With his season coming to a close following a broken wrist that will keep him out of action for 6-8 weeks, this is as good a time as any to summarize the performance of North Carolina big man Ed Davis
Coming into the season with massive expectations after flashing brilliant glimpses of potential playing a small but important role en route to winning a national championship, the general consensus amongst NBA teams and the mass media is that Davis had somewhat of a disappointing sophomore campaignespecially when considering how badly his team has underachieved.
Digging deeper, though, and seeing the glaring offensive limitations he showed as a freshman, it was pretty obvious that Davis was always going to need time to develop into the player many envision him becoming down the road.
Looking at his physical profile, Davis continues to sport an outstanding frame that is still at least 2-3 years away from fully filling out. His wingspan is outstanding on top of that, and allows him to play much bigger than his size.
He displays a strange blend of athleticism, on one hand running the floor extremely well and being fairly explosive around the rim, but on the other lacking a significant amount of fluidity and reactivity, being somewhat upright and clearly on the mechanical side. From time to time youll see him make some extremely impressive plays, but for the most part its difficult to describe him as being a great athlete at this point in time, at least in terms of his ability to actually utilize his athleticism.
Offensively, Davis remains extremely raw, being mostly limited to finishing plays in the immediate area around the basket and having a difficult time creating his own shot. His lack of strength makes it tough for him to establish position deep in the post and finish through contact in traffic, something that forces him to settle for difficult shots outside of his comfort zone. His footwork is raw and he avoids his right hand like the plague (hes left-handed), not looking all that impressive when forced to improvise on the fly, and having a very difficult time against more physical defenders.
Youd like to see him develop somewhat of a mean streak to compensate for his average skill-level, as it would make it much easier for him to get on the floor in the NBA early on in his career. Thats not really the type of player he is, though.
On the flip side, Davis length makes him a terrific target for his (very streaky) guards to lob the ball into the paint to, and he finishes well around the basket for that same reason, getting amazing extension on his jump-hook shot, being able to elevate from long vantage points, and showing excellent touch around the rim. He draws fouls at a good rate and converts on a solid 66% of his free throws.
Facing the basket, Davis has a long ways to go, as his ball-handling skills are close to non-existent and he lacks significant range on his jump-shot. Hes taken only four jumpers all season long according to Synergy Sports Technology, and you can tell why for the most part when looking at the ones he did attempt.
Davis must continue to work on honing his perimeter game and become at least a respectable mid-range shooter to reach his full potential down the road, as hes probably not going to make a living as a banger early on in his career. At the moment hes obviously more of a center than a power forward on the offensive end of the floor, which made him a less than ideal front-court pairing at North Carolina with the similarly interior oriented Deon Thompson
Now that weve had 23 games to evaluate him in a fairly significant role, its easier to confidently assert that hes more likely to emerge as a complimentary scorer than as a real go-to guy. With that said, he has some truly excellent attributes that he brings to the tableas hes a team player, an unselfish guy, fairly smart and executes his teams offense very well. These are exactly the things you would expect being the son of a former NBA player, and is precisely what you want to see from an excellent role-player.
Defensively and as a rebounder is where Davis shows the most potential, thanks to his rare combination of fundamentals and physical tools. He ranks as one of the best shot-blockers in college basketball, being a major presence in the paint with his terrific length and timing, and should be able to make big strides as a post-defender and rim-protector as he continues to add strength to his frame. His wingspan allows him to go well outside of his area for rebounds as well, again being very productive in this area on both ends of the floor with his 12.4 rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted.
On the downside, Davis tends to get pushed around by older and stronger players, giving up deep position in the paint at times in the process. His perimeter defense is just average, as hes mobile enough to get out and hedge screens defending the pick and roll, but is a little too upright in his stance to stay in front of big men laterally who can attack him off the dribble. Once again, the impression you get from watching him play is that he may be better suited (at least initially) for the center position rather than the power forward spot you often see him projected at.
While many would contend that Davis is being overrated if considered a high-lottery pick like most NBA draft services have ranked him all season long, counter to that argument is that there just arent many big men available (either in free agency or the draft) with his physical tools, intangibles and potential.
With that said, there is no question that whichever team drafts him will need to be patient with the way they bring him along, as hes clearly not ready at this stage to play a major role in the NBA. You have to wonder how much different of a player hell be once hes able to put on a good 15-20 pounds to his terrific frame, though, as it should make things considerably easier for him on both ends of the floor.
Davis untimely injury puts him in a bit of a difficult spot, as he needed to have a strong showing in March in order to give his NBA draft stock a boost. Hell now have a tough decision ahead of him this spring in terms of deciding whether or not to enter his name in the draft, as he probably could have fooled an NBA team into drafting him way too high last year purely based on upside, but wont be afforded the same luxury if he decides to come back for another season and again doesnt live up to expectations.
Another year at North Carolina under Roy Williams and highly respected strength and conditioning coach Jonas Sahratian may not be such a bad thing for his long-term development, especially since hell be able to move to his natural position at the 5-spot with Deon Thompson
graduating, but it also comes with a significant amount of risk. Considering that his background is fairly different than most NBA prospects, hes in a position to make the right decision.