Ed Davis
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

With the offseason up in the air, the Brooklyn Nets shouldn’t stray far away from a mainstay of their core: Ed Davis.

Matt Brooks

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Brooklyn Nets need frontcourt depth.

During the regular season, fans of the team yearned for credible stretch-four spacing. The postseason only manifested Brooklyn’s shaky big man rotations.

Brooklyn ranked dead-last in playoff blocks per game. Brooklyn’s centers failed to hit a single three-pointer during the five games against the Philadelphia 76ers. Perhaps the most concerning was Brooklyn’s lack of presence on the boards.

During the regular season, Brooklyn’s centers averaged a whopping 17.4 rebounds per game; sixth-most in the association. The postseason was a different story — Brooklyn’s average of 10.6 boards ranked 12th out of 16 teams.

Many names have been thrown out to mediate Brooklyn’s frontcourt problems: former Net Brook Lopez, Atlanta’s Dewayne Dedmon, or perhaps even DeMarcus Cousins.

However, it may be best to keep things in-house and retain backup center Ed Davis. After all, Ed was Brooklyn’s second-best player during the postseason.

With Ed Davis, you know what you’re getting. A whole lot of rebounds. Like, gobs of them. Davis gets billed as one of the best offensive rebounders in the league. The stats certainly support that claim. I’m not necessarily a huge fan of Per-36 statistics — as they can greatly overexaggerate a player’s perceived value — but Davis’ Per-36 rebounding numbers are undeniable.

Statistics suggest that Ed Davis would rip down 5.3 offensive boards in 36 minutes; the fourth-highest mark in the association. His per-36 defensive rebounding numbers are even better: a second-best 11.9 defensive boards.

Davis only averaged 17.9 minutes per game, so his Per-36 rebounding statistics are obviously inflated. At just 6-foot-10, Davis is slightly undersized as a center. Over longer minutes, you’d assume that his rebounding proficiency would wane. Those second and third jumps off the hardwood expand a lot of energy. To expect max effort from Davis on the boards at all times is unrealistic.

Nonetheless, you get a clear picture of just how elite Davis is on the glass. He wholeheartedly fills that “energy guy” role.

Most of his offense is a product of offensive rebounding. Davis reuses and recycles ugly misses and turns them into putback layups.

Ed isn’t much of a passer, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a team player. He generates open looks for his teammates through his screening.

During the postseason, Davis’s 11 screen assists per game ranked second among all available players. That’s right, in just 13.6 minutes per game, Davis outperformed almost every starting center. How is that even possible?

Brooklyn Nets

Perhaps my favorite aspect of Davis’ game is his defensive intensity. Nets’ fans were privileged to it first-hand during the series versus the Philadelphia 76ers.

During the 2019 postseason, Ed Davis forced opponents into 46.2 percent shooting near the hoop. (“Near,” meaning five feet or less.) That isn’t just impressive; it’s elite. Only 2 players performed better while defending this range.

No one felt Davis’ rim protection more than Joel Embiid. In 30 total possession, Ed Davis held the Cameroonian superstar to 1-of-9 shooting. Yes, that’s a small sample size. But footage supports the claim that he made life a living hell for The Process.

Joel Embiid is listed at 7-feet tall but there’s some speculation on his actual height. During pregame introductions, Philly’s announcing crew refers to Embiid as 7-foot-2. So let’s go with that number.

With this in mind, Embiid has a whopping 4-inch height advantage on Ed Davis. As daunting as this may seem, it never flummoxed Davis. What Ed didn’t have in stature, he made up for with crisp footwork and knowledge of Joel’s game. Take a look at this clip from Game 1. Notice how Davis completely halts one of Embiid’s patented drives from the arc.

Instead of falling for one of Embiid’s head fakes (like every other center in this league), Davis stays grounded, knowing that Philly’s center is hesitant to shoot the three. Embiid counters with his big move, dribbling and spinning near the free throw line before extending for a layup.

Ed Davis reads this beautifully, matching Embiid’s footwork like a shot-blocking shadow. As Embiid stretches for the shot, Davis body bumps him ever so slightly to force the All-Star center into an ugly miss.

Here’s another fantastic play from Game 1. Watch as Davis absorbs Embiid’s contact before sneaking a hand in to poke at the ball.

His gamble works and somehow — without fouling — Davis dislodges the ball from Embiid’s vice grip. As a defender, it’s tough to be an irritant without being overly aggressive. Davis showcased that perfect balance against Philadelphia.

He has some holes in his game — namely, outside shooting and free throws — but Ed Davis is polished in every other facet. He’s an elite rebounder, a killer screener, and an underrated rim protector who can occasionally defend the perimeter. As a backup center, what more can you ask for? Davis will attract around $5-to-7 million this summer, and he might be the best option among the bargain bin. If the rumors regarding Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are true, and the Nets are grossly capped out, perhaps Davis is a candidate for the $5.7 million mid-level exception.

Brooklyn’s roster could greatly change this summer. Many of the guys coming off the books (DeMarre Carroll, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Jared Dudley) may not be here next season. It’s valuable to retain as many players as possible who know the ins and outs of Kenny Atkinson‘s complicated playbook. Too many new pieces could shake the snowglobe to its breaking point.

Ed Davis proved his worth in his first season with the Brooklyn Nets. With knowledge of the Nets’ culture and system, it would be a mistake to let him go. Let’s hope this year wasn’t Ed’s last in a black-and-white jersey.

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