The Emergence Of Ed Davis In Toronto
Unexpectedly, the Toronto Raptors are winning since Kyle Lowry and Andrea Bargnani went down with injuries during their forgettable five-game West Coast road trip. While Jose Calderon playing well and reassuming a leadership role is nothing new, Ed Davis flourishing in the role of starting power forward is.
The 13th overall draft pick in 2010, Davis slid to Toronto because a broken wrist caused him to miss a big chunk of his sophomore season with the North Carolina Tar Heels. An NCAA champion during his first season at UNC, expectations had been high for the very athletic 6-foot-10 forward, but all Davis could do was to watch as his draft stock plummeted after the injury. The Raptors, however, were excited to get him.
Then a meniscal injury to his right knee kept him out of Toronto’s lineup until December of his rookie season, but decent success and an impressive April raised expectations for next year. Unfortunately, the NBA lockout and lack of team contact during the summer wasn’t good for many young developing players and Davis was not an exception. He took a noticeable step back during his second season in Toronto. This year, a normal summer saw a better prepared Davis arrive to a crowded Raptors’ front court in October.
“I was with Eddie last year and I have seen a great improvement as far as his approach to the game and as far as his work ethic,” Aaron Gray said. “He has always worked hard, but this year it seems he has really put in the extra work, taken the extra steps. You can see the production with his shot, his mid-range game. You can see where he has been more effective. In the past, everything was real close. His energy now, we can throw him the ball in the post. He is getting the ball in the high post and making good plays. You can see his growth.”
As the Raptors have struggled this season, the improvements to Davis’ game have become more noticeable and there have been calls to get the 23-year-old more playing time. Head coach Dwane Casey, however, had to juggle the minutes for the veterans Bargnani and Amir Johnson as well as his rookie center Jonas Valanciunas. Casey has been reluctant to rely on Davis for big minutes or to play the slightly built power forward opposite larger and stronger big men in the fourth quarter. Davis, however, has been showing signs he has learned how to offset his weaknesses and utilize his strengths.
“I think Ed does a really good job of knowing what his strengths are,” Gray said. “The things that he makes up for, strength and weight, he makes up for with activity. His ability to move his feet and his activity with his hands as far as getting people out of his way to rebound, fronting people, he is really smart in that aspect. Obviously, that is how he has gotten this far. I don’t think seeing tall strong guys is anything new to him, maybe tall strong guys who are as skilled as they are, but he has gotten to this point because he knows where his weaknesses are and he has figured out how to overcome them.”
With Bargnani out indefinitely, Casey presently has little choice but to start Davis and see what he can do. So far, he hasn’t disappointed. In his last five starts, Davis played over 29 minutes and averaged 11.6 points on 65.8 percent shooting and 7.8 rebounds.
“[Davis] has been working hard,” Mickael Pietrus said. “With Andrea out – we don’t know for how long – he is ready to play his game. I saw him play last year. He was playing well. If he keeps doing what he does, we are going to be fine. If he is willing to give his heart to the team, he is going to be fine. I think he has been playing with a lot of heart, bringing that fight to the team and that is what we need from him. It doesn’t matter if he is 7-feet tall or 5-foot-3, he is going to give you his best.”
The opportunity is not lost on Davis. He understands his role on the team and recognizes that more will be required from him with his team missing two starting players. A role that was built around rebounding and defense has expanded, possibly into something Davis feels more comfortable with.
“This team doesn’t [didn’t] need me for scoring that much,” Davis said. “Especially with the guys that we have, so my role is different. Now my role is starting to expand a little more, so the scoring opportunities are there.
“I always was a scorer. Not an Andrea Bargnani type scorer, but I always could put the ball in the hole since high school and in college I did it too. This is my third year. The first two years was just learning and I am still continuing to learn, but my third year is getting more comfortable.”
Toronto has been waiting for the light to come on with Davis. The talent was always there, but injuries, the lockout and the lack of opportunities have been standing in the way. Now with Bargnani injured, Davis is getting his chance to show what he can do and so far, it looks like the young power forward is emerging into the player that was envisioned on draft day.