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Stiffs NBA Draft Series: Deyonta Davis

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The Michigan State shot-blocker is another raw big man in this draft, but his two-way potential may be unmatched

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Stiffs will be covering all of the top prospects in the 2016 NBA Draft in our Stiffs NBA draft series. Check back daily for video, stats, and analysis of all the projected first round prospects.

Stiffs Draft Series

Thon Maker Denzel Valentine Marquese Chriss Jaylen Brown
Dragan Bender Cheick Dialo Furkan Korkmaz Skal Labissiere
DeAndre Bembry Jamal Murray Tyler Ulis Buddy Hield
Malachi Richardson Domantas Sabonis Brice Johnson

Deyonta Davis


Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers Field Goal % Three Point % Free Throw %
7.5 5.5 0.7 0.3 1.8 0.9 59.8 N/A 60.5


Athletic length - Davis has a 7'2" wingspan on an already-strong frame that can still bulk out further. He has good feet and hops, which provides much of his defensive acumen. He has good timing on his jumps for both rebounds and blocks and unlike a lot of F/Cs in this draft can defend along the perimeter.  He's a floor-runner and dunk machine right now, perfectly built to recover Denver's lob game from years past, but it's the defensive upside that is his calling card.  His rim protection

Rebounding edge - Davis is one of the better per-40 rebounders in this draft, and did it on both ends of the court.  He has the length and quick-jumping ability to take rebounds over almost anyone, and has the frame to anchor in the paint and hold his position that a lot of the other power forwards (Skal and Chriss to name two) simply haven't got yet.  In his prime he should be able to use his body like Zach Randolph to wall off players and take advantage of his reach, while also jumping to the rafters and scrambling for loose balls when necessary.  It's a good combination.


Lack of a jumper - Davis only took 18 shot attempts outside the paint. He's another one of those "it's not broken, it just isn't refined or used much" guys. Right how he's more Faried than Jokic on the offensive end, because other than put-backs and lob dunks he doesn't showcase much of a consistent game yet either in the post or on the perimeter. He has a 15-foot jumper he can deploy, but whether he was shy about it or was told by Izzo not to deploy it is up for debate.  Since Malone likes drilling the fundamentals and Davis came in very raw from high school, this is more of a current weakness than a career-long one.

Lack of focus - he spends a little too much time watching the daisies bloom and not enough focused on the court action sometimes. He's an instinctual player, which is good, but when he gets distracted on the court he allows Bad Things to happen.  Some of this is also experience, but it leads to silly fouls because he becomes aware of the action too late to get in the proper position to defend it.  He's not always aware of back cuts or his ability to help as a weak side shot-blocker, and those are the things he needs to bear down on as a pro if he wants to be a really good defensive presence.

Pro Comparisons (best to worst)

Serge Ibaka - Davis compares himself to Chris Bosh and DeAndre Jordan, but the Bosh comp is extremely high in my opinion.  I'd love it, don't get me wrong, but that's a lot of offensive improvement to hope for.  DeAndre Jordan is an ultimate defensive comp but he has zero offense outside of the paint, and I don't think Davis will be that hopeless.  So that brings us to Serge.  Serge was another physical specimen when he showed up but one who needed some tutoring and whose game grew after a couple years in the league.  I'm not sure that they have the same motor all the time but Davis has that kind of upside on both sides of the ball.

Sam Dalembert - If the offense doesn't come around but the athleticism and defense play well, Dalembert is a decent middle-ground expectation. Davis also struggles to find multiple useful post moves, as Sam did for a lot of his career, and can commit too many silly fouls while not always staying focused.  Dalembert never really got a handle on the nuances of the game, but his shot-blocking and good feet for a big man let him fly around the court having a defensive impact anyway.

Chris Anderson - an athletic big guy who throws a block party when he's in the game but isn't always engaged and is limited to a bench player.  His ability to snag rebounds and block shots makes up for his inability to score on anything but dunks and putbacks, and he has value in a rotation.  Like Anderson, I expect Davis to be around for quite a few years because even the downside of his skillset can be slotted into a useful bench role even if it makes him a journeyman since his team is always looking to get just a little more than he actually provides.

Fit with the Nuggets

Denver has a fairly cluttered front court already, but Davis might help clear some things up.  Davis would provide the Nuggets with a second shot-blocking threat (and primary on help defense) who can help protect the rim. He should be able to anchor much better as he develops his pro body.  He has good instincts even if he's not sure what's happening all the time, and should be able to defend tall 3s and 4s on the perimeter eventually as well as prowl the paint.  Those are all things the Nuggets could use, especially if they cannot make the Jokic / Nurkic tandem work and need a defensive 4/5 to put with Nikola in a couple of years.  The option to have a Nurkic / Davis defensive front court for stretches is also appealing.

Davis could absoutely be the piece that allows for long-term success from our bigs even if his shot doesn't ever become great.  If it does, the sky's the limit for both him and Denver. There's a reason Denver just worked him out and the Denver was only the second team to get a workout from the big man.

Projected Draft Spot

SB Nation - 9 (Toronto)

Draft Express- 13 (Phoenix)

CBS Sports (Vecenie) - 10 (Milwaukee) - 10 (Milwaukee)

Final Thoughts

Denver may need to package their last two draftpicks to move up to get Deyonta, but it could pay off in a big way.  Davis was the first one-and-done at Michigan State since Zach Randolph, and it took Zach a minute to put it all together. He was a non-entity in year one, a good player in limited minutes in year two and a standout in fulltime action in year 3.  He then regressed until he reached Memphis and found his potential.

I think Davis would have been better served to go back to school and polish his skills, a move that could have landed him in the top-10 easily.  In a flat draft though he could be close to that anyway, and his decision might serve Denver well if they decide to pull the trigger on the pick.  It's a good fit for Denver, because the rawest parts of his game are on offense.  He can still be deployed as a rim protector off the bench while he works on those, and has a good chance to become a complete player rather than simply a rotation piece.

Even if his all-around game never develops, though, that rim protection would give Denver's guards some help with their guard penetration issue and allow Denver's defense under Malone to be more of a force.  If Denver chooses a big man, Davis may be the best fit of any frontcourt player in the draft for the Nuggets.


Join your fellow Stiffs as we find out what the Nuggets will do with their THREE first round selections during the 2016 NBA Draft. We will gather at our home bar Jake's Sports & Spirits (3800 Walnut Street) around 5:30pm and Jake's will extend happy hour drink prices for us all draft long. And we'll play Denver Nuggets draft trivia for prizes, including individual game tickets during the 2016-17 season. We hope to see you there!