Toronto Raptors rookie Terence Davis knows what he needs to do to take his game to the next level.
While speaking to the media last week, Davis was asked by Blake Murphy of The Athletic if there is anything in particular that he'd like to improve on when the season resumes later this month at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
"I would say mastering the pick-and-roll," Davis responded. "I think I'll be a secondary ball-handler going into the bubble and shooting off the dribble. That's something I can improve on.
"As we all know I can shoot the ball off of a catch-and-shoot with Kyle [Lowry] and Fred [VanVleet] creating for me and finding me when I'm open. I think the next step is to create my own shot and be a secondary ball handler and a secondary playmaker. Things of that sort."
MORE: Grading Davis' rookie season so far
Davis is already generating a decent amount of his offence as the ball handler in pick-and-rolls. He's averaging only 0.8 points per game on those plays, but that makes up nearly a fifth (16.8 percent) of his scoring on the season. The problem is he hasn't been particularly efficient. With an average of 0.68 points per possession, he ranks in the 23rd percentile in pick-and-roll efficiency alongside the likes of Matthew Dellavedova, Maurice Harkless and Trevor Ariza, players who aren't exactly known for their ability to create their own shot.
There are a couple of reasons why that number is as low as it is. The first? Davis is a turnover machine. According to NBA.com, he has turned the ball over on 25.0 percent of his pick-and-roll possessions this season, the 17th highest rate in the league. Growing pains have something to do with that - he is a rookie after all - so you'd think him learning to pick and choose his spots better and improving as a passer, both of which should come with time, will go a long way in bringing his turnover frequency down.
The second? As Davis alluded to, he's struggled to make shots off the dribble. According to NBA.com, he has connected on only 32.0 percent of his 3-point pull-ups and 11.1 percent of his 2-point pull-ups this season. (To be fair to Davis, he rarely shoots from midrange. That 11.1 percent is based on a miniscule sample size of 18 shots. There's a chance that he'll never be much of a midrange scorer, but there is a world in which he is, so it feels wrong to completely disregard it).
If Davis can't become a more efficient shooter off the dribble, it makes him rather easy to defend in pick-and-rolls because teams will simply drop underneath screens to bait him into settling for the pull-ups he hasn't been able to make consistently to this point of the season. It's not something that's happened much yet, but you best believe teams will hone in on it in the playoffs if he is going to run more pick-and-rolls.
If teams can get away with dropping under every screen, it would make it harder for Davis to do what he does best - knife his way to the rim for nifty finishes. According to NBA.com, he has made 66.2 percent of his shot attempts in the restricted area this season. Of the 159 guards who have taken at least 50 shots from that distance, Davis ranks 22nd in efficiency.
It's one thing to post those numbers against primary backups and another against starters, but Davis has proven to be both a creative and explosive finisher around the basket.
Whether or not Davis can put it all together in time for the season's resumption at the end of July remains to be seen. Based on the areas he needs to improve to become a more efficient pick-and-roll scorer, I'm skeptical that he can seeing as he hasn't had a full offseason to work on them. However, there's no doubt that he has the tools to improve as a decision maker, passer and pull-up shooter in time, leaving room to believe that he will one day become the secondary scorer and playmaker he envisions himself being.
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