There are some who expect that once Baron Davis returns to the New York Knicks, he will suddenly be a franchise savior, making the Knicks a contender. While Davis will make some difference, it won't be enough, and it might create some problems that don't exist right now.
First, whatever the failings of Iman Shumpert are, he is a decent defensive player. The Knicks defense is much improved from last year, and a lot of the credit for that has to go to Tyson Chandler, but some of that has to go to Shumpert as well.
Baron Davis, on the other hand, is not a great defensive player. He gave up .95 points per play last season compared to the .85 that Iman Shumpert is giving up this season. While Davis might make some difference on the one end of the court, he's also going to be giving some of that back on the other end of the court.
The second thing that matters is that he's a high-usage point guard. His usage is typically in the 23-28 percent neighborhood while his assist percentage usually hovers around 35 percent. I don't like the expression "shoot first" point guard, because I don't believe there is any such thing.
Some point guards have more of a tendency to score than others, but it's more about how a player plays than whether he plays "right" or "pure." The high usage for Davis isn't a criticism of how he plays, it's an observation of how he plays.
It's important in this conversation because the Knicks don't need another player who is high usage. They need a player who can promote ball movement and set up shots for the two stars, Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks already have two high-usage players; they don't need another.
While Anthony and Stoudemire are both great players, they aren't great passers. Yes, Anthony has tried to improve, but you don't bring a great offensive player to your team to change his offense. You complement his offense with the right pieces around him.
How much will Baron Davis help?
This is complicated by the system that Mike D'Antoni runs. It dose't fit Anthony, and it won't fit Davis. If you compare the numbers of Davis to those of the ultimate point guard who ran D'Antoni's system, Steve Nash, it's evident that there's a big difference between Davis and Nash. During Nash's Phoenix years his usage rate is 21 percent and his assist percentage is 46 percent.
It's not about how good a point guard is, it's about what kind of point guard he is. Right now, the Knicks are third to last in assist ratio. Adding another player who is looking as much for his own shot as for someone else isn't going to help the Knicks nearly enough to put them in contender status.