At the start of the month, the NBA saw the Memphis Grizzlies ship their former franchise player in Rudy Gay to Toronto. While the Raptors were hardly the favorite to receive the small forward, a three-team deal with Detroit ensured the successful receipt of a much-needed All-Star level player.
However, they were forced to give up fantastic contributors in Jose Calderon and Ed Davis.
While Calderon is playing well with the Pistons, averaging a career-high 15 points on 50 percent shooting from both the field and from three-point range, Davis has been relegated to a bench role after finally breaking out with Toronto. While Memphis' primary reasoning for dealing Gay was to lessen the luxury tax penalties, they have a forward with high potential in Davis who must see more playing time.
Through the month of January, Davis averaged 13.9 points and 8.1 rebounds for the Raptors. The team went just 5-10, however strong play by the third-year big man helped secure victories against the likes of Portland, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
The trio of aforementioned teams are not strong in terms of playoff seeding, yet their frontcourt players are solid enough to merit competition for Davis. His 18 points and eight rebounds in just 31 minutes against the Lakers was a stellar performance, whether or not the combination of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol were hampered by injury.
Since arriving in the Southwest, Davis is averaging just 2.8 points and 1.3 rebounds in eight minutes per game. This is a severe difference from his 24.2 minutes per contest with Toronto this season, which points to the Grizzlies' misuse of their new acquisition.
The team has gone 4-3 since acquiring Davis, with expected successes over the likes of Sacramento and Washington. However, losses to Atlanta and Phoenix are slightly alarming considering Memphis' placement in the Western Conference playoff race.
A blowout loss to the Thunder in Oklahoma City also transpired, however Davis was not yet available to participate. Nevertheless, the Grizzlies were outrebounded by an average of seven boards in the formerly noted losses.
While playing Davis would have certainly altered these outcomes to an extent, the fact remains that he needs more court time. He was just beginning to blossom into the player many expected, as his selection 13th overall in 2010 had not been merited as worthy until this year.
Memphis traded forward Marreese Speights to Cleveland in late January, whom many thought Davis would be replacing in the rotation. Speights' 14.5 minutes per game with the Grizzlies this season is contrary to Davis' eight thus far, and the decision to increase this number remains to be seen.
The Grizzlies are still a very competitive team, with or without solid production from Davis. However, including him as a regular appearance in the rotation would do nothing more than help. The only competent big man outside of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol would be Darrell Arthur.
While he and Davis have similar games, it shouldn't take away from Memphis having a solid backup forward in the latter and not using him. The Grizzlies are seemingly running a small-ball approach with Austin Daye and Tayshaun Prince together frequently, yet it will not work in the Western Conference.
The team would be well-advised to encourage contributions from Davis, teach him their system and have him as an excellent sixth man come the postseason. Davis certainly has the skill set and ability to do so, he just needs a chance.
All statistics sourced from espn.com/nba/statistics.
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