The NBA Draft has come and gone and Michigan State’s Deyonta Davis was selected as the first pick in the second round (31st overall). He was drafted by the Boston Celtics, in a pick that was subsequently traded to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Going 31st overall is an impressive accomplishment for many, but a disappointment for Davis. He was invited to the "green room" by ESPN prior to the draft. Green room invites typically go to the top ten to 15 players who are most likely to be selected in the lottery. Davis was not the only green room prospect who did not hear his name called during the lottery, but he was the only player left sitting in the green room heading into the second round.
After the draft, various analysts speculated as to why NBA teams kept passing on Davis. Ultimately, the consensus opinion seemed to be that Davis did not play enough minutes during his time in East Lansing to have NBA general managers confident in who they were selecting. That begs the question, should Deyonta Davis have left for the draft following an underwhelming freshman season or should he have remained in school?
There is no easy answer to the question and I will never bring myself to say a 19 year old made the wrong decision accepting millions of dollars over continuing to play basketball for free, but there are certainly a lot of arguments to be made for why Davis could have benefited from staying.
For starters, Gavin Schilling was the only other big man slotted to return for the Spartans in 2016-17 and while they are bringing in an impressive recruiting class, only incoming center Nick Ward would be competing for minutes at Davis’ position. It is fairly safe to say Davis would have started next season for the Spartans and with increased opportunity under Tom Izzo he could have begun to realize his potential.
Having given those reasons for Davis remaining in school, I should note he had quite a few reasons for leaving too. To his knowledge, and most of ours heading into the draft combine, he was projected to go early or mid-first round by almost every analyst. Staying in school could have lifted his stock to a top ten pick, but a just-as-likely scenario was his stock plummeting if he struggled as a sophomore. With so many talented freshman coming to East Lansing, it was a realistic possibility that Davis could have been marginalized in the offense.
In the end, Davis elected to declare for the draft and hire an agent, finishing his collegiate eligibility and the rest is history. While it is a shame he was not selected in the first round (great contractual guarantees are given to each first round pick), he was drafted into a good situation in Memphis.
It is fairly safe to say he will not have an impact on their NBA roster this season, but they do have a solid development program in place with their D-League affiliate, the Iowa Energy. He may have to log a year or two in Des Moines, developing and refining his skills, but as long as he maintains his desire and drive to be successful then the NBA is still very much in reach for Deyonta Davis, whether he made the right choice to go there this year or not.