Per 36 Minutes:
When this fine blog announced the signing of Baron “Boom Dizzle” Davis, the news was accompanied by a rendering—possibly done in crayon– of Davis’ other worldly dunk on Andrei Kirilenko. With that sort of introduction, and Davis’ impressive passing resume, excitement from the fans was to be expected. Trepidation was to be expected as well given that Davis was five years removed from his peak effectiveness, and recovering from a bulging disc. But next to no one questioned his ability to distribute the ball. As John Kenney wrote:
“With Amar’e and Carmelo requiring so many shots, it’s imperative the Knicks have someone who can get them the ball in the right spots. If things go poorly, Baron can sit at the end of the bench on a one-year, $2.5 million contract. But if things go well, and Baron’s ooping to Amar’e, and the Garden is rocking- well, then we might remember this as the moment we grabbed our starting PG for the 2012 playoffs.”
John’s thinking pretty much captured both sides of the argument. If Davis is good, he’ll start in the playoffs. If he is bad, he’ll sit. Ah but cruel fate delivered one possibility that none of us considered: Davis would be bad and still be our starting point in the playoffs. Davis was pushed into a starting role thanks to a back court comprised of a rookie possessing questionable shot selection, the team’s worst player, a guy with a bandaged knee, and a guy who was completely bandaged.
Davis gave what precious little he had in the tank. I admire that. And he deserved better than to end the season on the floor holding his knee. Naturally, Davis’ tenure with the Knicks makes me question the wisdom of crafting a reserve unit featuring players from NBA Hangtime.
There is no getting around the fact that 2011-2012 was the worst season of Davis’ career. The only other season that comes close is the 2008-2009 season during which Davis dealt with numerous injuries. I think Davis’ struggles show just how important athleticism is his game. Two interesting things about Davis’ dunk over Kirilenko; 1) He had the nerve to try it; and 2) He the ability to finish it. I didn’t expect to see Davis pull anything like that while playing for New York, but I was surprised at his lack of speed on drives and his inability to finish at the rim. The Baron Davis we saw last year seemed to have given up on getting to the basket. In watching Davis, I saw a player who was less effective at getting to the rim, and finishing there, than he was earlier in his career. The stats support this.
|Year||FG% at the Rim||% of Total shots||% of Assisted FGs at the rim|
*Stats Courtesy of Hoopdata.com
At the peak of his career, shots at the rim accounted for about one third of Davis’ total field goals. About one quarter of those field goals at the rim were the result of an assist from another player. At his peak, Davis was getting to the rim with and without the ball. This stands in stark contrast to what he did in New York last year. Davis got to the rim about half as often as he did at his peak. Additionally, he wasn’t putting himself in position for his teammates to find him at the rim.
I wondered if this change in style was a consequence of the SSOL system, but then I checked and saw that another point guard—some guy named Lin— took 36.1% of his shots at the rim. No, it seems that an injured Baron Davis just can’t get to the basket. I think his move away from a driving player effected many other aspects of his game.
Davis’ free throws attempted per 36 minutes (1.5) were the lowest of his career. While never an especially efficient scorer, Davis’ TS% and Efg% were well short of his career averages of .502 and .465 respectively. I think this is a direct consequence of his becoming a perimeter oriented shooter. The one thing Davis did at about his career average was distribute the ball. Unfortunately he offset that with career high turnover numbers.
It was overly optimistic for anyone to expect a 32 year old with a history of injuries to recapture the skills of his peak years. (But hey, that’s what loyal fans do.) Davis just wasn’t physically capable of filling the role of a starter. By all indications Davis was a good teammate, a helpful locker room voice, and a mentor to the younger players on the team. And you have to admire anyone who can get Kevin Garnett to release his prey.
Grades (5 point scale):
Final Grade: D+