Things are going pretty well for the Memphis Grizzlies right about now. While they lost to the Miami Heat on Friday, March 1, they’re still 9-4 since trading Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors and they look like one of the more fearsome teams in the league. Even if they aren’t favorites for the title, they can’t be taken lightly, not with their first-rate defense stopping some of the best scorers in the game. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies have a big problem, whether they realize it or not; they are burying Ed Davis, who might have been the best player they acquired in the Gay trade.
Davis doesn’t receive a lot of hype, probably because he was playing in the Toronto market, which tends to be ignored by the major American media outlets, but he was playing great basketball before the trade, working his way into the starting lineup and looking a future star.
When the Grizzlies picked him up, it felt like a steal. Maybe Tayshaun Prince was the biggest name the Grizzlies added during the trade, but Davis was the most talented player and the thought of what he might be able to do for them was certainly tantalizing.
Unfortunately, since the trade occurred, Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins has buried Davis in the lineup, playing him about 10 minutes per game. The player who could be the Grizzlies sixth man has instead been turned into a borderline rotation player and a general afterthought. For Grizzlies fans who had watched Davis in Toronto and were excited by what he might bring to the table, these have been depressing times to say the least. Sure, the team is winning, but an extremely talented player is spending the vast majority of games trapped on the sidelines.
The trade also brought in Austin Daye and so far, Daye has seen more playing time than Davis. Does this seem odd to anyone else? Don’t get me wrong, Daye certainly has some value and he’s thrived as a role player for the Grizzlies, but his skill set is far more limited than that of Davis. We’ve also seen Darrell Arthur more than we’ve seen Davis and while Arthur can certainly be productive, that doesn’t seem like a wise move. Arthur was sidelined with a torn ACL for the entire 2011-12 season and since returning to the lineup, his game hasn’t looked the same. He’s still been relatively productive, but his range looks more limited, as the 18-footers he was once capable of nailing with ease have been clanking off the backboard with an ever-increasing frequency this season.
Davis’s game has more versatility than that of Daye or Arthur. He deserves to be the first big man off the bench. Throughout the season, his production has exceeded that of Daye and Arthur. His player efficiency rating (PER) is a solid 18.0, while Daye and Arthur more linger below the league average of 15 (Daye is at 14.1, wile Arthur is at 11.5). He is also averaging 9.6 rebounds per 36 minutes, compared to 6.2 each for Daye and Arthur. Why Hollins isn’t playing him more is anybody’s guess. Perhaps he’s bitter that trading Marreese Speights to the Cleveland Cavaliers has left him without a true backup center, but that’s hardly something Davis should be suffering for. He’s an excellent power forward and he could start for plenty of teams.
Giving Davis more minutes is logical for every possible perspective. As the backup 4, he can spell Zach Randolph and keep him fresh and healthy for the playoffs. His ability to score in the post means he could easily do for the second unit what Randolph does for the starting group. Quite simply, Ed Davis is an extremely talented young player, and the smartest thing Hollins could so is start giving him major minutes. It would give the Grizzlies another strong presence up front, and make them even tougher for their upcoming playoff run. There is absolutely no reason not to do this.