Davis Poised to Prove his Worth

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

In the NBA game of seeking out "upside" that typically focuses on the draft, it's not too often that a team can acquire a young player with plenty of room to grow after four seasons, but the Lakers may have done just that in signing Ed Davis.

"As you know, we’re working on completion of our roster and we feel we’ve made significant improvements and changes and we’re happy to add a young player with a very promising future who’s going to continue to work and develop in this league in Ed Davis,” said Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak.

The 6-10, 225-pounder just turned 25 after his fourth NBA season, but spent much of the last two season behind All-Star caliber big men in Memphis in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.

"The minutes were tough there playing behind Marc and Zach and it was up and down," said Davis. "It was great playing behind both, learning every day in practice and games, just seeing how they score easy and for Marc, picking his brain on the defensive end. For Z-Bo, it’s just all the things coaches can’t really teach that he does, all the intangibles he has and learning from him every night helped me out a lot.

"I feel there’s a better opportunity here … (I'm) looking forward to this opportunity with this great franchise and looking to contribute every night. What I bring is athleticism, defense, running the floor, blocking shots, all the little things."

Davis has been in the NBA since 2010, in fact, when he was selected with the 13th overall pick by Toronto after spending two years at the University of North Carolina, just 21 years old when he came out. After playing a key role in the NCAA-championship winning 2009 UNC team as a freshman, Davis returned for his sophomore season, but played only 23 games before breaking his wrist, averaging 13.4 points, 9.6 boards and 2.8 blocks a game.

Among the reasons the oft-overused "upside" word can apply in Davis' case: he's never averaged more than 24.6 minutes per game, which came during his rookie year (in 65 appearances, 17 starts). He played 23.2 in 2011-12, 20.1 in 2012-13 and 24.2 through 45 games in the 2012-13 season before being dealt to Memphis. Alongside Gasol and Randolph, Davis managed just 15.1 minutes in 36 games to close 2012-13, and 15.2 last season.

Davis was most productive in his last days as a Raptor, averaging 9.7 points and 6.7 boards plus 0.8 blocks in those 24.2 minutes, but his per-36-minute production remained high with his Memphis move:

2012-13 Toronto (45 games): 14.5 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 54.2% FG's
2012-13 Memphis (36 games): 12.2 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 3.1 bpg, 51.7% FG's
2013-14 Memphis (63 games): 13.4 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 53.4% FG's

Of course, there are several big men in particular whose per 36 numbers look terrific, and it's on the player to actually show the ability to earn that much playing time on the court from the coach. In Davis' mind, that's exactly what he's here for. He's very eager to prove himself, and feels that he has a lot more to show on the court than he's yet been afforded the chance to in his first four NBA seasons.

"I'm hungry," Davis told us. "I'm really eager to show what I can do."

Davis said he aims to rely on being a defense presence and trying to protect the rim every night, whether by blocking or just altering shots, which allows him to play either the four or the five on defense. He thinks less about his offense, simply taking what comes to him on that end, but he's done so efficiently throughout his career as a 54.2 percent shooter.

Davis does feel that he's grown in his four-year NBA career.

"The past four years, I got a lot stronger and grew a lot mentally understanding the game because it is a big league going from college to the pros," he explained. "I’m going to keep working every day and continue to build my game and get better."

One could envision Davis playing some minutes alongside rookie Julius Randle, a fellow left-handed player who likes to attack on offense.

"I think he's going to be a really good player in this league," said Davis. "He reminds me of Z-Bo a little bit, but can put it on the floor a little bit better."

So that's two lefties with upside … and throw Xavier Henry in there as well.

Ultimately, of course, Davis just needs to worry about himself.

"Obviously it’s a great organization and franchise and a lot of history here, and a young team," he said. "It’s an opportunity where I can play and help this team win."

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