Monthly Archives: July 2013

What are the Detroit Pistons?

Daniel Y. Go | Flickr

The Detroit Pistons have probably had the most mesmerizing offseason in the NBA this year. And by no means are you to make the mistake of assuming that mesmerizing has a positive connotation in this case. Almost every move that Joe Dumars has made has been met with either “LOL PISTONS” or “What the f*ck are the Pistons doing??” Detroit signed Josh Smith to a huge 4 year, $54 million contract. On Tuesday afternoon, they completed a sign and trade with the Milwaukee Bucks to bring Brandon Jennings to the team on a 3 year, $24 million contract. In a vacuum, both of those moves are pretty sensible. The Pistons got two very talented players on fairly reasonable contracts without giving up much more than Brandon Knight and some cap space. But as components of a larger Detroit Pistons organism, they are head-scratching moves to say the least. Now, I’m not about to write 2500 words about why these moves make perfect sense and why the Pistons are now destined for greatness with Jennings and Smith complementing a young core of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. But I will write roughly half that many words to explain why Detroit’s offseason leans more towards “sensible” than “head-scratching.”

The question that immediately comes to mind when we consider Detroit’s offseason move is: how does it all fit? They figure to have young studs at power forward and center in Monroe and Drummond. So why the hell are they spending $54m on Josh Smith to further complicate the situation in the frontcourt? Well, that’s a really good question. And it’s a question that has a couple of potential answers. The easiest solution to the problem of the crowded frontcourt is that the Pistons think Josh Smith can play small forward. Defensively, Smoove can certainly guard most NBA small forwards, but it’s the offensive end that gets messy. How do you possibly play those three players at the same time and have an effective offense? That’s another really good question and I don’t think I have any easy answers to that one. But Josh Smith is a really talented player (yes, even on offense) and when all else fails, adding more talent to your roster is usually a pretty good strategy. Even if you’re losing some value due to Drummond, Monroe, and Smith overlapping offensively, the Pistons still figure to get a net gain from the addition. Whether or not it’s cost effective or the best allocation of their resources are different issues that deal with a host of hypotheticals that I don’t feel the need to get into at the moment. Instead, let’s stay focused on what we do know (or can at least reasonably project).

Another explanation for bringing in Josh Smith when you already have a talented frontcourt is that it’s possible we are all overestimating the short-term impact that Detroit intends for Andre Drummond to have. Drummond has all of the tools to be an elite NBA player in the future. He’s extremely young, has a tremendous physical profile, and has produced phenomenal per-36 minutes numbers in his brief time in the NBA. But that first trait might be the most important: Drummond is extremely young. He’ll turn 20 years old on August 10th and despite his impressive numbers in the NBA thus far, his skill level still leaves a lot to be desired. He’s just a kid; he’s very raw. He played just over 20 minutes per game in his rookie year and missed several weeks due to a lower back stress fracture. For all of those reasons, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Pistons bring Drummond along very slowly. As much as the basketball blogosphere would like to #FreeDrummond, it seems unlikely that the Pistons will suddenly thrust Drummond into the starting role and let him play 35 minutes every night. If you’re only planning on playing Drummond 25ish minute per game, it shouldn’t be that hard to mix and match the lineups with Drummond/Monroe/Smith to minimize the overlap.

I think the move to get Brandon Jennings is easier to make sense of than the Josh Smith signing. First off, the dollar amount on the contract is very reasonable. According to the NBA free agency market, the Pistons seem to be paying roughly the right amount for a player of Josh Smith’s caliber, but they might be getting a relative bargain in Jennings at just $8 million per year. He’s not the most efficient player, but his shot-creating ability (for himself and others) is valuable. He’s still quite young (will turn 24 just before the NBA season starts) and he likely has some remaining upside on both sides of the ball. $8 million seems to be roughly the going rate for an average starting point guard in the NBA and there’s a pretty decent chance that Jennings ends up being better than that.

Of course, the addition of Jennings is viewed as questionable because you have another guy that struggles with efficiency and doesn’t exactly solve the spacing issues that you’ve created with the Drummond/Monroe/Smith combo up front. And these concerns are legitimate – I’m not trying to pretend they aren’t. But the Pistons have started to address the spacing issues by drafting Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — who projects to be a threat from three-point range even if he isn’t an elite shooter right away – and by signing Chauncey Billups. They also signed Italian League MVP, Luigi “Gigi” Datome (his name is Luigi and he shot 42% from three in Italy, your argument is invalid). Maybe this roster will end up being totally dysfunctional and the talent will go to waste. But I’m willing to wait and see it in action before declaring it a disaster (or even really worrying about it, then again I’m not a Pistons fan).

Smoove and Jennings are guys who have developed reputations as shameless chuckers who are at best ambivalent (or perhaps just unaware) about the concept of efficiency. But is that reputation a life sentence? Is it possible for Smith and Jennings to change their ways on their new team? Some people around basketball will say that they are who they are. Personally, I’m more hesitant to write them off. Jennings and Smith are both obviously very talented and have the ability to be far more efficient than they have been recently. Will a simple change of scenery be enough for them to adjust their shot selections and lead to an uptick in efficiency? I have no idea, but I think there’s a non-zero chance that there is a coach, player, or mentor in Detroit that these guys lacked in Milwaukee and Atlanta. Any NBA fan has seen Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith do tremendous things on the basketball court. If somebody is able to harness their overwhelming potential and skills into consistent efficiency, then all of the questions of fit and cost can likely take a backseat.

More often than not, the NBA team with the more talented roster wins out. There are certain cases where scheme, chemistry, and coaching allow a lesser roster to overcome a significant gap in talent, but usually talent reigns supreme. And while you can question all of the specifics regarding the additions of Jennings and Smith, I don’t think you can sincerely question that they increase the overall talent on the Pistons’ roster. Again, I’m not about to simply dismiss any questions about the future direction of the Pistons’ franchise (what’s the endgame here??) or about what how the heck Mo Cheeks is going to make this roster work. But at a certain point you want to start winning games. It could have been pressure from ownership to put more fans in the Palace or the front office may truly believe that a Drummond/Monroe/Jennings/Smith core can be a title contender in the future. But more likely, the Pistons saw an opportunity to improve their roster by adding two very talented players – and they did so without sacrificing much more than some newfound cap space (sorry, Brandon Knight). That seems pretty sensible to me.

The Dirty Dozen: Twelve of the Best Offensive Players in the NBA.

While going through an impromptu refresher course on Jimmy Butler’s sophomore season, as I am wont to do, I came across an interesting trend. Of the dozens of players whose Offensive Rating clocked in above 120, there were only 12 who played at least 1000 minutes. For the unaware, Offensive Rating is essentially the points scored by a player per 100 possessions. An ORtg of 100 would equal a player scoring 1 point per possession, or a 2 point basket every other possession. An ORtg of 200 would equal said player scoring 2 points every time he touches the ball, which is essentially impossible for any extended period of time outside of a statistical model. With this in mind, 120 is a high enough offensive rating to be impressed with, especially in the extended minutes these 12 players have seen.

This is not to say that these are the best offensive players in the league. This is merely a sampling of the myriad paths players in this league take towards the almighty temple of efficiency. Plenty of guys who had ORtgs between 110 and 119 are arguably better scorers and cornerstones of a potent offense. I had to make the cutoff somewhere, and 12 is as good a number as any. Sadly, there were a number of players who would easily have made this cut if injuries and relative playing time hadn’t gotten in the way. Chris Wilcox and Chris Andersen were chief among them. Without any further adieu, I’ll start breaking down these twelve players and identify where they stand in three separate categories, based on how they generated their offense: At Rim Finishers, Spot Up Shooters, and Foul Drawers.

These players will be ordered by their Offensive Rating. All averages per 36 minutes. Other pertinent stats will be listed with the player in question.

