.

Can he even be another Brandan Wright? Could his motor improve? Will he flash more NBA skills?

At 21 years old, there’s plenty of time for Davis to turn it around and go on to have a nice journeyman NBA career. However, it may not be on the Grizzlies.

How Deyonta Davis approaches and attacks these next few months will go a long way in solidifying his career with the Memphis Grizzlies. It’ll surely be a fascinating storyline to follow.