The Memphis Grizzlies have already lost Zach Randolph and Vince Carter to free agency, and Tony Allen might be on the way out, but there may be enough talent left on the roster to remain competitive in an even stronger Western Conference. One player on the team who looks to be a key part of the Grizzlies potential success is Deyonta Davis.
Now entering his second year out of Michigan State, Davis played sparingly as a rookie for a veteran team with playoff aspirations. He appeared in only 36 games while averaging 6.6 minutes per game, 1.6 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 0.5 blocks. Davis is hoping to take what he’s learned from the Grizzlies vets and apply that on the court next season.
“I learned a lot more than I did when I first started playing with Memphis,” Davis told reporters at the Las Vegas Summer League. “Just learning from Marc Gasol, Vince Carter, Zach Randolph, they just showed me the way to play.”
Prior to the 2016 NBA Draft, multiple mock drafts had Davis being selected in the first round and he was viewed as being first round talent. He ended slipping to the second round, where he was drafted with the 31st overall pick by the Boston Celtics before being acquired by the Grizzlies in a draft night trade.
Although he may have felt disappointment at the time, he’s used it as an opportunity to get better and showcase his game.
“I wouldn’t call it a disappointment, I just got to show people what I’m made of,” Davis said. “Now I’m just trying to move forward and just play my game.”
Gasol is penciled in as the team’s starting center, with Brandan Wright as his backup. That still leaves a hole at the power forward spot. With Randolph gone to the Sacramento Kings, and the status of restricted free agent JaMychal Green still up in the air, there may be minutes available in the Grizzlies frontcourt.
Davis is more of a center and most minutes he receives will probably be at the five, but he did learn a thing or two from Randolph in terms of playing in the post.
“The way he moves his body in the post, the second effort that he be putting in, all-around game pretty much,” Davis said.
In addition to learning from the Grizzlies veterans, former NBA and NCAA head coach Larry Brown has been in attendance helping the team’s young guys in Las Vegas. Davis was a young child during Brown’s days as head coach of the Detroit Pistons and didn’t really pay much attention to basketball at that point.
But now that he’s able to understand Brown’s importance to the game, he’s welcomed the tutelage from the Hall of Fame coach.
“Now just knowing who he is and looking up on him, and seeing what he was doing in his career, it’s helpful,” Davis said. “They’re really just telling me if it’s a screen, stay up on it, or keep the ball in the post more, or just keep snagging rebounds.”
Through four games in Las Vegas so far, Davis has put up 6.5 points per game on 57.1 percent shooting from the field, 7.5 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, and 1 steal in 24.3 minutes of play. In his most recent outing against the Phoenix Suns, he shot 7-for-8 from the field, which included a few mid-range jump shots.
Developing more of an outside jumper is something that might get him more minutes at power forward. His main competition for minutes at that spot figure to be third-year forward Jarell Martin and rookie Ivan Rabb. Martin has not been very impressive in summer league to this point and Rabb has missed the entire summer with an ankle sprain. Davis has been without question the Grizzlies’ most impressive big man this summer.
“I’m just giving Memphis what I got,” Davis said. “Same thing you see during the season. I’m not just gonna space out parts of my game, I’m just trying to give all of it.”
Davis feels like his shot is coming, and the time he spent riding the bench last season is all worth it.
“Just patience, that’s all it is,” Davis said. “Just being smart about playing basketball.”
If the Grizzlies hope to keep pace in the West, Davis is one guy that will help make sure of that.
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