While the Jazz have been lauded for importing more players capable of spacing the floor on the offensive end, the other side of that coin is the questions that now exist about how it will impact their rebounding and their traditionally elite defense when Rudy Gobert isn’t on the floor.
Gobert himself acknowledged Tuesday after the first practice session of the team’s training camp that the now-departed Derrick Favors “was a guy that people were probably overlooking a little bit,” in terms of Utah’s previous success.
That said, it’s now on free agent addition Ed Davis to fill many of the roles created by Favors’ trade to New Orleans. And while Davis lacks Favors’ offensive touch, he certainly ticks many of the other boxes.
“I’m gonna be myself — I’m not here to replace him, I’m coming here to be myself, I’m gonna do what I do,” Davis said. “Being available, for one; being consistent; toughness; I’m gonna give it all I got. I’m not the most skilled player, but I’d say I’m one of the toughest players in the league, so you’re gonna get that every night.”
“Toughness” is a word that comes up a lot when asking about Davis. It was the first quality Gobert mentioned when asked he’d seen from the 10th-year lefty.
“First of all, I love his toughness. He’s relentless, he doesn’t stop,” Gobert said. “And he likes to win, he’s a competitor. When you have a guy like that on your team, it can only be a positive thing.”
Davis said that he changed gears four or five seasons ago to focusing solely on “defense and rebounding — that pretty much translates with every coach.” And the numbers certainly bear that out, as he’s become one of the league’s elite in both areas.
Last season, Davis ranked second in the NBA in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus metric — trailing only Gobert. Meanwhile, he averaged 5.9 defensive rebounds and 8.6 total in only 17.9 minutes per game — numbers that extrapolate out to 11.9 and 17.3, respectively, per 36 minutes (which ranked him second among all NBA players in both categories).
“He just wants it,” Gobert explained of Davis’ prowess on the boards. “Rebounding, of course you’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to be strong, but it’s about who wants it more. And he wants it. You try to box him out, he’s gonna tip it in or tip it out. He’s always hustling for the ball.”
Asked what he’d seen early from Davis that he liked, coach Quin Snyder quickly responded, “You know, what have I not liked?
“He’s got a presence on the court,” Snyder added. “… His leadership, obviously, is recognized. I think he can do that with us. I think he’s capable. Just his communication defensively, how hard he plays — we want to emulate him. And he’s willing to share, too. Somebody who plays that way can lead by example, but he’s also got a voice — particularly for this to be his first practice.”
For his part, Davis doesn’t expect to be fully replicating Favors’ role of a year ago. Though 6-foot-10 and 225 pounds, he said he’s pretty much a center at this point of his career, so there’s no thought that he’ll be starting alongside Gobert at the four before going on to anchor the paint with the second unit.
That said, he’s very much looking forward to ensuring that there’s not much drop-off when he goes in for the Frenchman.
“Whenever you can play with a guy of that caliber, I can learn a lot of things from him. I can teach him some things, too,” Davis said. “It’s gonna be fun. They brought me here to be his backup, so hopefully I can hold it down when he’s off the court.”