The biggest surprise of the off-season so far for Portland fans has been the Blazers’ decision or inability to get a new contract done with backup center Ed Davis, a real fan favorite. Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report asks the question every Blazers fan is asking right now: was getting Ed off the books worth angering Damian Lillard and CJ Mcolloum?
Highkin sums up Davis’ value nicely:
Davis is the kind of player every team in the NBA is better off having than not. He’s as low-maintenance as they come, and he shows up every day and does his job while never complaining about his role or minutes. He’s appeared in at least 78 games in three of the past four seasons, and the team’s rebound rate last season was 2.2 percent better when Davis was on the court than when he was on the bench, per NBA.com.
After already deciding not to extend qualifying offers to Shabazz Napier and Pat Connaughton, it’s hard to make an argument for not resigning Davis that isn’t about saving money. And you can’t talk about the Blazers’ salary situation without looking back to the Summer of 2016, when expensive deals were done with Alan Crabbe, Meyers Leonard, Evan Turner and Maurice Harkless. With three out of four of those players still on the books, and Andrew Nicholson, a player who never suited up for Portland, counting against the cap as a remnant of the trade to jettison Crabbe, money is tight with no easy way to eliminate the problem. The Blazers will have to pinch every penny if they want to stay under the tax line, and that appears to be exactly what they are doing.
But was letting Davis go worth it? Lillard and CJ haven’t made a formal public comment, but their brief reactions on Twitter would indicate that neither one was well pleased. Highkin states the bottom line:
No matter how the offseason shakes out, unless Olshey is somehow able to unload the contracts of Leonard and Evan Turner, he is facing an uphill battle to improve the roster and keep Portland in an increasingly tough Western Conference playoff picture. Davis was one of the only sure things on the roster, someone with whom the team would never have to worry about production on the court or cultural fit in the locker room. He wanted to stay, and the Nets didn’t exactly blow him away with an offer that would have been out of the realm of what the Blazers could afford. Any way you slice it, losing Davis doesn’t help the Blazers’ cause.
It isn’t completely impossible that letting Davis walk could be a prelude to a signing that that will give Blazers fans some comfort or even real optimism. For now though, fans can be excused for wondering if the team is regressing rather than moving forward.