Has Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis played his way out of Boston?

Posted on May 21, 2009 by


Such is the title of an article by Robert Lee in the Providence Journal.  Here are some excerpts from this story:

The Celtics’ first priority this offseason will be deciding whether to bring back restricted free agent Glen Davis.

… The 23-year-old forward will certainly entertain some big offers from other teams who have ample salary cap space, which the Celtics don’t, but because he’s restricted, the Celtics can match any offer he receives beginning in July.

Davis earned $711,517 this year, but his new contract figures to be in the $5-million to $10-million range, and the Celtics might not match his price tag if it gets too high, especially since Davis would be coming off the bench, backing up Kevin Garnett.


…Davis proved he can be a solid starting forward for any NBA team by averaging 15.8 points and 5.6 rebounds while knocking down 49.1 percent of his shots in the playoffs. And he proved that he can be called upon in the clutch when he won Game Four of the Eastern Conference semifinals at the buzzer with a 21-foot jumper, trying the series with Orlando at 2-2.

Now he is playing a waiting game.

“Baby plays with tremendous confidence,” Boston captain Paul Pierce said. “He’s shown the ability to be poised down the stretch and he’s hit some big shots throughout the season for us.”

Davis said signing a bigger contract is not what motivated him to perform well in the playoffs.

“I only thought about helping my team win,” Davis said. “I never thought about getting paid or what [the Celtics] were going to do. It is what it is.”

Davis took it very hard when Orlando eliminated the Celtics from the playoffs. He felt like the world was on his shoulders because most NBA experts said that the Celtics could not advance to the Eastern Conference finals without Garnett.

He believed that he was good enough to fill Garnett’s shoes and help the Celtics advance


…Davis improved by leaps and bounds this season, working on his mid-range jumper, but that wasn’t fully realized until Garnett went down. He averaged just 4.5 points and 3 rebounds per game as a rookie, and 7 points and 4 rebounds in 76 regular-season games, including 16 starts this season.

But his numbers skyrocketed in the playoffs.


Okay, let’s contrast this view with some numbers.  In the regular season Davis was one of the least productive players in the NBA.  In fact, he ranked in the bottom ten in the league.

But in the playoffs his numbers “skyrocketed.”  At least, so we are told. 

Table One reports the numbers for Davis in 2008-09 and the playoffs.

Table One: Glen Davis in 2008-09 and in the 2009 playoffs

As one can see, Davis did improve in the post-season. During the regular season — relative to the average power forward — Davis was below average with respect to everything except free throw percentage, steals, and turnovers.  In the post-season he was above average with respect to shooting efficiency from the field, steals, and turnovers.  He also took an above average number of shots, so his scoring was above par.  Although he improved with respect to scoring, in the playoffs Davis was even further below average with respect to rebounds.  And he still had a problem with respect to blocked shots, assists, and personal fouls.

When we put the whole picture together we see that Davis did post a higher Win Score in the post-season.  Unfortunately, he was still well below average.  In sum, despite what Davis did in the playoffs, he is still not a very productive NBA player.

In the article, Lee argued that Davis will now get paid between $5 and $10 million.  When we look at all the numbers it’s hard to see how Davis is worth this money (and I don’t think you need Win Score or Wins Produced to see this point). But if we look at the factors that determine salary in the NBA (primarily scoring), the salary forecast Lee offers is believable.   In other words, if we plug the numbers posted by Davis into the salary model (updated with more recent data from what was discussed in our journal article and in The Wages of Wins), we do get a forecast in this range.

Much has been made of the statistical revolution in basketball.  But even in the front office of the Denver Nuggets – a team that employs the top statistical talent in the business (i.e. Dean Oliver) — other voices get heard.  At least, such was an argument in a recent Wall Street Journal article (HT TrueHoop). Looking at the salary numbers (and other decisions in basketball), I think it’s clear the other voices around the NBA often carry the day. As a consequence, Big Baby is probably going to get a big raise. 

One last note on Davis…. In Table One I also offered the career numbers of Eddy Curry.  Like Davis, Curry is a big man who can score but can’t rebound.   So Curry — who is also prone to turnovers — really doesn’t help his team win much.  But like Davis hopes will happen for him, Curry does get paid quite a bit.  And yes, the aforementioned salary model does indicate Curry is paid “correctly”. 

– DJ

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Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at wagesofwins.com provides substantially more information on the published research behind Wins Produced and Win Score

Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also discussed in the following posts:

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics

Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.