Terence Davis has taken far from the typical path to NBA rookie stardom.
Now sure, 'NBA rookie stardom' is a bit oxymoronic for a 10th man, but for an undrafted rookie to even be in Davis's position is quite astonishing.
Undrafted out of Ole Miss in 2019, Davis not only made the Toronto Raptors roster after signing a guaranteed contract as an UDFA this past summer—he's also now a significant contributor on a team that's the current No. 2 seed in the East as the NBA season kicks back up later next month.
So how did so many teams miss on Davis?
“There are always guys that slip through the cracks. I think, with Terence (Davis), it probably should have been more obvious," said Sports Illustrated's NBA draft expert Jeremy Woo. "For whatever reason, guys just weren’t paying attention to him. Obviously, he wasn’t playing for a team that’s traditionally as good, and that’s tough. But he also had some single-digit scoring games where he’d disappear.”
Over his final three seasons at Ole Miss, Davis averaged 14.9, 13.8 and 15.2 points. One could argue just by those three numbers that he didn't really get much better between his sophomore and senior seasons.
However, Davis dealt with a coaching change between his sophomore and junior seasons. Andy Kennedy (now at UAB) made the shift to the SEC Network and Ole Miss brought in Kermit Davis and a system that puts the ball much more in the hands of the point guard. Emphasizing multiple sets of ball swings and constant movement every possession, Davis simply had the ball less.
“I saw him play at South Carolina last year (2019), and he was just O.K. I was far from blown away," Woo said, describing Davis's college game. "But because he was athletic and fairly efficient and can get to the rim, a lot of that ended up translating better (to the NBA) than we thought.”
As Woo mentioned, Davis did have a handful of disappearing act games as a Rebel.
Four separate times in SEC play during his senior year, he went for single digits. One of those games—Ole Miss's SEC tournament opener, a game many thought it needed to win to secure an NCAA tournament bid—Davis went 1 for 11 from the floor for 3 points in a 62–57 loss.
Then there's the point that Davis was a senior. By draft day in 2019, he was 22 years old. Yet still, it seems like teams missed out on a guy that was right in front of their noses all along.
Davis went to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, a pre-draft exercise for college seniors, and made the all-tournament team. That granted him a ticket to the G-League Combine where he again played so well that he got invited to the full NBA Combine, something he was not prior invited to.
“Terence Davis was one of the guys that played really well at that G-League combine and got himself an invite to the NBA Combine by really playing so well there," Woo said. "That’s something for these guys that are fringe-ier is huge and something guys this year won’t have.”
So yes, teams missed on Terence Davis. They missed on a guy right in front of their noses, but that happens. Even though the Raptors saw enough to give Davis a fully guaranteed contract, there's absolutely no chance they say this.
Through the pre-coronavirus portion of the NBA regular season, Davis was averaging 17.0 minutes per game for the Raptors. His 7.7 points per game ranks 20th among rookies. His 9.1 efficiency rating ranks No. 17 among rookies. Reminder: 60 players were drafted before this guy.
"That’s part of why scouting is just fun," Woo said. "There are always going to be guys that aren’t obvious and that end up succeeding. Terence (Davis) is definitely one of those success stories."