The Los Angeles Lakers may have struck out on their starry-eyed free-agency goals, but they continued filling out their margins with short-term deals by signing forward Ed Davis to a two-year contract on Wednesday.
Davis, 25, will make $2 million over the life of the deal, which includes a player option for the second season, per Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski:
Free agent forward Ed Davis has reached agreement on a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, league source tells Yahoo.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 17, 2014
Davis' deal is two years, $2M, with a player option on the 2015-'16 season.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 17, 2014
A 2010 lottery pick, the Lakers will mark Davis' third team in the last four seasons. He's spent the last season and a half with the Memphis Grizzlies after being packaged by Toronto as part of the Rudy Gay trade.
Working largely as a reserve behind Zach Randolph, Davis averaged 5.7 points and 4.1 rebounds in 63 games last season. The Grizzlies declined to extend him an offer sheet after selecting forward Jarnell Stokes in the second round.
"Ed has many years in front of him in the NBA and there’s no doubt he can have a long and productive career," Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said in a statement. "However, in light of the resigning of Zach Randolph, the continued development of Jon Leuer and the addition of Tennessee native Jarnell Stokes, it's in our best interest to keep our options open.”
While always talented and effective in limited minutes, it's arguable that Davis hasn't gotten a fair shake in either of his two NBA stops. The Raptors struggled to get him consistent playing time amid a crowded front line, and the Grizzlies had established veterans in Marc Gasol and Randolph. Davis has never played 25 minutes per game in a season, and he's started only 58 games over his four-year career.
If anything, Davis' signing in Los Angeles should provide him a marked uptick in playing time. The Lakers, having lost out on Carmelo Anthony and every other major free agent on the market, are following last summer's blueprint by trying build a competitive team while keeping their long-term books clean.
Although they drafted Julius Randle seventh overall in June, Davis shouldn't have much trouble carving out a consistent role. The only other noteworthy bigs on the roster are Robert Sacre and Jordan Hill, who re-signed on a two-year deal earlier this month. We'll have to see the direction they go with the coaching hire, but Davis will probably compete with Hill in training camp for a starting spot.
Nick Young's four-year deal is the only long-term money they've added to their books this summer. Like last year, their plan seems to be signing guys who hadn't gotten a fair opportunity to excel in previous spots and hoping they perform above their pay grade. Mitch Kupchak found rotation players last season in Kendall Marshall, Jordan Farmar and Wesley Johnson, each of whom were on their way or already out of basketball.
Davis was far from the NBA cut line, but his contract still represents a similar potential value. For his career he's averaged 11.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per 36 minutes on the floor. The Grizzlies allowed nearly five points fewer per 100 possessions with Davis in the game last season, per NBA.com. Given the buyer's market this summer—one where the likes of Trevor Booker can get $5 million a season—it's a surprise that Davis didn't attract more attention.
Davis is an above-average defender who can be devastating when using his athleticism and strength on pick-and-rolls. He finished in the 95th percentile of NBA players as a pick-and-roll screener last season, per Synergy Sports. He's also rangy and has enough lateral quickness to blitz out against opposing ball-handlers defensively.
Can't really think of any reason Ed Davis should get such a small contract. Great signing by the Lakers. Bizarre market.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) July 17, 2014
This is a no-loss signing for the Lakers. At around $1 million a season, Davis could become totally unusable on either end of the court overnight and still not hurt the books. Even if he opts in for 2015-16—something the Lakers know is unlikely, much like when they signed Young to a similar deal last summer—he's not going to preclude them from signing a max player.
Either way, it looks like Kupchak wound up with one of the better quality signings of the offseason.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.