Veteran forward Glen Davis, who was bought out by the Orlando Magic on Feb. 21, is expected to reunite with former coach Doc Rivers by becoming a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, according to Adrian Wojnarowksi and Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports. “Big Baby” is a familiar face for Rivers and brings plenty of playoff experience, but is he the missing piece to the Clips’ puzzle?
The Clippers’ high-powered offense ranks second in the NBA by scoring 108.7 points per 100 possessions (tied with the Portland Trail Blazers). Even when All-Star point guard Chris Paul was sidelined with a separated shoulder, All-Star running mate Blake Griffin upped his level of play and kept the team competitive, leading L.A. to a 12-6 record.
One thing this team has been sorely lacking regardless of its success, however, is frontcourt depth on the interior. Aside from Griffin and starting center DeAndre Jordan, Coach Rivers has had extremely limited options at his disposal.
Two of the guys that could be principally considered power forwards or centers—Antawn Jamison and Byron Mullens—were recently traded, and the other is Ryan Hollins. Those three guys combined for 8.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 0.7 blocks in 25.9 minutes per game prior to Jamison and Mullens being shipped off to Philadelphia.
For some added perspective, Boston Celtics veteran forward Brandon Bass has notched averages of 11.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 27.5 minutes of court time.
The frontcourt depth behind Griffin and Jordan has been negligible at best. The lack of production from Jamison and Mullens is what prompted the front office to trade both guys prior to the 2014 trade deadline just to open up a pair of roster spots and get under the luxury-tax threshold, per the Los Angeles Times’ Broderick Turner and Ben Bolch.
It appears now that Davis will fill at least part of the void left by the departed Jamison-Mullens tandem. Not surprisingly, he’s seen as a huge upgrade.
Granted, numerous role players around the Association would be seen as “huge upgrades” over a washed-up Jamison and the enigma that is Byron Mullens. With that said, Davis brings a variety of skills to the table.
The 28-year-old out of LSU played 45 games for Orlando in 2013-14 (43 starts). He averaged 12.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 0.5 blocks in 30.1 minutes per game during that span. He also shot 45.3 percent from the field, which is the highest mark since his rookie year with the Boston Celtics in 2007-08.
His mid-range shooting ability will be a valuable asset beside offensive maestro Chris Paul and the interior prowess of Griffin.
Davis is shooting at or above league average from nearly every mid-range location on the court, per NBA.com/Stats.
Griffin’s shot chart isn’t nearly as favorable even though he has improved dramatically from mid-range since entering the NBA.
He’s drained 20 of 31 attempts from the left sideline and 31 of 69 attempts from the top of the key, but he’s sitting at or below league average everywhere else.
In theory, adding Big Baby as a means of spreading the floor around Griffin can ensure that Blake will continue to put in work at the rim—where he’s been phenomenal in 2013-14.
Having coached Davis from 2007-2011, Rivers will have the added advantage of knowing exactly how to utilize the midseason pickup once he comes aboard. The former NBA Coach of the Year knows Davis’ strengths and limitations. That should make for a smooth transition even though he’ll be joining a completely different supporting cast in L.A. when compared to the players he ran with in Orlando and Boston.
Davis has an array of skills that have worked far better for him as an above-average rotational player rather than the No. 2 or 3 option on a rebuilding Magic franchise. But is this the move that puts the Clippers over the top?
Bleacher Report’s Ethan Norof isn’t convinced, saying the following via Twitter:
He’s an above-average role player returning to play with one of the NBA’s best coaches, but he has his fair share of shortcomings. In the loaded Western Conference—where the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs are still legitimate title threats—labeling Davis as the savior who will put his new team over the top isn't a fair expectation.
The last time Big Baby was in the postseason, however, he thrived in the absence of All-Star center Dwight Howard.
In the first round of the 2012 playoffs against the Indiana Pacers, Davis started all five games and averaged 19 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. At the very least, the Clips know he won’t shy away from big moments.
At the end of the day, though, the Clippers' title hopes lie with their defense. Davis’ presence off the bench is a gigantic upgrade over Jamison and Mullens, but he’s an undersized, mediocre defender. The Clippers offense was already rock solid without him, so ideally, a defensive-minded piece would fit better moving forward.
Beggars can’t be choosers, though, as the Clips picked up arguably the best NBA buyout option available.
Davis undoubtedly makes L.A. a better team on paper, but L.A.'s championship aspirations still depend upon what Griffin and CP3 are able to do in the playoffs. If they can catch fire and defend with tenacity, then they should have enough firepower around them to come out of the loaded West.
Since Paul came aboard, however, the Clippers' postseason record is 6-9. It may take more than Davis to get this team into the Western Conference Finals at season's end.