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How Good a Shooter Did Glen Davis Really Become?

 

babybuzzerbeaterAs the calendar turns to December (ugh) and Big Baby’s return date nears, there is actually some debate about whether Davis should have to compete with Shelden Williams for back-up minutes.

I’ll be up front: Before the season, I was calling for Davis to play at least 20 minutes a game, and I’ve already written that (in my view) this is a non-debate—of course Big Baby should jump past Shelden in the big man rotation! A few commenters have taken issue with that, arguing that I’m overrating Baby’s chief asset (his jump shot) and his ability to finish in the lane.

So I decided to answer a question: Exactly how good did Baby’s jump shot get by the end of last season?

According to 82games, Baby’s overall field goal percentage on jump shots last season was 36.9—a pretty poor mark that isn’t much better than the sub-35% marks Shelden has put up on jumpers throughout his career. But that percentage is misleading, since the Big Baby Jumper Experiment of ’08-09 (which nearly killed a small child) started horribly and finished well. (Right?)

So what was Baby’s field goal percentage on jump shots in, say, the last 30 games of 2009 and the playoffs? I went through game-by-game shot charts on ESPN.com to find out how accurate Baby’s J was by the end of last season. The answer?

Not as accurate as I had thought. From Game 50 of the regular season through the end of the playoffs, Baby made 91 of 234 jump shots—38.9 percent.

We can further break that down like this:

Regular season games before KG’s injury (six games): 8-of-23 (34.7 percent)

Regular season games after KG’s injury (21 games): 44-of-105 (41.9 percent)

Bulls series (seven games): 18-of-52 (34.6 percent)

Magic series (seven games): 13-of-31 (41.9 percent)

Again, not as accurate as I had thought. I probably would have guessed that Baby upped his jumper accuracy to something like 42 or even 43 percent.

So, where does a 39 percent accuracy rate on jump shots rank among big forwards who shoot a lot of two-point jump shots? Here are some comparisons across the skill spectrum, using FG% numbers on jump shots from last season (via 82games):

• Antonio McDyess: 47 percent

• Pau Gasol: 46 percent

• KG: 45 percent

• Brandon Bass: 44.5 percent

• Chris Bosh: 43.4 percent

• Tim Duncan: 43.4 percent

• Luis Scola: 43 percent

• Udonis Haslem: 42 percent

• David West: 41.6 percent

• LaMarcus Aldridge: 41.6 percent

• Elton Brand: 41.5 percent

• Tony Battie: 41 percent

• Carlos Boozer: 38.7 percent

• Kenyon Martin: 37 percent

• Jason Thompson: 36.7 percent

• Andray Blatche: 35.6 percent

• Tyrus Thomas: 35 percent

There are two ways to look at this:

1) Glen Davis did not become as good a jump-shooter as our collective memory makes him out to be;

2) Glen Davis made considerable progress, and if he can up his jump shot accuracy from 39 percent to 41 percent or 42 percent, he ascends into a group of power forwards generally considered threats from 15 to 20 feet.

But I noticed something interesting as I was going through Big Baby’s shot charts. Take a look at a couple of them.

Game 2 against Chicago:

Picture 5Game 5 against Orlando:

Picture 6What struck me about these two games (and a bunch others): In our Big Baby Jump Shot Mania, we have (or I have, at least) almost forgotten that Big Baby is a power forward capable of making some nifty shots inside. All of those dots in the first shot chart add up to a 7-of-8 shooting game in the paint; in the second game featured here, Baby was 5-of-7 in the painted area.

Overall in the playoffs, Baby shot 47-of-86 (54.6 percent) in the paint and 31-of-83 (37 percent) on jump shots.

Now, 54.6 percent isn’t an outstanding conversation rate on shots in the paint; KG made nearly 65 percent of his shots from in close last season, and David West (to pick a random jump-shooting forward who plays below the rim) converted 59 percent of his close attempts, according to 82games.

Still, 54.6 percent is decent, and it’s a better accuracy rate than Shelden Williams has posted in any of his three seasons (Last season, Shelden converted 45.7 percent of his in-close shots during his brief time in Minnesota and 50.0 percent during his longer stint with the Kings, according to 82games).

Not only that, but Davis was taking those shots in volumes unprecedented for both he and Williams. Those 86 attempts in the playoffs work out to about six per game; over his career, Shelden has averaged just 3.8 field-goal attempts per game in limited minutes. (In fairness, Williams’ shot attempts/36 minutes approach Baby’s numbers, but Shelden took a lot of those shots in short blasts during meaningless games).

I mean, we’ve all seen this with our eyes. Baby has a soft touch and a weird knack for creating tiny spaces and getting shots up in traffic—and knocking those shots down. Shelden just doesn’t have that sort of touch or offensive creativity around the rim.

