Every week up until the sounding bell of the player signing period in July, we'll be polling the SS&R writing staff to see what their thoughts are on the Lakers' upcoming free agents, their potential market value and whether or not they'll be in the purple and gold next season. Our first summer free agent: Ed Davis
When he was signed last offseason for the veteran's minimum, most Lakers fans thought Ed Davis could be a potential steal. In many ways, they were right. The big man set career highs in nearly every category, not to mention being one of the few Lakers to emerge from 2014-2015 relatively unscathed. Davis led the team in games played with 79, providing a ton of production in just 23 mpg. At age 25, and hitting the free agent market for the second summer in a row, there's no doubt that the Big Boss is looking for a payday.
What do you feel is a fair free market contract for Ed Davis?
The Great Mambino: Three years and $25 million sounds about right to me, though because of his age I could see four years and $34 million as a possibility as well. Davis has a fairly well defined skill set that's super valuable--a mobile big man who doesn't care if he gets the ball, can finish in transition, can block shots and devours offensive rebounds. In this modern NBA, he's probably not a starter, but a very valuable back-up center off the bench.
Harrison Faigen: Three years at around $21 million? Even with a rising cap, I'm not sure Davis is worth eight figures yearly, but around $7 million per year seems just right. Rim protection and finishing in the pick and roll have a ton of value in today's NBA, and Davis would be a phenomenal bench big for a contender. Perhaps he continues a recent tradition of former Lakers migrating across the hall to the Clippers if they move on from Spencer Hawes.
Tucker Tashjian: 2014-15 was Ed Davis' best season in his professional career. He recorded career highs in points and rebounds, 8.3 and 7.6, respectively. While that doesn't look like much, his play was one of the bright spots throughout a dark season. Davis signed a two-year contract worth a little above $2 million, most importantly he has a player option and will most likely exercise it... And your boy is going to get PAID!!!
Davis should be receiving offers anywhere around 3-5 years worth $15-18 million. Amir Johnson is currently on a five-year $30 million contract, he's averaging 10 and 6 this season and is excessively overpaid. Johnson and Davis have similar stats, similar playing styles, and should be paid similarly. But, like Harrison mentioned, the rising cap will inflate his salary along with everyone else's. He's probably going to get offers valuing him at $8-$10 million per year.
Jameson Miller: While teams may be more willing to make it rain this summer with an eye on the upward trajectory of the salary cap, the players (and their agents) aren't about to let themselves get bamboozled with deals that may undervalue their services at the tail end. It'll be interesting to see how marginal starters like Davis weigh long-term security vs. future potential earning power. Under the current system? I'd say anywhere in the range of $6-$8 million annually over two years with an option for a third belonging to whichever party concedes more on the yearly number.
Trevor Lane: Ed Davis signed with the Lakers for less than market value last off-season, causing many around the league to bemoan the good fortune of Mitch Kupchak. While it seemed that Davis took a giant pay cut, there was actually method to the madness. Davis followed in the footsteps of Nick Young by signing a two-year deal with a player option after year 1 so that he could prove his worth for a season and then cash out the following summer. Since the two employed the same strategy, I'm going to say that Ed gets the same deal Swaggy P did, although slightly larger due to the rising cap: four years, $25 million with a player option after the third year.
What do you think are the mitigating factors in the Lakers pursuing him in free agency?
The Great Mambino: I feel like we'll run into this theme a lot this summer--the mitigating factor here has to be how many high priced free agents the Lakers have in their sights. If Indeed Kevin Love and/or DeAndre Jordan are on the table, then Davis may be an afterthought. It also depends on who the Lakers end up taking in the Draft. If Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns are possibilities, then re-signing Davis (on top of already having Juilus Randle) might not be a priority.
Harrison Faigen: Price (monetary value, not Ronnie), the draft, and who the team signs in free agency. Davis' production this year was nice, but given that he probably tops out as a very good bench big man or decent starter on a good team, the Lakers are not in a position where it is worth overpaying to keep the Big Boss. If the team drafts a center, or signs one in free agency, it may not be worth devoting more payroll to Davis with so many other holes on the roster.
Tucker Tashjian: Free agency has a very artistic balance to it. Initially, teams will overpay the most sought after players; this season will be LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, Kevin Love (if he opts out), and Goran Dragic. At the same time other teams will scavenge the second tiered players and overpay them. While the Lakers will be trying to schmooze some of the big targets they might lose out on Davis when he gets an offer too good to refuse. Tarik Black is essentially the same player as Ed Davis, and is under contract still. If the Lakers lose out on Davis, it wouldn't be the end of the world.
