How good can Raptors guard Terence Davis Jr. be?

For the first time since the late Justin Reed suited up for the Houston Rockets (Terrico White never played an official NBA game), Ole Miss has a player in the NBA! Terence Davis Jr. Signed with the Toronto Raptors following his strong showing in the NBA Draft Combine, and terrific performance in the NBA Summer League. After falling in and out of the rotation his first month in the league, Davis appears to have solidified himself a spot in the Raptors rotation, averaging 11.7 points, 4.2 boards, and 3.7 assists in 21 minutes per game over the last 6 games for the defending NBA champs. While I do not believe Davis will continue to shoot this well (over 53% from 3 in this stretch,) I believe there is a good chance he not only stays in the league, but carves out a niche for himself as a fantastic role player, and perhaps even a future starter, and if everything goes well— an all-star appearance, while unlikely, is not out of the question.

I had the blessing to work with TD during his freshman and sophomore seasons, and watched him grow from a player that could not find his way off the bench to an All-SEC selection. From the first time I watched him, I had a feeling he would find himself in the NBA. He has the intangibles of a player that makes it in the league: Hustle, drive, and selflessness. The skillset just took four years to catch up. Now, Davis has a chance to make a name for himself in the pros.

This article is meant to showcase what skills Davis brings to the Raptors, as well as realistic expectations for his career. I believe that TD has a future in this league. It is far from a guarantee, but his ability to fit any role in an offense, athleticism, shooting potential, playmaking and finishing ability make me believe that he can find a role in the NBA over the next decade. The only thing that may keep TD from staying in the league is consistency and foul trouble, which we will discuss later. For now, let’s go into what makes Davis a sustainable NBA caliber player.

It is worth noting that these highlights showcase the best of TD, and what TD is capable of when the offense is run through him. I realize this is a combo of summer league and only a small amount of NBA examples, but it is important to showcase what he can do in order to project his future. A big shoutout to YouTubers DawkinsMTA and DownToBuck for the highlights.

Reading Screens and Spacing

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As the primary ball-handler, TD led his man into the screen, recognized the defenders giving space and retreating, and nailed a pull-up jumper.

Some may not like a mid-range shot that early in the shot clock, but the ability to recognize when you have space combined with the ability to quickly pull up and nail a jumper before the defense can recover is so important, especially in late shot clock situations where that may be your only option.

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TD reads the screen, recognizes the open lane, and slams it home over the weak help defense. Davis has a quick burst to the rim once he gets around the screen, and boom— easy bucket.

Catch and Shoot

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The Magic defense is sagging off on Davis HARD on this play. Lack of communication combined with a lack of respect for Davis’ jumpshot. He makes them pay.

As a role player the ability to stand in the corner, being ready to catch and shoot at any moment is very important. The offense does not often run through role players, so many of their looks come on secondary attacks. Watch a Houston Rockets game, and you’ll see players like P.J. Tucker earn their money standing in the corner hitting threes when the defense sucks in on James Harden. Epitome of “work smarter not harder.” Just wait and be patient!

This translates to the NBA level here:

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Finishing in Transition

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As an NBA player, you aren’t always going to be able to take wide open shots or have wide open layups. The ability to finish in traffic, as well as be ready to run in transition is very important. TD’s ability to recognize that his teammate has the steal, and immediately sprint down the floor, beating the defender for the dunk is something that will come in handy at the NBA level. If he takes maybe a half of a second longer to recognize his teammate has the steal, he may not be able to finish for the dunk because the transition defender would be at the rim ready to defend.

Recognizing Space (part two)

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Once again, TD shows ability to use screens and recognize when he has the space to pull up for the shot. There are two defenders nearby, but neither are in a position to contest the shot. Because TD has such a fast release, it is nearly impossible to contest his shot unless you are in the correct defensive position as he pulls up.

The confidence and recognition to pull up when he has the space once again helps when a team is late in the shot clock and needs somebody to hit something off the dribble. That is not the situation here, but the fact that he showcases this ability is useful to any team.

Defensive Recognition/Change of Speed

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This is an impressive defensive play for a couple of reasons.

  1. Davis recognizes that there is nobody defending the rim, and immediately switches from his man to help.
  2. Davis has the physical ability to not only change speeds quickly, but at the right angle and goes in for the block on what would have been an easy two. Even at the NBA level, this showcases an elite level of athleticism that few players have.

