Big Baby’s “best” basketball bedlam

DeMarcus Cousins isn't the only big man who can't shoot (image credit: Keith Allison)

DeMarcus Cousins isn’t the only big man who can’t shoot (image credit: Keith Allison)

Patrick Minton of The NBA Geek passed along an article from Sheridan Hoops. Written by Landon Silinsky, it contains the following quote about Glen “Big Baby” Davis:

Davis, 27, is coming off his best season as a pro last year, as he averaged 15 points and seven rebounds per night while being limited to just 34 games due to injury.

These sorts of statements are tossed around all the time in the sports world. Did Davis really have his best NBA season last year? It certainly looks that way — if the only numbers you use are of the per game (or PER) variety:

Year MPG PPG RPG PER
2007-08 13.6 4.5 3.0 11.3
2008-09 21.5 7.0 4.0 10.7
2009-10 17.3 6.3 3.8 11.5
2010-11 29.5 11.7 5.4 12.8
2011-12 23.4 9.3 5.4 13.2
2012-13 31.3 15.1 7.2 15.0

But these per game figures could simply be a function of an increase in minutes, as Davis set a career high in minutes per game. What if we correct for minutes played and look at his per 48 minute numbers?

Year MP PTS/48 REB/48 TFGA/48
2007-08 940 16.0 10.6 14.7
2008-09 1637 15.5 8.8 15.5
2009-10 933 17.5 10.5 17.5
2010-11 2301 19.1 8.9 19.1
2011-12 1427 19.0 11.1 20.5
2012-13 1064 23.1 11.1 23.9

Davis’ per 48 minute scoring increased from a low of 15.5 in 2008-09 to a career high of 23.1 last season, which is a jump of 7.6 points. His per 48 minute rebounding was 11.1, unchanged from his previous season. But is this increase in scoring due to improved shooting efficiency, or simply due to taking more shots?

The rightmost column represents Davis’ “true” field goal attempts. To calculate a player’s true field goal attempts, multiply the player’s free throw attempts by 0.44 and add it to their field goal attempts. We use true field goal attempts when we want to estimate how many total shots a player has taken. This is necessary because, when players are fouled during a field goal attempt, we only record the shot as an attempt if it goes in. Davis’ true field goal attempts have increased every year he has been in the league, starting with 14.7 during his rookie season and ending at 23.9 last season. That’s an increase of 9.2 shots per 48 minutes over his career. Davis has increased his shot taking more than his scoring.

Shooting more is perfectly fine when you’re good at it. But Davis is not a good shooter. He’s scoring these “extra shots” at a rate of 0.82 points per shot. To put that into perspective, if those were his full regular season numbers, he’d shoot worse than Austin Rivers (0.86 points per true shot attempt) or Tyrus Thomas (0.84 points per true shot attempt). Davis would be right around Justin Holiday and Devin Ebanks. Considering that only 18 players who played more than 100 minutes shot worse than Justin Holiday last season, this isn’t a good thing.

Wins Produced — which takes shooting efficiency into account, among other factors — calculates that Glen Davis actually had his worst season last year, in terms of both per minute and total production. This evaluation is not unique to Wins Produced; Win Shares — WP’s cousin stat with the larger team adjustment — has reached the same conclusion.

So last year was Davis’ worst season, not his best season. As Patrick said of Davis: considering how terrible he already is, getting worse is actually kind of impressive!

- Devin

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