Jameson Miller: Ultimately, the biggest factor in what the Lakers choose to do with Davis is their own self-image. How do the Lakers see themselves? I believe Mitch Kupchak when he says he won't mortgage the Lakers future to get 40 wins, but that still doesn't hint much at what strategy the team intends to employ to get to 50, or 60. Are the Lakers going to keep shedding non-superstar salary to try and keep the deck clear for a big free agent splash? Are they going to get on board with the trendy, yet cold-hearted business of acquiring players and riding their ballistic arcs to the apex of their value before jettisoning them for greater assets? As with most things, some combination of the two is likely needed.
Trevor Lane: While Ed Davis has been one of the Lakers best players this season (his PER is the best on the team by far), there are a few decisions that will be made before free agency starts that will determine whether or not Mitch Kupchak sends him an offer. First and foremost, the Lakers have to find out if they keep their pick or not. Let's assume they do, because the basketball gods have to cut the them a break at some point, right?. If they end up selecting a big like Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, or Willie Cauley-Stein that will mean there is one less spot available in an already crowded frontcourt rotation.
From there, a decision needs to be made on Jordan Hill and Robert Sacre, who both have team options. Should either of them have their options picked up it will be less likely that Davis returns, but Jordan Hill in particular has an expensive $9 million contract that would make it a near certainty that Davis won't find the money he deserves in LA.
The final hurdle that has to be cleared is the other free agents the Lakers pursue. If they land one of the marquee bigs like LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, or Greg Monroe they probably won't be able to afford to bring back Davis and still have enough cap space to round out the rest of the roster.
Do you feel that the Lakers should bring Ed Davis back next year?
The Great Mambino: Unfortunately for Davis (or maybe just his future with the Lakers), I feel like his signing is going to be one of the last dominoes to fall. He's far back in priority if the Lakers take a big man in the Draft, if they can sign Love or Jordan and if they deem Jordan Hill's skill set more valuable than Davis' youth. Even though I see a ton of value with Ed, I see the Lakers shooting for bigger targets and him slipping from their grasp.
Harrison Faigen: If Mitch Kupchak and company grab a guard or wing in the draft and there are not many centers available in the musical chairs of free agency, the price could end up being right to retain Davis. Otherwise, probably not.
Tucker Tashjian: I'm a big Ed Davis fan. But I feel like he will get offers from other teams that the Lakers shouldn't and won't match, ultimately letting him go. Ed Davis, it's been real.
Jameson Miller: In the words of Reverend Lovejoy: short answer, "yes" with an "if". My answer is yes, but of course, only if the price is right. Davis has had a great year in limited minutes on an awful team, so valuing him accurately comes with all sorts of potential pitfalls and caveats. On the one hand, he's an advanced metrics darling the likes of which fogs up the wayfarer glasses of certain GMs around the league. Big Boss ranks favorably in categories like PER and rebound percentage, but he could also become a case of diminishing returns, where his ultra-efficiency wanes in a larger role. While the Lakers certainly shouldn't hamstring their future flexibility by going Billy King all over everyone, they also need to be thinking "assets, assets, assets". This team's universe is still in the uninhabitable poisonous gas phase, with no real shape yet to emerge from the primordial ether. That's OK - at this stage, the Lakers would be best served to focus on gathering as many players and picks with as much value as possible, not necessarily sculpting a fully formed team where the pieces fit together flawlessly. They need to hoard elements that can eventually be converted into more highly evolved life forms, or at least form the basis of a more livable planet in order to keep their evolution moving along rather than staying stuck in a primitive state in hopes of achieving sentience with one fell swoop.
Trevor Lane: I like Ed Davis, but I'm going to say no, they shouldn't bring him back. He is a fantastic player but his shortcomings limit his usefulness. His slim frame kills his effectiveness as a center by making it tough for him to stand his ground defensively against bigger players, while his complete lack of a jump shot makes it difficult to play him at power forward because he tends to clog the lane on offense. In an ideal situation he would play next to a big, strong center who can defend in the post and also has the range to step out to the three-point line on offense. Players like that are a rare breed, and finding such a specific skill set just to make Ed Davis more effective doesn't seem like a worthwhile endeavor.
Additionally, the contract year effect has to be considered here. Davis has known since the middle of July that this entire season would essentially be an audition for his next contract and that millions of dollars were at stake. His PER jumped from 15.9 to 20 from last season to this one, and his previous career-high was 18.1. That large of a jump raises some red flags. It's certainly possible that he is just growing as a player, but the Lakers got burned by giving a long-term deal to Nick Young when he posted career numbers in a contract year last season, so they might be wise to proceed with caution.
The bottom line is that as the first big off the bench Davis can be a valuable asset, but for now the Lakers need to focus on spending their precious cap space on starting-quality talent, and unfortunately that would appear to leave Ed Davis out in the cold.