Big Baby becomes a fantasy Goliath

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When you think of NBA superstars, Glen Davis probably isn't the first name that pops into your brain.

Superstars are supposed to be slender and athletic. Davis looks like he could give Joey Chestnut a run for his money in a hot dog eating contest.

Stars are supposed to throw down incredible highlight-reel dunks on a nightly basis. Davis has a vertical leap like George Costanza.

You're only a star if you can hit the outside jumper. Davis is a career 16- percent 3-point shooter.

Stars always knock down clutch shots. Davis hit a buzzer beater once ... and then proceeded to clothesline a 9-year-old sitting in the front row.

The "SportsCenter Not Top 10" was made for guys like Davis. He's clumsy, a bit flaky and he's probably had a few too many Wendy's baconators for his own good.

But without Davis in the starting lineup, the Orlando Magic's season would already be over.

Instead, they'll have one more chance to redeem themselves Tuesday in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference first-round series against the Indiana Pacers.

The 6-foot-9 power forward, affectionately known throughout the league as "Big Baby" (or as my brother and I like to call him, "Massive Infant"), has been Orlando's rock since Dwight Howard went down with a season-ending back injury in early April.

Sure, Davis doesn't have the appearance of your stereotypical NBA star, but he's playing like one.

Davis entered the 2011-12 season averaging just 7.6 ppg and through Orlando's first 53 games of the season, Baby had tallied just one 20-point game. In the 15 games since, Davis has collected 20 points or more five times.

The 26-year-old is so hot right now, you'd think he was flammable. In four playoff games, Davis is averaging 20 ppg and 9.5 rpg.

To put Davis' 20 ppg into perspective, 173 players have registered at least one point in the playoffs this year. Of those 173, Davis ranks 15th in ppg, putting him ahead of other well-known big men Andrew Bynum (18.5 ppg), Josh Smith (17.7), Kevin Garnett (17.0), Amare Stoudemire (15.7), Tim Duncan (14.8) and Chris Bosh (14.0).

He's also outrebounding the likes of perennial board masters Joakim Noah (9.3 rpg), Tyson Chandler (8.5), Al Jefferson (8.5), Carlos Boozer (8.3) and Zach Randolph (7.8). Dirk Nowitzki and Blake Griffin are the only power forwards averaging more points than Davis, and only Smith, Garnett, Paul Millsap and David West are outpacing him in the rebounding department (and Denver's Kenneth Faried, if you consider him a power forward).

I bet you never thought you'd find Big Baby's name on a list with those characters, but the truth is, Baby has been dominating this league for over a month now. His 16.4 ppg in April was the highest of any month in his five-year NBA career, and if you include the playoffs, he's averaging 17.3 ppg since taking over for Howard on April 1st. He also has notched nine double-doubles over that span after not recording a single one in his first 49 games of the season.

What's even more impressive is that since Davis got moved to the starting lineup, he's scored 18.9 percent of Orlando's total points. That compares pretty favorably to Howard's 22 percent. If you look at the playoffs alone, Davis has actually been shouldering a bit more of the scoring burden than Howard was before he got injured. Big Baby has scored 24.1 percent of the Magic's points in the first round.

Davis has always been quite nimble for a guy who weighs almost 300 pounds and his mid-range game is also pretty good for a big. But the knock on Davis has never been his scoring or even his surprisingly strong defense in the low post. It's been his rebounding.

Big Baby is one of the worst jumpers in the game and that deficiency has always had a negative impact on his ability to collect rebounds. He entered 2011-12 averaging just 4.1 rpg for his career, which is terrible for a low post player.

We're not sure exactly what started clicking for Davis this season, but he's been a much better rebounder for the Magic than he ever was with the Boston Celtics. Since the beginning of April, Big Baby has been a fiend on the boards, averaging 9 rpg.

Maybe Davis' rebounding has benefited from playing more as a center in Howard's absence, but whatever it is, it has to be making his fantasy owners ecstatic.

Davis still isn't much of a shot-blocker, but even this area of his game is starting to improve. In Game 1 on April 28, Davis swatted a season-high three shots against the Pacers.

The theme with Davis has been that when he plays big minutes, he usually puts up pretty good numbers. The problem is that next season Howard will return from his back injury, leaving Davis to duke it out with sharp-shooting Ryan Anderson for minutes at power forward.

None of that sounds positive for Davis' fantasy value. But remember, there is an excellent chance Orlando will still explore a trade for Howard (who will be a free agent after the 2012-13 campaign) this offseason and it's no guarantee that Anderson will be back with the Magic next season, either.

Anderson, who will be a restricted free agent in the off-season, will probably want a nice pay day after putting together his best season as a pro (16.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg). If Orlando still thinks it has a chance to re-sign Howard to a long- term deal, the Magic are going to need every penny possible to do it, meaning that re-signing Anderson might not be in their plans.

Either way, after seeing how well Davis has played over this last month, you know Orlando will find a way to keep him on the floor in 2012-13.

So keep the Massive Infant in your fantasy plans for next season and get ready to see another big performance from No. 11 Tuesday night in Indiana. The Magic will definitely need it.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at

Powered by The Sports Network.