Utah Jazz: Ed Davis may be their most valuable signing

Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images /

Ed Davis was one of the many moves the Utah Jazz made this offseason. Despite the low name recognition, he could easily be Utah’s most important signing.

Six teams: the Toronto Raptors, Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, Brooklyn Nets and now, the Utah Jazz. These are the teams Ed Davis — owning career averages of 6.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game — has played for in his nine years in the NBA heading into his age-30 season.

None of that may jump off the page, but it was enough for the Jazz to sign him to a two-year, $10 million contract.

That’s because Davis’ value can’t always be found in the box score.

Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune wrote a short writeup after the news broke of the Jazz’s signing of Davis and included a few attention-catching statistics:

"“Let’s start with his defense, where he earned the second-highest number in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus last year, behind only Rudy Gobert. Some of that was because of his lineup situation, but Davis is legitimately an excellent rim protector. Teams shot 3.8% fewer shots at the rim when he was in the game (Gobert’s defense led to 5.4% fewer shots at the rim, in comparison) and 3.9% more mid-range shots (Gobert’s equivalent: 4.1% more).”"

Note that Larsen didn’t specify this was among bench bigs or any other qualifier; Davis held the second-highest number in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus in the entire NBA.

Larsen also specifies that “teams shot 3.8 fewer shots at the rim when he was in the game.” Not every team has a shot-blocker like Gobert on its roster, but fewer have a legitimate pairing of shot-deterrers (meaning someone opponents fear).

What does that mean for Davis’ fit on the Jazz?

Ever since Rudy Gobert has taken over the starting center duties, head coach Quinn Snyder has primarily employed a backup big men committee, or gone small during the time the reigning Defensive Player of the Year is off the floor. Gobert is still only 27, theoretically entering his prime. He hasn’t averaged a single digit minutes average since his rookie season and has averaged minutes in the low 30s the past four seasons. With the addition of Davis, Gobert can take more than a breather without Utah losing too much of his defensive impact.

Davis has averaged around 18 minutes per game over the past three seasons, around the number for a quality bench big.

On top of that, Davis’ rebounding ability has started to get some attention.

Davis was top 15 in total offensive rebounds, finishing the 2018-19 regular season with 216 in 15th place. That total was nine more than now New Orleans Pelican and longtime Jazz man Derrick Favors had, and more than other notable names (and strong rebounders) like Montrezl Harrell, Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Ed Davis also was top 25 in total defensive rebounds, finishing with 478 (ranked 24th). This category includes all positions, but Davis was still ahead of names like Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green.

Per 36 numbers don’t always paint the whole picture, but this might: Davis’ rebounding per 36 minutes would have ranked first and third, respectively, when extrapolated over a whole season.

Now, Davis has attempted four 3-pointers in his career, so he should not be expected to be a stretch-big that many contenders are trying to stock up on. He will bring tenacious rebounding, a steady veteran presence and roster lineup flexibility for Snyder to experiment with.

None of this is meant to disrespect the additions of Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jeff Green or Emmanuel Mudiay. They will all play important roles as the Jazz have crept closer to becoming true title contenders.

Next. 2019 NBA free agency tracker - grades for every deal so far. dark

But every title contender needs an X-factor, and Ed Davis could be Utah’s.