Ed Davis has been a focus of quite a few of my posts since the season started. Coming into the condensed campaign, I thought he could be the most improved player on the team and really solidify himself as a legitimate building block for the future.
After a great opening night performance in Cleveland, Davis went into the first real slump of his young career over games two through five, where he totaled just 10 points, 11 rebounds, zero blocks and seven fouls in 66 minutes combined over those four games.
When I mentioned Davis’ slump after the Raptors’ win in New York, a couple of readers disagreed on the nature of the “slump” in question. One reader commented that Davis’ struggles were a result of not getting enough minutes in general, and being forced to play with bench players like Jamaal Magloire when he finally did get some burn.
Another reader commented that Davis wasn’t getting the minutes because Dwane Casey wasn’t going to reward him just for being one of the young guys who needs to develop.
Well on Wednesday night, after the Raptors beat the Cavs and Davis looked to finally shake off his mini-slump, Dwane Casey had this to say: “We want to develop Ed Davis, but he’s got to earn it.”
Later, Casey added this: “We, as a staff, are not just going to give away minutes.”
There is a sentiment out there that “developing” young players simply means rolling a raw talent out there for 30-to-40 minutes a game, no matter how he’s playing. And Quite frankly, that sentiment is wrong.
There is a difference between letting a young player play through his struggles while he is still competing, as Casey did with Davis on Wednesday night to tangible results, and playing a young player just for the sake of playing him, even when he clearly doesn’t have any fight in him on that particular night.
Development is about teaching young players how to make the right decisions on the court consistently and how to maximize the output they get from their natural potential. The only way to do that is to force them to earn their minutes, not by giving them a free pass.
It’s one thing if guys like Ed Davis are playing well and are losing out on minutes to guys like Jamaal Magloire in a feeble attempt at a playoff run, but so far, I’ve liked how Dwane Casey has managed minutes, and I like how Ed Davis and even James Johnson have responded to some early season bench warming.