Glen Davis: Is Big Baby the Best Sixth Man in the NBA?
He is undersized for his position at 6'9''. He came into the league with doubts about his leaping ability. On the first day of training camp, he was questioning his role on the defending Eastern-Conference champion Boston Celtics, who signed Jermaine O'Neal and Shaquille O'Neal in the offseason.
Yet due to injuries, Glen Davis has become one of the most valuable bench players throughout the NBA. He is averaging 29.4 minutes per game.
Due to absences from key players such as Rajon Rondo (nine games) and Delonte West (50 games), different guards have played with Davis.
Davis' numbers compare to other top sixth men in the league. He is averaging 11.8 points per game and 5.6 rebounds while shooting 45.4 percent from the field.
Davis has developed that mid-range jump shot to go along with his scoring around the basket. This ability made Kendrick Perkins expendable and helped spur the trade with Oklahoma City for forward Jeff Green and center Nenad Krstic.
According to Jeff Clark from celticsblog.com, Davis led the league in getting his shots blocked in the 2009-10 season at 17.9 percent. Davis looked at Corliss Williamson, who was a similar player. He worked in the offseason on avoiding the opponents swatting his shots and building his confidence. The number of blocked shots has dipped to 5.2 percent.
On the defensive end, Davis has taken several charges. He has quick feet to handle opponents.
The problem is he does have difficulty guarding taller forwards and centers who can shoot from the outside like Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks. Nowitzki hit the game-winning shot with 17.4 seconds to play in the Mavs' 89-87 victory over the Celtics on November 8th. He hit the shot over Davis' outstretched hand and while Davis forced Nowitzki to take a tough fadeaway, Nowitzki's size advantage allowed him to have a good look at the basket.
On Feb. 28th, Utah Jazz forward Al Jefferson torched the interior defense of Boston for 28 points and 19 rebounds and Davis was called for five fouls. There were several occasions when Davis went for ball fakes from Jefferson and Paul Millsap.
In a contest versus the San Antonio Spurs on Jan 5th, Davis posted 23 points—one shy of his career high. He shot 10-of-18 from the field and 3-of-5 from the free-throw line. Without Kevin Garnett in the lineup because of his sprained calf, Davis was called on to stretch the floor and he knocked down critical mid-range jumpers.
Davis has been asked to take on different roles throughout the season. Earlier in the season, Semih Erden was forced to start because of Shaq's nagging injuries and he would play for a few minutes before Davis would make an appearance onto the court. Erden was only serviceable for a few minutes. He is inexperienced in the NBA because he's a rookie who has played overseas in Europe throughout his career.
In the five games since coming back from the knee injury that he has dealt with for most of the season, Davis has averaged 14 points and nine boards, including a 20-point, eight-rebound effort in an 95-89 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on March 19th.
Compared to other key bench players like pure scorers Leandro Barbosa of Toronto (12.4 points per game) and Kyle Korver (14.8 points), Davis has provided the frontcourt-scoring off the bench.
The players who stack up well with Davis because they are forwards are Dallas' Shawn Marion (10.6 points and 5.9 rebounds) and Lamar Odom (14.6 points and 9.0 rebounds). Marion has shot a higher percentage at 50.7 percent.
There might be flashier scorers coming off the pine for other teams, but Davis has shown he belongs in the discussion for the best sixth man this season.
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