Terence Davis II: Maximizing A Role

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Raptors fans have been blessed for some time now. It was, of course, demoralizing to watch the DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry come up short, but there was no denying that those are two great men to cheer for and support. Next up was the Kawhi Leonard + ‘KLOE’ revenge tour that netted the Raptors their first championship, and my god that was nice. Finally, we’ve arrived at a place where the Raptors have seemingly stolen “Michael’s Secret Stuff” right out of the hands of Bugs Bunny and are supplying it expeditiously to every player on their roster. Young players and veterans alike have captured incredible form and taken huge leaps in their progression. From Serge Ibaka to Pascal Siakam. Hell, Marc Gasol was making a run at an All-NBA defensive team, and since the seasons suspension has transformed into a model for Tom Ford.

Terence Davis II is basking in the winning glow of the Toronto Raptors and helping himself to kegs full of the aforementioned “secret stuff”. He’s asserted himself as one of the most impressive rookies this year (third in PIPM, behind Zion Williamson and Brandon Clarke) and is currently trying to vault himself into the top third of the NBA.

Davis II isn’t the first rookie to come into the league and do something like this, but his particular rendition of it seems to be a bit better than a lot of what’s come before. It seems pointless to add the qualifier that he didn’t get drafted because his merits aren’t just good for an undrafted player, they’re good regardless of anything – he’s carved out a role on a championship squad. The dude can hoop. However (comma) it’s worth noting, because we love an underdog story (see, Fred VanVleet) and it’s kind’ve funny that the Toronto Raptors, Blake Murphy, and Adam McQueen were all salivating over him at summer league and some teams completely whiffed on him.

I suppose it’s best to highlight that Davis II is both malleable and remarkably firm. Malleable in the sense that he bought into the Raptors offensive ethos very quickly, and firm in the sense that he has a rock solid body that allows him to carry out what he wants to do on the court.

The Raptors had a clear plan for their roster this year: Let Lowry continue to use his giant galaxy brain to drive winning basketball, and have Siakam grow as a primary creator, particularly in isolation. The Raptors laid out an easily defined role for Davis II and he’s grown within it. Nearly 90-percent of Davis II’s shots are coming at the rim or from behind the three-point line, and he’s shown great flair as an off-ball threat. He fills the lane in transition and can recognize in real time whether he should be rim-running or spacing to the corner. He’s also a sneaky operator along the baseline who can slide into open space to support a trapped teammate, or provide an easy pass around a hard-rotating big. Not only that, but he can offer utility as a screener in a pinch and is active relocating after setting it.

 

Davis II’s most underrated quality though, is his keen sense of when to fill behind driving lanes that are carved out by Siakam, Lowry and VanVleet. Paired with his newly potent 3-point shot, Davis II can be seen mirroring the routes that the aforementioned trio takes to the rim, only he’s doing it behind the 3-point line. A 40-percent 3-point shooter who constantly floats into open space and provides passing lanes is infinitely valuable to an offenses spacing and to Davis II’s utility off-ball.

Attacking off the dribble hasn’t been a key feature of his game this year (although, it’s been something we’ve seen more of as the season has gone on) but he’s been a real threat to get to the bucket when attacking close-outs and fairly adept at working off of pin-downs. The pin-down is my favourite play-type that’s run for Davis II currently because he navigates the screen so well. He makes great reads on when to let it fly if he clears the screen, turn downhill, or slide backwards into open space to punish a defender who’s cheating.

Strong downhill attack:

 

Let it fly:

 

Sliding back into open space:

 

Reset and boogie on ’em:

 

McCaw is late on the trigger, but Davis II turns a broken play into a nice late clock screen action for a bucket:

 

By proxy of how talented and deep the Raptors are, Davis II’s role is limited. Luckily, he’s been such a live-wire offensively that we’ve seen extended stretches of his scoring. It’s not often that we see him operate as a primary creator, and that might be a bit over his head at the moment (but certainly not forever). Either way, he’s found a way to comfortably slide into most lineups the Raptors put on the floor and that’s impressive for any rookie to pull off.

So, what the Raptors have added onto a roster that is already laden with improving talent (Norman Powell, VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Siakam etc.) is a bona fide shooter with real instincts for where he fits on the floor who can also finish at the rim reasonably well, and is a seismic rebounder for his position. A lot of things to like, and a hell of a foundation to work from.

It’s reasonable to expect that Davis II will become at the very least a serviceable starter in the NBA, but he’s flashing All-Star upside regularly, and that doesn’t seem like much of a pipe dream with how well he reads the game and the material improvements we’ve seen in his ball skills.

For now, he’s a wildcard that could swing a game or two during the playoffs.

 

 

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