Despite being the 13th overall pick in 2010, Ed Davis never really figured into Bryan Colangleo's long-term plans for the Toronto Raptors.
On draft night 2010, Davis was a projected top-ten pick but fell to 13th where the Raptors snatched him up. The move was made not necessarily because Davis filled a need, but because he was the best player on the board at that spot. By selecting Davis, Colangleo had created a logjam at power forward with Andrea Bargnani and Amir Johnson already on the roster and locked into long-term deals.
It was an uphill battle for Davis in Toronto from the beginning.
Davis spent much of his first two seasons getting acclimated to the NBA. An injury to his meniscus during the summer prior to his rookie campaign kept him out of training camp and caused him to miss over a month. His second season was again spent without a proper training camp due to the NBA lockout, which also severely limited the amount of practice time available to him.
Despite all of that, Davis impressed with his defense and rebounding, showing flashes of his vast potential.
Heading into year three, Davis knew how important it was going to be for him to prove that he can be an impact player in the league. He spent hours and hours with shooting coach John Towsend, reworking his broken jump shot.
"I put in a lot of work this offseason, working with the coaches, playing summer league and everyday after practice I'm working," Davis told RaptorsHQ earlier this year. "[It's also] the opportunity -- I'm prepared so I'm ready for whatever."
Davis was ready for the opportunity. He put up solid numbers as a starter, averaging 12.9 points and 7.7 rebounds while filling in for the injured Andrea Bargnani. Davis was earning the respect of his head coach, prompting Dwane Casey to mention on multiple occasions that Davis earned a starting spot and would remain in that role when Bargnani eventually returned.
What he wasn't ready for was a trade.
On Jan. 30 Davis was moved alongside Jose Calderon in a trade that sent him away from his first NBA home. He landed in Memphis.
Initially, the trade was jarring for the 22-year old.
"I heard the rumours [and] I didn't really think much of it. Especially because it was my first time being traded. I didn't know what to expect," Davis said. "When it first happened, I was hurt. Coming in the locker room, it was tough on me. But that's over with. I'm just looking forward to this team and going to the playoffs."
Davis had formed bonds with many of the Raptor players and had really come out of his shell after entering the NBA as a shy young man. One of the most important friendships Davis made during his time in Toronto was with DeMar DeRozan.
"We talk everyday. It's not really that he's helping me we're just talking," Davis said. "We don't really talk about the trade any more; we just talk about the daily life stuff. He's a friend. He's going to be a friend when I'm done playing and he's done playing. It's just more of a brotherhood relationship. Its beyond basketball."
The personal aspect of being traded certainly affected Davis, but the transition in his role from starter back to reserve may be the most challenging part of his move to Memphis.
"It's been a little tough. Especially playing behind two all-stars, sometimes the minutes are not there," said Davis. "I'm just coming in every day and working hard. My time will come."
Although initially his role has diminished -- Davis has already seen his minutes decrease from 24.2 per game in Toronto to just 10.9 in Memphis -- he now has two very good players to learn from in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
Both Randolph and Gasol have been All-Stars in their careers and together, are ideal mentors for Davis. In his short time on the team, Davis has already made a strong impression on both members of the Grizzlies starting frontcourt.
"[Davis has] just a great upside," Randolph said. "He's a young, hard working kid. He plays left handed too. He's very athletic. If he works on his game, he is going to get a lot better. He's hungry to get better and eager to learn so man, he has got a great upside."
"[Davis has] lot of talent, a lot of potential," Gasol said. "Ed is real athletic, he should find a way to fit into the team and find his consistent minutes. He should be just fine. He has talent and work ethic and that's what matters. He's willing to work and willing to learn and we're going to help him."
"I'm happy for him," Gasol continued. "I think he is going to do a great job. I have heard nothing but great things about him as a player and also as a person. I am excited."
On the surface the trade may seem like it has sent Davis back to the drawing the board, moving him back to a reserve role where he once again must pay his dues and earn his minutes. But, by getting the opportunity to play on a bona fide playoff team and learn from guys like Gasol, Randolph and Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins, Davis may have found himself in the best possible situation for his career.
Trades are a tough part of the NBA business. Moving to a different city and getting acclimated to new teammates and a new environment is never easy. But, in the case of Davis, what he has had to deal with and sacrifice in the short term will almost certainly pay dividends in the long term.