Despite the improved play of Danny Granger and Darren Collison, Glen Davis will be the most critical body off the bench.
Even with nagging injuries to J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford, the Clippers are still stacked with talent and full of depth. Behind the star power of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clips are flanked with Most Improved Player of the Year candidate DeAndre Jordan, swingman Matt Barnes and Jared Dudley off the bench.
Mix-and-match pieces that can play big or small like Hedo Turkoglu add some versatility, while Ryan Hollins can be counted upon for six fouls a game. However, the Clips have lacked depth on their front line. Davis can be the solution behind Griffin and Jordan in the post.
Let’s look at why Davis will play such a crucial role.
No longer the primary or secondary option on the depleted Orlando Magic, Davis has joined the league’s most potent offense. As such, he will not be relied upon in many isolations or possessions where he will have to create his own shot.
Conversely, Davis will be one of the last options for the Clips offensively. His real value will come in his defense.
Although it is not the most telling statistic, Davis’ individual defensive rating of 92.6 is the lowest on the team.
He knows Doc Rivers’ defensive system, and his 6’9”, 289-pound frame will make him a nightmare to bully around the block. Despite his appearance, Davis actually has rather quick feet and a good understanding of defensive spacing.
It’s a special thing. It’s one of those things you can’t really describe. You can’t really put your finger on it, but you feel it and it feels good, and I feel it in the locker room. It’s a belief. It’s almost to the point of supernatural belief. We’re not only starting to believe but putting in the work. Now when you combine the two, you have a deadly combination of guys who can play the game the right way and are so athletic. You can mix athleticism and the right way of playing every time with a great coach like Doc –- the sky is the limit.
While he might struggle against especially athletic forwards like Serge Ibaka or LaMarcus Aldridge, Davis will be a revelation against burly big men. This should manifest itself against two of Lob City’s biggest adversaries in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies should the two teams square off in the postseason.
Given the small sample size, it is still too early to figure out which lineups Davis will work best with. However, given his defensive skills, he should be able to play well with the starters or the bench unit.
Davis will be called upon as the first big off the bench for the rest of the season and throughout the playoffs. That Lob City can go to a competent defender when it needs to spell either Jordan or Griffin will be invaluable.
In contrast to his defensive value, Davis has really struggled to get in a groove on offense.
In his first seven games as a Clipper, Davis played more than 15 minutes in just one game, the Clippers’ rout of the Lakers.
Since donning red, white and blue, Davis has scored in double digits just once, also against the Lakers. In fact, taking that game away, Davis has 15 total points for the Clips.
Much of his offensive struggles have come from being out of shape.
As the Los Angeles Times' Broderick Turner mentioned:
“It’s no surprise Davis labored against the Lakers. He’s tipping the scales at 325 pounds, about 25 more than the Clippers want the 6-9 power forward to carry.”
His offensive numbers are down significantly compared to his season average of 11 points per game.
With about 20 games left to play, Davis still has an opportunity to get into game shape. Much of the rest of the season should see Rivers experimenting with Davis and Granger to find out where they work best.
Who will be the Clips' most important bench player for the rest of the season?
Despite his offensive struggles, the Clippers have continued their smooth sailing. Riding a nine-game winning streak, the Clips are the hottest team in the league and have yet to suffer a loss with Davis in the lineup.
Moving forward, Lob City will need Davis to get into game shape and better acclimate to his surrounding personnel.
For all of the lethal offensive weapons that Los Angeles possesses, Davis could be the most valuable. If he can find his range and better adjust defensively, Big Baby could tip the scales in favor of the Clips.
Statistics accurate as of March 13, 2014. Statistics used from ESPN.com and NBA.com/Stats.