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I Owe Glen Davis a Slight Apology

Though I’ve defended Glen Davis against malevolent statistics that show he may not be as good as we think he is, I have often harped on his seeming inability to finish around the rim. I once remarked on this blog that if the NBA kept track of missed lay-ups, Davis would be among the league leaders. 

I was wrong. Last month, I noticed that Eddy Rivera at Third Quarter Collapse had convinced Ryan Parker (aka The Basketball Geek) to send him stats on which teams are best at finishing lay-ups and how well individual members of the Magic complete the short shot. I asked Ryan if he’d produce the same numbers for Boston, and he agreed. The numbers take into account 11 types of lay-ups based on the league’s play-by-play data: alley oop layup, driving finger roll layup, driving layup, driving reverse layup, finger roll layup, layup, putback layup, reverse layup, running finger roll layup, running layup, running reverse layup. They do NOT include dunks

Here is how the Celtics ranked (with attempt in parantheses):

1) House 68% (25)

2) R. Allen 64% (178)

3) Garnett 63% (90)

4) Perkins 61.5% (177)

5) Rondo 60.2% (382)

6) T. Allen 60% (135)

7) M. Moore 57.1% (21)

8) B. Walker 56.5% (23)

9) Glen Davis 55.3% (130)

10) Leon Powe 53.2% (167)

11) Paul Pierce 51.3% (292)

12) Stephon Marbury 50% (24)

Now, before you go off saying “You were right, Glen Davis can’t finish!” here are some lay-up rates for the Magic regulars: Nelson (57.5%), Howard (56.2%), Lewis (56.4%), Lee (57.3%), Alston (51.3%), Turkoglu (52.4). 

So Davis’ percentage isn’t really so bad. In fact, 54 percent was about average for an NBA team this season. Here were the top 10 teams in the league: 

1) Phoenix: 60.8%

2) San Antonio: 59.7%

3) Golden State: 59.7%

4) Cavs: 59.3%

5) Boston: 58.6%

6) Hawks: 57.2%

7) Pacers: 56.8%

8) Wiz: 56.1%

9) Kings: 55.3%

10) Hornets: 55.1%

There may be some correlation between lay-up conversion rate and winning; of the bottom 10 teams in this category, only three made the playoffs this season (Denver, Houston and Philly, who can’t hit threes or lay-ups, apparently). 

In any case, some bullet points on the C’s:

• I’m most impressed with Ray Allen and Rondo here. Especially Allen. That’s a huge conversion rate for a guard. I’ve argued for years that Allen is a craftier finisher around the rim than he’s given credit for, and this gives that argument at least a bit of validation. As for Rondo, I’m never surprised by anything he does anymore.

• Pierce’s conversion rate is a little disturbing. I wonder if it represents a drop-off from his career average. (Maybe I’ll ask Ryan for that data!). He hasn’t run the data on a team-by-team basis (other than responding to requests from us and TQC), so we can’t compare Pierce to other high-usage wings. But it’s interesting that he and Turkoglu both have slightly below average hit rates. They have similar games–neither is fast, neither can leap well, and yet both are creative, herky-jerky scorers who draw contact and take tough shots around the rim.

• Marbury was as awful as we thought.

• It’s sort of amazing that Eddie House took just 25 lay-ups–barely more than Bill Walker, Mikki Moore and Marbury. He really is a one trick pony, as John from Red’s Army said recently. Good thing he’s really good at that one trick.

  • Jim

    Nice info. It’s probably partly situational. Ray seems to generally only go to rim when it’s relatively open, but he finishes quite well when he gets there as he seems to have a wide variety of moves(with either hand) to fool those last few guys. It also probably helps that it isn’t worth fouling him. (Last years finals had a few great examples). Pierce seems to charge into traffic more, with the intent of either finishing or getting to the line. Ray doesn’t really seem to drive past people as much. If there is defenders in the way, he seems to just take the jumpshot.

  • It also strikes me that Ray’s numbers may be helped a bit by the fact that he rarely dunks. So he gets a bunch of sure-thing baskets counted as lay-ins, whereas players with lower lay-up percentages (like Dwight Howard or KG) have hundreds of other baskets via dunks.

  • KG made 65 out of 66 attempted dunks, while Allen made 3 out of 4 attempted dunks.

    For comparison, Dwight Howard made 208 out of 219 attempted dunks.

  • Also, going back to 05-06, Pierce’s layup% has been:

    07-08: 60.1% (296 attempts)
    06-07: 50.7% (197 attempts)
    05-06: 51.8% (218 attempts)

  • Charles

    Glen Davis did a lot of good things these playoffs. You couldnt have expected more then what he did.


  • coque

    as a magic fan who watches every game …

    i can honestly say rafer is the worst finisher in the league .

  • marcou

    Marbury’s numbers stink, but frankly it isn’t much of a sample size. 24 shots? Unless you really want to suggest Moore is better around the basket than Marbury is, we should take these numbers with a grain of salt…

    Also, the Wizards apparently are really cool, too cool for a number…

  • bostongardenJoe