This season has seen Glen Davis go from a serviceable bench player to a possible Sixth Man of the Year candidate. The biggest area of improvement for Davis is on the offensive end, where his metrics are up across the board. Most notably, Davis' True Shooting Percentage (TS%) is up from 50.0 percent to 50.8 percent and his assist percentage (AST%) is up from 5.9 percent to 7.4 percent. Last year, Davis produced 0.4 wins (WP82) according to Bradford Doolittle's NBAPET system; this year he's on pace to produce 6.9--the fifth-best total on the Celtics and the seventh-best among players eligible for the sixth-man award.
So where has Davis' offensive improvement come from? Well, it isn't on the outside, where he has really struggled with his jump shot. Davis is shooting just 36.0 percent on shots from 16-23 feet, and when he shoots it off the pick-and-pop he is shooting just 38.8 percent.
Where Davis has really excelled this year is on the inside. Despite being undersized for a power forward, Davis is shooting 66.1 percent on his shots at the rim (taking 3.1 per game). (Last season, he was at 51.8 percent.) Davis' ability to finish at the rim boils down to two things. First, his ability to make himself available for the pass, and second his ability to finish in traffic.
The fact that Davis is so good on cuts illustrates his ability to move without the basketball and get open. According to Synergy, Davis has posted a points per possession of 1.41 on cuts so far this season, hitting 75 percent of his shots on those plays.
There is no question that playing with four future Hall of Famers helps Davis' game, but even when sharing the court with Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce, Davis still needs to be able to move without the basketball to get himself open:
On this play, Rondo is getting a screen from Garnett, allowing for Rondo to attack the lane. As this is taking place, Davis is set up on the opposite block.
As Rondo starts to penetrate, Davis' defender, Ryan Anderson, shows help towards Rondo. Instead of just standing in the same spot, Davis cuts from his spot to the block. Not only does this help create a passing lane, but it also creates distance between Davis and the rotating man, J.J. Redick.
Davis makes the catch in the paint with nobody in front of him and a clear path to the rim.
Davis is able to take one step and finish at the rim easily. Here is the play in real time:
It's a subtle move, yes, but it is enough to free Davis up and make him available for the pass and easy finish.
Here is another look at the same situation. Again, Davis is able to make the catch and get the basket. Davis' cut not only increases the distance between the help man coming down to pick Davis up and the help man's original responsibility, but it also makes the pass from Rondo to Davis shorter. Because of that shortened distance, Davis is able to get a shot up at the rim before the defense can rotate over.
In addition to Davis' cuts, he is also successful when posting up. Davis posts a PPP of .984 on 48.4 percent shooting in the post. As a guy so undersized, you would expect Davis' numbers in the post to be lower (especially since he isn't a threat to face up and hit a jumper), however, his ability to finish in traffic enables him to negate the size advantage of his opponents. Davis is able overcome his size disadvantage by getting into his opponent's chest and cutting him down.
Here is a perfect example. Davis is being covered by Andrew Bynum in the post. Davis faces up and makes a move towards the baseline and instead of going straight up for the lay-up (that would most likely get blocked), Davis jumps directly into Bynum's chest, not only creating contact, but preventing him from attempting a shot block.
With Davis jumping into Bynum's body, he actually prevents Bynum from jumping effectively negating the size of Bynum and allowing Davis to finish at the rim while getting a foul called.
When Davis is matched with a defender against whom he has a strength advantage, he gets open looks by going into defender's body. That is exactly what happens here as Davis tries to jump into Charlie Villanueva. Not wanting the contact, Villanueva jumps out of the way, allowing him an easy lay-up attempt. Again, by jumping into his defender's body he basically negates him.
Here it is once again. Davis is going up against David West in the post and he attacks baseline. When Davis goes up, he jumps into West's body. West is actually unable to get his hands up to try and defend the shot. By the time he does, Davis has already released the basketball, meaning there is no chance for a block.
When you watch the height-challenged Davis play at the rim, it is remarkable to see how effective he is. He plays smart, whether it is moving without the basketball or using his body to create space and negate his defender's size advantage at the rim.