The Los Angeles Clippers added frontcourt depth Sunday that should certainly help their chances at coming out on top of the Western Conference. They addressed an area of need with a capable scorer, and the best talent available via the free-agent market.
But make no mistake, Glen Davis is by no means the addition to catapult the Clips to the top of the West. Nor is he supposed to be.
After news broke late Sunday morning, via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, that Davis will be signing with the Clippers following a buyout deal with the Orlando Magic, it became clear that LA is doing everything it can to shore up the depth chart at the big positions.
Glen Davis has moved close to committing to the Clippers, clearing way for Nets to sign Jason Collins, league sources tell Yahoo.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 23, 2014
Davis has started to inform teams of decision to sign with Clippers, and Clips are proceeding with knowledge that he's coming, sources said.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 23, 2014
As the 28-year-old moves on to his third NBA team, he'll surely help his newest club in a department where they've lacked substance all season long. Behind Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers haven't been able to find a sufficient role player to productively supplement the high-flying pair's burn.
Ryan Hollins and now-Philadelphia 76er Byron Mullens were initially slotted in as prime bigs for Doc Rivers to turn to off the bench, but it didn't take long for both to prove ineffective. As a result, Griffin and Jordan lead the Clips in minutes played.
Even though the pair can handle the heavy workload—Jordan is still just 25 and Griffin doesn't hit the quarter-century mark until next month—it's always beneficial to monitor the minutes of your top weapons as the postseason draws near. Doing so without sacrificing much production is obviously the ideal method.
By adding Davis, Los Angeles seems to have added a piece to make this much more feasible than before. And in a subdued role under Rivers, Big Baby has the potential to deepen LA's talent and make for a formidable playoff opponent come April and May.
Big Answer to the "Big" Problem
Davis will slide in behind behind Griffin and Jordan on the depth chart, at a spot where no Clipper has been able to sustain decent enough play to establish a role.
As Hollins, Mullens, Antawn Jamison and Hedo Turkoglu have all failed to provide adequate minutes behind the Lob City duo, Rivers has had no choice but to lean heavily upon Griffin and Jordan. According to Basketball-Reference, here are the Clips' minutes leaders this season. Only Jamal Crawford comes close to matching Griffin and Jordan's run this season.
Throwing Big Baby into the mix should give the young core a chance to take the occasional breather as the regular season comes to an end.
Mullens' net-rating of minus-21.6 was by far the worst of all Clips to log at least 60 minutes this season. The team also gets outscored by a point per 100 possessions with Hollins on the floor, while Turkoglu and the current free agent Jamison have combined for a 33 percent field-goal mark to this point.
It's not an exaggeration. The Clips have gotten nearly nothing out of their reserve bigs.
Davis should solve this dilemma. He's shot 45 percent from the field this season, which is his highest clip since his 2007-08 rookie campaign. In 30 minutes per game he's grabbed more than six rebounds on average.
Hollins has managed to put up a 74 percent shooting mark, but with all but three of his attempts coming from within 10 feet. To compare, Davis has shot 88-of-199, or a respectable 44 percent, on jumpers in between 16 feet and the arc.
Synergy Sports has Davis down as the top-ranked scorer off offensive rebounds, at an astounding 1.49 points per play. When he's fed the ball off a cut, he ranks 15th league-wide with 1.43 points per play.
He may not be the most efficient all-around scorer, but he's much more complete and reliable than any other option the Clippers have run at the position this year.
Right Place at the Right Time?
Despite Davis' so-so efficiency marks on the season—according to Synergy, he's failed to average 0.9 points per play via his three most common play types—it'd be difficult for Davis to come across a more fruitful scenario, in terms of a fit.
This season, though averaging 30 minutes per game and starting all but two contests, Big Baby has been at his best in a more modest role. In those two games as a reserve, Davis is shooting 50 percent from the field while posting a net-rating of plus-seven.
In games where his minutes have been kept to 20-29, which accounts for 20 of his 45 contests, he's shooting over 46 percent, which is his highest clip among all minutes denominators (0-9, 10-19, etc.).
In 17 games this season against Western Conference defenses, Davis is shooting better than 46 percent from the field. Against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who the Clippers play once more in April and could face in a potential postseason series, Davis has shot 11-of-19 and averaged 12.5 points and seven boards. Against San Antonio and Houston—other viable playoff candidates—he's shot a combined 13-of-28 this season while averaging seven rebounds.
The 6'9" forward-center will also be reuniting with Doc Rivers, who coached him as a member of the Boston Celtics over the first four years of his career. Davis posted a positive on-court rating in three of those four Boston years under Doc, but has been a net-negative on-court player in every season since being traded from Beantown.
Big Baby teaming up with Rivers, who has seen his team's defense improve from league-worst to top-half over recent months, could help Davis neaten up his defensive deficiencies, as well. When bringing up the pair's relationship, it's worth noting that the C's took home an NBA title during Davis' rookie season under Rivers.
Still, the Clips' Championship Puzzle Remains Unfinished
Adding Davis into the mix as Los Angeles attempts to make a run at the Finals has all the makings to be a good fit for both parties. But there are still some leftover hurdles on the Clippers' quest for the trophy.
Though a reliable candidate to score off the bench, Davis has never been among the strongest defenders at his position. This season, he's allowed 0.94 PPP to screeners in pick-and-roll plays, 1.12 PPP in isolation, and has allowed 50 percent shooting when defending post-ups.
Davis likely won't turn around the team's struggles to guard opposing centers—the 19.4 player efficiency rating and .522 effective field-goal percentage allowed to 5s are both worst of all positions, per 82games.com. The center and small forward positions remain the only positions that LA is being outproduced in terms of PER.
Baby has posted a positive on-off rating in just one of his seven NBA seasons, coming last year with the Magic. That was also the only year he managed to post a league-average PER of 15.
Is taking a chance on Big Baby the right move for LA?
He hasn't posted a true-shooting percentage over 50 since 2009-10, and his free-throw rate has declined in each of his pro years, with the exception of one blip from his second to third season—a trend that began with a .679 mark in his rookie campaign, and has dwindled down to .223 this season.
With all the noted flaws, it's hard to pinpoint Davis as a legitimate piece to shove the Clips over the hump and into Finals-favorites territory.
But on a roster less dependent on his limited talents, and in a role less physically demanding—under a coach that has gotten decent results from him before—there's real opportunity for Davis to be a positive contributor on a team headed toward the latter stages of the postseason.
Stats gathered from NBA.com/Stats, Basketball-Reference and 82games.