The Memphis Grizzlies have taken a huge blow before Game 7 has even started.
Zach Randolph will not be suiting up for the Grizzlies on Saturday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder due to the NBA suspending him for the match up because of an apparent incident during Game 6 in which Randolph punched Thunder center Steven Adams.
Without Randolph, the Grizzlies may be in a world of trouble, as he was averaging 18.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game for the team against the Thunder in the first round. Randolph was able to team up with fellow center Marc Gasol in the frontcourt to give the Grizzlies a post presence that the Thunder have not been fully capable of matching throughout the series. Now with half of that equation missing, Memphis will look for a player (or two) capable of stepping into that role and providing the team with a dynamic post presence able to get a few baskets in a pinch and help control the glass with Gasol.
The Grizzlies may have just the player waiting in the wings in forward Ed Davis.
Davis has been a bench player during his tenure with the Grizzlies, but it is not his fault that he has to play behind such a great post player like Randolph. Davis is young, as he is only 24 years old with plenty of room left to grow his game. Davis’ physical tools have allowed him to find success, albeit minor, during his time in the NBA (5.7 points per game on 53.4 percent shooting to go along with 4.1 rebounds per game during the regular season). Davis is a 6-foot-10 forward out of North Carolina who is known for being an explosive athlete capable of finishing at the rim on a dunk on offense and blocking some shots and corralling rebounds on the defensive end. While Davis’ offensive game may be limited (not very good with his back to the basket or shooting the ball in the mid-range), it is his ability to fight for the ball on the offensive glass that may prove valuable for the Grizzlies.
Memphis has relied on trying to get the ball inside and either finishing their looks in the paint or getting the offensive rebound and putting up the easy score for two. Davis’ physical attributes and motor allow him to be a presence on the offensive glass and finish on put-backs at the rim. Not only can Davis be effective rebounding the ball on the offensive end, but his ability to run in transition and finish plays will give the Grizzlies an added dimension to their offense that they usually do not have due to Randolph and Gasol not always being the most mobile of big men.
Defensively, Davis can challenge more shots than Randolph can due to being able to get off the ground quicker and with more jump, and contest shots in a multitude of areas. In pinches, Davis can also prove effective as a one-on-one defender in the post.
The Grizzlies do not lose anything defensively with Davis in the lineup, and even though he is not the same scoring presence as Randolph, Davis may give the Grizzlies an unlikely advantage against the Thunder due to him being an athletic threat who the Thunder frontcourt has not been used to facing in this series.
While fellow forward James Johnson may end up getting the starting nod, there is no question that Davis will be called upon to play major minutes for the Grizzlies in a must-win Game 7. Davis has all of the tools to make a special impact for the team; now the Grizzlies have to find a way to take advantage of his skill set.