Ed Davis comes to the Brooklyn Nets an established NBA big man, but a journeyman, playing for his fifth team. Davis brings frontcourt toughness to the Nets.
Ed Davis is a very common name, but the Brooklyn Nets are counting on him for some uncommon contributions.
If you look up the name “Edward Davis” on Wikipedia, which includes the different nicknames and variations of the name, you get a pretty decent list of accomplished athletes, government officials and a buccaneer. Not the football team; an actual pirate with a ship that sailed the seven seas.
The Ed Davis that signed with the Nets earlier this offseason is definitely the one with the longest NBA career. Going into his ninth year, the UNC product will be joining the fifth team of his career.
To the dismay of his former Portland running mates, he signed a one-year deal with Brooklyn worth about $4.4 million.
For the average person, that money might seem like a no-brainer, but for a player of Davis’ caliber, that’s a pay cut. He has become a good defender and was a great locker room presence with Portland. Davis has garnered attention throughout the league.
The series was a matchup nightmare for the Blazers and for their big men; but then again in 99 percent of situations, guarding perennial MVP candidate Anthony Davis is a mismatch.
Ed Davis’ limitations were emphasized in that series and overshadowed a great season by the center and by the Blazers as a team.
His stats don’t jump out at you, 5.3 points and 7.4 rebounds in a little under 20 minutes per game, but his hustle and blue-collar work ethic played off well to their dynamic backcourt duo and brought success to Portland.
For Brooklyn, he brings something that the Nets haven’t had in a while: security in the frontcourt.
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At 6-foot-10, he will be one of the taller Nets this season and has the longest wingspan (7-feet) on the Nets outside of Jarrett Allen (7-foot-5¼, according to a 2017 draft scouting report). The lack of size and ability to battle in the paint was the glaring problem of last season’s team.
Even Dwight Howard had a career night against the Nets, a 30-point and 30-rebound double-double showing that brought people back to 2010, when life was simpler and Howard was still a consistent contender for Defensive Player of the Year and in MVP discussions.
Last year, the Nets touted a steady center rotation of Jarrett Allen, Quincy Acy and an amalgam of Jahlil Okafor, Tyler Zeller and Timofey Mozgov. Outside of the 5 spot, DeMarre Carroll and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson shared time at the power forward spot.
A front line like that, with very limited size and a razor-thin margin for error, made the interior a prime target for exploitation.
The addition of Davis, a good, defensive-minded middle man, immediately gives the Nets some security at the center spot. The combination of him and the ever-energetic Kenneth Faried will solidify the backup frontcourt behind Allen.
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On offense, there should not be much to expect from Davis. While he has continued to demonstrated a good post game, he makes his money as a pick-and-roll player. He was in the top 10 in screen assists per 36 minutes and in total for the year.
While that may not mean much when your pick-and-roll handlers are Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the Nets’ free-flowing offense and the continued development of players like D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie will only bloom more with a player like Davis.
Davis has also showed a proficiency in crashing the boards and getting second chance opportunities. According to NBA.com’s Hustle Stats Archive, Davis is in the top 10 in the league in box outs, per game, per 36 and in total.
Successful box outs on the offensive end lead to offensive rebounds, which he averaged about 2.3 per game.
He has shown great chemistry with non-traditional big men like Meyers Leonard and Zach Collins the last few seasons with Portland, giving them space to shoot and create along the perimeter while he operated the middle.
In a even more spread-out offensive scheme, like that of Brooklyn, an active body in the paint like Davis will get a lot more room to operate.
What is most important about the signing is that the Nets get another veteran leader in the locker room, especially to lead and teach Jarrett Allen, who’s pegged to be a big part of the future. He has become a valuable and beloved locker-room presence in the league.
In a serious year, in which the Nets plan to make waves in a relatively weaker Eastern Conference, the playoff experience of the team’s veterans and their knowledge of the league will be key to making the next step forward.
Another way to look at the signing is that if hypothetically the Nets are not playing up to where they feel like they should, the Nets can dangle Davis’ contract to add another draft pick or trade exception to their war chest.
The contract itself is a steal for any playoff team over the cap looking to solidify their bench and make a run in the playoffs.
I would not bet money that this scenario is manifested into reality because the Nets, just as is half the league, are looking toward next summer rather than going all-in on this season.
For all his value, only time will tell if Portland will regress without Ed Davis. On the flipside, only time will tell if the Nets capitalize on such a great offseason move.