The Portland Trail Blazers are probably going to lose LaMarcus Aldridge, so they’re taking a high-volume, low-cost approach to finding his replacement.

Ed Davis is the latest addition to the Blazers’ fallback frontcourt, signing a three-year, $20 million contract, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. He joins newly added Mason Plumlee and Noah Vonleh as Portland’s new wave up front, and the youth infusion (Plumlee is 25, Vonleh is 19, and Davis is 26) offers plenty of hope if both Aldridge and fellow free agent Robin Lopez don’t return.

Toss in Meyers Leonard, who last year developed some serious three-point accuracy, and the Blazers have a promising, low-cost quartet, as Mike Tokito of the Oregonian observed:

Promise and surefire production are two different things, of course. None of the four has logged major minutes in the past, and none will come close to approximating Aldridge’s value.

But there’s talent in that group, and Davis, in particular, has a lot to offer.

Ed Education

In 79 games with the Los Angeles Lakers last year, Davis set or tied career-high averages across the board with 8.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.6 steals and 1.2 blocks in just 23.3 minutes per game. It’s always dangerous to put stock in numbers accumulated on a go-nowhere team, and Davis’ minutes with the Lakers last year were almost uniformly meaningless in a big-picture sense.

Rarely was Davis asked to perform when there were real stakes.

Context is a factor, but it doesn’t totally invalidate what Davis did. It’s not like his value is wrapped up in scoring points, which is a statistical category particularly susceptible to garbage-time inflation.

That said, Davis is an efficient point generator. He didn’t shoot enough last year to qualify for the field-goal percentage leaderboard, but according to Lakers.com, if he’d made just 18 more field goals, his 60.1 percent accuracy rate would have ranked second in the league behind DeAndre Jordan.

A volume shooter Davis is not.

The 6’10” lefty’s real value is on the boards, where, according to John Schuhmann of NBA.com, he kept elite statistical company in 2014-15:

Only Jordan, Omer Asik and Tyson Chandler had higher individual rebounding rates than Davis last year.

Those aren’t empty, stat-hunting rebounding numbers either. The Lakers got out-rebounded overall last year and were even worse when Davis was on the bench. But when he played, according to NBA.com, L.A. secured 50.1 percent of available boards.

That’s a modest number, but it indicates Davis is a helpful player.

Defensively, Davis can be slow to react, and his instincts as a helper aren’t great. But his length and athleticism often make up for his deficiencies, as they did on this block against Memphis Grizzlies forward Jeff Green:

Davis is badly beaten, but he recovers to make the play.

That’s not something you want to see from your primary rim protector, but for $20 million over three years, the Blazers can’t possibly envision Davis filling such a vital role. Flaws and all, he’s a valuable commodity.

Moving On

Though it’s remote, there’s always a chance Aldridge comes back to Portland. The Blazers certainly aren’t conducting business as though they’ll have an All-Star power forward eating up 35 minutes per night. The deal sending Nicolas Batum and his $12 million salary to the Charlotte Hornets for Vonleh and Gerald Henderson was the first clue there.

But if Aldridge were to return, Portland would either have the deepest frontcourt rotation in the league or loads of valuable trade bait.

Either way, the Blazers are in a solid position.

Most likely, Davis will come to camp looking for a starting spot, according to Joe Freeman of the Oregonian: “I think there’s a good chance that they’re going to lose LaMarcus and Lopez,” Davis said. “It’s definitely a team I feel like I can come in and get playing time and fight for a starting job. It’s a great fit for me.”

The Blazers’ biggest offseason move was inking Damian Lillard to a five-year deal worth between $125 and $129 million, according to Sam Amick of USA Today. And they aggressively inked combo forward Al-Farouq Aminu to shore up their defensive weak points just as free agency began.

Neither of those transactions will make up for Aldridge leaving, nor will the bevy of other forwards the Blazers have since acquired. 

But that’s not really the point.

Portland can’t control where Aldridge wants to play, and instead of grinding everything to a halt pursuing him, it’s instead facing down reality and making contingency plans.

Though a player such as Davis isn’t an Aldridge replacement, he’s a sure sign that the Blazers are moving on intelligently.

And that counts for something.

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