 

Player #1: Tyson Chandler

Offensive Rating: 133        Minutes Played: 2164         Points: 11.5         Shooting Splits: .638 FG/.694 FT/ .671 TS/ .638 eFG

Shots Taken: 6.7 FG/0.0 3Pt/ 4.3 FT      Usage Rate: 13.0     Distribution: 36% Jumpshots     74% Assisted    23.2% Fouled

Tyson Chandler 2012-13 Highlight Tape

Tyson Chandler is, unsurprisingly, the best finisher on this list, or at least the most prolific. With only 36% of his shots coming on jumpers, he scores primarily in the paint, and primarily on easy dunks, primarily as a finisher off the pick and roll or after making himself available in the scrum, as 74% of his points came after being assisted. His foul drawing rate is absurd, yet his limited number of possessions (a remarkably low 13.0 usage rate) restricts his appearances at the foul line to only 4.3 per game (which still qualifies him for 4th on this list). His percentage at the foul line is solid if not particularly lethal, limiting even more the effect his incredible foul drawing rate has on his game.

What does this all mean? It means that while he’s not a guy you could conceivably throw the ball to 15-20 times a game and expect high-level production, Chandler’s still an incredibly efficient finisher in the paint, consistently near the top of the league in field goal percentage. He’s one of only seven players on this list to hit the 2,000 minute mark last season, further illustrating the longevity and consistency of what he offers offensively. As a former Defensive Player of the Year winner, his offensive contributions could be seen as secondary and relatively unimportant. Instead, he’s the most efficient offensive player in the NBA, further demonstrating the incredible value he provides to the Knicks.

 

Player #2: Chris Paul

Offensive Rating: 127      Minutes Played: 2335      Points: 18.3      Shooting Splits: .481 FG/.328 3PT/.885 FT/.594 TS/.526 eFG

Shots Taken: 13.2 FG/ 3.6 3Pt/ 5.0 FT     Usage Rate: 22.6      Distribution: 84% Jumpshots     22% Assisted     6.8% Fouled

Chris Paul 2012-13 Highlights (passing, too, because Point God)

Any doubts you ever might have had about CP3′s claim to the Iron Throne of Point Guards should be shelved right here and now, lest you take umbrage with what I’m about to say: Chris Paul is statistically impossible. 84% of his shots come off jumpers, and yet he’s not a particularly great shooter, specifically from deep, where his .328 rate on 3.6 per game seems to drag his efficiency down a bit (to say nothing of the relative worth of three pointers compared to two pointers). He’s by no means a bad shooter, but at first glance it seems a little difficult to glean where exactly his efficiency comes from. These statistics have nothing to do with passing or running an offense, the two things CP3 is perhaps most known for. He’s a high-level foul shooter, but doesn’t get to the line all that often, with his 6.8% foul drawing rate ranking 8th of the 12 players profiled.

So how does it he do it? Looking at the amount of shots he takes, nearly 10 shots a game came from inside the arc, yet only 16% of his shots on the season were not jumpshots. Knowing what we know about how he plays, it’s safe to say that Chris Paul is the best shot creator in the NBA. Using only the above video as reference, it becomes very apparent that his proficiency in the midrange game is due to two things: his lethal dribbling ability and his reflexive, almost robotic ability to square his shoulders on every shot. CP3′s reputation, especially through those without any sort of inclination towards more than the surface level statistics, is of a “true point guard” who prefers to make plays for his teammates rather than himself. He’s not seen as the sort of shot creator other high-level point guards are, specifically Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry. Still, he’s on this list and they aren’t. He’s not Rajon Rondo. He can and will create his own offense if need be, and he’ll do it while being incredibly efficient with the least efficient shot in the sport.

 

Player #3: Steve Novak

Offensive Rating: 125      Minutes Played: 1641     Points: 11.7      Shooting Splits: .414 FG/ .425 3Pt/ .909 FT/ .602 TS/ .587 eFG

Shots Taken: 9.4 FG/ 7.7 3Pt/ 0.7 FT     Usage Rate: 13.0     Distribution: 99% Jumpshots     94% Assisted      1.4% Fouled

Steve Novak can’t feel his face

There are three players on this list with an ORtg of 125. By no means am I claiming that Steve Novak is the best among them. He’s simply the best example of the exact opposite of both Tyson Chandler and Chris Paul. 99% of his field goals were jumpers, and 94% of his made baskets came off of assists. He is a spot up shooter. This is not news. What is news is how striking his numbers really illustrate the value of the three point shot. He shoots a poor .414 from the field, doesn’t get to the line, rarely shoots inside the paint and yet ranks as one of the most efficient players in the league. This is entirely due to his marksmanship. Hitting 42.5% of his 7.7 attempts from deep per 36 minutes would leave him with nearly 3.3 makes from deep, resulting in a little under 9.9 points per game. With a usage rate so low, Novak essentially produced 10 points for almost no cost. He’s an entirely one-dimensional player, but he fulfills that single dimension so thoroughly that the Bargnani trade looks even worse than it did when it happened. He’s better at shooter than Bargnani is at anything. Here’s to hoping he remains a rotation player in Toronto, who will surely be in need of some high-efficiency, low usage shooting with the wing players they’re trotting out there.

 

Player #4: LeBron James

Offensive Rating: 125     Minutes Played: 2877     Points: 25.5     Shooting Splits: .565 FG/ .406 3Pt/ .753 FT/ .640 TS/ .603 eFG

Shots Taken: 16.9 FG/ 3.2 3Pt/ 6.7 FT    Usage Rate: 30.2    Distribution: 65% Jumpshots     40% Assisted      13.5% Fouled

LeBron, Burdened with Glorious Purpose

It shouldn’t be a surprise that LeBron is a great (and greatly efficient) offensive player. Nor should it be a surprise that the bulk of his production comes from his greater than 70% shooting percentage at the rim (would have an exact figure if the NBA’s stats page felt like working). What is mildly surprising is just how good a jump shooter he’s become. He takes a significantly smaller amount that he did in Cleveland, hitting at a higher rate than could have been dreamed possible just three short years ago. 40% from deep is no small feat, and when factored in with his nigh unstoppable ability to get into the lane and the high amount of fouls he draws simply by being so physically dominant, LeBron is fairly close to flawless offensively. Even his foul shooting, often the target of derision, clocked in at a respectable 75.3% last season.

His usage rate is the highest in this group of players and the fifth highest in the NBA as a whole last season (trailing Melo, Westbrook, Kobe and Kyrie), and he was assisted on only 40% of his baskets, second lowest among this group. Similarly to Chris Paul, LeBron’s efficiency despite heavy usage and reliance on isolation speaks to how dominant he really is. He’s an unstoppable juggernaut running roughshod over the terrified countryside and he’s not even 30 years old yet. This might not be going away any time soon. Imagine if he were a great free throw shooter. He’d have destroyed us all by now.

 

Player #5: Greg Smith

Offensive Rating: 125    Minutes Played: 1110     Points: 13.7       Shooting Splits: .620 FG/ .623 FT/ .636 TS/ .620 eFG

Shots Taken: 8.9 FG/ 0.0 3Pt/ 4.2 FT      Usage Rate: 14.7     Distribution: 15% Jumpshots     75% Assisted     19.9% Fouled

Greg Smith, wondering why there aren’t any mixes of him on youtube

Greg Smith scores his points in a way quite similarly to Tyson Chandler: at the rim. An impressive 85% of his shots came on shots not classified as “jumpshots,” and he drew fouls an even more impressive 19.9% of the time. Where Chandler operates out of the pick and roll and uses his immense size to deter potential defensive adjustments, Smith moves away from the paint entirely, picking his spots and waiting for the defense to be drawn to teammate, generally James Harden on another foray into the paint. Smith gets a fair amount of work on put backs and tip ins, but primarily seems to function as a secondary option in the pick and roll, which he uses to great effect as a more viable option off the catch than Omer Asik, whom he’s able to use as a shield of sorts to get to the rim unnoticed.

Part of this is, assuredly, due to his status as a relative unknown. It’s entirely conceivable that he just doesn’t appear on scouting reports. The Thunder seemed to have an idea of how to get rid of him in the playoffs, which is disconcerting. With the addition of Dwight Howard, however, it stands to reason that Smith will get more than his fair share of open looks near the basket. He presents himself well to passers, has good hands, and is generally a powerful finisher. He has next to no jumper to speak of, and his post moves when forced to score on his own are rudimentary, but he’s got more than enough to stick in this league and prove that his efficiency last season was not a fluke.

