Editor’s Note: Craig will be coming up shortly with what last night’s Cavaliers win means in the grand scheme of all things crystal ball. For now, even more from me regarding the Baron Davis Effect.
In late February, Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant pulled the trigger on a deal that had the entire basketball world talking. Mo Williams, who was to be the Scottie Pippen to LeBron James, was sent packing to the City of Angels for the well-traveled and well-documented Baron Davis.
Earning the reputation of a malcontent at nearly every stop of the way, Davis allegedly signaled the end for what was the Cavaliers’ potential rebuilding process. He would tarnish the locker room, one rife with rookie and other considerably young talent. He and Byron Scott would ultimately go to blows once again despite declarations to the contrary. How could the addition of a 30-year-old point guard with wonky knees and a terrible contract possibly help a team that desperately needs to improve?
For now, ignore the age, ignore the knees, back, and personal issues and focus on the position. Baron Davis is a point guard. He’s a point guard that can spread the floor and create shots for himself as well as others. Byron Scott’s system, coincidentally, thrives when facilitated by a ball-moving point guard. And since Davis’ arrival, regardless of the Cavaliers’ record, nothing has been more evident than the potential of this Cleveland team when run by a pure point guard.
The chart above is fairly easy to comprehend and is by no means aesthetically pleasing. However, yesterday in a WFNY email chain, Craig passed along the points-per -game figures for the Clippers’ All-World rookie Blake Griffin compared to Cleveland’s starting frontcourt tandem of JJ Hickson and Ryan Hollins. And once you retrieve your tongue from your throat after reading that Ryan Hollins is your starting center, realize what he has been able to show on the offensive end since getting the starting nod.
Hollins, that bright gold (the New Expression, you know?) line, has been able to improve his points-per-game totals drastically over the course of March (5.6) and April (11.5). And while April has only been four contests and the seven-footer has also seen a vast increase in minutes, it is because he has earned them with his energized play and improved knowledge of the system.
Hickson had dipped in the month of March, playing the majority of his games at center next to a back-to-the-basket forward in Samardo Samuels. But when paired with a center who does not clog the lane – let’s face the facts, Ryan Hollins hates banging in the paint – and a point guard who gets the ball to him in opportune spaces on the floor, Hickson has been a man on a mission.
Want to attribute this to additional floor time as well? Check out the following:
Early in the year, JJ Hickson thought he was a jump-shooting big man. When Anderson Varejao went down in January, Hickson was forced to reassess the situation and spend more of his time down low (or as he likes to call, “his bread and butter”). Baron Davis arrives in March, and viola – Hickson’s true shooting totals, like his scoring, approach that of Blake Griffin.
Hickson is playing in as many minutes per game through April has he did in the month of February (his previous best scoring month), but is getting to the line nearly twice as often. He’s converting on as many shots at the rim – just under five per game - but taking nearly two fewer. He’s being assisted on 62.5 percent of his field goals in April while he was helped on 59.0 percent in February. He’s a different player, who could be coupling a lot of these figures above with a hot streak in a widely-considered garbage time of the NBA regular season, but he’s a motivated, different player.
And it is tough to not attribute at least a portion of this success to Baron Davis. When he is not busy coaching those six-to-eight years younger than he, he is drawing defenders and helping his athletic frontcourt teammates have clear paths to the basket.
Hollins’ true shooting percentage is sky high due to a bevy of easy looks at the rim, most – if not all – of which have been finished with two-hand slams a la Lob City. The months of March and April (catching on here?) have seen Hollins get to the line roughly 60 percent more often than he has at any other point in his career. No full-month stretch of Hollins’ time in the NBA has seen the former UCLA Bruin take 5.8 shots per game. And while April will obviously be abridged, Hollins’ willingness to be a part of a system – and his postgame quotes regarding the point guard in question – show that much of this success can also be attributed to Davis.
There is no telling what Davis’ future in Cleveland may hold. Ramon Sessions has more shelf life left, has been studying with Davis often, and has shown that he is more than capable of running the point guard position for Scott. The Cavs will also have a shot at obtaining a new point guard in the upcoming NBA Draft having two lottery selections. It is widely speculated that Duke’s Kyrie Irving is at the top of the Cavaliers’ draft board, something that would ultiamately force Davis to pass on the baton.
When it is all said and done, having a point guard that can create shots for himself as well as others may be vital for all teams, but Byron Scott’s future (which should have a high correlation to the success of the Cavaliers going forward) hinges on this factor. Adding Davis in late February not only bolstered the backcourt for the short term, but it has shown the Cavaliers front office what the frontcourt is capbable of when paired with a point guard who has court vision and can convert on his self-created shots.
Oh, and he also helped them beat the Miami Heat.