This is not meant to criticize Shelden Williams. Right now, he’s a better defensive player than Davis and a very good offensive rebounder—and the Celtics need a capable offensive rebounder badly.

But all the numbers we have suggest that Davis is already a better, more polished offensive player than Shelden Williams.

Even if Baby isn’t quite as good as we might have thought.

  • http://vittoriodezen.wordpress.com Vic De Zen

    Nice ending… I was ready to chime in with “but… defense!”

    Anyway, yeah, Big Baby is much better offensively than Shelden. The C’s need his jump-shooting, even if it’s not AMAZING.

  • http://CelticsHub.com Zach Lowe

    @I actually think Baby’s defense in some match-ups is a bit under-rated. The guy has quick feet. Offensively, he’s out of Shelden’s league, though.

  • cmoney

    Davis does seem to fair well 1v1 in the post (some admirable stances against Duncan, for instance), but I have a creeping feeling that this is largely some “underdog bias”, or reverse expectation bias. We expect Davis to stink there, he probably normally does, but when he doesn’t they stick with us.

    Glen just isn’t a good player, in my opinion. I was thrilled, THRILLED, when there were rumors that San Antonio was going to offer him a midlevel deal (all the while knowing the best front office in the league couldn’t be that dumb). His PER and TS% were 10 and .500 last year. Those are bad #s. I know PER is flawed, but any non-defensive stud (Battier, Bowen) who’s registering that low of a # is just bad. His weak scoring efficiency reiterates that.

    I do think the coaching staff’s insistence that he become a jump shooter has hurt him. He wasn’t a great inside scorer to begin with, but like you say, he was passable. We did the same thing to Ryan Gomes, I thought. Turned a guy who had a knack around the rim into a guy who basically doesn’t belong on the court. And we didn’t do the same thing to Powe, we just punished him for being awesome around the rim by playing him less minutes than Glen in each of the past two years, something I think is an absolute travesty.

  • http://www.hoopdata.com Tom Haberstroh

    What a thorough breakdown! From our stats at Hoopdata, looks like he shot 41% from 16-23 feet last year which is above average for a PF. Trbl on short jumpers, though.

    http://www.hoopdata.com/player.aspx?name=Glen%20Davis

  • http://CelticsHub.com Zach Lowe

    @Tom: You stole my follow-up post idea! Hoopdata is fantastic.

  • Nick G

    Check Baby’s rebounding numbers. Compare them with any power forward. Disgusting! He is the most overrated big man around here in a while. I must be watching a different game because I don’t see the knack for scoring around the basket. It felt like he could never finish anything around the hoop when Pierce would lay it down to him in the playoffs. Not a great shooter either but their is room to improve. On a positive note, I thought he was a very good post defender, and he’s not afraid to take the charge.

  • http://CelticsHub.com Zach Lowe

    @NickG: I thought the same thing about Baby’s inability to finish, but it isn’t true. His conversion rate on lay-up-range shots is actually among the best on the team (I posted on this over the summer).

    As for his rebounding, his DRB numbers do stink but his ORB numbers are a bit above average for a forward.

  • slam

    This is a terrible comparison to Shelden Williams. You are comparing Shelden’s data from years past. He is clearly a more efficient and productive player this year. Yeah, sample size is small blah blah, but he’s not the same player he was in Sacramento or Atlanta. Give us some 09-10 Shelden numbers!

  • cmoney

    16-23 ft 2pters are non-ideal shots to begin with, though. Even if he truly is a 41% shooter there (his sample is still rather small), it’s not the first option you want on offense.

  • Tom

    Without looking at numbers, do you guys really want either one to be shooting jumpers? Seriously, do you really want Big Baby or Shelden Williams shooting jumpers as their primary offensive move? As much as I like the result from the Orlando game, I still wouldn’t have Big Baby shoot game winning jumper unless we absolutey have to. Heck, I would rather have Scal shoot the ball!!!!

  • Mo

    Isn’t there a sample size issue here as well? It’s dangerous to say that Big Baby’s 30 game sample is his true ability. Many a GM has overpaid for a 30 game sample at the end of a season.

  • Cas

    He´s a second-round pick.

    It was his second season.

    He stepped up in the playoffs.

    Give me a break, support the kid.

    He´s one of us.

  • Tebucky

    What do you think about Baby stealing some of Sheed’s minutes?

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    @Cas: I’m as big a Baby fan as you’ll find. As I said, I was lobbying for minimum 20 minutes of PT for Baby per game.

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    @tebucky: That’s an interesting thought. I like it.

  • Celtic Nomad

    I want to see how both of them look on the floor with Wallace, Daniels and House. Baby brings a dynamism the second unit needs, and this five–if they can function well at least some of the time–would enable Doc to rest all five starters and not have one on the floor at all times. I can’t believe it hasn’t been considered to be an option after how well Williams has fit in with the Celtics.

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