Not much has gone according to script for the Lake Show this season. Kobe Bryant is out for the year, again. Hyped rookie Julius Randle broke his leg in his first game. Typically, this would be the time of year when the Lakers would be fighting for playoff seeding. Today, they fight for lottery seeding.
While things are undoubtedly bad in Hollywood, there have been some bright spots. Jordan Clarkson has emerged as a possible building block, and the rookie should be around for a while. This past offseason, the Lakers stole Ed Davis on a two-year minimum contract, and the big man has played well. Davis can opt out of the second year of his deal, which is something he plans on doing.
Davis could stay on a bad team for $1 million next season or seek a bigger, longer contract, something he has earned. Davis, a 6-10 power forward, will get paid by someone, and it very well could be the Lakers. Big men tend to have longevity in the league (just ask JaVale McGee), and while Davis may never be a huge difference maker, he can be an effective role player.
What makes him such an attractive piece to the puzzle? His averages of 8.4 points and 7.5 rebounds may not blow you away, but he plays only 23.5 minutes per game, so his numbers naturally aren’t inflated.
The per-36 numbers are a better way to evaluate Davis, and he’s averaging 12.9 points per 36 minutes, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Again, not great, but it looks a bit better, and the list of people he’s averaging more points per 36 than is interesting. That list includes: Glen Davis, Spencer Hawes (the Clippers’ horrible reserve bigs), Tyson Chandler, Rudy Gobert and Steven Adams. Rest assured, the Clippers would love to have someone like Davis on their team to keep Hedo Turkoglu and company far, far away from basketball activities.
Now, scoring isn’t everything in the NBA, and per-36 numbers aren’t always the best way to evaluate a player. But in Davis’s case it can be helpful, and the rebounding per-36 numbers favor the big man as well. He’s averaging 11.5 boards per 36 minutes, and that puts him in some solid company. To put his numbers in some context, below him are Kenneth Faried, Kevin Love, Tim Duncan, Anthony Davis (!) and LaMarcus Aldridge.
While most of these players ranking below Davis in these stats are intrinsically more valuable to their team than Davis, the fact remains that he has value.
Davis isn’t without his flaws, of course. Defensively, he has some potential as a rim protector, although he hasn’t been that great this season. He has the 16th-highest opponent field goal percentage (53.0 percent) in the league among those who defend at least five field goal attempts per game at the rim, according to NBA.com.
Although his defensive stats at the rim aren’t great, he holds opponents below their average field goal percentage while within six feet of the hoop, according to NBA.com. Within six feet, Davis has held opponents to 53.1 percent shooting compared to the 59.6 usual field goal percentage. So it’s not all bad.
Davis’s lack of a perimeter game is also a weakness, especially in today’s pace and space NBA where big men who can shoot it are the trend. Davis doesn’t have much of a jumper, but he’s very efficient at finishing at the rim, making nearly 69 percent of those attempts, per Basketball-Reference. Most of those baskets are quick-strike hoops rather than ball-stopping post-ups, as SportVU data shows that 83.8 percent of his possessions come while touching the ball for two seconds or less.
All told, Davis is a solid role player who can bring some energy off the bench, and he should be in line for a raise this summer. Depending on how much that raise is, it may wind up being another steal. He’s still young at just 25 years old, although it feels like he has been around awhile. He has already been on three different teams in five seasons, but perhaps he can find a long-term home in the summer.