When this year’s NBA trade deadline was approaching, the Memphis Grizzlies were focused on getting an upgrade at the small forward position, and adding point guard depth. Memphis let the deadline come and go without making a move, and part of the reason why is because of their reluctance to include Ed Davis in a trade. Davis wasn’t untouchable, but the Grizzlies wanted something back of real significance if they were going to part with the 24-year-old power forward, and that is a decision they will come to regret as the season progresses.
With the Grizzlies having a healthy roster for the first time since their additions of James Johnson and Courtney Lee, they have too many players, and not enough minutes to split between them. In a perfect world, the Grizzlies would have one of the deepest teams in the league, and be able to matchup with any type of lineup an opponent could throw at them. Instead, the Grizzlies are stuck with Davis, a player who can be fantastic when he gets 15-plus minutes, but when he gets less, he is below-average at best.
So far this season Davis has played in 21 games when he has registered less than 15 minutes, and 27 games when he has eclipsed more than 15 minutes. In the games he has played less than 15 minutes, Davis’ per-36-minute averages are 8.1 points and 10.7 rebounds; in the games with over 15 minutes played, Davis’ per-36-minute averages are 15.3 points and 9.4 rebounds.
Davis is not the same player when he doesn’t get big minutes. This is part of the reason why he played so poorly last season in the playoffs. Davis barely played in the playoffs, and when he did, he was very unproductive. The Grizzlies traded for Davis last season because he was having a breakout year with the Toronto Raptors, but his lack of minutes in Memphis ended his production. In 2013-14, Davis played well early in the season after Marc Gasol went down, but since Gasol has come back, Davis has gone back to being a non-factor without minutes.
With Gasol back, the Grizzlies are giving the majority of the frontcourt minutes to him and Zach Randolph. Those two each play more than 30 minutes per game leaving roughly 36 minutes for the bench. Kosta Koufos is the only other legitimate center on the roster, so he tends to eat up 15 minutes per game backing up Gasol. With Johnson playing so well, and Tony Allen coming back from a hand injury, the Grizzlies have less minutes for Johnson on the wing, and he has been logging some minutes at the power forward spot. This is leaving only a handful of minutes per game for Davis and fellow backup power forward Jon Leuer.
Davis and Leuer have both played well in stretches this season, but Leuer has proved to be better in limited action than Davis. This should equate to Davis being useless for this Grizzlies roster. Unless there is an injury, foul trouble or a specific matchup that allows Davis to play more than 15 minutes, the Grizzlies are going wish they would have traded him this season. Davis’ contract is up at the end of this year, and Memphis will not be offering him a qualifying offer, nor will they be matching a big offer sheet when they already have to re-sign Johnson.
The only hope for Davis to be on the Grizzlies’ roster next season is if they can find a suitor for Tayshaun Prince this offseason, meaning Johnson can play more minutes at small forward. If Prince is not moved, the Grizzlies will not have enough money to sign Johnson and Davis, and if they have to choose, Memphis will take Johnson — and keep wishing they would have moved Davis when they had the chance.