 

Player #6: Jose Calderon

Offensive Rating: 124     Minutes Played: 2160     Points: 13.8     Shooting Splits: .491 FG/ .461 3Pt/ .900 FT/ .616 TS/ .594 eFG

Shots Taken: 10.6 FG/ 4.7 3Pt/ 1.3 FT     Usage Rate: 17.0    Distribution: 92%/83% Jumpshots     57%/58% Assist     2.2%/2.5% Fouled

Jose Calderon, shooting shots.

First things first: the splits on the second line of Calderon’s stat line refer to his shot distribution in Toronto followed by in Detroit. Ok then, now that that’s done, I can talk about just how good of a shooter Calderon is. Not only does he have the highest three point percentage of anyone on this list, he’s an elite free throw shooter (despite not getting to the line all that much) and maintained a .616 True Shooting % despite taking at least 83% jumpshots. That’s stupendously high, and it’s not as though he barely shoots. 10.6 field goals per 36 ranks him 4th on this entire list. Calderon gets his fair share of shots up, and he hits them at a remarkably high rate. Add in his career 4 to 1 assist to turnover ratio, and Jose becomes one of the most well-rounded offensive point guards in the NBA. Something of a poor man’s Steve Nash.

Unfortunately, just like Steve Nash, the next person he defends will be the first. Interestingly, he was the only player on this list to have a negative point differential. He was also the only player on this list not to reach the playoffs. While playing for two bad teams certainly didn’t help, perhaps his infamously bad defense had something to do with being on such bad teams in the first place (it didn’t). All this being said, Calderon is cheap, intelligent, and hyper efficient. If the new Mavs fail, it almost certainly won’t be his fault.

 

Player #7: Nick Collison

Offensive Rating: 123     Minutes Played: 1583     Points: 9.4      Shooting Splits: .595 FG/ .769 FT/ .624 TS/ .595 eFG

Shots Taken: 6.7 FG/ 0.1 3Pt/ 1.8 FT     Usage Rate: 11.5     Distribution: 41% Jumpshots      79% Assisted      10.6% Fouled

Nick Collison: BAWSE

Nick Collison is perhaps the most interesting player on this list. As an offensive product, he’s probably the least polished guy on this list. He’s not a bad shooter, but he rarely shoots, as evidenced by jumpshots only accounting for 41% of his shots. The majority of his offensive contributions come from tip ins and garbage plays, more so than even Greg Smith. He draws fouls at a respectable rate, and is a very good free throw shooter, which is tribute to how well he positions himself off ball and reacts to what the rest of the offense is doing. Rarely is Nick Collison in a bad spot. He has the third lowest usage rate of anyone on this list, and easily the lowest for a post player. His 79% assisted rate ranks very highly, even in the presence of big men like Chandler and Smith, who rarely create for themselves. Collison is every bit an offensive role player, but his role is to convert at a high rate and never take shots he doesn’t need to take. Taken next to how good a defensive player he is, it’s even more remarkable that Kendrick Perkins is the starter in OKC. Collison is significantly better in pretty much every regard. Then again, you already knew that, or else you probably wouldn’t be reading here.

 

Player #8: Kosta Koufos

Offensive Rating: 122    Minutes Played: 1817     Points: 12.8     Shooting Splits: .581 FG/ .558 FT/ .585 TS/ .581 eFG

Shots Taken: 10.1 FG/ 0.0 3Pt/ 2.1 FT     Usage Rate: 14.5     Distribution: 17% Jumpshots     75% Assisted     8.3% Fouled

Kosta Smash!

Kosta Koufos is a different animal than the other centers on this list. While his jumpshooting and baskets assisted percentages are par for the course, the sheer volume of shots he puts up separates him from the others. He seems to subsist a great deal more off of quick post ups and his back to the basket game than either Smith, Chandler, or Collison. His usage rate isn’t much higher, which in the end makes him a similar sort of player: a finisher around the rim and a bailout option for his more isolation oriented teammates. He’s not a very good foul shooter, nor does he get to the line all that much, but his size is an asset.

At the expense of under-discussing Koufos’ effect, this brings me to an interesting idea. Why is it that the basketball community seems not to care about too many so-called “traditional” post ups in comparison to hero ball isolation? While a guy in the post is significantly closer to the basket and stands a better chance of converting, it can still drastically slow the offense. How much better would Dwight Howard be if he agreed to be more of a pick and roll threat? The idea that big men who don’t operate out of the post are somehow less effective is just silly, even if guys like Brook Lopez can be legitimate offensive forces while operating with their backs to the basket.

Operating out of the high post is different, opening up a bevy of passing and cutting options if the big man in question is a good and alert enough passer. This is not to say that a guy taking 20 mid range shots is going to be any near as effective as a guy taking 20 shots in the paint, just that running isos and dumping it into the post are similar philosophically, both dependent on simplifying the game and shrinking the floor to remove the other eight players and rely on your guy beating their guy. I’m not trying to say that it’s bad basketball, just that an over-reliance on it can severely limit a team’s efficiency. Notice how only Koufos (and perhaps LeBron) could be considered legitimate post up threats? Just food for thought that I’m not entirely sure I thought out all the way.

 

Player #9: Kevin Durant

Offensive Rating: 122     Minutes Played: 3119     Points: 26.3     Shooting Splits: .510 FG/ .416 3Pt/ .905 FT/ .647 TS/ .559 eFG

Shots Taken: 16.5 FG/ 3.9 3Pt/ 8.7 FT     Usage Rate: 29.8    Distribution: 81% Jumpshots     52% Assisted     16.9% Fouled

KD must be colorblind

There’s nothing about Kevin Durant’s offensive profile that should surprise you, and yet, it’s still incredible to look up and see a guy with a 29.8 usage rate hitting the fabled 50/40/90 mark, which to this day is the second highest usage rate among any member of the 50/40/90 club (Larry Bird hit the 30 mark in 1988). He’s a shooter at heart, and in practice, as his 81% jumpshot rate ranks 5th among the twelve players profiled, and his .416 percentage from deep on nearly 4 attempts per game results in around five easy points per game. In fact, that seems to be KDs modus operandi: brilliance by accumulation. He gets to the foul line a lot, and is an excellent free throw shooter. He’s a prolific and deadly three point shooter, just as he is a dependable threat from mid-range. He doesn’t take an overwhelming amount of shots at the rim, but he’s generally effective when he does. There’s not one singular thing Kevin Durant does that leads to his high level efficiency on the offensive end. It’s everything. He does everything, and he does it well enough that to pressure him into attacking from a different angle is simply picking another blade for him to gut you with. Trying to deter Kevin Durant’s stoic, gradual domination is like trying to fight through a pit of snakes with your hands. No matter which way you attack, you’re going to get bit.

 

Player #10: Shane Battier

Offensive Rating: 122     Minutes Played: 1786     Points: 9.5     Shooting Splits: .420 FG/ .430 3Pt/ .842 FT/ .623 TS/ .608 eFG

Shots Taken: 7.3 FG/ 6.4 3Pt/ 0.8 FT     Usage Rate: 11.0     Distribution: 91% Jumpshots     96% Assisted     2.7% Fouled

Shane Battier Shane Battiers all over Game 7

Shane Battier understands his role better than perhaps anyone in the NBA. He is the very definition of a spot-up shooter, taking 91% of his shots from outside the paint and having 96% of his makes assisted. He almost never gets fouled, though he is a good foul shooter. His three point percentage is higher than his vanilla field goal percentage, and he obviously understands this, taking 6.4 of his 7.3 field goals per 36 from behind the arc. This results in over 8 points per 36 minutes, almost the entirety of his 9.5 points per 36. His usage is the lowest of the 12 players profiled here, which makes sense when you remember that essentially all of his minutes came next to LeBron James, one of the league leaders in usage. There’s no need for Shane Battier to be doing anything on offense other than spotting up and letting loose. In the video clip linked above, that’s exactly what he did. Despite shooting well under 30% from deep in the playoffs, Battier spent all his time on the court positioning himself for open looks, which in Game 7, he hit. No hesitation, no attempts to open up the rest of his game, no wasted effort that could be better used utilizing his still decent defensive skills. Shane Battier is essentially the perfect role player at this stage of his career, maximizing his utility without slowing up the offense in any way.

