NBA, The NBA's 30 Best Go-To Players / Oct 8, 2010 / 2:31 pm

Ranking the NBA’s 30 Go-To Guys (#23: Baron Davis)

Who do you want your offense to run through with the game on the line? Counting down 30th to 1st (one per team), I’ve ranked the League’s go-to guys…

BARON DAVIS, Los Angeles Clippers

When you follow up one uncharacteristically bad season with another — and then kick off the third year with an ominous start — you can’t blame anyone for suggesting that you’ve probably lost a step and aren’t getting it back.

The debacle that was ’08-09 could have been a fluke for Baron Davis. His first year with a new team, the pressure of playing in front of hometown fans and living up to a monster contract, the result of playing for arguably the worst coach in the NBA, the byproduct of playing with a young supporting cast who hadn’t yet learned how to win at the pro level … all valid explanations for Baron’s 14.9 points per game (his lowest since 2001), 37 percent shooting from the field (2nd-lowest of his career), and status as statistically one of the worst clutch players in the League.

But what about when he did it again the next season? In Year 2 with the Clippers, ’09-10, Baron put up 15.3 points and handed out 8.0 dimes per night, but his three-point shooting got even worse, as he hit only 27 percent beyond the arc. Meanwhile, the Clippers didn’t get much better under his watch, winning 29 games as opposed to 19 W’s the year before.

However, Baron did improve his numbers in clutch situations. His 26.9 points per 48 minutes of “clutch time,” according to 82games.com, wasn’t on the level of Kobe or LeBron or Vince Carter, but it did place Baron above the likes of Ben Gordon, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Ray Allen. (Then again, each of those players could arguably be called No. 2 options at least.) Baron’s 42 percent shooting from the field and 31 percent from three in clutch time were both better than his overall regular-season numbers, and Baron hit 85 percent on clutch free throws. He also ranked sixth in the League with 9.3 assists per 48 minutes of clutch time. (Being a go-to guy isn’t always about scoring. Running the offense and creating looks for others counts, too.)

As much as he still loves taking threes — too often of the on-the-run or fadeaway variety — Baron is at his best when he’s using his quickness, strength and handle to penetrate the lane as a scorer or distributor. Last season he was better at putting pressure on the defense instead of settling for long jumpers, but it’s still an area in which he could improve. And with Blake Griffin now occupying space on the block in L.A., Chris Kaman coming off an All-Star season, and Eric Gordon coming off a breakout summer with Team USA, Baron has enough scorers around him to rack up assists on his off shooting nights, and pick his spots as a takeover scorer. And maybe Griffin or Gordon will eventually take the torch as L.A.’s go-to guy for the future. But for the present, it still rests in Baron’s hands.

The Clippers have enough talent to make a run at the playoffs this year — though it seems like we say that every year — but early on it’s not looking good, and once again their leader and go-to guy is the main one planting a red flag. After offseason rumors that he’d swelled to 260 pounds were quickly refuted, Baron nonetheless reported to training camp in less-than-prime condition, to the level where new coach Vinny Del Negro publicly called him out on Day 1 of camp.

Like I’ve said before, I understand if Baron isn’t a summer workout machine like other NBA players — and he certainly has enough pure talent to get away with not living in the gym — but it makes you question his focus and commitment. The overall mood around these Clippers is one of optimism, that things are going to be different this time around. And considering Baron is the highest-paid player and on-court leader, you’d like to see that same attitude reflected from his end.

So far Baron has been held out of practices and preseason games as he recovers from another round of nagging injuries, but when he gets on the court we’ll begin to see what Year 3 in L.A. has in store. Either Baron will put his gifts together and make a power move up this ranking in 2011, or he’ll continue toeing the precipice of unrealized potential.

*** *** ***

24. Ben Gordon (Pistons)
25. Andre Iguodala (76ers)
26. Yao Ming (Rockets)
27. Mo Williams (Cavaliers)
28. Brook Lopez (Nets)
29. Andrea Bargnani (Raptors)
30. Michael Beasley (Timberwolves)

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  • MrFreezy

    If only he was motivated 100% of the time and he didnt’t have to deal with so many injuries…nonetheless, Boom Dizzle will always be one of my favorite pgs of all time!!!

