TORONTO – The selection of 6-10 power forward Ed Davis by the Toronto Raptors in the 2010 NBA draft was not expected. Fitting then, that most observers see much of Toronto’s summer going the same way with so many question marks hanging above the franchise. For now though, Davis has been tapped as a possible answer to the team’s defensive woes despite not having worked out for the Raptors during his pre-draft tour. Word out of New York – where Davis was present at the draft – was that Davis and his reps might have been unpleasantly surprised when the Raptors made him their top choice.
“I worked out for teams seven through ten,” said Davis on a conference call with the media shortly after his selection. “I didn’t really know exactly where I was going, but then a lot of people are surprised. That’s what this draft is about.”
The Raptors have selected a big man in six of the last seven drafts they have participated in and it isn’t the first time they’ve chosen a frontcourt player that didn’t work out for the team. That much beloved beef and yet still no real big man coach to speak of? It may only be a minor issue in the grand scheme, but relevant since the Raptors frontcourt just got smaller and younger should Davis stick.
“I think my game is just going to transfer,” said Davis. “Where I’m rebounding (and) running the floor to block a shot. It’s things like that that always translate.”
The mood around the Air Canada Centre was amusingly light in the back room media centre where a larger than average group of local beaters had gathered to witness the 2010 NBA Draft proceedings. With general manager Bryan Colangelo pacing the Raptors’ war room floor down the hall – his 13th overall pick in play – the uncertainty of what was to unfold before him was surely enough to preclude any definitive plan of attack. Outside of the free agency (Chris Bosh), trade demands (Hedo Turkoglu) and the sudden youth movement that seems to have crept up on the Raptors, the business of this draft represents the first domino to fall in what is guaranteed to be one of the busiest of Colangelo’s career.
The first end of the draft played out the way most predicted with Kentucky point guard John Wall, Ohio State forward Evan Turner and Georgia Tech big man Derrick Favors being selected first, second and third overall by Washington, Philadelphia and New Jersey respectively. Going deeper the big men continued to get taken off the board with Derrick Favors, Wesley Johnson and DeMarcus Cousins the next to be selected. Slowly, as the considered elite of the draft were pulled out of the pool, the first of Toronto’s realistic desirables – Baylor center Epke Udoh – was taken by the Golden State Warriors with a surprising sixth overall pick.
That’s when things got predictably wacky.
“Maybe his injured hand held him back a little bit this past season,” said Triano trying to offer some reasoning behind why Davis’ stock seemed to drop on draft night.
“I think more than that is that everybody expected him to go a lot higher so he didn’t work out for teams below a certain number. When he doesn’t work out for teams, teams don’t get a feel and he slides. You guys have seen part of the workouts, what do they really show you? It’s the scouts who watch games all year and evaluate these guys. We were surprised. We really didn’t have him on our radar because we didn’t think he fit into the five players that were going be available at thirteen. We thought he’d be long gone. To have him keep sliding – we kept crossing our fingers that he’d slide one more and one more and he falls right into our lap, which is great.”
With names like Kansas center Cole Aldrich and Fresno State biggie Paul George taken off the board next, freshmen guards Avery Bradley and Eric Bledsoe remained on the Raptors’ short list and were available, Colangelo’s selection trickled through the wire when the eventual 13th pick came around. League commissioner David Stern announced North Carolina’s Davis as Toronto’s final answer and the determined rebounder with a defensive edge took the stage and shook Stern’s hand in the traditional rookie introduction. The Raptors are no doubt hoping that Davis can aid their limited stopping power and who knows what kind of domino this son of an NBAer represents and how his selection and skill set will effect the summertime movement party the Raptors have almost been forced to throw.
The 225-pound Davis first came under the national spotlight when the University of North Carolina won the NCAA championship in 2009. Following that triumph he averaged 13.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.8 blocks over 23 games for the Tar Heels in 2010. The kid knows winning with two state championships as a high-schooler under his belt and a father – Terry Davis – who played in the NBA with Miami, Dallas, Denver and Washington.
“He taught me a lot about this business,” said Davis of his senior. “It’s really helping me just understand how it is to be a professional and how to be a man.”
By selecting the big man what does it say about the plans for free agent power forward Chris Bosh? Perhaps little since the Raptors frontcourt, even with Bosh on board, lacks the depth up top to compete with the better teams of the conference. Maybe it means more since at best, Davis represents improved rebounding and defense; the most glaring weaknesses in Raptorland. Ironically, Davis called Chris Bosh his favorite player so there is some comfort for him, though it’s more likely that the two will be headed in opposite directions in Toronto should they cross paths. In recent days the speculation that Bosh will bolt from Toronto has increased and with strong words coming out of Miami and Chicago the envelope looks just about sealed. Colangelo took to local Toronto airwaves and admitted as much, calling Bosh’s free agency situation “the perfect storm” for him to depart, calling the possibility “likely”.
After making sure that his hand is healed properly Davis will play for the Raptors’ summer league entry. No doubt a training regime will be presented. The left-handed big man has modeled his game after Bosh in some parts though nowhere near the reputation Bosh had coming into the NBA. There’s more work to do with Davis but as it seems to be turning out, the youth movement in Toronto may be just what Davis needs. Despite the looming shake-up the Raptors appeared confident, even lucky, to have Davis on board.
“When you look at the free agents we have,” explained Triano. “Chris Bosh, Amir Johnson, Patrick O’Bryant… that’s four bigs. The fact that we got a big (in the draft) is great. Regardless of who signs, who comes back and who plays he’s a big body and he’s athletic and he fits the trend of what the NBA is starting to move towards. That’s what we want to be.”
With that, young Mr. Davis will be charged with helping to ring in a new era amid the chaos that is sure to ignite yet another overhaul of the Raptors roster that just began with him.