It is easy to lament the exit of Derrick Favors. It is weird it is to see him in another jersey. His defensive impact on the floor was remarkable. The defensive twin towers look Favors gave the Jazz when he started with Rudy Gobert was immeasurable. When talking about Derrick Favors replacements, it’s easy to instantly go to power forward potentials like Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale, and Jeff Green. Those three will all see time at the position, but that’s not where the Jazz are going to miss Derrick Favors. They’re going to miss his ability to spell Rudy Gobert when Rudy Gobert is off the floor. The true value of Derrick Favors was as a backup center, and that’s where Ed Davis—who has been overlooked as a signing this offseason—comes in.
Ed Davis will be the first to tell you he wasn’t the Utah Jazz’s splashy offseason move this summer. Bojan Bogdanovic and Mike Conley justifiably get that designation. Davis will also tell you that he’s not in Utah to replace Derrick Favors. He won’t be Derrick Favors. What he will be is committed to his role as a backup center and being himself. What does it mean to be Ed Davis?
If you ask Rudy Gobert it’s his toughness. Asked about what Gobert’s first thoughts on Ed Davis were, he quickly responded with, “He’s relentless, he doesn’t stop.” Gobert is right. When you look at Ed Davis as a rebounder, you see someone who has a motor that just won’t quick. Last season for the Brooklyn Nets he averaged 8.6 rebounds a game. That seems pretty good, then you take into consideration that the man only played 17.9 minutes a game. The man was gobbling up a rebound every two minutes he was on the court. He has no quit.
Much like talented rebounders in the past, Ed Davis doesn’t consider himself athletically gifted. He sees his toughness as his biggest strength. Talking after practice yesterday to a media scrum Davis said, “I’m not the most skilled player, but I’d say I’m one of the toughest players in the league, so you’re gonna get that every night.”
He isn’t joking. According to DRAYMOND Rating with FiveThirtyEight, he’s a +0.43, making him one of this current Jazz squad’s best defenders. As far as Defensive Box Plus Minus, he has been above a +1.8 for the past two seasons. While he can be a good shot blocker, he has an average of 0.9 blocks PER36, so he’s not going to hunt stat hunting blocks while giving up good defensive position.
That’s not to say he’s a complete liability on the offensive end. While many will look at his free throw percentage and lack of ability to shoot long jumpers, the Utah Jazz see the perfect puzzle piece. Ed Davis is much like Rudy Gobert with his ability to screen defenders off the ball handler. Rudy Gobert was seen as the best in the league at this averaging 6.7 PER36. Ed Davis averaged 5.8 PER36. The ability for Utah not to have to completely alter their offense when Rudy Gobert comes out of the game is invaluable. While the Jazz did gain an offensive wrinkle with Derrick Favors pick and pop ability and finishing around the rim, Gobert’s screening ability is just top notch. Likewise is Ed Davis. He can be used just like Rudy Gobert as the ignition to their offense.
Ed Davis is a tenacious offensive rebounder. Both Quin Snyder and Dennis Lindsey have said they’d like to see their big men punish smaller teams on the offensive glass similar to the way European teams do when faced with similar situations. Ed Davis averaged 2.7 offensive rebounds a game in only 17.9 minutes. To put that in perspective, Rudy Gobert started and played almost 31.9 minutes a game and averaged 3.8.
The best ways to initiate your offense is off of an offensive rebound. The second best way is off a steal. The third best is off a defensive stop. Seeing a pattern here? Utah’s investing in the most strategic and easiest ways of getting points. That seems like an oversimplification—of course, an offensive rebound is going to be great, but it started with a miss. But look at where else Utah invested—shot makers. They already have ball hawks, defensive specialists, and playmakers. Keeping a high level of offensive rebounding is key to Utah’s success and part of plugging the massive hole left by Derrick Favors.
Where Ed Davis will need to improve to provide Utah with the biggest bang for the buck is finishing as the roll man in those pick and rolls. Rudy Gobert when he rolls, he sucks in the defense and for good reason. He averages 1.35 points per possesions (PPP) when he is the roll-man in pick and roll situations. He shoots 70.9% eFG% and turns the ball over only 6.3% of the time. Ed Davis on the other hand isn’t going to cause the defense any heart palpitations. He only averages 1.01 PPP on an eFG% of 61.4% while turning the ball over 16.2%. Ed Davis—like Rudy Gobert—is going to benefit from spacing he hasn’t seen ever before in his career, but Gobert has dealt with very limited spacing and seen great results.
The Jazz need Ed Davis not only to be able to defend as a Rudy Gobert-lite but operate in the offense as a Rudy Gobert-lite. That means Utah will be looking to Ed Davis to improve that part of his game at a stage in his career that isn’t known for much development. Luckily for Utah, they are kinda good at helping players in the later parts of their careers improve. Look at the work they did with Joe Ingles, George Hill, Joe Johnson, and Boris Diaw. They were able to extend their good days or improve their skillset through the work of Utah’s development system and Quin Snyder’s teacher like coaching style.
While Ed Davis does have work to do, Quin Snyder is not worried. When asked after practice yesterday what he liked about Ed Davis’ game he simply replied, “What don’t I like?”
Jazz fans will come to feel the same way about Ed Davis this season.