Ricky vs. Rip

Who's better, perennial runner Rip Hamilton or leading sixth-man candidate Ricky Davis? A full comparison of two of the world's best midrange shooters inside.

Rip Hamilton and Ricky Davis have one primary thing in common: they are both masters of the mid-range shot. They have one primary offensive difference: Hamilton tends to run around screens a la Reggie Miller or Michael Redd for his shot, while Davis tends to create his own shot by penetrating and elevating.

Who is a better player? The common-thinking hypothesis we want to consider and either reject or accept is that Hamilton is somewhat of a better offensive player at this point but that Davis is close and has better defense.

Let's start with a comparison of their physical attributes. Both are listed at 6-7 and 190 pounds and both can play shooting guard or small forward and even bring the ball up as point in a crunch. Hamilton is one year older, turning 27 in a week, while Davis is turning 26 in September. Yet because Hamilton spent more time in college at UConn, he is now playing in his sixth season; Davis, though younger, is already in his seventh season. Davis is also already on his fourth team, having shuttled from Charlotte to Cleveland to Miami to Boston. Hamilton played with Michael Jordan in Washington before being traded to Detroit, and that's been the extent of his tour of duty around the league.

Here's a comparison of their unadjusted statistics for this season:

  Min Pts Reb Ast Stl Blk FG% FT%
Rip Hamilton 39.5 20.4 3.8 4.2 1.11 0.13 43.9% 88.0%
Ricky Davis 31.5 14.9 2.9 2.8 1.21 0.30 46.3% 81.1%

Here's the same numbers stretched to a per-48 minute basis.

  Pts Reb Ast Stl Blk
Rip Hamilton 24.8 4.6 5.1 1.35 0.16
Ricky Davis 22.7 4.4 4.3 1.84 0.45

It appears that the commonplace wisdom of Davis being the better defender holds true: Davis has nearly three times as many blocks and a lot more steals, and only slightly lower offensive production with a couple points per 48 minutes less and nearly the same rebound rate. Hamilton is a better passer at this point.

What about other statistics? 82games.com lists the plus/minus for both players and here we see a dramatic difference. Hamilton is Detroit's best player by one measure of plus/minus while Davis actually produces a worse lead when he's in the game than when he's on the bench. Part of that however is due to the fact that Hamilton, when playing, is typically playing with other starters, while Davis is typically playing with the second unit. Nevertheless, the difference is striking, and one could make the argument that Davis's plus/minus numbers should be inflated, not deflated, because he is typically also playing against the other team's second unit.

Even in terms of effective (i.e. three-point adjusted) field goal percentage allowed while they are on the floor, an interesting measure of defense, Hamilton actually leads Davis slightly. Opponents shoot 1.4% worse when Hamilton is on the floor than when he is on the bench; Celtics opponents shoot 1.2% worse when Davis is on the floor than when he is on the bench.

Bottom line? Decision? These are left as exercises to the reader.