In this series, Jameson Draper will be firing up his Crystal Ball and diving into the 4 Spartans that signed pro contracts this week. He is going to attempt to predict the future and tell you what their NBA careers are going to look like. You can read part one here.
Deyonta Davis - Pick #31, Memphis Grizzlies (via Boston Celtics)
Davis, pretty much ever since he announced he was leaving MSU after his freshman season, was a projected lottery pick. Every single major draft board entering Thursday night had Davis going in the first round, with the majority of the boards having him selected in the top 10. Unfortunately, this year, we saw a rash of teams drafting players based on NBA readiness as opposed to potential. Players like Brandon Ingram, Kris Dunn, Buddy Hield and, yes, Denzel Valentine were all drafted so high due to their readiness to compete at the highest level. Players like Davis, Timothe Luwawu, Cheick Diallo and Skal Labissiere all fell due to their status as multi-year projects. Davis, who was projected to be the highest draft pick of the bunch, suffered the most, falling to the second round.
Although it's probably true that by the time Davis' name was called he would have been happy to be chosen by any team, the Grizzlies are actually a pretty good fit for Davis. There are a lot of question marks on both sides: the Grizzlies are coming off a season that left a lot to be desired (they suited up 28 different players throughout the season) and are dealing with a new head coach. Deyonta Davis is just one big question mark himself. It's clear that his instinct, length and athleticism are perfect for today's NBA big man, but no one knows just how long it will take for him to learn how to play in the NBA. Hell, we didn't even really see what Davis could truly bring to the table in his one year at MSU. Davis is also supposedly a good shooter for his size, something that Tom Izzo didn't utilize at all in Davis' year at State.
For a young, athletic big man that is a multi-year project, however, the Grizzlies are an amazing fit. Big men Marc Gasol and former Spartan one-and-done Zach Randolph are both past their primes and getting older. Eventually, the core of the grit-grind system they run in Memphis will turn over. Davis, who has potential as a power forward or a center -- he can guard smaller players with his athleticism and is poised to become one of the best shot blockers in the game -- will finally give the Grizzlies a play style that fits the current landscape of the NBA.
Randolph, an arguable Hall of Famer, can be a great mentor to Deyonta Davis. Both are in similar situations -- Randolph, entering his 16th year in the NBA, was Tom Izzo's only other one-and-done at MSU. The two players are more similar than they look at the surface: they are both big men who are versatile defensively and have a mid-range jumper. Zach Randolph will be instrumental in helping Davis develop his jump shot. Scouts say Davis already has a pretty good jumper, but given he took barely any at MSU — he only took 18 shots outside of the paint all year, shooting a 22.2% clip — and only shot 61% from the stripe (free throw shooting is a good indicator of shooting success in the NBA), he will need some work. Randolph is one of the best mid-range shooting big men in the league. Last season, on shots between 10 feet from the basket and the three-point line, Randolph shot 43% from the field on 332 attempts.
Best case scenario: An elite rim protector version of Chris Bosh.
Worst case scenario: Antonio McDyess
Verdict: It will be very interesting to see how Davis turns out. He's a huge question mark. I think he'll develop into a solid starting center with a nice jumper and a great rim protector. He'll never be elite on offense, which will hold him back from superstardom, but he's going to be a valuable role player on a great team.