 

Player #11: Thabo Sefolosha

Offensive Rating: 121     Minutes Played: 2229     Points: 9.9     Shooting Splits: .481 FG/ .419 3Pt/ .826 FT/ .617 TS/ .597 eFG

Shots Taken: 7.5 FG/ 4.2 3Pt/ 1.1 FT     Usage Rate: 11.4     Distribution: 72% Jumpshots    79% Assisted     6.2% Fouled

Thabo Sefolosha, OG 3 and D guy.

At the expense of repeating myself, I’d like to say that Thabo Sefolosha is as accepting of his role as anyone in the NBA. He defends, he shoots, he plays 20 minutes a game and he does it all very efficiently. Compared to Battier, he has at least some game off the dribble and driving to the rim. His 72% jumpshot rate pales in comparison to Battier’s all-encompassing 91%, his foul drawing rate is nearly three times higher, and his assisted rate is much lower. Thabo has more shot-creation in his arsenal than Battier, which is to say he has more than zero. That being said, he makes his money as a spot up shooter, taking 4.2 threes per 36 and making nearly 42% of them, accounting for nearly six points per game. That he, too plays next to a high-usage, high-efficiency small forward who allows him to play off ball and step into the gaps created by Durant’s presence. He’s been perceived as something of a spot-starter, holding down a spot for a superior bench scorer for years now. While that’s certainly the case, it’s not as though Thabo doesn’t contribute. In fact, he does so at a level even Kevin Martin, formerly one of the most efficient players in the NBA, couldn’t dream of reaching in 2013.

 

Player #12: Jimmy Butler

Offensive Rating: 121     Minutes Played: 2134     Points: 11.9      Shooting Splits: .467 FG/ .381 3Pt/ .803 FT/ .574 TS/ .506 eFG

Shots Taken: 8.6 FG/ 1.8 3Pt/ 3.9 FT     Usage Rate: 14.6     Distribution: 63% Jumpshots     69% Assisted     16.3% Fouled

Djimmy Unchained. The D is silent (and also not appearing on this mixtape)

The singular defining thread of Jimmy Butler’s breakout half-season was his immediate emergence as a defensive stopper, someone who guarded LeBron James and didn’t look completely helpless while doing so. One of the most popular youtube videos concerning the soon to be third year Bulls swingman was his role as a “Kobe stopper” in a Bulls victory over the Lakers.

While his contributions defensively are impressive and certainly important going forward (especially if the Bulls sell on Luol Deng), it’s his offensive acumen that made him so pivotal to the Bulls’ 2012-13 season. I’d go as far as saying he was so far and away the best offensive player on the team that to compare him to anyone else is a grave insult to just how good he was. Like LeBron, Butler’s primary offensive contributions came at the rim, where he shot well over 60% despite playing the lion’s share of his minutes at the two. Cuts to the basket, offensive rebounds, alley-oops and in transition, Butler was lethal, and seeing him run off cuts with Derrick Rose back in the fold could be incredibly effective next season.

What’s perhaps most impressive was his foul-drawing rate and how well he capitalized off those opportunities. Of the twelve players on this list, only Butler and Durant drew fouls at a rate higher than 15% while still shooting at least 80% from the line. That Butler did this without being a particularly good shooter is testament to how overpowering his combination of athleticism, activity and effort caught opposing teams off guard. While I said earlier that he wasn’t a particularly good shooter, in the 20 games he registered as a starter, Butler shot a smoldering .458 from deep. If that’s a prelude to his 2013-14 season, then the sky is truly the limit for Jimmy Butler, 30th overall pick, afterthought, emerging Chicago folk hero.

 

So ends this little experiment I made partially out of boredom and partially out of a desire to properly contextualize Jimmy Butler. Through this, I found just how insane the three best players in the world truly are and how important good, efficient role players are to a contender. Eleven of the twelve players on this list made the playoffs. Eight of them played on division champions. Two of them won a title. Three more likely would have been in the running for one had injury not struck. Efficiency is important. It may not be the end all, be all some want it to be, but woe be to the fan that neglects it entirely. Carmelo Anthony is no where near these proceedings, and neither are Monta Ellis, J.R. Smith, or Brandon Jennings. It might be unfair to single those four out, but considering how those four seem to be the rallying cry for the “just watch the game” traditionalist crowd, it seems apt. Thank you for reading what is now well over a 4,000 word piece about statistics written about someone with a tenuous at best grip over them.

In Hawks We Trust?

In which Jared and I discuss the suddenly exciting Atlanta Hawks

Jared: So we’re going to talk about the Hawks. They should be pretty Hawksy again this year. Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Al Horford are back for anothe — wait a tick, these ain’t your slightly older brother’s Hawks. Budenholzer! Millsap! Carroll! Schroeder! Nogueira! Horford/Teague/Korver! This is an all new thing. Fun, right?

Jordan: Never Trust The Hawks is emblazoned upon the blogissist coat of arms. It is a mantra that has withstood the test of time — never failing, never false. And yet, after the moves the Hawks made this offseason, I can’t help but feel my allegiance to those words slightly wavering. I know I should remain steadfast in my distrust of the Hawks, but, for the first time in…well…ever, I’m cautiously excited about the Hawks.

The Horford/Millsap pairing up front has a few detractors yelling about a lack of size, but has the most of us giddy with the flexibility provided on both ends of the floor. While it may be a slightly odd pairing, it’s also somewhat fitting: both Horford and Millsap are wildly underappreciated on both offense and defense. Even if the pairing proves to be ill-fitting, it’s not that big of a deal, since Millsap’s 2 year/ $19 million deal is a ridiculous bargain.

But who am I kidding. That’s not really the reason I’m excited about the Hawks. No, the Hawks quickly jumped up the Jordan scale of Teams I’m Most Excited To Watch (name still in progress) when they selected Dennis Schroeder in the draft. I loved Schroeder before the draft, and that love only further deepened after watching him live at Summer League.

Have you ever seen a Presa Canario? It’s a member of the mastiff family, first bred in the canary islands to be a herding dog. Like other Mastiff breeds, the Presa is an enormous animal; a full grown adult can weigh upwards of 150 pounds. Where the Presa separates itself from its Mastiff brethren is in its walk. While the Bullmastiff pads, the Presa Canario prowls, its hips swaying from side to side with every step, not unlike a panther.

Dennis Schroeder’s predatory sway mirrors that of the Presa Canario, and like the Presa, it distinguishes him from the other breeds of point guards.

Usually, when we describe the qualities of point guards, we do so in terms of canine attributes: a bulldog mentality, a nose for the ball, the tenacity of a pit bull (however factually incorrect that simile may be), and so forth. And while Schroeder does display some of those canine qualities, there’s also something undeniably feline in the way he plays the game.

Schroeder bounds around the court, side to side, to and from even the smallest of distances. You can see it when he’s locked onto the opposing ball-handler, his hips swiveling in time with every one of his opponent’s ill-fated attempts at shaking him.

Russell Westbrook explodes out of the pick and roll; Dennis Schroeder slinks.

Schroeder’s not going to be the starter this year, which is a good thing. He may very well be ready to run an NBA offense, but I think a year coming off the bench will be terrific for his development and allow him to wreak a Bledsoe-ian style of havoc on the opposition from time to time.

Jared: There were any number of words in that email I did not understand. For example: Presa. Canario. Mastiff.

But I digress. Yes! I’m with you. I’ll actually go even further. I’m not hedging here; I’m excited about the Hawks. These dudes are gonna be fun. I know there are plenty of people who wanted Al Horford to move to power forward, but the dude has been plenty good as a center and a front court partnership with Millsap has all kinds of versatile potential. Both can shoot, both can post, and both can pass. The best word I’d use to describe the combination is “nifty.”

I know next to nothing about Schroeder. We discussed this in our pre-draft email chain with Jack. Everyone at summer league seemed to be in love with him though. I choose instead to captain the Lucas Nogueira bandwagon.

