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The Re-Re-Invention of Glen Davis: Is It Working?

 

In three NBA seasons, Glen Davis has been three different players—or, more accurately, one kind of player in his first and third seasons and another kind of player in his second season.

The evolution of Baby from inside banger to jump-shooting forward and back again to inside banger has been fascinating to watch. It’s unclear now if Baby’s second evolution—back to being an inside player on offense this season—is an accident related to his pre-season hand injury or an intentional step by the team to make up for the new lack of offensive rebounding and foul-drawing among Boston’s big men (i.e. the loss of Leon Powe and the introduction of Sheed).

But the change in Baby’s game is stark. Check out his shot selection numbers, courtesy of Hoopdata.com:

At rim                   < 10 feet *            16-23 feet

2008 (941 mins)           73-134                    16-37                    14-38

2009 (1633 mins)         89-150                    19-57                    81-197

2010 (458 mins)            35-71                     12-19                     5-21

*Does not include shots at the rim

Some dramatic changes, huh? But are they the right changes for Davis and the team?

The trends are obvious: Last season, Baby migrated away from the rim and became a decent jump-shooter.

This season? So far, he’s barely shooting jumpers and is back to scoring from the post and on screen/rolls in the paint.

But Davis is also a far less efficient scorer at the rim today. The average power forward hits about 62 percent of his shots at the rim, according to Hoopdata. Big Baby, as you can see, is under 49 percent.

And that, my friends, is godawful. According to Hoopdata, there are 66 power forwards averaging more than 10 minutes per game. Big Baby’s percentage on shots at the rim ranks him 63rd in that group. The three players behind him? One was recently called up from the D-League (Chris Richard). The other two (Darrell Arthur and Shavlik Randolph) have appeared in 9 games combined.

Big Baby ranks below every other power forward—even Yi Jianlian, Jared Jeffries and Eddy Najera, three of the least competent offensive players on Earth.

Davis has always been a below average at-the-rim finisher (54 percent as a rookie, a much better 59 percent last season), but what’s happening now is unacceptable.

But we have to look at more than inside shooting percentage to decide if this New/Old Baby is helping the club.

For instance: If he maintains his current pace, Glen Davis could finish the season as one of the top-five offensive rebounders in the NBA. After Thursday’s game, Baby is grabbing about 15.7 percent of available offensive rebounds. (Basically, this means that if the C’s miss 100 shots with Baby on the court, Davis will rebound about 16 of those misses).

Right now, only two guys who have played at least 500 minutes top that mark, according to Basketball Reference: Jon Brockman (a Rodman-ian 19.0 percent) and Greg Oden (15.9). Only a couple of others crack 15 percent—Kevin Love (15.5) and DeJuan Blair (15.4).

People forget this, but Davis was a monster offensive rebounder in his rookie season; he grabbed nearly 13 percent of available ORBs in ’08, a mark that usually ranks between 10th and 15th in the league.

Last year? He dropped down to about 9.4 percent, a still-solid mark that ranked 22nd among 81 forward who qualified for the scoring title.

Of course, it’s hard to quantify how many of Baby’s offensive boards come when he rebounds his own (plentiful) misses. But offensive rebounding, even if you’re just grabbing your own bricks, produces other benefits.

Example: Davis is also back to drawing fouls at the same rate this season as he did during his rookie year after a drop-off in ’09:

2008: 5.7 free throw attempts per 36 minutes

2009: 3.9 free throw attempts per 36 minutes

2010: 5.2 free throw attempts per 36 minutes

His game is clearly evolving or de-volving, depending on how you look at it. This could all be an accident linked to his pre-season hand injury. Baby couldn’t work on his jumper during his recovery, and instead worked on becoming a polished finisher with his left hand. His jumper is rusty as a result.

But this re-re-invention of Big Baby might also be an intentional adjustment to the team’s new personnel. You could argue that last season, the team needed Davis to become a perimeter threat, especially once KG went down. Thanks largely to Davis and Leon Powe, the C’s were already a good offensive rebounding team (#8 in the league) and already drew a lot of fouls (#7 in the league in free throw attempts per field goal attempt).

But the bench lacked a reliable jump-shooter outside of Eddie House, and the starting front line suddenly had the same hole once KG’s knee gave out in Utah in mid-February. Suddenly, Baby’s jump shot was a badly-needed commodity.

Now? KG is back (knocks on several wood or wood-like surfaces), Powe’s gone, the team ranks 28th in offensive rebounding and the second-unit has a big guy (Sheed) who can stretch the floor with his jump-shooting.

By grabbing offensive boards and migrating back to the paint, Baby may be giving the 2010 C’s exactly what they need most. If Davis has realized this and changed his game—again—to fit the team’s needs, he deserves enormous credit for doing so. (And he deserves credit even if he’s doing this under the orders of the coaching staff).

Of course, this could all be an injury-related coincidence. And  he may not be helping the team at all if he can’t finish around the rim.

Readers: What kind of player should Baby be?

  • Jay P

    I love what he’s doing, but he’s got to finish those opportunities.

    The blocks I can live with, Baby is a banger, he can body guys up underneath, and good luck muscling him off the block. But he doesn’t have the length of other big men, so the blocks are going to happen, it’s inevitable.

    But he’s clearing space, getting good looks at the rim, then missing lay ups. That’s unacceptable, he needs to work on getting that soft touch off the glass.

