Glen Davis, the unlikely hero in Blake Griffin’s absence

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When Blake Griffin was announced out, all eyes turned to Spencer Hawes, who, finally in a starting role, would be provided the opportunity to make up for early season struggles off the bench.

During the 11-game stretch without Griffin, all eyes turned to DeAndre Jordan who cemented himself as a future max contract player by dominating without his frontcourt mate, averaging 14.9 points on 64 percent shooting and 19.2 rebounds per game during the stretch.

But the one guy who has been key to the Clippers’ success that has lacked recognition from observers, both analysts and fan? The cast-off Glen “Big Baby” Davis.

The numbers don’t pop off the board for Davis — during the Griffin-less stretch, Big Baby is averaging just 5.3 points, 2.9 rebounds in 15.5 minutes per game. But his presence on the floor, for a myriad of reasons, has given the Clippers a much-needed boost, especially with Spencer Hawes failing to find himself alongside the starter unit.

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To get a clearer picture of Davis’ impact, take a look at this on/off numbers: per NBA Stats, the Clippers have been elite defensively with Big Baby on the floor, posting a defensive rating of 92.3 in 171 minutes; with Griffin off the floor, that number spikes to 104.0.

For a deeper look, in hopes of weeding out the garbage time minutes, when Davis has been on the floor with DeAndre Jordan (87 of those 171 minutes), the Clippers have allowed teams 0.92 points per possession, per NBAWowy; with Jordan and Hawes on the floor, that number increases to 1.11 points per possession, in 235 minutes.

For a Clippers team without Blake Griffin, defense is the key to short-term success and Glen Davis‘ presence has been pivotal to that. The offense? As long as Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and DeAndre Jordan are available, the offense is going to run well, with or without Griffin. But with a 20-10 guy out the picture, the offense is more susceptible to lapses where the offense can’t get going, meaning the Clippers have to be prepared to stop guys on the other end of the floor. Davis doesn’t fit the mold of ‘great defensive player’ like a Serge Ibaka or Anthony Davis — long, nimble deterrent at the rim — but he’s been effective: Davis manages well against ball-handlers when defending the pick-and-roll and has played excellent (and active) helpside defense, a factor that’s key due to the defensive system Doc Rivers runs where the bigs shows high when defending the initial pick-and-roll.

It’s what Spencer Hawes is unable to do.

It’s what Hedo Turkoglu is unable to do.

It’s what Ekpe Udoh can do, but is unable to having been stuck to the bench this season.

And when it comes to energy on the floor, only Paul, Jordan, and Matt Barnes can give what Davis provides to this team. When on the court, there’s never a moment where you believe Davis isn’t trying his hardest to give his team an edge. He crashes the boards against bigger opponents, dives for the nearest loose ball and never frets from showing emotion and a sense of urgency, something some on this team could take a note from; if Davis loses or is outplayed, it’s not because he didn’t try hard enough, but because he lacks in the talent department.

In general, Glen Davis’ presence has been much of a negative for the Clippers, as seen here when written about earlier in the season. But things have turned around for the better which couldn’t have come at a better time with Griffin out and Hawes being an albatross who performs well once every five games.

Can this impressive defense continue? For the Clippers sake, they hope so. But for the time being? Give Big Baby some credit. He deserves it.

Next: Chris Paul, Point 'God' No More but Still Damn Good