First of all, his nickname is Bebe. That is fucking awesome. Second of all, watch his DraftExpress scouting video and tell me he can’t be Tyson Chandler one day. Third of all, this picture from the draft.

Nogueira

 

Fourth of all, his nickname is Bebe.

Jordan: Jordan’s dream: Someone has switched Bebe’s locker to the one in the corner of the locker room. Bebe, being all of seven feet tall (eight feet when you include the afro) cannot comfortably extend whilst crammed in the corner. Budenholzer enters the locker room. He sees Bebe’s discomfort, gets upset, and yells: Guys! No one puts Bebe in the corner!

It scares me to speak of the Hawks with genuine excitement, but I can’t help it. We haven’t even really touched on Budenholzer, long thought to be the heir apparent to the throne of Popovich. I’m excited to see the sort of offense he installs with this team, and if he’s just as surly as his mentor in interviews.

If there’s one area of the Hawks that concerns me, it’s their wings (there’s a pun in there, somewhere). Who starts at these positions? DeShawn Stevenson? Because, no thank you. Korver’s best suited to come off the bench, in my opinion. I’m not that high on John Jenkins, despite his ability to shoot the absolute shit out of the ball.

Jared: So you went one for two on your puns there. I’ll let you figure out on your own which was a hit and which was a miss, although it should be fairly obvious.

I’m all about the Budenholzer hiring. Whether or not he runs exactly the same system they’ve been running the last few years in San Antonio remains to be seen, but the principles should be relatively similar, which should help both Horford and Jeff Teague immensely. That pick and roll/pop combination should be the center of most action the Hawks run, and then you can have picks or post-ups for Millsap, off-ball screens for Korver, and the spectacular Schroeder-Bebe combination off the bench.

Like you, my only concern is on the wings. Korver’s mostly fine as a positional defender, but he’s not stopper. Stevenson is ostensibly the primary wing defender, but he presents concerns on the offensive end of the court. It will be interesting to see what Jenkins can provide. But how could you forget about LOU WILLIAMS? He’s coming off an injury, yeah, but LOU WILLIAMS, man. He’s got some off the bounce creativity, can split some ball-handling duties with Teague and/or Schroeder while playing secondary or tertiary scoring option. You can’t forget about LOU WILLIAMS.

Also, LOU WILLIAMS is the kind of guy who always has to be called by his full name. Have you ever heard anyone call him anything other than LOU WILLIAMS?

Jordan: Wow. I really, truly did forget about Lou Williams. How in the hell does that happen? Still, that only solves the problem with one of their wings; the other is still somewhat clipped.

What’s really fascinating about this Hawks…resurgence? Revival? I’m not even sure what to call this phenomenon, but it’s remarkable that this all happened without the Hawks blowing it up. They may match last year’s record, but unlike last year, or any of the other past seasons in which the Hawks made the playoffs, that won’t reflect the maximized potential of this roster. This is a team that is going to get better, and has the pieces to do so. They completely skipped the rebuilding phase, but are still well-poised for the future; it’s incredible.

Jared: I would argue that Atlanta did “blow it up” over the last two seasons. The entirety of the recognizable Hawks core from the last 5-6 years is gone now (including both coaches and the general manager), with Horford being the lone exception. The blow-up phase just didn’t include bottoming out. It’s an Indiana style rebuild rather than an Oklahoma City style rebuild. They’ve reshaped the team from a capped out, tapped out group into a cap-lean, upside-heavy squad that is still of a similar stature as the previous version. Danny Ferry done good.

Jordan: Fair point, I didn’t think of it that way. Their style of tearing it down was such a gradual process, compared to the fire sales we usually see. So where do you see this Hawks team going this year? I’m thinking the fifth seed, just behind Miami, Indianapolis, Chicago and Brooklyn. I’m sure that you, as a Knicks fan, disagree with me, but I’m uncomfortably high on the Hawks.

Jared: I said sixth on the HP email thread yesterday. I think Miami’s got separation from the crowd, and then Indiana, Brooklyn, New York and Chicago are in a pack, then Atlanta’s got the 6, and then Washington, Cleveland, Detroit, and maybe Milwaukee are in the mix for the last two spots. That’s my hit on it.

Jordan: Either way, they’re a lock for the playoffs. And, for the first time in a long time, a lock for an entertaining season. We think.

Jared: We think. Never trust the Hawks.

 

Photo by JD Hancock via Flickr

Sacred Transitions: A Conversation with Tamir Goodman

In 1999, a feature in Sports Illustrated introduced the wider basketball ball world to “The Jewish Jordan,” Tamir Goodman. At that point he was a high school junior, notable for both his 35.6 points per game scoring average and his orthodox Jewish faith. After graduating, he chose to forgo a scholarship offer to the University of Maryland because of an expectation that he would have to play on the Sabbath. Goodman spent one year at Towson University, before embarking on a professional career in Israel that ended in 2009. Now 31, Goodman was nice enough to carve some time out of his busy summer schedule to talk with Hardwood Paroxysm about both his career and retirement.

Hardwood Paroxysm: When you look back on your basketball career, what are some of the high points that stand out?

Tamir Goodman: The high point that stands out for me is that when I was a little kid everyone told me it was going to be impossible for me to play Division 1 basketball in college, or professional basketball, simply because I can’t play from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday because I observe the Sabbath. But just looking back and knowing I was able to live out my dream, I’m so grateful. Every single day it hits me at some point, even without me trying to think about it. I’m just so thankful that I got to live out my dream. I’m so thankful for everyone that allowed me to do that and helped me do what I was told was impossible when I was a kid.

To get a chance to experience that, and everything basketball has taught me throughout my playing days, and be able to incorporate that into what I’m doing know, I’m just so grateful.

HP: You spent most of your professional career playing in Israel. Hypothetically, if you’d have the opportunity to play in the NBA, how do you think things might have worked out differently for you and would there have been more pressure on you playing in the NBA than you faced playing in Israel?

Goodman: I never really think that way. I always think that the way it is, or the way it was, is the way it was supposed to be. When I was in Israel I enjoyed every moment of it and it was just an incredible experience for me – both being able to play professionally and be sort of a mediator; there are so many American players who came over to play in Israel and I’m fluent in Hebrew but meanwhile I grew up in America. It was just a great role of being able to have a special relationship with both Israeli players and American players. The Israeli league has just grown up so quickly and so many players are ending up in the NBA from Israel, more and more every year.

I also got to serve in the Israeli Army, which was an incredible experience for me as well. All in all, I couldn’t imagine it ending up any better for me than the way it was.

HP: I’m wondering about your experience and your journey and whether you see parallels when you watch other players. For example, Jeremy Lin with the Knicks two years ago. He received a ton of attention because he was successful but he also received a lot of attention because he’s from a culture that’s really underrepresented in American professional sports. Did you see any parallels between his experiences and your own journey?

Goodman: You know when everything happened with me I was only 16 years old. I think there was one week where I had 700 media requests. You can’t really understand what that means.

I was just a kid that loved basketball and I loved being Jewish. I was just trying to be the best Jewish athlete that I could be. It was that simple. I loved my family. I loved my coach. I loved my team. I loved my school. That was it and I didn’t understand much more than that.

But here I am 31 years old and I go through the airport in some random city and the guy checking my bag says, “You’re the Jewish Jordan.” That affects the rest of your life and it happens so quickly.

The thing about me was that I was lucky because it wasn’t about me. It was something that was bigger than me. It allowed me to handle everything much better because it wasn’t about me personally. That allowed me to handle the ups and downs of my career much better. From what I understand with Jeremy Lin and definitely with Omri Casspi, who I’m close with and was the first Israeli player to play in the NBA, for them it’s also about something that’s bigger than themselves. If you have a lot of success, you say “This is not about me, it’s about something bigger than me.” If there are challenges you know how to get right back on track because it’s not about you, and that gives you extra motivation. I can’t quit now. There are a lot of things out there I need to accomplish so I can inspire other people. So that’s the mindset that allows them to handle these kinds of situations and I think that’s what Lin has done, and that’s what I see Omri doing almost on a daily basis.

The advice I would give them, not that I need to give them any advice, is play for something bigger than yourself. That will help you reach your potential and help everyone else around you reach their potential as well.

