The Magic may have left the Mavs Gortat-less and alone, but they also gave Dallas back their midlevel exception. All of a sudden the Mavs have all kinds of options in terms of available players, though none is a clear fit, fulfills a startling need, or comes at a price tag deserving of their talent level. The player that epitomizes all three incompatibilities is Glen “Big Baby” Davis.
Davis is a restricted free agent, a term which Mavs fans should be all too familiar with. As such, any offer designed to swipe Davis out from Boston would require enough of a contractual obligation that the Celtics would be crazy to match it. We’re talking well more than Davis is actually worth here, the bane of the midlevel exception. If the Mavs use their MLE on Davis, it will not be the same apparatus the once locked up Chauncey Billups in Detroit and almost brought Marcin Gortat to Dallas. It will be a weapon of evil, the likes of which we’ve seen in the money owed Beno Udrih and DeSegana Diop. The Mavs would need to pledge the average salary to a well below average player (career 10.9 PER) just to get him out of Boston, and that’s a move I simply cannot advocate. Or even give a thumbs up to. Or even do anything but wince when I read about it.
Most of my hesitation comes from the fact that Davis hasn’t yet shown himself to be that great of a player. The Celtics likely wouldn’t have gotten past the Bulls or kept up with the Magic if not for Davis’ efforts, but in the playoffs he performed at a level far above reasonable expectations. It screamed outlier more than progress, an abnormally efficient stretch of games in which Baby probably made his next contract. His stats jumped almost across the board from the regular season to the playoffs. His efficiency actually increased along with his usage rate, which is pretty unusual for an undersized four shooting more midrange jumpers than ever. His turnover percentage dropped while his shooting percentages increased, resulting in the quality rotation big man we saw against Chicago and Orlando. But just because that Glen Davis was the last thing to flash before our eyes does not mean we should expect anything similar.
The problem with Glen Davis last season was that he had trouble making his presence on the floor a truly positive one. He worked well as rotation filler for a high-level team with few other options, but that’s a far cry from a super-sub worthy of almost $6 million per year. According to 82games.com, Davis logged a negative net production (player production – opponent counterpart production) at both center and power forward. It wasn’t close (-3.5 at center, -4.8 at power forward). For comparison’s sake, Brandon Bass, a player deemed not worthy of the full midlevel by the Mavs, registered a +5.7 at center and a +3.9 at power forward. That’s a pretty startling drop-off in bench production, and one that would be damn hard to justify from a salary perspective.
On top of that, just as an item of interest, 82games indicates that 100% of Davis’ field goals in the 2008-2009 regular season were assisted. It’d be nice to have players on the floor capable of creating their own shots, especially when Jason Kidd is resting comfortably on the bench.
The real hole in the Mavs’ rotation left by the departure of Brandon Bass and the sudden denial of Marcin Gortat is not power forward, but center. Shawn Marion is more than capable of playing power forward when Dirk goes to the bench, and both Kris Humphries and Ahmad Nivins are capable of filling in the gaps. But as of right now, Erick Dampier is the only real center worthy of minutes on the Mavs’ roster, unless Nathan Jawai is much better than he showed in his first summer league game. Gortat would have solved this problem, and even Bass would have been a viable option. But Glen Davis? Is Davis really the Mavs’ plan to fill out the minutes at center? Offensively, Big Baby is a hustle guy with delusions of having a jump shot. On defense, he’s still very short to play center despite having the weight to throw down in the post. I’m sure he’d work hard and make every foul count, but you don’t pay players of Davis’ ilk considerable dollars to play center poorly. Not when you have a choice, anyway.
These rumors of a potential interest in Big Baby continue to surface not because of skills, or fit, or value. If the Mavs do sign Glen Davis, they’ll be motivated by something far more powerful: Desperation. If the Mavs react to their front-court losses with a sense of panic, Davis could very well be on the receiving end of some serious cash.