At its absolute core, a player's offensive responsibility with the ball breaks down to answering one question: what gives my team the best chance of getting points on this trip down the floor? Some players have an angry man inside them yelling "SHOOT!" every time. Some players go the opposite route, preferring to distribute the ball. Most fall somewhere in the middle, but all of them except Stevin "Hedake" Smith are making the decision they sincerely believe helps their team get something out of the possession.
The more often someone has the ball in his hands, the better at answering that question his team needs him to be. Enter Dee Davis. Dee is unquestionably the top - and perhaps the only - name on the point guard depth chart for Xavier. Despite his overtly gaudy ball-distribution stats (6.4 APG, 35.6% assist rate), he has a segment of Xavier fans that is neither small nor shy insisting that they won't miss him when he graduates.
The bone of contention seems to be that Dee's other offensive foibles - ill-advised forays into the lane, questionable shot selection, inconsistency at the line - outweigh whatever good work he does in passing to the right guys on our team and none of the guys on the other team. To find out if that's true, I dusted off an old formula we've used around here a time or two before.
The idea is simple: if a player scores a field goal or gets an assist, he's credited with a full good possession; if he makes a free throw, he gets .556 of a good possession. Turnovers and missed shots are worth a full bad possession, with a missed free throw being worth .556 of a bad possession. All this formula does is look at how often a player makes a decision that leads to the end of a possession, and how many of those decisions he's making in positive ways.
To set some context, here are the numbers for the senior years of some recent Xavier guards you may recall. GP is good possessions, BP is bad ones, TP is total possessions. On the right side of the graph you can see the +/- showing by how much their good possessions outweighed their bad ones and what percentage of their possessions were good ones. Since the season is still ongoing this year, these are all per-game numbers (it's sortable, so go nuts):
The first thing you'll probably notice is that Crawford's and Chalmers' numbers are both noticeably lower than the other ones on the graph. That's because Chalmers averaged 6.8 missed shots per game and Crawford averaged 8.7. Those guys were different kinds of players than the other three, but they're notable Xavier guards and I had already run the numbers, so I left them in there.
This chart also echoes how special a player Tu was. He ended possessions with the frequency of a shameless volume shooter but with the efficiency of a ball-control point guard. He lost 6.5 possessions per game on missed shots alone, but he lived at the free throw line (and was very effective from it) and dished out almost five assists per game.
Drew Lavender ends up being a pretty good comparison to Dee Davis in terms of know what to do with the ball. His senior year came in 2008 on one of the most experienced and balanced Xavier squads we've ever seen. He wasn't asked to run the whole team the whole time the way Dee has been this year, so he made fewer possession ending plays and his +/- is a little lower, but his GP% is exactly in line with Dee's.
So what's the point? The complaints about Dee are more about how visible his skills are than how valuable. He is averaging 4.7 missed shots per game - the same number Lavender did as a senior, 1.8 per game fewer than Tu did - but they mostly come either from behind the arc or on ridiculous basket drives attacking men literally twice his size. Meanwhile, he scores 3 buckets a game, sets his teammates up for nearly 6.5 more, and is losing less than half a possession per game to missed free throws.
Over his last eight games, Dee is averaging 11.5 GP and 7 BP per game, for a +/- of 4.5 and a GP% of 62.2%. Despite that - and despite the fact that he just won the Crosstown Shootout for us - I was fielding complaints about him today on Twitter. Dee is answering the question from the beginning of this post more than anyone on the team this year and - in his own way - he's answering it as effectively as any recent Xavier guard. He has his limitations, but if you don't think we're going to miss him when he's gone, we're not watching the same game.