HP: So are you saying that basketball was made simpler for you, because of your faith?

Goodman: A hundred percent. I didn’t play for myself. I played for all the people who are told they won’t be able to do it, or that X, Y or Z was going on in their life and that was a constraint. But for me, I tried to say that I’m proud to be Jewish. Yeah, I can’t play from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday but I believe my religion is an empowering religion. It doesn’t limit me, it gives me a blueprint for day-to-day living. Playing for that and trying to unite people through basketball, and playing to represent Israel and the Jewish people, all of that gave me much more motivation and guidance.  That’s something that basketball players really need. You always need to be motivated, never satisfied. You always need to be moving forward, whether you had a good game or a bad game. You always need to be able to bounce back and be strong, handle adversity, be a good listener, be dedicated, have organizational skills, you need to be able to respect people and have a strong identity, all of those things you need to be a successful player and I got that through my religion.

HP: I’m guessing I’ve heard the answer to this already, but has there ever been a time when you wished you got more attention for just being a “good basketball player” instead of being a “good Jewish basketball player?”

Goodman: The way I handle it now is the same as the way I handled it then. Everybody was so excited about the “Jewish Jordan” and all the media attention, but it wasn’t about me. It was always about how I could motivate you through that. I keep learning more and more about how can I take this game of basketball and the attention I’ve gotten in my life and use it as a tool to inspire other people around me.

I’ve never thought about what if it would have been different. My religion has taught me that you work with what you have, you don’t work with what you don’t have. There’s an old saying in Judaism, “Who’s considered a rich person? The person who’s happy with what they have.” If you always go around wishing you had this or wishing things had been like that, you might be missing blessings that are right in front of you.

HP: If I can venture off for a second, you mentioned Omri Casspi and I know you guys are close. He’s had kind of a rough go of it the past few seasons, but just signed a two-year deal with the Rockets. I assume he’s pretty excited. Do you see some things in place in Houston to help him be successful, and what can he give the Rockets?

Goodman: We’ve had our camps together the past couple of weeks, so I got a chance to help him work out and watch him work out. He looks like he’s in great shape. I’m so happy for him and he seems to be really happy to be going to Houston. I think it’s just such a great team, and a great organization for him. I think with their style of play and his style of play, I think he’ll really be able to contribute; not only with the three pointer, but his ability to get up and down the floor with his size. It’s going to be a really exciting opportunity for him.

HP: I know you battled back several times, but ultimately your career was cut short by injury. I’m wondering if you can talk a little about making that transition out of professional basketball. Specifically, I’m curious about the experience of spending you whole life building towards this career. You’re always working, training and getting better. So much of your time, energy and thought is spent working towards this goal and then all of a sudden you have to find a new goal to focus on.

Goodman: I gave everything that I had, my entire life, my body, to basketball. Ultimately, in 2009 I had to retire due to the injuries. But I never quit. I came back from three career-ending injuries. I literally played until the day I just couldn’t physically play anymore. I’m in physical pain everyday, for the rest of my life. Both of my hands and my left knee are just really injured, but I’m glad that I played until the very last day I could.

I think the transition for me has been easy for several reasons. First, I know that I never quit and I left everything on the court. Second, it was only through my injuries and setbacks that I found some of my biggest lessons. It was only through those challenges of losing everything that I’d worked for my whole life that I found new creativity that I never knew, and new sensitivity that I never knew.

All those years I’d be in the game, without actually being in the game. From 2004-2009, I’d be on the bench just recovering from injuries and rehab. When I did finally get a chance to play and I did play well, it was literally the next game that I’d get hurt again. So when I was on the sidelines I wasn’t just down and out. If coach called a play, I was running that play in my head as if I was in the game. I still watched every pre-game scouting report, every film session, everything. I still lived the game one hundred percent, even though physically I couldn’t be there for the game and actually play most of the time. But being in that type of environment and finding, through that, ways to still be involved in the game and inspire other people through the game, without me physically playing, that’s what I do now.

I never would have been able to do that if it had not been for the injuries. How can you inspire someone if you, yourself, have never really been challenged? Up until that point in my life I had a lot of success, thank god. I got to live out my dream, but I wouldn’t be able to work with the campers I work with now and have that sensitivity to help them in their lives, with whatever they’re overcoming, had I not lost my dream, so to speak. It’s given me a sensitivity to struggle and creativity. It drove me to finish school and get my degree. It allowed me to write the book (The Jewish Jordan’s Triple Threat: Physical, Mental and Spiritual Lessons from the Court) and combine spiritual and physical basketball together.

And now, with Zone 190, I would never have been able to come up with this concept without the injuries. The only way I came up with Zone 190 was because I was in the gym, for hours, by myself trying to come back. The doctors weren’t giving me a chance. The coaches weren’t there to help me. The players weren’t there to help me. I was in there saying, “I wish I had someone to pass me the ball from that angle. I wish I had someone who could put their hand up in my face while I’m shooting. I wish I could come off a screen and have someone pass me the ball.” There was nobody out there.

Sometimes in life it’s not just about overcoming the challenges, but it’s about picking up the pieces of what each challenge in life is teaching you and where it’s directing you, then flipping all that negativity into something positive. That’s what I’ve dedicated my life to doing. I’m very appreciative for every day that I got to live out my dream, but I’m also very appreciative that I’ve been able to take everything that I’ve experienced and use it as a tool to hopefully better the next generation of young athletes.

HP: Can you give us a little more detail about Zone 190?

Goodman: Basically, Zone 190 is a multi-angle pitch back tool for basketball, with a defensive hand configuration. It allows a player to replicate game scenarios without anybody else in the gym. It’s shaped in a unique 190-degree frame that can be easily moved anywhere. You can place it at the top of the key and practice getting the ball from the right wing or the left wing, or coming of a screen passing it off and getting the ball back at unique angles. Then when you shoot there’s a defensive hand in your face that let’s you practice shooting a contested shot. There’s also two other defensive hands that you can dribble underneath and make a move, sweeping underneath. It’s also great for post players, it forces you to stay low. Basically, you can replicate all sorts of game-like situations with this one apparatus.

I’m very glad that the feedback has been so great and I feel like it really gives players an opportunity to train and get ready for game situations, even when they’re in a gym all by themselves. When I found myself in the gym all by myself with the hope that I’d be able to play again. I took that negativity and turned into Zone 19o.

HP: Now that you’ve had some distance from your playing career, fifteen or twenty years down the road, what would you like to be remembered for?

Goodman: That I reached as much as possible of the potential in what god was expecting me to contribute to this world. That I was able to see the positive potential in everyone that I come across and help them reach the potential that god created in men, without any limitations. We find ourselves in this world that’s sometimes dark and scary, and kind of negative sometimes, but if we can bring as much light as possible into our lives and help other people see the light in their own lives, and for me specifically to be doing this through sport and basketball, I think that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. I think my soul was brought down to this world to do as much good as I can through this game and that’s what I’m committed to doing every day.

You find out more about Tamir Goodman and Zone190 at his website, TamirGoodman.com, and follow him on Twitter, @TamirGoodman.

Another $80 Million Brick In The Wall

To pay John Wall $80 million for 5 years of his current level of production would be culpable negligence in the assault and battery of a team’s salary cap. To evaluate Wall’s New Deal along said lines, however, is a Kingfish-sized mistake.

The recently signed contracts of Kyle Korver and J.J. Redick underline a shift in player evaluation among front offices. With defenses increasingly intricate and elite offenses ever more reliant on a few, key, efficient spots on the floor, players outside the limits of the Eight Immortals of NBA Taoism find value in the efficacy of their skill sets and the ways in which they dovetail with their teammates. Korver and Redick stand as a priori examples of the 3-and-D wing who provides floor spacing and a systemic, if not cutthroat, defensive presence, with a dash of secondary or tertiary ballhandling tossed into the mix. A healthy Tyson Chandler is the prototype for a monstrously productive pick-and-roll partner on the one end and a behemoth of cordoned movement and corralled bodies on the other.

