About a month ago, I wrote about the very strange evolution of Glen Davis’ short NBA career. He started out as a banger in his rookie year, evolved into a jump-shooter in 2009 and turned rather suddenly back into an interior banger this season. I argued that Davis deserved credit for these adaptations, since they showed his willingness to morph into whatever the team needed him to be. When the team’s only jump-shooting front court player (KG) went down with a season-ending injury, Davis developed a jump shot.
Davis missed the start of this season with a silly hand injury, and the Celtics, with Rasheed Wallace playing Leon Powe’s minutes (and more), turned into a poor offensive rebounding team that didn’t draw fouls with the same frequency it once did. Davis came back and tried to fill that void by crashing the offensive glass and attacking the rim.
This is a simplistic narrative, I realize. Davis was working on his jumper before KG got hurt last season, and his J may have been rusty when he returned this season because he couldn’t practice it for much of his rehab.
But still: The Celtics needed another interior presence, and Davis was providing it.
Except for one problem: He couldn’t make a shot at the rim.
As of a month ago, Davis was hitting just 49.5 percent of his shots at the rim, according to Hoopdata. The average mark for power forwards this season has been about 62.5 percent. At the end of February, Davis was (excluding three guys who had barely logged any minutes) the very worst at-the-rim finisher in the entire league among power forwards.
Celtics fans were howling that Davis was pathetic around the rim, that his gaudy offensive rebounding numbers were mostly the result of Davis rebounding his own misses. Those fans had a point.
But Big Baby appears to be making some progress.
In his last 10 games, Baby has hit 18 of 29 shot attempts at the rim—a 62 percent hit rate, according to Hoopdata’s box scores.
Davis hit just 1-of-5 shots at the rim Friday against Houston, and he rebounded three of those misses, leading teammates to jokingly call him Moses Malone. Take out that Rockets block-fest, and Baby is 17-of-24 (71 percent) at the rim over the three weeks or so.
The doubters may still have some anti-Baby ammo. Five of Boston’s last 10 games have come against teams in the bottom 10 in opponent field goal percentage at the rim, according to Hoopdata. But Baby hit just 7-of-16 shots (44 percent) at the rim in those five games (against Houston, New York, Washington, Memphis and the Pistons).
That means he hit a sizzling 11-of-13 in the other five games against teams that generally defend the rim well—Utah (3-of-3), Cleveland (2-of-3), Dallas (3-of-4), Indiana (3-of-3) and the Bucks (0-of-0).
This is not to say that Baby has turned a corner or that he is an elite finisher. He could toss up an 0-of-5 at the rim against Nene and Birdman tonight, and that 62 percent mark over his last 10 games is just average for a power forward.
But I’d sign up for average right now. It would be a career-best mark for Davis, and it would be a huge thing for the Celtics.