Most observers agree that Baron Davis is a low-risk/high-reward move. Count me as one of them.
I readily acknowledge that Davis has a history of injuries, lack of motivation, poor shot selection, and relatedly, a low shooting percentage. These are valid concerns. In arguing that the Davis signing is, at best, a low reward move, Mike Kurylo articulated them nicely on KnickerBlogger:
Davis’ shooting isn’t a strength. His career 3P% is a mere 32.1% (which considering he’s averaged a prodigious 5.2 3PA/36 is a ghastly percentage) and he hasn’t topped 34% in any of his last 8 seasons. He averaged 17.1 pts/36, but at an anemic 50.2% TS%.
Granted Davis is a skilled passer at 7.6 ast/36, however if that asset is tied to his shooting, then New York isn’t getting much of a positive in return. In other words if the Knicks have to suffer through Baron’s attempting to score at a rate of Chauncey Billips but connecting at a rate of Raymond Felton, then any court time could be a detriment.
For Baron Davis to be high reward for the Knicks, he’ll need to have his best year shooting (53.0% ts%, 2007), get healthy, and be made happy by D’Antoni (see Hughes, Larry). A slightly less compensating situation is one where Davis is limited to 10-20 minutes a night and severely cuts back on shot attempts while upping his three point percentage to his Charlotte days (35.6% 3P% back in 2002!) due to more open looks.
I have great respect for statistical analysis and I think that Mike’s take makes sense. However, this type of analysis is necessarily limited to the events and trends of the past. The difficulty lies in adapting those events and trends to new circumstances. Here, there are two overwhelmingly negative assumptions at play that I think (and hope) won’t necessarily hold in Davis’ Knicks stint.
The first assumption is that Davis is going to shoot as much as he has in the past. I’m not sure that will be the case. Say what you want about Davis, but far too often he’s been the first option on his team and one of the only players capable of creating his own shot. According to Davis:
“To play with this type of talent and the caliber of players we have on this team, especially our main guys, I’ve never really experienced anything like this in my career,” Davis said.
I think it’s true. Davis shouldn’t be asked to be the leader of this team offensively. Rather he should be a cog in the machine. Instead of trying to find his own shot, he should make life easier for Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, who are more efficient. Thus, even if Davis continues to score inefficiently, the effect will not be pronounced.
And that leads into the second of Mike’s assumptions that might not hold, which is that Davis’ poor shot selection will continue. Make no mistake, defenses will have to respect Stoudemire, Anthony and even Tyson Chandler off of picks and dives. Douglas (and hopefully Fields) will spread the floor. Shumpert may be a dangerous weapon on the perimeter as a spot up shooter and/or slasher if Davis is able to collapse the defense (as he’s always been able to do throughout his career, despite frequent poor shooting).
The point here is that in addition to the likelihood that Davis will not shoot as much, he will also be presented with better opportunities to score. Defenses will be unable to double or trap Davis on the perimeter or collapse on him on drives. When Stoudemire and Anthony are doubled Davis will find himself open for spot-up looks.
Ultimately, I agree with Mike’s premise that if Davis continues to shoot poorly and often, he is unlikely to do the Knicks many favors. I’m just not so sure that Davis will do those things, this time.