Boston Celtics: Before Paying "Big Baby" Study the Austin Croshere Case

Tom HammerContributor IJune 23, 2009

14 Feb 1999:  Austin Croshere #44 of the Indiana Pacers going up for the shot during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California. The Pacers defeated the Lakers 101- 99.  Mandatory Credit: Donald Miralle  /Allsport

I remember it like it was yesterday. The 1999-2000 NBA finals when Austin Croshere went from an under sized back up power forward to a clutch performing hot commodity.

Flash bulbs pop and here we are in 2009 and Glen "Big Baby" Davis fits that same mold.

In the finals versus the Lakers, Croshere played like an emerging star averaging 15.2 points and 6.0 rebounds, including a career playoff high 24 points in 25 minutes in Game Two. Most of those came while the Pacers went small and Shaq was forced to guard him.

He was an absolute match up problem for those Lakers and he consistently exposed slower defenders on the perimeter, getting to the basket and finishing as well as hitting his trade mark corner jumper. 

Croshere was in his third season in the NBA and his contract was up after the 2000 Finals.

By the way in the previous two seasons he averaged a little over 3.0 points and 1.5 rebounds a game in injury shortened seasons.

So impressed were the Pacers brass with the 6'8" Croshere that they promptly offered him a seven year, $51 million contract. 

At the turn of the century, this set a new standard for rewarding players for playoff performance. 

If you are a basketball fan, I don't have to remind you how this story played out for the Pacers and Mr. Croshere. Croshere started 72 games in the next six years, with career high averages of 10.1 pts and 6.4 rebounds in the season following the contract, respectable but not $51 million worthy. 

He'd never average double figures after 2001.

He quickly became the figure head for over paid players in the NBA. The Pacers front office never escaped the scrutiny for that contract and they paid dearly in the years to come as they were saddled with this huge deal for a guy who didn't produce.

Fast forward to 2009, and the Boston Celtics have an eerily similar situation with their under sized power forward Glen "Big Baby" Davis. 

Davis showed marked improvement in the '08-'09 season marked by an impressive 15.8 point scoring average in the playoffs. He filled in brightly for K.G during the playoffs, culminating with his game winning jumper in Game Five at Orlando

As time expired, and "Big Baby" stormed down the court my first thought was, "Don't you do it Danny Ainge! Don't you do it!"

You see, I am a life long Celtics fan that lives in Indianapolis, so there is no way I can escape these obvious comparisons between Croshere and Davis. 

To be honest, even as Baby was doing some good work in the playoffs I still constantly felt like he handicapped the team due to his limitations. 

He can't guard the perimeter and he is too short to guard the post. He struggles to finish around he hoop even though Rajon Rondo is slick with setting up the C's four-men. 

After the playoffs, I was desperately bothered by the thought of Ainge opening up the pocket book to retain Baby's services. I decided to search for some underlying stat that would prove that Big Baby was the next Croshere. 

I found it and it was called the Roland Rating.  

The main components of the "Roland Ratings" are a production measure for a player's own stats versus the counterpart player on the other team while he is on the court, as well as a simple on court/off court plus minus (plus minus being the number of points ahead or behind the team is while he is in the game versus when he is out of the game.) 

The qualifying criteria is that the player has to have at least played 35 percent of his teams minutes. Big Baby qualified and out of all the players who did, he was fourth to last in this rating. 

While in the game for the C's Big Baby accounted for 12.2 pts of production while the guy he was guarding produced 18.2 pts. When Big Baby was in the game the C's outscored their opponents by 2.8 when he was out of the game his teammates outscored them by 10.7. 

The negative divergences demonstrate that Big Baby, while admitting being a clutch performer, cannot be on the court in large doses if the Celtics want to get back to the finals. 

To me this means, that when his agent requests the $7-8 million a year that he undoubtedly will, Ainge has to say thanks for the memories Baby, but Austin Croshere's case study will not allow me to commit this ultimate sin.

In the end, I truly respect Glen Davis and his ability to find a niche in the NBA. He is a good fit for the C's system and you can tell he relishes the opportunity to learn under K.G and is willing to do whatever it takes to win. 

But in this business, it comes down to production and dollars.

In this case, as the Roland Ratings suggest, there isn't enough of the former and he'll request to much of the latter.