By Michael Wallace
Grind City Media
MEMPHIS – What’s next for the Memphis Grizzlies?
Who stays? Who goes?
How will the Grit’N’Grind era continue to evolve?
Those questions and more face the Grizzlies as they embark on an offseason destined for change after their seventh consecutive playoff trip ended in a six-game series loss to the Spurs in the opening round. There’s plenty of optimism moving forward. There’s also clearly something most fans, players, coaches and executives agree on: 43 wins, a No. 7 seed in the playoffs and a first-round exit aren’t good enough.
Over a stretch of 17 weekdays, we’ll dive into our ‘Offseason Outlook’ series that breaks down my personal analysis as to where each player on the Grizzlies’ roster stands, in addition to coach David Fizdale and general manager Chris Wallace, entering a potentially pivotal offseason.
Player: Deyonta Davis, 20
Measurables: 6-11, 237 – Rookie NBA Season
2016-17 Stats: 1.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 51.1 FG%, 6.6 mpg, 36 games played
Status: Due $1.3 million for 2017-18 salary in second season of three-year deal.
Despite being the first pick of the second round, Davis secured a three-year guaranteed deal from the Grizzlies after playing just one season in college at Michigan State. A recurring bout with plantar fasciitis in his left foot largely played a role in limiting Davis to just 36 games his rookie season.
You come in off a college team (where) you’re one of the stars, and you come here and it’s like you just started playing high school. But it was a good experience. This summer is going to be a big summer for me, and I’ve just got to go out and play. I still have the same big chip on my shoulder when I came into the draft. The next step for me is working on my all-around game – conditioning.
A lingering foot injury, a logjam at his position and a lot of raw talent that needs nurturing left us with limited doses of Davis this past season. But dealing with Boston to snag Davis at the top of the second round, then locking him up on a three-year guaranteed deal to control his development will prove to be the best move the Grizzlies made with a young prospect in a long time. Don’t take my word for it. Marc Gasol believes Davis, who didn’t turn 20 until midseason, has all the tools and will be the “one of the best big men in the league, and a guy who will carry this franchise one day.” Davis’ size, shot-blocking ability and natural instincts around the basket make him the textbook definition of upside.
Had Davis stayed at Michigan State for what would have been his sophomore season to bounce back from an injury-plagued freshman year, there’s a good chance he would have been the first big man taken in next month’s draft lottery. Instead, he endured what essentially was a redshirt rookie season in the NBA. He needs development. He needs minutes. He needs to work on footwork and technique in the post. There were times Davis looked completely lost on the court, but made up for lapses with defensive athleticism. He may still be a year away from being a reliable rotation option. In other words, Davis simply needs time and opportunity for his game to grow into his man-child frame.
From front-office execs to the last man on the roster, everyone in the franchise has a vested interest in Davis’ development. Vince Carter created a room in his home for Davis to ensure he’s maturing as a professional on and off the court. Marc Gasol made it a routine to stay after practice and push Davis through grueling one-on-one workouts. Zach Randolph has taken the fellow Spartans alum under his wing. Grooming Davis for big things in the NBA is an all-hands-on-deck process. Summer league play in July will be more vital to Davis than anyone on the roster. From there, the Grizzlies must find a way to make room in the frontcourt rotation for Davis next season to fast track his development.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.