Austin Daye Finds Role with Grizzlies
Austin Daye’s name probably didn’t jump off the page when you first read about the three-team deal that sent Rudy Gay from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Toronto Raptors. The Grizzlies landed promising young power forward Ed Davis and veteran small forward Tayshaun Prince in the deal, but nobody seemed to think Daye–who also went to Memphis from Detroit–was anything more than trade filler.
The former Gonzaga star was only playing 14.5 minutes per game with a dismal Pistons team, and it was hard to envision him making an impact with the playoff-bound Grizzlies.
But a deeper look at the Grizzlies as a team reveals the exact opposite. Memphis hits only 4.7 3-pointers per game, which is tied for dead last in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls. They rank 24th in accuracy (34.3 percent) and generally seem disinterested in becoming a perimeter-oriented team.
“They’re a grinding team, they grind to get wins,” Daye told HOOPSWORLD, adding that he needs to be a “presence on the outside” for his new team.
Daye didn’t see much playing in his first few games following the trade, but has become a regular part of Grizzlies rotation in February, averaging 12 minutes and shooting 42.1 percent from beyond the arc. Incredibly, he was hitting 52.5 percent of his 3-point attempts this season with the Pistons before the trade, and the move has done little to affect his accuracy.
Daye is obviously different than the majority of the Grizzlies players. He doesn’t post up, like Marc Gasol or Zach Randolph. He rarely drives to the hoop, like Tony Allen, and he isn’t known as a pick-and-roll guy like Mike Conley.
But Daye is a shooter and that’s something that Memphis has lacked.
“I think it’s been good so far, when I’ve played in games I’ve been productive,” Daye said. “I think the coach has given me a lot of freedom and I’ve done a good job of just spreading the floor for the bigs and knocking down shots when they kick out. Especially taking some pressure off them when they’re in the post, as far as double teams and things like that.”
Daye was at his best in the 105-88 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Feb. 10, hitting 6 of 9 field goals and making 2 of 4 from beyond the arc to finish with 16 points in 25 minutes.
He hit a crucial 3-pointer to give the Grizzlies a first-quarter lead in Sunday’s win over the Brooklyn Nets and Daye scored 12 big points in the 99-93 win over the Warriors on Feb. 8.
Obviously these aren’t big numbers, but Daye isn’t playing for the Pistons anymore. The Grizzlies need someone to step in and hit a few jumpers, which is something he’s more than capable of doing.
“It’s just different, different atmosphere, every game is important,” Daye said. “You don’t go into any games overlooking anybody, you definitely go into every game situation looking for a win. It’s a little different from Detroit because every game is very valuable because you never know who is behind you in the playoff run or who’s in front of you and what could happen.”
Daye is still very new to the town and the team.
The California native was really only familiar with Prince, his former teammate, Davis and Conley before joining the Grizzlies. He said he likes coach Lionel Hollins’ commitment to defense and he hopes to improve in that area (he’s a decent athlete, and at 6-11 has the size to cover most small forwards despite his 200-pound frame).
Daye is still only on his rookie deal and he’ll likely have one more season with the Grizzlies before hitting free agency. But that doesn’t mean you should expect him to leave. The team is committed to a lot of players at the moment, but outside of Prince and Conley, not many of them even attempt 3-pointers.
And if Daye is seeing 12 minutes per game on a playoff-bound team that he’s recently joined, imagine what he could do next season, once both parties are more familiar with each other.
This summer Daye will work in Los Angeles for the “first couple of weeks” before going to Las Vegas to train at Impact Academy. When he returns, he could very well be looking at an even bigger role.