Ed Davis’ role this season

Checking out how much playing time other power forward’s got in their rookie years.

By now you might have heard that rookie Ed Davis picked up a meniscus injury in a pick-up game with some bums in Mississauga. The team is currently “evaluating treatment options”, which include sending Davis to the Harvard School of Common Sense. The first lesson in CS101 being that if you’re a millionaire with a full-size NBA court at your disposal at any given time, there’s no need to be visiting, let alone playing, on a court in Mississauga. There’s no word on the extent of the injury, but it could range from nothing to something significant. Most recently, Gilbert Arenas, Brandon Roy, and Andrew Bynum all missed significant time due to this injury, but it really depends on what the level of the tear is.

A lot is being expected of Davis this season, he’s already slotted in the rotation behind Amir Johnson, and the Chris Bosh comparison have already been made. Bosh and Davis came into the league under somewhat similar situations, the franchise’s relationship with Vince Carter was already souring when Bosh was drafted, and the two only played a season together before Carter was shipped out. It was a changing of the guard for the franchise which resulted in Bosh getting a very good opportunity to play early in his career. Bosh averaged 33.5 minutes his rookie season in 73 games (started 63, never came off the bench ever again), the following year he played 37.2, before topping out his career-high in minutes with 39.3 a game in 2005-06. Playing a high number minutes on a bad team allowed Bosh to develop his game and put up respectable numbers, something he was unlikely to do if drafted by a contender.

Ed Davis also wants to play and on draft night in one of his first interviews he hinted at the exit of Bosh meaning more playing time:

“Who knows what Chris Bosh is going to do, but most likely, a lot of people are saying he’s leaving, so I’ll have a chance to come in and get early playing time.”

Ed Davis is coming in at another key point in the franchise’s history: in much the way the franchise was moving on after Vince Carter, they’re trying to do the same with Chris Bosh. Since Amir Johnson’s contract makes him the #1 power forward, Davis doesn’t have the luxury of being penciled in as an automatic starter and being guaranteed minutes. Unlike Bosh, he’s going to have to work for them and prove himself to be more deserving of them than Amir Johnson and Joey Dorsey. To put it in perspective, Bosh was going up against Lonny Baxter, Corie Blount and Michael Bradley.

Ideally, Davis would follow the same path as DeMar DeRozan did last year, I believe the Raptors’ fast-tracking of DeRozan by making him a starter is going to pay dividends this year. When comparing his two summer league performances, we can already see the degree to which DeRozan has developed. If there’s a silver lining of any sort to last season, it’s that it served as a pseudo-development year for Weems, DeRozan and Johnson, three guys the Raptors call their nucleus. Just like DeRozan, Davis needs a year to properly break in to the league, and the Raptors would do well to accelerate his development by aiming for high minutes.

As the numbers below indicate, not playing 30+ minutes in your rookie year doesn’t hamper your development, but since the Raptors are rebuilding this season there’s little reason not to speed things up.

Player G GS MPG Age
Tim Duncan 82 82 39.1 21
Pau Gasol 82 79 36.7 21
Chris Bosh 75 63 33.5 19
Amare Stoudemire 82 71 31.3 20
Kevin Garnett 80 43 28.7 19
Josh Smith 74 59 27.7 20
Carlos Boozer 81 54 25.3 21
Dirk Nowitzki 47 24 20.4 20
LaMarcus Aldrdige 63 22 22.1 21
Ed Davis ? ? ? 21

You can fill in the blanks for Ed Davis as you wish, I’d like to see them as 82, 20 and 25.0. As presently constructed, the Raptors don’t have anything resembling a superstar on the team. DeRozan is a nice piece, but the odds on him are being a serviceable NBA player, the same is more or less true for Weems and Johnson. Andrea Bargnani is, well, Andrea Bargnani. I’d like to find out what Ed Davis is all about, and whether there is a chance that he can become the anchor that this franchise is in search for. I realize one year will not tell us anything (after all, who would have thought Nowitzki would be what he is after his rookie season), but it’ll give an indication as to what kind of progress to expect from him.

Defining his role for the season should be easy: play the role of the 2009-10 Amir Johnson on defense, and add some scoring from the low-block. He’s going to have nights where he’ll get punished in the post because of his weight and inexperience, but Davis comes packaged with enough smarts, athleticism and rebounding know-how that he’ll have moments where he’ll shine. He’s got enough quickness to stick with anyone at his position, and he’s mobile enough to be a good pick ‘n roll defender. Stats-wise, averaging 6-7 rebounds in 25 minutes would be great, throw in around 7-8 points and you’ve done enough for Colangelo to hand you a contract.

Davis failed to showcase his offense in summer league, but did tease with a short jumper, a jump-hook, and a nose for the offensive rebound. The expectations here are low because scoring has never been the Raptors’ problem, and everyone understands that developing an offensive game takes time. Look no further than any of the players listed above. Other than Tim Duncan, who was born with a up-and-under, all these power forwards took some time in figuring out just where the points were going to come from.

Gone are the days of the power forward that could rely exclusively on his bulk to get things done, in these times you have to have a jumper to be considered a threat, and until Davis figures out that jumper, he’ll be swimming against the current. He’s mentioned numerous times that it’s an area of his game that the Raptors are working closely with him on, since that option will be presented to him every time he runs a pick ‘n pop. For that matter, that 15 foot jumper is what’s holding Amir Johnson back from being a true impact power forward. If you’d like to keep an eye on a stat for next year, let it be the accuracy of these two guys from 7-15 feet.

Have a good Sunday.

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