Off-Ball Movement

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TD runs through an off ball screen and shows the ability to catch and shoot even a few feet back from the three point line. The defender foolishly goes under, and TD takes advantage by draining a wide-open three.

Teams at the NBA level often have players run to areas that are further back from the three point line to increase spacing. The ability to drain catch and shoot shots from far behind the three point line is important to draw out the defense even further, creating more spacing opportunities for the offense. A finished product Davis can help a team accomplish those defensive goals.

Drawing in Defense, then taking advantage with finish

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It took three and a half quarters, but the Orlando Magic finally realized they cannot sag off on Terence Davis Jr. Unfortunately for them, that just means he can use his quick first step and agility to get right to the hoop for the easy bucket.

Granted, the help defense is awful on this play (42 on the magic should’ve helped at the rim), but the ability to blow past an overaggressive defender and force a defense to make decisions is something that good players do.

If TD’s shot is falling, he will just finish at the rim. At Ole Miss, his rim finishing ability was up there with just about anybody in the country. Problems arose when his shot wasn’t falling, and teams could sag off, but we will expand on that more later in the article.

Playing in Chaos

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TD thrives on staying in the moment, even when everything around him is chaotic. Play breaks down, and TD catches a desperation pass, immediately recognizing the open man at the rim and hitting him for the dime.

Granted, TD probably should’ve moved up the court sooner to allow an easier angle for the pass, but the ability to recover from a mistake and turn it into something positive is another great asset to have in your game. This is a game where things never go fully according to plan, and the ability to stay in the moment and make things happen is something that the greats can do.

Intangibles

I’ve known TD for five years now. This is a guy that has done nothing but improve year after year. His energy day in and day out does not waver, and is somebody you want on your team.

He treats people well, and has a commitment to making himself a better player on and off the court.

His freshman year, he could barely dribble. Now? The Raptors are having him run the point in short stints! The athleticism is there and the skills are catching up. Thanks to his work ethic and commitment to the team, I firmly believe he will only get better.

Weaknesses:

While TD’s effort is consistent, his output, at least at the college level was anything but. Over his Ole Miss career, Davis had 27 games where he hit more than three three pointers, and 22 games where he had zero. During his All-SEC campaign in 2019, he followed up a 30 point game against Butler with a three game stretch where he averaged 7 points per game on 20% shooting, including a 0 point game in a loss against Cincinnati. (Of course he followed that up by averaging 18 PPG on a 60% clip over the the following five games), but once again, it showcased that even as a senior in college, he often lacked consistency from game-to-game. He finally reached a consistency level his senior year that allowed him to put together an All-SEC campaign, but not without a lingering feeling that he is far from a finished product. He can do more.

The sample size is too small to really say if consistency will be an issue in the NBA, but if he cannot maintain consistency, he will never fully develop his vast potential.

Fouls continue to be an issue in the NBA. Davis averages 4.5 fouls per 36 minutes, and as talented of a player he is, he can’t showcase that talent if he can’t stay on the court. The foul rate matters less if he continues to come off the bench, but if he ever wants to be a starter? He needs to learn to defend without fouling.

Outlook

Terence Davis has the tools to be in this league for over a decade. His combination of drive, athleticism, and skills makes him a fit for any team in the NBA. I think he has the potential to be a starter in this league one day, perhaps a guy that is a second or third option on offense that averages 13-15 points per game while also contributing heavily on the defensive end.

My best comparison is a middle-class Victor Oladipo.

That being said, if TD ended up developing his game to an all-star level, I wouldn’t bat an eye. He has athleticism matched by few even in the NBA. He shows the ability to play at all-star caliber in short-spurts, but the consistency remains to be seen. What separates a good player from an all-star player is consistency. TD needs to show the world that he is capable of contributing on both ends of the floor every single night before we can start talking “all-star.”

If I was a GM, I would’ve drafted him in that 20-30 range purely based on his athletic potential and basic skillset, with the hope that he develops that consistency to match his skillset, drive and athleticism. So far, Davis has even outplayed those expectations, contributing to a team that is looking to defend their NBA title.

Long story short, I think Terence Davis is going to stay in this league. I think he will be a very wealthy man one day. Is he a future all-star? Probably not, but not many are. However, the potential is there….and if anybody is able to turn that potential into reality, it is my pal Terence Davis Jr.

 

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