  • Joe’s Momma

    OMG, I kept my mouth shut when you put Iggy so low, even when you put Mo Williams on the list. But I gotta say something this time around.

    BoomDizzle this high? I got mad love for Baron, LA native that was a freakin monster coming out of UCLA even with the bad knee.

    But Baron is no longer a go to guy. He ate his way out of that conversation two summers ago. If anyone on the clippers is going to be the go to guy when they need a bucket, it is going to be Eric Gordon this year.

    He had one game winner last year, and it was against the Celtics. I give him props, but this isn’t 2007 anymore. I give him 20 games before he is injured again.

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    @Joe’s Momma — Who would you have picked from Cleveland if not Mo Williams?

  • derik

    Baron Davis is so not the go to guy on the clippers, Gordon, Kaman, Griffin, all better choices then Baron… he’s suppose to be a playmaker, unfortunately he thinks exactly like Dime…

  • http://basketball.fantasysports.yahoo.com/nba/register/tos?league_id=55775&password=tencents JAY

    @ Joe’s Momma: ” I kept my mouth shut when you put Iggy so low”

    Uhhhh…. how high would you have put Iggy?? A couple of spots higher? I think 25th is about right. You could argue 24th or even 23rd, but is it really worth arguing to move him 1 or 2 spots?? I don’t think so. That’s just being nitpicky. He’s a good player but being clutch isn’t a strongsuit of his.

    @Burton: With the exception of Yao, coming off a major injury, so far the list is good. Personally I would have put Brooks as Houston’s clutch player, but that’s just me.

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    @JAY — Brooks is my guy, and I could live with him or Kevin Martin being considered the go-to for Houston. But I think when Yao is available, you run the offense through him. He may not always take the last-second shot, but down the stretch on big possessions you dump it to him first, then proceed from there.

  • George W Kush Sr

    I agree with Joe’s mama, I think Gordon is their go to guy now, Griffin might be later on.

    And BDizzle is becoming a negative influence, he better get it together

  • Joe’s Momma

    As far as Mo Williams, he never one to put the ball in the hoop when it matters. I don’t know who you put instead of him on that horrible roster Cleveland has assembled. So Mo gets the de facto nod, if Jamison gets some love from Scott this year he might be neck and neck with Mo. Everyone else, ugh, if I gotta see Jamario Moon shooting 3s like he is Allan Houston, I will throw up.

    Iggy I would put at least top 20, I get his shot is erratic, but dude is clutch. Maybe not on that Kobe or Wade level. Maybe not on the Melo level which is a notch below, but right in that third tier of clutch. He gets to the rim, and his 3 pointer has improved.

    I didn’t mean to nitpick, but seeing BDiddy I just had to say something.

  • Northern Sole

    Davis is an overrated has been. I guess this is what passes for journalism these days…

  • the cynic

    can you be a go to player when you shoot 35%? He is definitely the go to guy for beard tips

  • sh!tfaced

    …if only he played as good as his beard

  • http://deleted dagwaller

    Haha I always laugh when I think of when people considered him a top 5 PG in the League…

  • RC

    I think Baron knows he’s not the same player he used to be and that’s why he is slowly losing focus from the game of basketball. Although this guy in his prime and maybe till now is full of talent and just a very good if not elite basketball player. Always gonna remember the run he had in Golden State.

  • money

    Baron is such a waste of talent. If I ever had the natural talent that he or Shawn Kemp had, I sure would work my ass off to become of the all time greats, instead of just cruising in neutral. That said, it still hurt when B-Diddy left the bay.

  • Brooklyn Bulls

    No one got the memo? Baron has already movbed on 2 his post nba career. son has gone Hollywood and wants 2 b a filmaker. supposedly he’s nominated 4 an emmy. Dude is not thinkin about bball

  • HeatWave4Life

    Baron Davis and Go-to don’t belong in the same sentence.

  • E

    But Baron Davis and TO-GO go well together.