Every NBA team has a go-to guy, and there’s really only room for one. And it’s not strictly who takes the last-second shot. It’s the guy who regularly gets the ball when things are getting tense in the fourth; the guy expected to calm things down when teammates are getting sloppy; the guy called upon to snuff out an opponent’s rally, or spark a rally of his own; the guy who’s not just supposed to make shots, but make the right decisions. Bottom line: Who do you want the offense to run through when everything is on the line? From #30 to #1, these are the League’s best go-to guys…
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JUDGE: We will now hear closing arguments in the case of Baron Davis…
PROSECUTION: Baron should be lower than this. Did you see him last year? He was TERRIBLE. The most talented player the Clippers have had since Dominique Wilkins dropped by for a cup of apple drink in 1994 somehow made the team even worse when he was supposed to be the savior
He couldn’t hit a shot to save his life (35% FG, 30% 3PA), and what’s worse, he didn’t even look like he cared. The guy with a history of injuries conveniently played a whole 82 when he was in his contract year with Golden State, and then last year went back to his same broke-down routine, missing 17 games with various health problems. When he was on the court, Baron was the worst go-to player in the League, period. Seriously, look it up. His crunch-time performance (14.7 points per 48 minutes of clutch, 20% FG) was worse than Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. He acted like the paint was full of piranhas, and when he did take a break from jacking ill-advised threes, he couldn’t even make layups; Baron made 49% of “inside shots” according to 82games.com.
Baron has been overrated throughout his career, with people letting a few highlight dunks trick them into thinking he’s an elite point guard and a legit go-to guy. He’s not. In the past five years, Baron has led a team to the playoffs once. He can’t stay healthy. He’s often out of shape, or not in the best shape he could be. His shot selection is terrible, and he only cares when things are going his way. You think the Clippers aren’t regretting signing him to that monster contract last year? Shit, they’d be better off with Sammy Davis playing point guard.
DEFENSE: Baron should be higher than this. He is undeniably one of the best PG’s in the world and a true leader. Remember his run with the ’07 Warriors? Baron took an eighth seed to only the third-ever upset of a No. 1 seed in NBA playoff history, and there was no doubt that team was his team. He was the definition of a go-to guy, whether it was coming up with clutch plays, producing momentum-building moments, and leading with his emotions on his sleeve. You’ve seen how bad the Warriors — with pretty much the same core unit — have been since Baron left, right?
With his strength, explosiveness, speed and fearless attitude, Baron is a force on the court. I can’t think of one point guard who can check him one-on-one and hold him down. He can knock down threes if you play off him, break ankles if you crowd him, and dunk on 7-footers if you mistime your jump.
Was Baron in top form last year? Of course not. But everyone has slumps. It’s not like he forgot how to shoot, and the haters always forget to mention that BD did hand out 10.9 assists per 48 minutes of “clutch time,” fourth-best in the League — in other words, at least Baron knew he was struggling with his shot, so he was making things happen and getting his teammates shots to give the Clippers a chance to win.
And come on, did you see what he was working with? If your best teammate was Zach Randolph, one of your other top options was the reincarnation of Corey Maggette, your coach was arguably the most incompetent coach in the League, and you just went from playing your home games in the rock-concert atmosphere that is Golden State’s Oracle Arena to the morgue-with-beer-and-chips that is Staples Center when “Clippers” is covering midcourt, you’d be in a funk, too. But Baron is ready to dominate again this year. He’s publicly stated the Clippers are his team, and he’s in shape and motivated with some improved talent around him, e.g. Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin.
Sleep on him if you want, but go ahead and ask Dirk Nowitzki and Andrei Kirilenko what happens when you underestimate Baron Davis.
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