The hearts of Raptors fans worldwide sunk, with the news that fan favourite power forward Ed Davis had been shipped from the Toronto Raptors alongside Jose Calderon. The pain only hurt for so long after the realization that there was nothing we could’ve done to prevent it, and the fact that we received Rudy Gay as a result of the transaction. The reason the Ed Davis’ departure hurt even more so than Calderon leaving, was that he was young and had been given the opportunity to flourish where he did just that. With major injuries to Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas, Davis was able to step into the starting line-up, eventually stealing the position, becoming the Raptors most promising big man. At this point he was progressing so well that he could be viewed as a core piece moving forward with this ball club. The emergence of Ed Davis allowed Raptors fans to feel even more comfortable with the idea of moving Andrea Bargnani, in order to surrender the frontcourt keys of the future to Davis.
So what did we lose by getting rid of Davis?
At the point of the trade, Ed Davis had been performing just as well as he’s ever been since being inserted into the starting line-up. Over the course of January, Davis averaged 13.9ppg and 8.1rpg as a starter; providing a solid defensive presence for the Raptors down low. Ed Davis was a living revelation for a team that had struggled early on. His newly formed jumpshot showed his willingness to improve offensively; his defensive intensity and consistent rebounding effort proved that he cared night-in and night-out about the outcome of the game. Winning truly mattered to Ed Davis, that’s why we loved him so much. Not only did we lose a player that left everything on the court, but also we lost a great interior passer, and our anchor on interior defence.
The Memphis Grizzlies are extremely lucky to have him, however his immediate impact out West will be limited. In Toronto, an opportunity fell into his lap where he was able to prove his value to Dwane Casey and the rest of the Raptor nation. Going into a winning situation with Memphis, Davis will definitely be a rotation player for the Grizzlies having to back up the likes of Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Darrell Arthur until he figures things out. The Grizzlies virtually replaced Mareese Speights with the acquisition of Davis, upgrading their depth in the frontcourt. The loss of Ed Davis for the Raptors stings for the moment because we were seeing Davis operate in a situation where he was allowed freedom to create for himself and others. This was in a situation where game-plans were not structured and developed to stop him. In a situation where he was earning respect from coaches and referees around the league; therefore propelling his value for the time being. His consistent play as a starter provided plenty material for GM’s to gauge his skills, so Ed Davis at his highest value as a Raptor was traded.
For the Raptors when it comes down to things, we essentially traded Ed Davis for Rudy Gay. Looking at this from a strictly talent standpoint, Rudy Gay is arguably a top 5 small forward in the NBA, and the option to flip Davis for a top 5 talent in any position makes sense.
Yes this trade does hinder our financial flexibility. Yes this trade does look like an attempt for Bryan Colangelo to save face…And yes, this trade is good for the Toronto Raptors moving forward.
So what now? With the departure of Davis the Raptors have a void to fill at the power forward position, for depth is now a minor issue. The positive problem heading into the season, was how the Raptors were going to deal with this log-jam, and how minutes were going to be effectively distributed between Davis, Bargnani and Amir Johnson. Ed Davis is now out of the picture, so that leaves Johnson, Bargnani and even Quincy Acy to fill the gap. The power forward depth-chart has become somewhat simplified and the transition from Davis back to Bargnani will be a drastic one. The development of Johnson’s game over the season has recently raised the question as to who the Raptors best power forward actually is. Johnson’s tendencies to foul early and often will always be a problem, but what he brings in hustle and heart cannot be matched on this team. As a starter in eleven games this season Johnson has averaged 14.8ppg and 10.3rpg, as of today he ranks 12th in the NBA for field-goal percentage. Comparing that to the 16ppg and 4.3rpg being pulled in by Bargnani raises some eyebrows as to what the rotations should be like upon his return. Furthermore, Dwane Casey has diverted to the modernized NBA game by running small-ball lineups having Gay, Landry Fields or even Alan Anderson play the four-spot. Even with Davis, the Raptors lacked a true physical inside presence. He was able to battle down-low, but he was still undersized; his strength was nowhere near the level it needed to be in order to deliver an impact every game.
With Davis out of the rotation, the Raptors have the on-court time to work Bargnani back into the lineup without worrying about where his minutes are coming from. This could be extremely beneficial for the confidence of Bargnani, because he no longer has to compete with a player who’s coming for his spot. Although he’s coming off the bench, he’s still a much more talented player than Acy, so he should be seeing minutes as soon as he returns to action. Hopefully the sooner he returns, the sooner he can increase his value and the sooner he can find himself on a new team shooting long-range twos. Don’t get me wrong, Bargnani is a talented player, and could’ve potentially fit with this ball club in the past, but with Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Gay in the mix, shots are going to be hard to find. What the Raptors lack now is a veteran big-man that has size and strength who can bring a winning mentality, leadership and clear space in the paint creating lanes for our slashers.
It really sucks because Ed Davis was my favourite Raptor in a long time. His defence, bad-ass mentality and left-handedness made me feel like I was watching Keon Clark all over again. His production as a starter with the Raptors was likely the most of Davis we’re going to see until he gets another shot at consistent minutes. Therefore flipping him for Rudy Gay was a good move. If you think about Davis’ future with the Raptors, he could’ve potentially become an All-star on this team. The only thing he had to do was come back next season even better than he was this season, but with a lot more responsibilities. Essentially he’d receive the same treatment from players and coaches around the league that DeRozan has faced since shifting into the core of the team’s dynamics. Bottom line is that the Raptors swapped a player with a lot of upside in Ed Davis, who probably won’t get another opportunity elsewhere for a while…for Rudy Gay; arguably a top 5 small forward. Moving forward this gives the Raptors a player who can realistically change the future of the Toronto Raptors in a positive way, however it would’ve been nice to see “Big Boss” Ed Davis come along for the ride too.