When the Memphis Grizzlies shocked the basketball world and decided to cut ties with their leading scorer and highest-paid player in Rudy Gay, a large faction of fans and analysts considered it to be a death sentence to their championship aspirations. Not many people thought the team could replace Rudy Gay’s scoring output, as inefficient as it may have been, and even fewer thought that they would manhandle Kevin Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder to reach the Western Conference Finals.
What makes the Grizzlies upsurge even more impressive is that they have done it all without any meaningful contribution from the centerpiece of the trade, Ed Davis — at least not yet.
Ed Davis seems to be the forgotten man on Coach Lionel Hollins’ bench. Coming over from Toronto as an efficient, defensive-minded big man, Davis was expected to fit right in with the Grizzlies. After playing just over 15 minutes in his 36 games with Memphis thought with very little to show, however, Coach Hollins has opted to look elsewhere for scoring, rebounding, and shot-blocking.
Davis played over 12 minutes in his first career playoff game but has had a hard time getting off the bench ever since. In fact, Davis played 3 total minutes in the entire second-round series against Oklahoma City. Even little-used point guard Keyon Dooling, who had not appeared in a professional basketball game all year before signing with the Grizzlies, has been relied on more than Davis.
That may be primed to change, though, when the Grizzlies take on the San Antonio Spurs for the rights to represent the Western Conference in the 2013 NBA Finals. While the Clippers and Thunder presented poor match-ups for Davis, the Grizzlies are almost certain to need his size if they want to defeat this deep, veteran Spurs team. Neither Zach Randolph, nor Marc Gasol is going to be able to slow down Tim Duncan, the “Big Fundamental” himself, on their own. Whether it’s foul trouble or a much-needed breather, Davis could be called upon at some point.
How Davis performs under pressure may ultimately decide the Grizzlies fate. If he is able to provide the team with staunch defense, gritty rebounding, and a few timely buckets, the odds will be in Memphis’s favor. Zach Randolph will be able to focus on what he does best, scoring the basketball, and Marc Gasol won’t have to wear himself out on just one end of the court.
While the Grizzlies’ trade of Rudy Gay is looking better and better with each win, Ed Davis has a chance to make it look even more so by contributing to a Memphis Grizzlies’ championship run. The future of Ed Davis is bright for the forgotten man on the bench, but if given the chance he might prove that the future is now.
If the Grizzlies are to defeat Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs and, ultimately, battle for the NBA championship, Ed Davis is going to have to play a role sooner rather than later.