Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images
A cursory glance at Glen Davis’ numbers might leave the impression that he’s having a career year so far this season. Davis is averaging career-highs across the board with 32.8 minutes per game, 16.1 points per game, 8.5 rebounds per game, and 2.1 assists per game.
It’s fool’s gold.
Davis’ rebounding and passing has improved a little bit this season, as evidenced by a small spike in his total rebound and assist percentages, but his scoring has not. Davis may be averaging 16.1 points per game, but it’s buoyed by inefficient volume shooting. This season, Davis is posting the highest usage rate of his career (25.9 percent) with diminishing returns — his True Shooting percentage (47.8 percent) is well below the league average (53.2 percent).
This is par for the course for Davis, by the way, given that he’s historically been an inefficient player on offense. You’d have to go back to Davis’ rookie year with the Boston Celtics to find the last time he posted a True Shooting percentage above the league average. And that’s only because Davis was a low usage player back then. As Davis’ usage rate has increased over the years, his efficiency has declined in the process.
Now Davis has fully entrenched himself as a black hole offensively. Part of it is because the Orlando Magic, bereft of scoring, need him to be. But mostly it’s because Davis never saw a shot he didn’t like.
In some ways, there is value in Davis being a volume scorer. The Magic are 3.6 points per 100 possession better on offense with him on the floor, per NBA.com. The problem is that Orlando, as a team, is averaging 97.5 points per 100 possessions with Davis in the lineup (Washington Wizards level of futility).
So what kind of shots is Davis taking that is making him an inefficient player offensively and the Magic a poor offensive team?
Let’s take a look at Davis’ most recent inefficient outing, which came against the Sacramento Kings on Friday, where he scored 20 points on 8-for-19 shooting from the floor.
10:24 — After receiving an entry pass from Arron Afflalo, Davis faces up Jason Thompson on the right block, takes a jab step, dribbles into the paint, and rises up for a close-range fadeaway jumper, which he makes.
8:01 — Davis gets the ball in transition from Afflalo and immediately hoists an open midrange jumper along the right baseline, which he makes.
7:31 — With the shot clock winding down, Nelson makes an entry pass to Davis on the left block. Again, Davis faces up Thompson but this time around, he attempts a contested midrange jumper near the left elbow, which he misses badly.
6:19 — Nelson makes an entry pass to Davis on the left block. On this possession, instead of facing up Thompson, Davis backs him down, takes two dribbles, and air balls a righty hook in the paint. It appeared Davis got fouled on the play by Francisco Garcia, who came to help contest the shot from the weak-side, but no whistle was called.
6:11 — So with the shot clock winding down, Nikola Vucevic grabs the offensive rebound and passes it back to Davis. Unfortunately for Davis, he compounds a bad possession by getting the ball on the left elbow, dribbling into the paint, and attempting a running jumper that’s contested by both Thompson and Garcia. Davis’ shot is ultimately blocked from behind by Garcia.
1:30 — Davis, who gets caught being defended by DaMarcus Cousins in transition, gets the ball from Afflalo along the right baseline and immediately attacks the rim. Davis does a nice job of using his body to clear space and make a relatively uncontested ayup. To which Kings part-time color commentator Bill Walton says, “I thought he was going to be the next Charles Barkley.”
1:01 — On this particular play, Gustavo Ayon has the ball on the right elbow and tries to make a handoff pass to Redick, who is curling around a Davis pin-down screen on the left wing. Cousins makes a poor decision and tries to go for a steal, which takes him out of position defensively and allows Ayon to get into the lane on dribble penetration. As a result, Thompson is forced to pick up Ayon on defense, which leaves Davis open under the rim. Ayon passes Davis the ball and even though Isaiah Thomas also tries to go for the steal at the last second, Davis is able to make another layup between two defenders. Davis does a nice job of using the rim to shield himself from Thompson’ block attempt.
5:25 — Davis receives an entry pass on the left block from Maurice Harkless. Davis faces up Cousins, then takes a fadeaway jumper along the left baseline but misses the shot.
1:58 — Davis finds himself wide open along the left baseline on a baseline out-of-bounds play with the shot clock winding down after Thompson loses track of him defensively. Davis gets the ball from Nelson, but misses the shot.
1:01 — Nelson makes the entry pass to Davis on the left block. Davis backs down Thompson and immediately powers his way into the lane. Again, Davis uses his body to create space for himself and makes the layup while his momentum carries him away from the basket.
5:38 — Davis gets the ball from Nelson and immediately goes up for a midrange jumper on the right elbow. The shot is contested by Cousins, but Davis makes it.
3:12 — Redick makes an entry pass to Andrew Nicholson with the shot clock winding down, but the ball is stripped by Cousins. However, Davis is right there to pick up the loose ball and put up a fadeaway free-throw line extended jumper, which bounces around the rim but doesn’t drop in.
10:31 — E’Twaun Moore finds Davis in transition. Davis, then, attacks the basket, uses his body to create space for himself (once again), and makes a layup despite Chuck Hayes’ best efforts in trying to contest the shot. Walton adds, “He made Chuck Hayes look like a little skinny 7th grader out there. My goodness.”
9:56 — Redick and Davis run a 2/4 pick-and-roll. Davis rolls to the basket, receives the pass from Redick, and dribbles into the paint. Even though Afflalo is wide open in the right corner for a three-pointer, Davis puts up a righty hook but misses.
9:30 — Davis has the ball on the right elbow, beats Hayes off the dribble (who switched onto him on this possession), but misses the lefty layup.
6:59 — Davis spots up on the perimeter near the left wing. Afflalo dribble penetrates and kicks it out to Davis. Hayes contests the shot and Davis misses badly on the midrange jumper — not hitting the rim and missing long.
5:23 — With the shot clock winding down, Davis gets the ball from Redick and puts up a contested midrange fadeaway jumper from the top of the free-throw line with Hayes’ hand in his face, but it rims in an dout.
4:20 — The Magic unleash their secret weapon on the left-hand side of the court. Davis, open for a split-second, receives the pass from Redick, gets fouled (as Thomas Robinson tries to come from the weak-side and take a charge, but is too late in getting position), and makes the layup. Davis converts the three-point play.
2:56 — Davis gets the ball from Nelson at the right elbow. Davis beats Cousins off the dribble and tries to go up for a lefty layup, but Robinson comes from the weak-side and blocks Davis’ shot.
So why is Davis attempting so many short-range and mid-range jumpers? Why isn’t Davis attacking the rim more often when he’s shooting? Why isn’t Davis trying to get to the free-throw line more?
What we do know is that Davis is an inefficient player offensively because his shot selection is poor and as a consequence of that, his shot distribution isn’t being optimized. Davis’ field goal percentage when attacking the rim is slightly above the league-average, yet most of his shots are coming from short-range and mid-range, where his field goal percentages are well below the league-average. And even when Davis isn’t converting in the paint, he’s getting to the free-throw line more often than not.
This isn’t exactly groundbreaking stuff. Davis’ offensive tendencies have been like this for years, yet he hasn’t adjusted and there’s no telling if he ever will.