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Season Stats (rookie): 65 GP, 17 GS, 24.6 MPG, 7.7 PPG, 57.6 FG%, 55.5 FT%, 7.1 RPG, 1 BPG

When the Raptors suffered through an epic collapse to close the 2009-2010 season, things looked bleak. They missed the playoffs with a team that many thought could challenge for a top-four or five seed in the East, but only missed by one game, meaning they were destined for a mediocre draft pick in the same summer they were about to lose their franchise player.

Instead, the Raptors were given a gift, as North Carolina big man Ed Davis fell to them with the 13th pick. A year later, despite coming off of a 60-loss season, Raptors fans are a bit more optimistic about the future, and Davis is one of the main reasons why.

Seven points, seven rebounds and a block per game doesn’t sound extraordinary, because it’s not. But when you consider that Davis is a big, which means it will likely take him a bit longer to develop an NBA-type game, and also consider that he missed a good chunk of his college season last year and missed his first NBA training camp and the first 17 games of this season, you see that seven, seven and one is definitely cause for optimism when we’re talking about a 21-year-old.

Davis came into the NBA as a power forward known for his defence and rebounding, and while that reputation hasn’t changed, it was clear to see that Ed’s offensive game progressed as the season wore on, highlighted by his 22-point performance at Madison Square Garden in April. It also helps that Davis plays within himself offensively, knowing his limits on that end of the floor. By staying within those boundaries, Davis finished first among rookies by shooting 57.6 per cent from the field.

Of course, his free throw shooting needs to improve from 55 per cent if he wants to become a legit offensive weapon for the Raptors, but if Alex English remains on staff, there’s no reason to believe that percentage won’t go up. Let’s not forget that by working with the NBA legend on his shooting, Amir Johnson took his free throw percentage from about 64 per cent last season to almost 79 per cent this season. If English can help raise Davis’ free throw percentage by even 10 per cent, to 65, it can make a world of difference.

Another qualm some Raptors fans had with Davis is that at times this season, it appeared as though his attitude was too nonchalant. While I don’t know Ed, and therefore can’t give an accurate assessment of his attitude, I will add that I don’t believe this to be true. Davis is just a confident young man with the swagger of a champion, and I like it. If he looks nonchalant, it might just be that aforementioned swag oozing out, because from everything I saw, Ed Davis was one of the most consistent and hardest-working Raptors this season.

In looking at his rookie season as a whole, and the fact that the Raps stole Davis with just the 13th pick, you have to be thrilled with his performance. Imagine if he had actually experienced training camp and played in the first 17 games of the season.

The fact that Davis wasn’t named to the All Rookie second team, at least, is a crime in my eyes, but as Raptors supporters, we can only hope that he uses the snub as fuel for next season and beyond, much like DeMar DeRozan used his Rookie game snub and dunk competition robs to drive him.

What the Raptors have in Davis is a 21-year-old big man with the toughness and defensive ability that the franchise has been missing, especially in the post, since the days of Antonio Davis, Charles Oakley and Jerome Williams. This is a young man with the type of all around game and attention to defence that most coaches and general managers crave. If you ask me, Ed Davis has a legitimate chance of averaging a double-double in just his second season, at the age of 22, and that’s a special type of player. He has the ability and potential to develop into one of the NBA’s better shot-blockers and all around defensive players.

While his star-appeal in Toronto and among Canadian basketball fans is not, and may never be, as large as DeMar DeRozan’s is right now, make no mistake, Ed Davis is as much a part of the future of this franchise as DeRozan is, and that should be an exciting prospect for Raptors fans.

No one can ever accurately project where a youngster will end up in his career path, or just how truly successful that youngster will be, but most Raptors fans and executives would probably agree that watching Ed Davis develop over the next little while is going to be fun, and most interesting.

Scott Carefoot is away and will continue contributing to the player evaluations when he returns.

And what do you know, next in our series of Raptors player evaluations will be DeMar DeRozan – how fitting? Look for that post later this week, along with a Joey Dorsey post and some draft lottery reaction.