Los Angeles Lakers Find Fantastic Free-Agent Steal with Ed Davis Signing

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2014

MEMPHIS, TN - MAY 3: Ed Davis #32 of the Memphis Grizzlies warms up against the Oklahoma City Thunder before Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs on May 3, 2014 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Someone call the cops.

Free agency has been burglarized—ransacked of logic and sensibility.

Our culprit is the Los Angeles Lakers, who stole—yes, stole—Ed Davis from the open market, per Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski:

This happened.

The Lakers signed Davis. 

They stole Davis.

Terrific Terms

MEMPHIS, TN - DECEMBER 28: Ed Davis #32 of the Memphis Grizzlies dunks against the Denver Nuggets on December 28, 2013 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photogr
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Everything about this deal has "obnoxious bargain" written all over it.

It's essentially a one-year pact that ensures the Lakers will have maximum financial flexibility next summer when stars like Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo and Marc Gasol are expected to be available.

That's not a coincidence. The Lakers are looking to summer 2015 as their championship lifeline, their last opportunity to assemble a title contender around the aging Kobe Bryant. They structured Jordan Hill's deal in similar fashion:

Davis' is different in that he holds a player option, so the choice is his. And it's different because it doesn't actually matter whether he opts in. That's how cheap he is. 

Paying him an average of $1 million this season and next won't diminish the Lakers' spending power or cost them a shot at chasing stars. Locking him down at this price is, in fact, a selling point for prospective targets.

He won't actually opt in, of course. Barring injury or a performance of unprecedentedly bad proportions, he will reach free agency once again, where there should be more money waiting for him.

There should have been more money waiting for him now.

At a time when Trevor Booker secured a two-year, $10 million deal from the Utah Jazz, there should have been a bigger, more lucrative pact awaiting Davis.

There wasn't.

And the Lakers aren't complaining.

Tremendous Upside

Danny Johnston/Associated Press

Unlike most players who have bounced around and struggled to get consistent playing time, Davis isn't a true castoff. He's been the victim of circumstance more than anything.

Drafted 13th overall by the Toronto Raptors in 2010, Davis never cracked 25 minutes per game. Two-plus years into his tenure there, he was shipped to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of the Rudy Gay trade.

While with the Grizzlies, his playing time plummeted. Then-head coach Lionel Hollins wasn't known for fielding youngsters extensively, but little changed in 2013-14 with Dave Joerger at the helm.

Davis averaged just 15.2 minutes through 99 games in Memphis. His limited playing time has been inexplicable to this point. That's where the Lakers benefit most; they're acquiring a productive player on a beggar's dime.

Last season alone, Davis averaged 13.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per 36 minutes. Six other players reached benchmarks of 13 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per 36 minutes while also connecting on at least 53 percent of their shots: Andre Drummond, Serge Ibaka, Marcin Gortat, Dwight Howard, John Henson and Jordan Hill.

On offense, Davis can score in a variety of ways. His athleticism and ability to play above the rim are underestimated, and he knows how to create opportunities for himself off the ball; he ranked sixth in points scored per possession as the slasher within pick-and-rolls last year, per Synergy Sports (subscription required).

The 25-year-old is a serviceable defender as well. His help defense is weak and he can be picked off on screens set by thicker forwards and centers rather easily, but he's solid in individual situations.

Opposing power forwards registered a 13.8 player efficiency rating per 48 minutes when being guarded by him, according to 82games.com. Centers didn't fare much better, recording a 14.8 PER against him.

Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes offers a glimpse into some of the other things he can do:

The lefty moves extremely well, and though he doesn't have a highly polished post arsenal, his touch and tough-to-time delivery makes him effective around the rim.

In his career, Davis has converted an excellent 69.6 percent of his shots from 0-3 feet, per Basketball-Reference.com. Last season, he made 64.8 percent of his attempts in the restricted area, per NBA.com. Neither of those numbers are elite, but they're both quite good.

Good. Not elite, but good. That has come to define Davis' career trajectory.

Aspects of his game are still raw. He has some range on his jumper, but not much. He converted 35.3 percent of his field-goal attempts outside 14 feet last season and didn't even take a shot outside 19 feet, according to NBA.com.

For all we know about Davis, there is still so much we don't. 

And that's part of the intrigue. 

That's part of the bargain.

Opportunity Is Knocking

MIAMI, FL - MARCH 21: Ed Davis #32 of the Memphis Grizzlies enters the court before the game against the Miami Heat on March 21, 2014 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading a
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

The Lakers, Davis' third team, figure to be the first club that can promise him extensive playing time. Hill, Robert Sacre and rookie Julius Randle make up their frontcourt at the moment, which guarantees Davis minutes. 

This, in itself, is huge. Monstrous. The Lakers are basically paying the bare minimum to find out who Davis is, who he can be.

Has he been victimized by stringent rotations and stubborn refusals to allow for development, or is he merely a former lottery pick doomed to make his presence felt in short bursts?

One day soon, the Lakers will know. Or they'll at least have a better idea.

They have the luxury of patience. They aren't built to contend next season. Bryant will never cop to this, but it's the truth. And it's this period of transition that allows Los Angeles to see what Davis thinks everyone else has been missing.

"I still feel I'm a starter in this league," he said in June, per the Commercial Appeal's Ronald Tillery, "and I'm gong to prove a lot of your colleagues wrong."

Young, cheap and teeming with potential, Davis gives the Lakers someone they need, someone who helps them now and keeps next summer's planned spending binge alive.

In return, the Lakers will give Davis what the Raptors never did and what the Grizzlies couldn't.

A chance to prove himself.

*Stats via Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.


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