More Love from Lowe on Davis & Val
Ed Davis–Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors
Your new starting Toronto frontcourt, though Dwane Casey has seldom trusted either to finish close games. These guys are skinny, active, long, fast, and inexperienced; and they produce the kind of interior defense you'd expect when you mix all those ingredients. Valanciunas is prone to overhelping, and his hyperactivity can get him out of balance now and then against skilled post brutes. The Raptors are giving up points at a league-average rate when these two play, an improvement from their bottom-five overall mark, per NBA.com.
The questions come on the other side, where Toronto's offense has fallen off a cliff; the Raps have scored just 93.3 points per 100 possessions in Valanciunas-Davis time, right around Washington's league-worst mark. (My god, has Washington's offense been horrid.)
Davis and Valanciunas are not jump-shooters, and the lane can get very cramped when they play together — a problem that wouldn't be quite as serious if Toronto's perimeter players were healthy. Casey has tried to manufacture that spacing by having them set up as opposite elbows, with one working as the hub of the offense — as screener or passer — while the other works with a shooter on the weak side. This marks a huge expansion in duties for each guy, and Davis has shown more aggression sliding into post position on the left block as Valanciunas rolls down the right side on a pick-and-roll;1 Davis has a nice turnaround lefty hook, and though the results have been uneven, he's on a roll right now and has already taken half as many post-up shots as he attempted all of last season, per Synergy Sports. He's in the top-30 overall in PER and taking a more active part in Toronto's offense.
All good signs, even if both Davis and Valanciunas need to work on avoiding near-collisions in the paint.