The Triforce of Courage in this synergy of skill sets is the lightning quick athleticism, Turing-based intelligence, and Hubble Ultra Deep Field 3D-level field of vision combination of an elite point guard. The current ruleset, with its lack of hand-checking, furthers the advantage of a primary ballhandler who can get to the right spots on the floor at the right time, and who can put his teammates in the right situation when they’ve put themselves in the wrong spots at the wrong time. In a neverending cycle that would make Ouroboros blush, the better Wall’s teammates are — particularly on the wing and in the middle — the better and more valuable he will be, and the better and more valuable his teammates will be in turn. Wall, isolated and bereft of context, might not be worth $80 million in the sense that he creates value on his own. Instead, the Wizards are willing to take a gamble on the expected value of the team and Wall rising in lock step. As Bradley Beal and Otto Porter, Jr. come into their own, there’s every chance that the presence of Wall will increase the marginal value they produce over their already undervalued rookie deals, and sooner than they might otherwise have grown. If Jan Vesely can become the big man he has the potential to be, or if Washington looks to acquire a more polished big before the trade deadline, then Wall’s value continues to grow. This is a gamble not just on his growth*, but on the growth of the players around him and the ways in which Wall can influence that maturation.

*Let’s be honest — it’s also about paying someone who is, by all accounts, a good locker room guy to stay somewhere that could really use a facelift when it comes to its image around the league. Paying Wall a premium now, instead of letting him dangle in RFA, sends the right message. The value of such a decision is (currently) impossible to quantify, but it stands to reason that it has at least some value in the eyes of players to whom that kind of thing matters.

And Wall is young, just shy of his 23rd birthday. If he had a jump shot to go with that bevy of basketball ability, he’d be Chris Paul, and this contract would be a no-brainer. But simply because Wall isn’t much of a shooter today doesn’t mean he can’t develop a reasonable jump shot, enough to make defenses think twice on just a few possession per game; those possessions, in turn, give rise to edges that didn’t exist before, and points that were missed in the past. Every increment, every percentage point, is a rise in the value of the player and the franchise. And Wall’s impact as a passer isn’t far off from Paul’s. All the caveats of sample size and lineup data taken into consideration, both players’ teams saw a similar drop (3.9%) in their effective field goal percentage between when their star point guards were off the court. Wall isn’t Chris Paul, but if he can become a reasonable, lesser facsimile of Jason Kidd in his prime, his contract becomes much more palatable, particularly as Washington improves the talent — and system, one would hope — around him.

There might come a day when John Wall is worth much more than he’s being paid, depending on any number of factors within and outside of his and his team’s control. More likely, perhaps, is that Wall will be paid more than his on-court numbers would justify in the eyes of many. And, of course, he might end up as the perfect pot of porridge, with a Goldilocks contract and a home to call his own (minus the bears). It’s a cascade of “what if’s” and unknowables that leads to healthy skepticism and a slight wave of confusion. In the truest sense, Washington has offered this contract based not on the past, but what the future might hold. They know what they expect, and they e put a price on those expectations. It’s a gamble not just on Wall, but on the way they’re building their team. For Wall’s contract to make sense for the team, they’ll need to win a coin flip or two along the way. Fortunately for them, Wall seems capable of stacking the odds in his — and their — favor.

Image by zoomar via Flickr

IN THE PAINT – WITH NATHAN McKEE

In The Paint is an ongoing HP series where we will learn about the different basketball artists on the Interwebs and break down the inspiration for some of their work

This week we are “In The Paint” with the Edward Scissorhands of the basketball art world, Nathan McKee.


What are some of your earliest basketball fan memories? Have any of them translated to your basketball art?

Most of my early sports memories all go back to the Trail Blazers since I’m from Portland. I think a lot of them revolve around my dad’s memories & him telling me stories so I think that they are my memories but they are actually his. Like him taking my brother & I to the 77 championship parade downtown or Bill Walton jogging by our house every day. But I was like 2 so not sure how much I actually remember.

Michael Jordan_7

I do remember watching the 1990 NBA finals between the Pistons & Blazers; game 4 Danny Young hit a miracle 3 that he didn’t get off in time and they ended up losing which has stuck with me forever. Also, the Jordan shrug in Game 1 of the Bulls/Blazers finals where he scored six 3 pointers in the 1st half to destroy us. So my earliest memories mostly consist of my dad’s memories & the Blazers losing.

My basketball memories definitely worked their way into my work as I tend to recreate a lot of players from my youth like Bill Walton, Patrick Ewing, Jordan, etc.

What is your art background and what inspired you to make basketball art?

Sheed Sabas final

I’m pretty much self-taught. I’ve always drawn since I was a kid but as I got older I started doing a lot of screen printing and stenciling. The more I got into basketball, the more I realized how much style & motion was involved with it as well as players’ personalities in their expressions. It drove me to try and capture that on paper. I also really liked the interactions I got from people when they saw my pieces and the dialogue it opened up; at one of my shows, someone that I wouldn’t even expect to be into basketball, saw a Rasheed Wallace piece I did and all of a sudden they are talking like a teenager about that one time he did this or that. I think that’s cool that something like basketball can get people to talk to each other without actually knowing each other especially at something like an art opening.

Why paper cut? As someone who is terrible with scissors, I am curious about the amount of construction paper you use per paper cut. Also, can you describe your specific style and explain more about your overall process?

Dee Brown

There’s a handful of reasons why I got into paper cuts. One is that I don’t really think I’m that skilled at drawing so it allows me to create imagery without the use of ink or paint. Also, I love the amount of time & patience it takes to make a piece which allows me to have some Zen time. When I first started experimenting with paper cut, I was living in Chicago & it was a great transition from stenciling as far as process and not having to freeze my ass off using spray paint outside in the winter!

I also like the simplicity of paper as far as flatness & color. I feel from far away it gets the point across but at closer look it becomes more complicated by seeing how many cuts it actually took to make a piece. A lot of people actually think they are paintings from far away.

Chris Paul

The size of the piece determines the amount of paper it will take. I’ve gotten really crafty over the years with utilizing every piece of the paper instead of just sections of it. So sometimes it will just take a couple of sheets to get it done.

 

Follow Nathan on Twitter and check out his site for more great basketball art.

 

Like Clockwork: A Journal of the 2013 Summer League Championship Game

The following is a journal of my thoughts during and directly after the first and possibly only Summer League Championship Game between the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns on July 22, 2013. The entries will be found here, in their entirety, unedited for content and left as I type them, interspersed with mood-appropriate lyrics from songs that have helped get me through this arduous final day. Obviously, the primary focus of this exercise will be the game, but this will not be a play by play. Just whatever observations my brain is still capable of making after a week in this make-believe juvenile fantasy land of despair.

5:36 PM, local time: After sitting down and opening my computer, I marvel at how few media members are seated in Press Row. I predicted a couple days before that there might be more media people here than fans or players, and I could not have been more wrong.

5:42 PM, local time: Zach Harper, Justin Verrier and Danny Chau arrive, with Kevin Arnovitz soon after. They’ve all been here longer than I have, and somehow still seem conscious and relatively jovial. I don’t know how they do it. I think they all might be robots.

5:46 PM, local time: the Warriors arrive, announced to serious applause. Oracle East, as I’ve taken to calling the Thomas and Mack Center over the final few days of this…experience, lives up to its reputation. The Suns arrive a few minutes later, announced to polite applause. They, too have a fair sized contingent.

Patience is a virtue / Until its silence burns you- TV on the Radio, “Love Dog.”

5:52 PM, local time: I’m already bored of this game, and it hasn’t even started. The same eight to ten songs are playing on repeat, with the same Phoenix Suns Gorilla coming out and firing the same T-Shirts to the same crowd in the same building at the same time. They call this place Paradise, and after a few days, it was true. After 7 days, it’s more akin to Purgatory.

5:56 PM, local time: Earlier today, I walked a half mile or so east of my hotel to a Target I had just realized existed, for the purpose of buying and consuming something resembling actual human food. To my pleasant surprise, I found a Dollar Store and a Gamestop, venturing inside both to experience something closer to the day to day actions of normal humans who didn’t scream at me over a mic and demand I get excited for more foam fingers. It’s takes some doing, but it turns out it’s entirely possible to find something in Las Vegas that isn’t complete artifice.

