The Knicks signing of Baron Davis certainly generated headlines but the embattled former All-Star doesn’t seem to be a great fit for his new team.
New York’s offense centers around a ball dominating isolation scorer in Carmelo Anthony and features a pair of devastating pick-and-roll finishers in Amar’e Stoudamire and the newly acquired Tyson Chandler. With this trio on the floor, plus the rotation of scoring guards like Toney Douglas and Landry Fields, Davis won’t be asked to carry the scoring load that he has at in the past. Still, there are some concerns about his role as a facilitator.
Based on date from Synergy Sports, Davis has always been at his best distributing the ball when he can isolate against defenders. This was all fine and well when he was younger and in good health, but his ability to break opposing players down off the dribble has diminished. But what’s really at issue is his career-long struggle to run the pick-and-roll with any degree of consistency.
Last season while playing with the Clippers – another team with a pair of explosive big men – Davis ranked in the bottom one-fourth in the NBA in offensive efficiency when passing out of the pick-and-roll. For players who had at least 200 possessions in this set, he was dead last, with a turnover rate of nearly 20 percent while his passes produced just .84 points per possession
Davis’s problems seem to stem from an inability to explode around the corner when a screen is set. Rather than dribbling off the pick, he tends to float off it and linger back, hoping to bait the help defender into collapsing on the ball. Once this happens he looks to deliver either a bounce pass between the double or pass over the top – high-risk, high-reward plays that fueled his high turnover rate.
These sudden pronounced struggles are a recent development, but Davis has never been a particularly apt playmaker in the pick-and-roll. Even during some of his best seasons (2006-07) he never ranked higher than the 70th percentile in offensive efficiency here – proving less potent on fewer possessions than other players considered elite point guards.
It all comes back to the injuries and the gradual aging process. Not to take away from Davis’s craftiness and court vision, but his abilities as a playmaker were always buoyed by his strength and athleticism, his ability to beat defenders off the dribble and power his way into the lane. If Davis isn’t right physically, he may only dull Knicks dangerous pick-and-roll attack.
Then there’s the issue of playing alongside Anthony, a player who needs to dominate the ball in order to be effective. While Anthony has traditionally been a good catch and shoot player (among the NBA’s best in his run with the Knicks last season), this has never been a huge facet of his game. Catch and shoot scenarios have never accounted for more than 18% of Anthony’s possessions in any one season – he is an isolation scorer. Even as Anthony shows more point-forward skills, pairing him with an aging point guard who is at his most effective distributing the basketball out of iso sets seems to be counterintuitive.
For all of the hype and conversation generated by this signing, barring a sudden late career renaissance via speedy physical recovery, Davis is far more likely to be a stopgap than a savior.