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NBA Draft Prospect Preview: Deyonta Davis, the new new Bismack?

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

For the rest of the month, we'll be previewing some prospects that the Raptors could consider taking at #9. Today, we'll look at Michigan State big man Deyonta Davis.

Deyonta Davis

Michigan State University - 6'10 - 245 lbs- born February, 1996

7.5 PPG - 5.5 RPG - 0.7 APG - 0.3 SPG - 1.8 BPG (in only 18.6 MPG) .598 FG%, .605 FT%

Complete Stat Breakdown

At first glance, Deyonta Davis appears to be a good fit for a Raptors squad that is going to be pretty thin in the frontcourt after the departing Bismack Biyombo, Luis Scola and Jason Thompson hit the road. Davis is 6'10 with a 7'2 wingspan, and unlike a lot of guys with that much size, he's a fluid athlete, with the potential to be a powerful one. He's not quite the physical freak that Marquese Chriss is, but he's older (already 20) and his body is more developed. He's already got 240 pounds on his frame, and apparently has room to add more muscle, particularly in his legs. He moves his feet well on defense, with multiple scouting outlets projecting him to be an ideal defender for the 'new' NBA -- that is, a big man who can switch and guard the perimeter.

Davis has plenty of potential on offense too. He has good hand-eye coordination and runs the floor beautifully. He's also got great hands for a guy his size, showing a soft touch which makes for a tantalizing combination when paired with his natural quickness. He was a late bloomer, with few expecting him to be a one-and-done player, despite his physical gifts. From the Detroit Free Press:

"Is he better because he came for a year of school? Definitely. Would a second year have helped him? No question," MSU coach Tom Izzo said of Davis on WQTX 92.1-FM in Lansing. "We didn't think we might have him for more than two years when it all started. So it wasn't like we were thinking of this as a four-year deal, either. But he caused us no trouble, he gave us a lot of joys, helped set a couple records"

By all accounts, Davis is a hard worker. He made plenty of mistakes in his freshman year, and is far from a finished product, but became a valuable defensive presence for a top-seeded Michigan State team, with most experts feeling that Coach Izzo was grooming him to become the defensive centerpiece of the team in year two. His stats extrapolate nicely, as he averaged 16.5 points, over 12 rebounds (including 4.6 offensive) , and 4.1 blocks per 40 minutes. Still, this was in just 18.6 minutes of floor time, and extrapolation is far from an exact science; there were reasons he didn't play more.

From Draft Express:

Offensively, Davis was far from a prolific scorer for Michigan State, lacking the strength to assert himself consistently inside the post, but also an advanced skill-level outside of it. He does not possess a sophisticated post game, as his footwork and countermoves are rudimentary, particularly utilizing his left hand, and he often looks rushed trying to create his own offense... He's prone to losing his focus, drawing the ire of Coach Izzo and Michigan State's older players, as he can be somewhat naïve in his approach, not always playing with the type of intensity and toughness you might hope, which led to inconsistent results. His lack of strength allowed stronger players to take advantage of him in the post, and he was very foul prone at times (five fouls per-40). Simply put, Davis often looked like a late-blooming teenager with very limited college experience underneath his belt, which is exactly what he is.

Overall, Davis has a ton of potential, and looks to me like a guy who could wind up being a solid two-way NBA player, particularly if he can develop his jumper. Most outlets like his shooting mechanics (if not his execution) and think this is something he will certainly be pushed to work on, with a couple thinking that if all goes well, he could even stretch it out to the three point line over time. He still needs quite a bit of work though, so his stock has held relatively consistently in the late lottery.

DraftExpress NBADraft.net CBS Sports ESPN SI
13 19 9 16

11

The Fit

Davis projects as a rim protector first and foremost, and that's something Toronto is going to need in the post-Biyombo world. He has all the tools to develop into an excellent complement to Jonas Valanciunas, and while it might be difficult to play them together until he develops his jump shot, he could potentially give Toronto solid back-up minutes in his rookie season. With that said, the Raptors are probably in 'win-now' mode, and relying on a foul-prone rookie (5.0 per 40 minutes last season) as your primary interior defender is probably not the route they want to go. Still, as long-term potential goes, Davis is tantalizing.

The Verdict

I think Toronto can do better at 9. Davis looks like a bit more of a project than I had initially thought. I fully expect him to wind up as a solid rotational NBA player -- whether that's as a defensive back-up big man, or something more remains to be seen. But my reasoning behind Toronto drafting him was that he could step in and play defensive minutes right away, and gradually develop his offensive game. While this still might be possible, from watching tape, it appears his offense is still very raw, and despite the positive flashes, he'd probably benefit most from going to a situation where he can play more minutes.

If Toronto drafts Davis, he'd likely be bound for the 905, and while there's nothing wrong with that, I think most Raptors fans are hoping for a bit more from this pick. I wouldn't be disappointed if Toronto took him, as I like his skill-set very much, but I think Masai Ujiri might be looking for someone slightly more polished.

What do you think?