Ed Davis - the Next Jermaine O'Neal?

The Toronto Raptors may have struck lottery gold with rookie Ed Davis...

Toronto's impressive victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks was possible thanks in part to a huge game from rookie Ed Davis.  The HQ takes a quick look at Davis, who could end up being one of the steals of the 2010 NBA Draft.

As we've seen over the years, sometimes as an NBA franchise, you just need a little luck.

This is especially true with respect to the draft.

There are countless examples of teams lucking into an eventual franchise player or All-Star with their draft selection for a myriad of reasons; health (Danny Granger's free fall in 2005 comes to mind), attitude (Caron Butler dropping to 10th in 2002) or other teams simply over-estimating talent (Detroit taking Darko Milicic over Carmello Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.)

Sometimes you can do all the scouting in the world and it doesn't mean a thing.  If the player you want is not available when you're picking for one reason or another, you've got to quickly move to plan B.

However sometimes the inverse is true, and a player you assumed would be long gone by the time your picked is still on the board.

This was the case last year for the Toronto Raptors.

All set to take Paul George, my personal favourite of the class as well, the Raps watched Utah alter the predicted draft order by grabbing Gordan Hayward with the 9th pick, and suddenly none of TO's top options (George, Henry, Udoh and Aldrich) were around at the 13th spot.

However all the change above them meant someone predicted to go higher was falling, and in this case, said player was North Carolina forward/center Ed Davis.

The Raps couldn't have been more pleased, and already this season in 14 games of action, you can see why.

Davis has an immediate impact when he enters the game, using his length and nose for the ball to rebound and block shots, and while not a great shooter from outside of about 8 feet, he excels at finishing in traffic and doing many of the "little things" that most rookies struggle with.

In fact, his career-high night against the Mavs on Wednesday again prompted another round of "Davis could be the next Jermaine O'Neal!"

It's not hard to see similarities for sure, so I figured I'd take a quick look at both's rookie seasons, using per 36 minute averages to try and flatten out the metrics.  Here were the results as per basketballreference.com:

Right away you can see the similarities in their defensive numbers as both would have grabbed an projected 10 rebounds per 36, and blocked close to 2 shots.

On offence Davis was a much more efficient option, but didn't take as many shots or score as much, and struggled from the line like O'Neal.

It would be great to be able to compare the non (per 36) numbers but O'Neal played only about 600 minutes on average though in his first four seasons glued to Portland's bench.  To put things in perspective, Davis is on pace to play over 1600 minutes this season alone.

As well, O'Neal was a "fresh out of high school 18 year old" in his rookie season, whereas Davis is already 21.  

However O'Neal's numbers overall at 21 were pretty much the same as his rookie campaign, so I don't think it's too much of a stretch to compare both per 36.  And even in this admittedly basic statistical compare, the similarities are definitely present.

A look at some of their advanced metrics, again via Basketball Reference.com, backs this up as both have nearly identical numbers for things like PER, total rebounding percentage, assist percentage and a very similar block percentage score.

As with the per 36 numbers though, Davis comes out on top in terms of effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage, as well as percentage of steals and posting a lower turnover rate.  And interestingly, while Davis is on pace to play a lot more minutes than O'Neal, O'Neal posted a much higher usage rate in his rookie season. (21% versus 13% for Davis.)

Of course if Davis gets playing time like he has over the past week, that stat could even out as well.

The bottom line for me really is that Davis looks to be the real deal as a prospect, something I couldn't say in the summer.  He never stood out much to me North Carolina, missed a lot of time due to injury of course, and didn't really open any eyes until the last couple games of Summer League in Vegas.  When I saw him in person, his shot looked like it needed some major work, he got pushed around in the paint by bigger players, and with narrow shoulders, I wasn't sure he'd be able to bulk up much.

Those issues are still present to a great extent, but his other attributes have helped minimize those issues, and most are things he'll be able to put time in on this coming summer.

So will Ed Davis be the next Jermaine O'Neal?

That's probably up to Davis in terms of how much work he puts in early in his career but it's quite possible that he becomes a version 2.0 when all is said and done.  He's already a very similar defensive player as a rookie, but has a more polished touch on O.  Draftexpress.com actually put his "upside" as Al Horford, but I think O'Neal is a much more apt comparison.  Davis doesn't have Horford's face-up game or bulk down low and I'm not sure that will ever be his forte.

O'Neal, Horford or PJ Brown (another player he drew comparisons to at college), it doesn't matter.  

Considering past 13th picks have yielded players like Marcus Haislip, Sean May and Marcus Banks, and with no real standouts from the 2010 rookie crop aside from John Wall and Landry Fields so far this season, Raptors' fans should be thrilled to be on the other side of a Danny Granger situation for once.

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