Contract: $1mil (’13-14), $1mil ('14-'15--player option)
Years With Team: 0
Years With League: 4
Previous Teams: Toronto, Memphis
Acquired: Free Agent '14
Davis is a power forward/center hybrid, having split his playing time equally between those positions in 99 games with the Grizzlies. Offensively, while he carries a subpar usage rate, Davis shows multifaceted ability in getting his shots off in the painted area. Davis is extremely athletic, dunking on nearly 17% of his shot attempts, a mark that is in the top eighth of all power forwards. He's also well into the top third of layup attempts, showing skill in getting off his shot. Layups and dunks are extremely high percentage shots, and the fact that Davis can get them en masse illustrates the level of athleticism he has. When pushed away from the rim, Davis has a reasonable, but not excellent, hook shot, with attempts in the top two-fifths of power forwards. Similarly, he's above average, but not excellent, at drawing fouls by position, but he's excellent at finishing through contact and getting and-1 type plays.
Davis completes the five-pronged attack of paint-area work--dunks, layups, and a quite a few hook shots and free throw attempts-- with masterful offensive rebounding. Davis, as always, has excellent activity on the offensive boards: he's in the top eighth of all power forwards here. Historically, he's always been well above the top quarter of PFs here, and he was even in the top fourteenth when he initially came to Memphis. It also presents an excellent means for him to score: tip-ins comprise 11.3% of Davis's shots, easily first among all power forwards, and he converts a robust 56% of these attempts. Given the frequency with which he takes in-paint shots, it's amazing how little Davis turns the ball over. He does an excellent job avoiding turnovers--this season, he fell outside the top half in turnover rate this season, and the 80 games prior he was even in the bottom quarter in this area.
Davis also took a shade below a fifth of his shots on short mid-range jumpers, and hit a very good 42.9% of them this season. He's had a season in the past where he shot 47.5% on a similar swath of attempts, and prior to this season he's shot fairly average overall (36.9%) in this area. There is definite hope in this area, given two seasons of good percentages. 82games also reveals that Davis's offensive output remains relatively the same, whether he is playing power forward or center, and that stability is a good sign.
On defense, Davis is good: Memphis was 3.1 points better defensively with him on the court this season, and according to position-adjusted defensive RPM, he was well into the top third on defense as well. He was a negative defender in Toronto despite the athleticism, but this might have been where the Memphis culture kicked in, because Davis registered positive defensive ratings in his short stay there. He's not a stealer, ranking in the bottom fifth of power forwards here. But ever since he joined Memphis, he took his shotblocking to another level, pushing it from top third to now the top sixth to fifteenth in this category, elite marks. Per 82games, Davis was equally adept at guarding both power forwards and centers: Davis has been particularly excellent at contesting shots of opposing power forwards, holding them to effective field goal percentages south of 45%, and he gets a higher rebounding differential playing the power forward position. He also does an admirable job against opposing centers, lowering their scoring rate while maintaining solid defensive efficiency rates against them. He certainly became more foul prone at the cost of playing defense at Memphis, but that's the price paid.
Davis also helps with the boards here: his defensive rebound rate was near the top third of PFs this season, and historically he's always near the top fifth, a very good mark. Between very good defensive and offensive rebound rates, Davis has always been an excellent rebounder--while he was only in the top quarter this season, he's always been in the top 6-20% in this area.
So with that short mid-range jumper and that cavalcade of options in the painted area, why isn't Davis a dominant big man on offense? Well, while he takes high percentage shots, his conversion in those areas really dropped off at Memphis, which was the likely source of frustration on why they didn't retain him. Davis only converted 84% of his dunks, an abysmal rate, and was in the bottom two-fifths this season in layup conversion as well. Davis takes over a fifth of his shots from 3-9 feet, and despite a reasonable hook shot, only shot a shade over 34% from that distance. Another thing: since joining Memphis, Davis became an absolute non-passer. In his half season since coming to Memphis, Davis registered the worst assist rate among PFs in 35 games; this season, he was still in the bottom ten. As a result, despite the offensive diversity, Davis's lack of efficiency across the cross-section of painted areas led Memphis to be 1.3 points worse offensively with him on the court, and position adjusted offensive RPM is even more ruthless: Davis was well into the bottom ten percent in offensive efficiency, really hampering Memphis's offense badly with his play.
There might be some reason to question Davis's jumper efficacy, even if he has found some effectiveness on short jumpers: he only shoots a career 59.6% from the charity stripe, a poor mark, and Davis rarely ever engages in long mid-range jumpers, in fact only taking less than 5% on his shots on them this season. He shoots them worse than short mid-range J's, at only 33.1% before this season. Also, historically, the sum of Davis' offense always seems less than its parts--even in Toronto, when he displayed more skill than he did in Memphis, he registered negative offensive ratings. Understanding how to work his combination of offensive skills into a team setting is extremely important for him, as his negative ratings in the face of those skills illustrates a lack of offensive IQ.
Still, even with the recent lapses, Davis has enough wrinkles to be an interesting player: but he might be something more, because those lapses scream fluke. And it's largely because of how Memphis used him compared to Toronto, so a huge chunk of the blame should go to the system. Let's start with the assists: in his final two seasons of Toronto, over a span of 111 games, Davis registered assist rates within the top quarter to half range of power forwards, a very intriguing mark for an athlete. In addition, Davis's subpar low 60 at-rim percentages were in the mid-70s across that Toronto span, and prior to this season, he's made 47% of his attempts from 3-9 feet, an excellent mark with sample size precedence (264 attempts). At only age 25, and theoretically below his peak production, there's definite belief that he should be able to rediscover his at-rim and passing skill, given that it has happened before. Given that Davis really enhanced his defensive profile at Memphis, it's definitely not out of the question he can make a similar leap in offensive IQ, as he appears receptive to learning within the team concept.
Davis is also not a tweener--he can play power forward and center equally well on the offensive and defensive end, which helps his profile further in a league where positions are becoming more interchangeable and the traditional center is rapidly being done away with. At 6'10", he's still slightly undersized, but he's found ways to be effective defensively with his Memphis tutelage. Even more than that, he's an athletic big with skill: bigs of his ilk usually struggle with turnovers and low assist rates. Davis, however, does not have problems with the former, and the latter might be rediscovered with proper utilization.
Davis is at a stage where he can be within-paint swiss knife on offense with an effective short mid-range jumper, excellent rebounding on both ends and good defense with top notch shotblocking. At his age and rate of development, it's a reasonable bet, under the proper system, that his offensive IQ will eventually catch up to his talent, which could make him an excellent value play especially for the contract that he received. While his lack of great range and lack of effectiveness in a wide swath of within-paint shots might irritate especially in systems that emphasize skill, there's a bet that he can overcome the latter aspect in particular, and even if he does not, he's still an interesting player with his rebounding, defense and ability to pack athleticism on offense. Overall, he can easily provide two-way value, because he blends a combination of athleticism and talent level that few can boast, if he can just put it all together.