The Brooklyn Nets didn’t make a “splash” in free agency last summer. But what they did acquire is the NBA’s best bench rotation big man in Ed Davis.
Brooklyn is building something special in this young Nets team, and it can be credited in part to the pace of their rebuild. They’ve been very active on the restricted market, but instead of pursuing a star, the Brooklyn Nets have settled for taking on dead money to gather assets.
So, when free agency comes around, it’s not the most exciting time for Nets fans. Last summer, Brooklyn brought in big man Ed Davis. While he may not be the big ticket name other teams got to meet with or even sign, the veteran center is doing things to which no other player in the NBA can compare.
The Nets are 22-23, on pace for their best regular season finish since the 2013-2014 season. A look at Ed Davis, and why he’s being overlooked as a key contributor for the Brooklyn Nets.
Bargain Big Man
When the Nets signed Davis to a one-year deal worth just $4.4 million; many believed that Sean Marks had gotten a steal.
Last with the Portland Trailblazers, Davis wasn’t getting enough minutes (or shot attempts) to really make a difference. Now in Brooklyn, he’s still not getting the minutes he undoubtedly deserves. But he’s making the most of them.
Davis is averaging career-highs in total rebounds (8.6) and offensive rebounds (3.0) per game, as well as shooting a career-high clip from the field (.622).
All of this on an average of 18.2 minutes per game and only one appearance in the starting lineup this season.
It’s not hard to understand why Davis isn’t getting the starting nod, as second-year center Jarrett Allen continues to grow as a young talent and overall player.
Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson told Brian Lewis of the New York Post that it’s to Davis’ credit that Allen’s taken such a stride this season:
“He watches Ed, and I think that’s why he rebounds better,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I think he understands positioning a little better. I think he understands a kind of hit-first mentality. [Davis has] been a real positive with Jarrett. He coaches him during the game. It’s almost like Jarrett’s got his personal coach out there. Ed is yelling at him all the time. When he had turned that ball over at the end, [Ed said], ‘Finish that one!’ ”
But what is hard to understand, is how Davis isn’t getting more attention. No other player, let alone big man, is making such an impact off the glass in so little time.
A Look at the Numbers
Over the 45 games Brooklyn has played this season, no one is averaging even 2.0 offensive rebounds per game in less than 20 minutes played (per Basketball-Reference).
Davis is averaging 3.0, in only 18.2 minutes.
The only other player to average that many offensive rebounds in fewer than 20 minutes (at least 44 games played) is Chris Dudley (1992-1993). Ironically enough, with the New Jersey Nets.
His role is very focused. Whether it’s been communicated to Davis that rebounds are the priority over points or not. That’s how the big man plays, and it’s to Brooklyn’s benefit.
Per Basketball-Reference, Ed Davis has recorded nine games with 10 or fewer points, and at least 10 or more rebounds, in fewer than 20 minutes played. No other player in the entire league has more than two such games.
Give him more minutes, and the numbers continue to climb. The former 13th overall pick out of Toronto is averaging 5.9 offensive rebounds Per 36 minutes per Basketball Reference.
That puts him a whole offensive rebound and a half ahead of the next guy in line, former teammate Jusuf Nurkic at 4.5 rebounds.
This is all coming at 29 years old, and with his fifth NBA team. And it’s not just to his personal benefit, Brooklyn plays better basketball when he’s on the floor.
Per Basketball-Reference, the Nets have played Davis 800 minutes this season, as opposed to the 1392 without him.
When he’s on the floor, Brooklyn is posting a better defensive (plus-3.9), offensive (plus-5.2) and total rebound percentage (plus-3.9).
Opponents are seeing numbers decrease, with lower defensive rebound (minus-5.2) and higher turnover percentages (plus-0.8). In addition to putting up a 117.5 offensive rating when he’s off the floor, nearly a nine point swing.
Over the month of January, Brooklyn is 5-2.
Davis is averaging 7.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, and a .704 clip from the field in that span.
Don’t undermine big man Ed Davis simply because he’s coming off the bench. If he ever builds up the courage to put up wide open threes, Allen may have competition as Brooklyn’s favorite big man.
All jokes aside, Ed Davis is playing a huge role for Brooklyn down the stretch. He has missed just one game, and what seems like not one offensive rebound all season.
The Nets are now the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, after going 14-5 since Dec. 3. When most sports minds were recommending the team turn to tanking, players like Davis were gearing up for this run, with eyes set on the postseason.
Brooklyn will look to continue their strong stretch against the 25-18 Houston Rockets, Wednesday night. Tip-off is at 8:00 p.m. EST.