A fellow Xavier fan said to me recently that it seems like every year a replacement for Dee Davis arrives, and every Dee just keeps going. In 2012, Semaj Christon arrived as a point guard but moved off the ball as the season progressed. In 2013, Myles Davis and Brandon Randolph joined the team, and Dee played even more than he had the year before. Listed at 5-11, 150 when he arrived on campus and (a generous) 6-0, 161 now, Davis isn't the prototype guard in the Big East, but he keeps on playing. How is it that a guy averaging 7.7/1.8/4.7 has become such a vital part of Chris Mack's teams?
For starters, Davis will come into this year as Xavier's premier off the ball defender. While that doesn't bring with it the glamour of Stanley Burrell stifling any and all comers in his senior year, it does give the rest of the defense one less thing to worry about on the defensive end. Dee leverages his size well by using it to his advantage away from the main focus of the play. Rare are the times Dee's man (usually the other team's best shooter) gets a clean look, even coming off the screen. According to basketball reference, Dee was worth one defensive win share on his own last year.
The rest of the Davis package is an accumulation of favorable characteristics combined with a limiting of physical shortcomings. Dee isn't large, and in the Big East that's a problem. Despite getting banged around night in and night out by guards that have, in some cases, 40 pounds on him, Dee played 72% of Xavier's minutes last year, good for second on the team. Generally ineffective inside the arc (42.9%), Dee only took 91 shots in there last year against the 105 he lifted from deep. Shooting 37% behind the arc kept defenses honest and gave Dee the opportunity to exercise the one part of his game where he is truly elite, ball control.
In Dee's sophomore season, the first in which he saw most of the point guard duties, he averaged 2.5 turnovers per game against only 3.4 assists. Couple that with a TO Rate of 28% and an offensive efficiency of 96.8 and you get a picture of Davis as a point guard who was occasionally overwhelmed. Last season, Dee averaged 4.7 assists and only 1.9 turnovers per game, pushing his A/TO ratio well over the 2/1 line. Jumps in all of his shooting percentages (.398/.371/.847) and an assist rate of 26.9% (155th in the nation) helped push his offensive efficiency to 108.2, higher even than Semaj Christon's. Still not a power, Dee quietly turned himself into a very effective player.
Best case scenario:
Dee holds off the oncoming players, he'll certainly get the start at the beginning of the season, and settles into his familiar role. A good year from Dee, even one with some improvement, wouldn't necessarily show in his overall stats. If Dee can increase his shooting percentage inside the arc and continue to limit turnovers his line may not change, but the team will continue to be successful. Intriguingly, Dee's FT Rate his sophomore was 41.6% to the 30.1% he post last year. If Dee shoots 85% from the line again and can get there at the rate he did in 2013, his points per game would jump noticeably.
Worst case scenario:
It's hard to see a scenario in which Dee doesn't get a lion's share of the playing time at point guard that doesn't involve an injury. Xavier needs his steady hand at the wheel so Dee going down, or his shooting declining precipitously could very well derail the season, at least temporarily. There's not really a lot about Dee's game that seems subject to great deals of change.
Most likely scenario:
Dee remains Dee. He's not going to suddenly become a 15 point scorer, and he's not going to be bench fodder. He has established himself as reliable, steady, and the perfect compliment to a team loaded with talent. Xavier is going to be good this year, and it's most likely that will be because Dee Davis is still Dee Davis.