To win championships, you need depth. You need guys that can come in whenever asked of them in games, and make winning plays and play big minutes. We saw it in the NBA Finals when Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet both played critical minutes when the Raptors needed them.
The Utah Jazz, on their quest for a championship, may have found of of these guys in Ed Davis. To help us understand what everyone can expect from Ed Davis this coming season, we asked someone that covered him closely last season. Bryan Fonseca, Editor at NetsDaily.com, came through in the clutch for us in this piece, and contributed to this Q&A about new Jazzman Ed Davis.
What is Ed Davis’ most valuable skill?
Definitely his rebounding. In Brooklyn, he was legitimately an elite NBA rebounder last season. He averaged 22.8 rebounds per 100 possessions and 17.3 per 36 minutes -- both career-best averages by over three boards. This isn’t to undersell his leadership and toughness, both of which other Nets commended during the season. Jarrett Allen told me about how impactful Davis was from day one. Kenny Atkinson also highlighted Davis’ mentorship with The Fro during the season.
How did Davis contribute as a bench player last season, and how did he affect the game once he got on the floor?
Again, it definitely starts with his rebounding, but he was also a quality defender and decent finisher around the rim. In Utah, he’ll be with a better and deeper team, so I’d expect this impact to at least carry over if not grow. In the event that Rudy Gobert has to miss a few games here or there -- Davis would be a more than willing spot starter at the five. Davis also doesn’t need the ball in his hands, and could set solid screens to open up the floor for Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley, as well as second unit guys like Dante Exum. Him not needing touches will only help, because he is a very skilled rebounder.
Brooklyn was a team that had a very visible team chemistry vibe last year, how did Davis fit into that?
Lot of Nets had a team-first attitude. Ed Davis didn’t mind serving as a back-up to Jarrett Allen, and although he only averaged about 18 minutes per game, he could’ve easily played more under the right circumstances. The Nets are probably more of a finesse team than the Jazz, which will work to Davis’ advantage. He also added an element of toughness the Nets had lacked previously, as did other veterans like Jared Dudley.
Davis will most likely play as the primary backup for Rudy Gobert. How will Davis’ game spell that of Gobert’s, and how might he impact the game differently than Rudy?
Maybe to some degree Ed Davis is a poor man’s Rudy Gobert? It’s not a perfect comparison -- ‘poor’ man for a reason -- but I think the per 36 numbers as playing styles are comparable enough to where one could make the correlation. Ed Davis is a glass cleaner who could run end to end, set screens to set up some pick-and-roll action while providing plus defense. Gobert is all of that, plus, he’s the best defensive big man in the NBA.
Per-36, Davis averaged about 12 points and over 17 boards while blocking 0.8 shots. Since he averaged 18 minutes per game, you could cut his per-36 numbers in half and basically get his season averages. Gobert per 36 was a much better scorer at 18 points, while grabbing 14.5 boards and blocking 2.6 shots. In terms of production, leadership and toughness, Davis is the ideal back-up for someone like Gobert, especially on a contender, which Utah is.
He averaged almost 9 rebounds per game last season coming off the bench and only playing 17 minutes a game. How did he do this?? Was it a noticeable event each night on the floor that Ed Davis was dominating the glass?
Definitely. I covered almost every home game last season and saw plenty of the team on the road. I often looked up and noticed that Davis would have something like six boards through just seven minutes. He could create extra possessions for the Nets in meaningful moments as well.
I documented the Nets issue with stopping other big men during the 2017-18 season at length last spring. It felt like bigs would come into Barclays Center and have career nights on a regular basis. Davis isn’t Hakeem Olajuwon but helped alleviate some of that. Though Allen started, there were at least a handful of times Atkinson trusted Davis to close out games in favor of the younger upstart. I would imagine that’s less likely to happen with Gobert healthy, of course.
He only played one season in Brooklyn, but how did you think Davis impacted the Nets overall last year and what type of impact did he make on organization, team, and fans?
Davis was universally liked to loved by fans, the organization and media. I honestly don’t know what bad thing could be said about him in his one season. I always had pleasant encounters with him as well, as did many media members he spoke to on or off the record.
I recall once asking him about free agency for a story I had been working on early during the 2018-19 season. Seated at his locker maybe about an hour or so removed from tip-off, he almost didn’t even allow me to finish my question before uttering the following: “Man, all these dudes think about free agency. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise. If they say they don’t, they’re lying.” We had a pretty good laugh over that.
What will Jazz fans like most about Ed Davis?
Everything I mentioned above. Given that the Jazz are contending, Davis should become one of those role guys that fans fall in love with, assuming his production carries over, and I have no reason to think it won’t. I’m looking forward to seeing how that develops out there in Utah.
Big shoutout to Bryan for helping us out with this piece. You can follow him on Twitter at @BryanFonsecaNY, and find more of his work at NetsDaily.com covering the Brooklyn Nets, as well as other NBA content at , SLAM, SB Nation, BQE Media, and The Sports Fan Journal. You can also hear him on Ain’t Hard To Tell Podcast and MSG Networks.