When Patrick O’Bryant, the former Raptor and 9th pick in the 2006 draft for the Golden State Warriors, had his first stint in the NDBL, Don Nelson had this to say about the result:
“I told him if he goes down to the D-League and isn’t a dominant player, there should be red flags all over the place, and he should be the first to notice.”
He went on to say that O’Bryant not only didn’t dominate, he didn’t play well. And Raptor fans saw the result of that.
Well, Ed Davis has been called up to the Raptors after a shortened run with the Eerie Bayhawks due to Reggie Evans’ injury. After watching him in two NDBL games, in limited minutes, I can honestly, and happily, say that Davis dominated. I didn’t see one play run for him, yet he was still able to average 10 ppg on .583 shooting, 5 rpg and 3 bpg in just 17.5 mpg. For those who aren’t mathematically inclined, that’s basically 20-10-6 if he had played 30+ minutes. Obviously those stats don’t tell the whole story, but for two games, it’s obviously that Davis played well.
Beyond the stats, Davis looked good. He looks like he may have gained some muscle since the summer league, which is good since his biggest weakness right now might very well be his lack of bulk. It occurred to me at one point that he reminds me of a more skilled Amir Johnson. He’s very active around the rim, and keeps the ball high on rebounds and lob passes. Hopefully, Davis doesn’t follow Amir’s lead fouling, as well.
It will be interesting to see Davis and Johnson play together since both are active on both ends of the floor and will probably be the two best front court defenders the Raptors have. Dorsey certainly tries to make up for Reggie’s rebounding, and he’s more of a threat on the offensive end, but his defense was not particularly good against the Hawks.
I wouldn’t expect Davis to much more than 10-15 mpg, at first, until he gets comfortable. By around the New Year, or so, he might be playing as many as 20 mpg. Of course his future allotment of minutes will depend heavily on how long Reggie is out for and how successful Davis is on the court.
Now while I’m expecting Davis to play well, Raptor fans shouldn’t get their hopes up that he’s going to make much of an impact on the win column. Not when you look around the league and see how the other rookies are doing. It’s actually a bit stunning. If you take the teams with the top five picks this last draft, as well as the Clippers, who had the top pick from last season (since Blake Griffin didn’t play last year, he’s a rookie this year), you’ll see that they have 6 of the 7 worst records in the league this year.
What’s even more eye opening is that 8 of the top 9 rookies this season play for 6 of the bottom 7 teams. Rookies are great, but if you want to win, they generally aren’t going to help you much, no matter what kind of numbers they’re putting up. Both John Wall and Blake Griffin are having All-Star calibre seasons, but probably won’t be selected for the big game since both their teams are simply terrible.
And while John Wall has missed 5 of the Wizards 15 games, they’re only 3 and 7 with him in the lineup. Interestingly, those three wins are against Philadelphia (twice) and Houston. Sound familiar to Raptor fans? Yes, of Toronto’s 6 wins, two were against the Sixers and one against Houston, both apparently fodder for the lesser teams in the league.
The Clippers are unique because they have arguably 3 of the top 10 rookies of the year (Griffin, Al-Farouq Aminu and Eric Bledsoe- who was one of my sleepers of the draft), yet are currently sitting at the bottom in the standings. Still, the future has to look pretty bright for the Clippers with those three, as well as scoring phenom and third year SG, Eric Gordon and big man Chris Kaman on board.
The current Clipper squad reminds me a little of the early Miami Heat teams that had Rony Seikaly, Glen Rice, Steve Smith, Grant Long and Bimbo Coles. All five of those players were drafted by the Heat within 3 years of one another and, in 1992 and led the Heat to their first ever playoff appearance in just their fourth season.
In fact, the next season, the Heat had 11 players on the roster that were drafted by the team in the last four years. Talk about stockpiling youth.
The Heat looked like the model expansion franchise. Unfortunately injuries, some poor drafting and a couple of bad trades later and the team had to be rebuilt. Only one player from that 1992 team was on the 1997 Heat team that made it to the Conference Finals, Keith Askins, a deep bench player for the ’92 team that found a role as a tough, defensive player on the ’97 team. While the ’92 team had youth and talent, what they didn’t have enough of was veteran play.
Which brings us back to the Clippers and the moral of my story. Am I the only one who thinks the Clippers draft pick might be ripe for the picking this summer? Another rookie is probably the last thing they need and it’s likely they’ll be looking to move it for a quality veteran who will actually give them a few more wins.
Youth certainly is being wasted on the young in Sacramento, too, where they have the fourth worst record despite former Rookie of the Year, Tyreke Evans, and 5th pick, DeMarcus Cousins, one of only 3 rookies to average double figures in scoring, teaming up. Of course, it doesn’t help that neither player is shooting anything closely resembling respectable. Cousins, especially, is shooting a shockingly bad .384 even though he’s supposed to be their best post player. One of the big problems with Sacramento, other than the fact that their defense is pretty bad, is the main reason I’ve never been a huge fan of Evans. He’s a ball dominator who doesn’t make those around him better. Wade, Kobe and Brandon Roy are SG’s that dominate the ball, but they also raise the level of play of those around them. Evans simply doesn’t do that.
And Evans has had questions surrounding his character since before was drafted, and was charged with reckless driving while driving at speeds as fast as 130 mph (210 kph). This makes the news that Cousins was kicked out of a recent practice all the more disturbing. If Evans and Cousins are the future of the team, what does it say that neither can seem to stay out of trouble?
In other news around the NBA, things are getting worse and worse for the Heat. While they did win last night, it was against the lowly Wizards, and now there are rumours that head coach, Erik Spoelstra, has lost the confidence in his players. The now infamous “bump”, is apparently not the first time LeBron has taken his frustrations out on his coach. There may be some bigger issues than just meshing the big three together. Raptor fans watch all of this with great interest as the Heat’s pick the Raptors will be getting gets higher and higher. Even if they do end up putting it all together at some point, the more they struggle at first, the higher the pick will be.
In New Jersey, former Raptor (Jazz and Maverick) Kris Humphries is having a career year and starting not only in front of 3rd pick Derrick Favors, but the guy who was supposed to be the starter, Troy Murphy. In his last ten games, Humphries is averaging 9.7 ppg and 11.8 rpg while shooting over 60% for the season. One of the biggest problems with Humphries, in his 6 pervious seasons, was that he never seemed to get over the fact that he was not the teams main offensive guy. He couldn’t help taking more shots than he should, instead of concentrating at what he was good at- rebounding and doing the dirty work. In New Jersey, he may have finally figured it out.
Speaking of New Jersey, Troy Murphy may not be too long there. Apparently he and coach Avery Johnson are not on speaking terms after Johnson pulled Murphy out of the lineup due to “fitness concerns”, which was news to Murphy.
I’ve got to say I’m amazed when I read things like this. I couldn’t imagine a similar scenario in a “real” workplace. Two mature adults should never act like that, especially at their place of employment.