  • steve

    Davis HAS TO find a way to finish around the rim. Like Charles Barkley in the past and Dejuan Blair currently you have to finish at the hoop. It seems Davis is similar in size and style to those players and many more like him. It drives me crazy watching him get great inside position and get stuffed right at the rim. Whether he needs to make a quicker move with the ball or find a better move remains to be seen. I hope he finds it because with his offensive rebounding knack he can be a great player for many years.

  • cmoney

    umm.. baby just sucks. Really bad. Can we just stop talking about him? The most remarkable thing about his career is in each of his 3 seasons he got minutes at the 4 that other players deserved more (first Powe, who was MUCH better and it tilts me how Doc treated him, and now Shelden).

    .50TS% for a PF who bangs is atrocious. He can’t draw fouls to save his life. His rebound rate is inflated by his own misses (I can possibly have a friend check on this, he keeps a pbp db). For some reason, Doc loves playing this loaf. Doc is a whole other can of worms.

    What kind of player should he be? A bad one. The universe is just. Most overweight guys with subpar reach aren’t very good at NBA level basketball.

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    @cmoney is on the money. i can’t see baby getting minutes with any other coach/team. after next year with the celts he’ll be picked up short-term by someone else and he’ll be limited to 5min/game as an 11th man. compare him to brandon bass who gets no burn on a contender, bass is a waaaaaay better banger than baby.

    no doubt he brings energy on the O glass, but I doubt it actually produces any offense…..he gets stuffed more than a thankgiving turkey. they are so predictable they seem to unfold in super-slow motion. thats not going to change unless he sheds 20+ pounds or he gets durant to volunteer for an arms transplant. he is trapped in the body of robert ‘tractor’ traylor and thats just not going to change.

    i like baby, he plays hard and gets the most out of his abilities. did anyone see his baby swag come back last night after he snapped shaqs thumb. next whistle he pushed his face right into whoever he was covering before the inbounds and was giving him that creepy baby swag smile-stare. hilarious :)

    can anyone get the % of his shots that get blocked? it has to be tops in the league….

  • Charlie

    It’s funny. I had noticed the same thing, but you put the numbers to back it up. I anecdotally had observed both his increased shots in the paint and increased offensive boards.

    I think they’re connected– both due to the fact that he cleans up his own misses and because if he’s playing closer to the rim on O it’s easier for him to grab those boards. And with no Leon, that’s a really important thing.

    I think it’s intentional. He learned to shoot the J ’cause Doc told him to, and now he’s doing what the team needs again. I would have liked to trade him for Augustine, but I have to say– I understand why Doc likes him. His ability to guard guys 6 inches taller than him helps too.

  • josh drown

    What should baby be????? baby should be on the END of the bench! sheldon williams should get his minutes. baby is not effective this season. we did much better when sheldon was filling in for him earlier this season!

  • cmoney

    “can anyone get the % of his shots that get blocked? it has to be tops in the league….”

    According to 82games, 30% of his “inside” shots are blocked. That’s an astronomical number. Hoopdata says 24% of all his shots are blocked. Also astronomical. Also the source of much of his O-rebounding.

    In my non-scientific approach of clicking around 82games checking on solid PF and C’s numbers, it seems most guys fall in the 8-13% range of inside shots blocked. Only good offensive player I found outside this range was Carl Landry (17%).

    Hoopdata has Blkd% for the league, this is of total shots. To me the #s look a little shaky, so maybe a grain of salt here, but Glen Davis is in fact worst in the league (discounting the 4 guys worse because it was only a 1 or 2 game sample). I’m gonna go ahead and guess getting that many minutes and that many shots stuffed is historically bad.

  • Dan

    I don’t know about historically, but in the last 4 years the only player averaging 10+ minutes to even break 20% for blocks against is Joel Pryzbilla in 2007 and BBD is up around 25%. So if not historically, it’s at least epically bad.

  • Dan

    I agree though that it’s not all on him. An ongoing problem like this after a while is just as much on Doc as on him. I see a connection between this and his inability to get ‘Sheed to take good shots.

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

    @all: Baby’s #s in terms of shots he has blocked are off the charts for as far as the data goes back. But so are Carlos Boozer’s. Baby’s are worse, yes, but that stat alone doesn’t discredit him as player.

  • cmoney

    no, his inability to do much of anything of value is what discredits him as a player.

  • cmoney

    and boozer’s #s are pretty normal.

  • GranTur

    Baby needs another offseason of getting in shape and recovering from his thumb.

    Despite these two things, he still puts in a 100% hefty effort… :)

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

    @cmoney: Boozer has historically been one of the most frequently-blocked players in the league. Hardwood Paroxysm has been tracking this stat this season (via Hoopdata) and looking back in the past as well.

  • jeremy

    should have kept powe instead of big baby said that from the start and will stand by
    fat jump shooter vs low post beast
    leon powe is everything the celts want big baby to be

  • cmoney

    hoopdata’s #s for the past 4 years have boozer as pretty normal. I’m not sure where you’re seeing it. His hightest blkd% is 10.5%. That’s pretty standard for post players.

    Also, I’ve got #s on Big Baby’s offensive rebounding. I’m not allowed to divulge exact #s (proprietary), but let’s just say a high % are off of his own misses. Enough to shift his o-rebounding % from “very good” to “pretty average”.

    jeremy,

    kind of agree but I understood Ainge’s concern with the knee injury. However, I have a feeling that even if that injury didn’t happen, they would opt for Baby over Powe if they could only get one.

  • rav

    @Steve,

    Blair and Barkley were undersized but they had wingspan/length to their advantage. However, Baby has regular sized arms, so he is blocked easier

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