If you listened to our latest edition of the RaptorBlog Radio podcast, you would have heard us discussing Ed Davis’ impressive performance against the Spurs on Sunday, and his overall impressive play so far this season, especially since being publicly called out by Dwane Casey.
Unfortunately, between a crowded frontcourt and the excitement of new arrivals like Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Lowry, Davis’ role in the Raptors’ future seems to have been minimized by the organization and nearly ignored by fans. While we celebrate each head turning performance from Valanciunas and lament every face palming performance from Andrea Bargnani, it seems we’ve forgotten that a 23-year-old developing big man still resides here.
And that 23-year-old developing big man is off to a great start in 2012-13.
Davis currently sits fourth in the NBA in rebound rate and ninth in the Association in offensive rebound rate. In fact, through nearly a month of the season, the only three players rebounding at a better clip than Ed are Reggie Evans, Anderson Varejao and Kevin Love. In addition, Davis’ Player Efficiency Rating of 20.5 currently ranks 35th in the league, and he’s one of only 42 players in total with a PER of 20 or higher.
The catch, though, is that of those 42 players, Davis is 38th in minutes played per game, something that should caution us as to the small sample size of his impressive statistics but something that also begs the question, what will it take for Davis to earn more floor time?
The numbers suggest he’s on the verge of a career year. The rebounding numbers are up, his block numbers remain consistent at 3.3% (block percentage) and 1.5 blocks per 36 minutes, his overall rim protection and defence are still strengths, he’s shown us glimpses of a much improved offensive game that includes a more fundamental jumper while also turning the ball over much less despite a higher usage rate. It’s safe to say that Ed Davis has improved across the board, and yet in a frontcourt that includes Valanciunas, Bargnani and Amir Johnson (not to mention Aaron Gray as a situational centre), he’s averaging a career-low 13.7 minutes per game.
When you think about it, it’s hard to envision any way Davis can really start logging major minutes in the current situation, and that’s a shame, because we already know what Bargnani is and we’re painfully aware of what he isn’t. We know what Amir is, and that’s an energetic bench big man whose inconsistent focus and propensity to commit fouls will likely always limit him from reaching a higher level. Amir’s dependable, but he’s not fooling anyone into thinking he’s the long term answer at power forward without Bargnani.
Davis, on the other hand, is in the sensitive stage of a big man’s learning curve and is slowly approaching the end of his rookie scale contract without us really knowing what he can be in the future yet.
On one hand, you could look at Ed’s disappointing sophomore season and his lack of major minutes this season as an indication that he’ll never be anything better than a solid bench big man. On the other hand, you can look at how highly touted Davis was as a prospect (he got as high as No. 4 in some mock drafts early in 2010), you can look at the fact that his development has been slowed by injuries and a lockout, you can look at how he finished his rookie season and look at how he’s started this season with excellent production when he is on the floor, and perhaps you can see a future where Ed Davis is a legitimate starting power forward in the NBA.
He needs to get bigger and stronger and he obviously needs to continue to improve his offensive game, but again, we’re talking about a 23-year-old big man in just his third NBA season, and most of us were preaching about how long big men take to develop while we awaited Valanciunas’ arrival, so it’s not fair of us to then turn around and say Davis is already a finished product at 23.
I’m not convinced by Davis yet – not even close – but I’ve seen enough to at least be interested in what a frontcourt of he and Valanciunas together might look like. My worry is that he’ll remain the forgotten big man in Toronto, end up somewhere else because of his more moveable rookie scale contract and then blossom into the player I still envision in said other city.
A future frontcourt of two defensive-minded big men who play the game the right way almost seems too good to be true for Raptors fans. A future where we’re crying about the latest “one who got away” – now that sounds more like Raptors basketball to me.