By Josh Cohen
October 21, 2012

In Cohen Courtside, Josh Cohen examines the state of the Orlando Magic after games this season. He will tackle sidebar storylines and focus on topics that stretch far beyond the box score. There will also be some analysis on league-wide subjects.

ORLANDO -- Voyage around a large portion of the NBA circuit, talk to media and fans and strike up a debate with a generally uncomplicated question.

Who got the better end of last year’s Glen Davis for Brandon Bass trade? Orlando or Boston?

I have spoken to about a dozen people from around the country regarding this topic and have watched countless on-air analysts argue about it and it seems there is a universally outrageous judgment.

For reasons preposterous and in many ways unjustified, the consensus nationally is that the Celtics won that deal and that Bass is more valuable to Boston than Big Baby to the Magic.

Yikes, yikes, yikes.

With all due respect to Bass and what he has offered Boston since last season, this shouldn’t even be a debate any longer. Davis is far superior, far more essential to Orlando and despite all the attention given to the C’s, soaring at a much faster pace than his childhood friend from Louisiana.

The delusion that Bass is better stems from sociological tendencies.

While I do not claim to be a professional in the study of human behavior, we tend to judge people off first impressions and often have a hard time reversing our ruling over time even if that original impression was an aberration rather than a frequency.

This is what happened with Davis, who for the first half of last season following the trade was a disappointment. He clearly had a difficult time adjusting to the Magic’s expectations of him, while Bass immediately flourished playing alongside Kevin Garnett.

But when Dwight Howard went down with the back injury and was ruled out for the season, Davis elevated his performance by leaps and bounds. He instantly became an unshakable force offensively and reestablished all the intangibles such as setting effective screens and drawing charges.

Yes, Bass was instrumental in Boston’s journey to the conference finals last season. Yes, we know Brandon is an exceptional jump shooter from 15 feet out and yes, we know he is a perfect compliment to Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and KG.

When you glance closer, however, Davis’ skills significantly outweigh Bass’ strengths. Big Baby is relentless in the paint, finds his way to the free throw line more frequently because of his mammoth size and offers a variety of moves inside. Davis is a terrific help defender and while he usually surrenders height to his taller opponents, he still manages to bully his way inside.

Though he didn't necessarily fill up the stat sheet on Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs, Davis set an abundance of screens while on the floor that created a surplus of open jump shots for his teammates.

While it’s just the preseason, just look at Glen’s exceptional stats this month.

Oct. 7 vs. PHI: 16 points, 12 rebounds in 27 minutes
Oct. 15 vs. CLE: 27 points, eight rebounds in 34 minutes
Oct. 19 vs. IND: 21 points, 9-of-14 shooting in 28 minutes
Oct. 21 vs. SAS: 17 points, four rebounds in 22 minutes

In contrast, here are Bass’ numbers from the last four exhibition games:

Oct. 15 vs. PHI: 11 points, six rebounds in 22 minutes
Oct. 16 vs. BKN: eight points, four rebounds in 22 minutes
Oct. 18 vs. BKN: two points, two rebounds in 14 minutes
Oct. 13 vs. NYK: five points, three rebounds in 19 minutes

Listen, it’s just the preseason. I’m not implying that statistics mean a whole lot in exhibition games. However, if you have thoroughly watched both Davis and Bass play this preseason and for a significant portion of last season, hands down Big Baby is better and Orlando received the better talent.

But for reasons completely unmerited, Bass has earned significantly more respect for his contributions in Beantown than Davis in O-Town.

And again, that is not an insult to Bass, who clearly fits in well with the Celtics. However, if you are going to fairly compare the two, all one needs to do is watch a bit closer and it will be evident that the Magic got the better end of the LSU swap from last winter. For what it’s worth, the Magic also had landed Von Wafer (moderate contributions last season) and a trade exception from the deal.

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