There's no question that San Diego State has the potential to be a stellar defensive team next season, especially with the addition of lockdown perimeter defender Dakarai Allen.
But with Chase Tapley and James Rahon graduating and superstar wing Jamaal Franklin headed to the NBA (a trio that accounted for just over 54 percent of SDSU's offensive production last season), the most daunting question mark surrounding the team will be who will handle the scoring load.
Which is why it was so important that the Aztecs were able to land fifth-year graduate transfer Josh Davis, who was a double-double machine at Tulane last season and averaged a team-best 17.6 points and 10.7 rebounds. Throughout his entire transfer process Davis never spoke with the media about all the schools that were interested in him (and there were a whole lot, all over the country), which is probably why he didn't get as much hype as some of the other highly-touted transfers on the market. But he was arguably the top fifth-year transfer available this offseason and will play a big part in filling the massive void left by Jamaal Franklin's departure.
Franklin was heavily counted on to shoulder the scoring load (17.0 points per game) last season and was the catalyst of the offense, especially when starting point guard Xavier Thames went down with his back injury and was limited for a good part of the season when he did return.
While not as perimeter-oriented as Franklin, Davis is the type of long, athletic forward with good size (6-foot-8, 215 pounds) that SDSU has been successful with -- think Billy White, Malcolm Thomas and yes, Kawhi Leonard -- and can put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways. He is dangerous driving inside and attacking the rim, but can also score with his back to the basket, which is a valuable addition to an SDSU squad that lacked a big scoring threat in the post last season. Davis is expected to play big minutes (deservedly so) and the Aztecs will likely give him the freedom to showcase his offensive repertoire.
For how integral Franklin was to SDSU's offensive attack this past season, Davis actually took 12 more shot attempts and played an average of 2.6 minutes per game more than Franklin. The key is that Davis was more effective with his attempts, as he shot 49.2 percent from the field and actually got to the free throw line 53 more times than Franklin did. Davis says he's also trying to add more perimeter skills (he attempted only two three-pointers last season, making one) and refine his post game this summer.
Sure, Davis faced lesser competition while at Tulane, so he may not match those impressive statistics during his year at Montezuma Mesa. But with him in the mix, Skylar Spencer and James Johnson won't be under so much pressure to develop their post scoring skills in a hurry. Since he also played some minutes at the five during his time at Tulane, Steve Fisher and the rest of the coaching staff have to be salivating over the depth and matchup versatility that Davis will add to the front court (do they pair him up with a traditional big man like Spencer? Go with a versatile three-forward lineup of Davis, J.J. O'Brien and Winston Shepard? Or *insert any one of the multiple lineup scenarios here*? Only time will tell).
But the first-team all-Conference USA selection will be more than just a scoring threat. SDSU media relations compiled a nice little statistic relating to Davis' 374 rebounds in 35 games last season: "To put it in perspective, his total would rank third on SDSU's all-time single-season rebounding chart behind Al Skalecky's 394 in 1967 and Kawhi Leonard's 380 in 2011." Davis can also guard multiple positions and make a difference on the defensive side of the ball, as he led Tulane in blocks (30; 0.9 per game) and ranked third in steals (28; 0.8 per game).
Whichever way you look at it, landing Davis was a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth for San Diego State; the winning goal in extra time; the go-ahead three-pointer right before the clock hits all zeros in the second half. He'll provide the legit scoring threat that SDSU so desperately needs next season, should replace Franklin's production on the boards, will be a great one-year front court bridge to Angelo Chol becoming eligible in 2014-15, and may end up being the difference between the Aztecs just falling short of the NCAA Tournament or comfortably earning a spot in the Big Dance. If another three-point shooting threat emerges (Matt Shrigley? Dwayne Polee?) to pair with Thames, then the Aztecs will be a dangerous contender in the Mountain West and will have a chance to make some noise next March.