The Brooklyn Nets will have D’Angelo Russell representing the franchise at the All-Star Game. Rodions Kurucs and Jarrett Allen will be in the Rising Stars Challenge and Joe Harris will be in the Three-Point Contest during All-Star Weekend as well.
Brooklyn, however, has been a team that has thrived because it is the sum of their parts. Head coach Kenny Atkinson tells HoopsHype that Ed Davis has been the glue that has kept the team together all season long.
“It’s the rebounding. It’s his toughness,” said Atkinson. “It’s his presence around the team. He coaches those young guys. He was a fantastic addition.”
Players on the team agree with Atkinson, noting how Davis has been integral to the success they have had thus far. The 2009 NCAA champion has far exceeded expectations after signing for the mid-level exception (MLE) with the Nets this offseason.
“Don’t forget Ed,” exclaimed Russell, after completing his media obligations following a victory over the Sacramento Kings on January 21. “Don’t let that rebounding sensation go unnoticed.”
Davis has an offensive rebounding percentage that currently ranks in the 99th percentile among all players at his position, per Cleaning the Glass. He’s averaging a career-high 5.6 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes thus far. The 6-foot-10 big man has had eight offensive rebounds (second-most from any non-starter) off the bench multiple times this season.
“Offensive rebounds are deflating,” Davis told HoopsHype. “When the other team gets them against us, it crushes us. You play good defense for 20 seconds and then there is an offensive rebound, kick it out for a three, it hurts. It changes the momentum. Those plays turn the game around. So I try to do that to my opponents.”
His team ranks No. 7 in offensive rebound percentage, which is just the second-time that Brooklyn has ranked Top 10 in this category since CTG began tracking this statistic back in 2003-04.
Atkinson credits Davis for keeping the younger players on his roster inspired and willing to hustle for opportunities that define winning mindsets.
“It’s funny how personnel changes your philosophy,” Atkinson told HoopsHype. “We’ve become this really good offensive rebounding team. I wish I had a PowerPoint presentation for you to show how much he has meant to us. He influences everybody else to go after that thing and get us extra possessions.”
Brooklyn is averaging 12.8 offensive rebounds per 100 possessions during the 1,006 total minutes with Davis on the court. According to NBAWowy, that has dropped to 10.4 offensive rebounds per 100 during the 1,716 minutes the Nets have been without Davis.
When asked what has allowed him to be such an elite force snaring boards, he credits opponents playing farther from the basket.
“The way the NBA is going, a lot of teams are going small,” the eight-year veteran said. “So I have the advantage down low. Teams are spacing the floor so it’s one-on-one near the basket, me versus just someone else rather than multiple people. I like my chances in those situations. I just try to predict where the ball is going to go as soon as the shooter releases it. I’m going to always be in the right place at the right time. I react as fast as possible.”
This has also been the most common way to score for Davis, who has finished over one-third of his offensive possessions by way of offensive rebound. It has been the most-used play type for him to generate scoring this season.
“We don’t really throw the ball in the post,” explained Davis. “So it’s another way for me to get easy buckets for the team and get myself going.”
Davis has scored 125 points on putbacks so far this season. According to Synergy Sports, that currently ranks No. 7 among all players in the Eastern Conference.
The way he continues to fight for another opportunity after the first one does not go in shows how relentless, tough and purposeful he is on the court. The man does not give up and is able to create so many extra points for his team thanks to pure will and determination.
The 29-year-old ranks Top 10 in second-chance points (142) among all players in the East. But he has played fewer minutes than any of the players that are ranked ahead of him. There are 307 NBA players who have appeared for 500 minutes or more this season. Only four have scored more second-chance points per 36 minutes (5.2) than Davis.
“He gets extra possessions for the team,” said teammate Spencer Dinwiddie. “You just know he’s one of the best rebounders in the league. Period. Point blank. He wants it more. He is going to do it. He lets you know that he is going to get it and then he follows up on his word. We have confidence in him.”
Earlier this season, we wrote about how Davis has been valuable in creating so many screen assists for Harris. It’s this kind of mentality that allows him to be a mentor to Allen and several of the younger players in Brooklyn.
This tenacity has also helped the Nets become one of the NBA’s grittier teams.