6:01 PM, local time: Rey Moralde, also known as @TheNoLookPass on twitter, arrives. He’s been here the entire time. Not sure how he’s done it, either, although I’m pretty sure he’s not a robot.

Does it feel like a trial?- The National, “Exile Vilify”

6:05 PM, local time: the PA announcer announces the matchup and that the winning team will receive a trophy, which looks exactly how you’d imagine it.

6:08 PM, local time: Draymond Green and P.J. Tucker speak to the crowd, thanking them for attending. Both then focus their collective basketball effort and work ethic into a beam that devastates the crowd, the stadium, and the greater Las Vegas area.

6:10 PM, local time: The game’s first basket is scored by Kent Bazemore, which is the least surprising thing in the history of things. He’s still playing as hard as one can possibly play basketball. He’s like a beacon of energy and hope in this wind blasted desert of monotony.

6:16 PM, local time: Archie Goodwin scores on a left-baseline floater. He’s 18 years old. God only knows what he did to entertain himself this week without even the option of drinking himself into a stupor available. Not to say I did that, or anything. Just that I had the option.

6:19 PM, local time: Marcus Morris executes a series of dribble moves leading to a pretty stepback jumper. The crowd oohs appropriately. I know some of these people have been here all week. Their optimism is equal parts inspiring and depressing. Still, a nice shot.

6:26 PM, local time: Bazemore scores again at the rim. His energy is as relentless as his arms are long. Archie Goodwin responds with a drive of his own. I would like to buy them both personalized coffee mugs reading “World’s Best Basketball Player” and hope that they each never know I bought one for the other.

6:30 PM, local time: A surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, given that these two teams were probably the only two to really make an effort to reach this game) good first quarter comes to an end tied at 22. Kent Bazemore has 10 points, Marcus Morris has 7. If the games on Saturday had been this good, we might not have lost our collective minds.

6:35 PM, local time: A couple minutes into the second quarter, the stat person hands me a stat sheet, even though I’m sitting right next to an updating stats monitor. These people have worked hard all week, but this has to be a massive exercise in futility.

6:37, local time: Ian Clark hits another three pointer. He’s looked good this week, and he looked good in Orlando. Surely playing well for that long on two different teams warrants a camp invite, no? You can never have enough point guards. Look at me, analyzing basketball when there’s perfectly decent proselytizing to be done.

6:43, local time: I spy David Aldridge doing an interview with who appears to be Mark Jackson behind the Warriors bench. Having ridden an elevator with DA twice now, I’m just now starting to understand how it is he’s become so well regarded. He just doesn’t stop working. Ever.

 You’re living in a fantasy world / another message I can’t read- Radiohead, “In Limbo”

6:48, local time: Another fan giveaway, another outcry of impoverished souls who can’t conceive of going on without a free basketball or t-shirt or bottle of SPAM or whatever. Afterwards, Ian Clark scored five points in rapid succession. He has 19, and it’s not even halftime. He’s posing after his threes, of which he’s hit four, in five attempts. So this is happening.

7:04 PM, local time: After the halftime buzzer sounds, Rey and I go in search of the new Media Room, located in something called the Backcourt Cafe. A full search of the Thomas and Mack concourse is fruitless. The magical, ever refreshing plastic tin of Red Vines has evaded me. I will not give up so easily.

7:08 PM, local time: The third quarter begins, and I have to say I am not upset about it. This has been a competitive and relatively decent game thus far, one that reflects well on Summer League as a whole.

7:13 PM, local time: Bazemore picks up his man 70 feet from his own basket and scores after a missed shot. I believe he’s headed off to to Mars to play Dr. Manhattan one on one after this, such is his commitment to basketball.

7:20 PM, local time: Another timeout, another t-shirt toss. Guy in the far corner of the area casually chucks a shirt up the giant Summer League banner into what would be like the 25th row anywhere else. Where has this bionic man been for all the other t-shirt tosses? Surely he could throw a shirt into the sun if he really tried.

7:26 PM, local time: The PA guy announces the All-Summer League Team: Bazemore, Valanciunas, Cody Zeller, John Henson, and Jeff Taylor, of the “Charlotte…team.” Obviously, he wasn’t sure if he was supposed to refer to them as the Bobcats or the Hornets, but I laughed. It feels good to laugh. A great deal of the crowd booed as Valanciunas was announced as the MVP, which I’m sure he would see as “f*cked.”

7:32 PM, local time: Three quarters gone, and this is still a pretty good game. 65-61 Warriors. Bazemore has 18, Ian Clark has 22, and Archie Goodwin has 16. I am slightly delirious from hunger, so I may go buy a horrendously overpriced snack food of some kind.

Shame on us / doomed from the start / may God have mercy on our dirty little hearts- Nine Inch Nails, “Zero Sum.”

7:39 PM, local time: Ian Clark misses a shot, a Suns player grabs the rebound and fires upcourt directly to Kent Bazemore. That old familiar fog is starting to set in. Perhaps my plan to stay up until sunrise my time (around 3:45 Pacific time) is coming back to bite me. I’ll soldier through, I suppose. Warriors (or WARRIOR, as the jumbotron says) are starting to pull away, 75-66.

7:42 PM, local time: Another t-shirt toss. Guy right on the baseline fires one straight up into the air, and it comes down five feet from him in the courtside seats, all of it captured on the jumbotron. The cameraman trying to film it falls over. It’s Summer League for everyeone.

7:48 PM, local time: I walk around the concourse for a bit, just to get some feeling back in my legs. The security personnel yawn. I recognize most of them by this point. The entire staff here has been through a lot, I imagine. Some of them probably don’t even like basketball. Yesterday, I wandered around the Cox Pavilion area in a sea of kiosks and merchandise stands, all of them fully attended and with no customers. That was a very particular type of apathy. I walk back in to see Ian Clark hit another three pointer. He has 33 points. I am Ian Clark. You are Ian Clark. We are all Ian Clark.

7:53 PM, local time: Up 15 points, the Warriors send in Scott Machado, Gary McGhee and James Southerland. The dogs have been called off. The Suns are playing their famed Babb/Abercrombie/Cohen/Collins/Oriakhi lineup.

7:55 PM, local time: Cameron Jones dribbles out the clock, and it is finally, mercifully over. I imagine Ian Clark will be the MVP of this game. I’m off to find some damned Red Vines.

9:18 pm, local time: After getting lost on the UNLV campus in a misguided attempt to find the In N Out whose location I had forgotten, I stop at a CVS between the arena and my hotel and buy some trash food (and water). Upon getting back into my room, I collapse on my bed and lie there, without moving, for nearly five minutes. Eventually, I get up and write this little epilogue you’re currently reading. This week started off swimmingly, being the first time I’ve ever been credentialed for an NBA event and the first time I’ve ever interviewed a professional basketball player. I met Tom Thibodeau and complimented him on his shoes. I met Kevin Arnovitz and complimented him on his Bowie singing. The second half of the week was more like work than any job I have ever had, and I wasn’t even getting paid for it. It was arduous, difficult, boring, exhausting, and tedious. Mostly tedious. I met some great people and probably walked 30 miles. Me ankles are swollen. My back hurts from the awful chairs on press row. I haven’t had milk in a week. I miss my dog so much that I spent an hour earlier today watching “lost dog reunited with family” videos on youtube.

I can’t wait to do it all again next year.

Most of what you see, my dear / is purely for show- Queens of the Stone Age, “Like Clockwork”

Profile Paroxysm: Dwight Buycks and the Remaking of a Point Guard

Reputations are hard to shake, and even harder to change. Coming out of Marquette, Dwight Buycks had a reputation of a scoring point guard, a euphemism for a guard that can’t reliably run an offense.

Fast forward two years later, and Buycks — now having played in the NBA D-League and overseas — was playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Summer League team in Orlando. Buycks said his goals in Orlando was “to come here and let the world know what I’ve been working on: picking and choosing when I can get my shots and shots for others.”

Perhaps this sounds like the beginning of a story you’ve heard thousands of times before: A player comes to Summer League, promising to have completely retooled his game, only to show that his prior weaknesses still remain. This is not that story.

The 24-year old Buycks spent last season playing for BVM Gravelines  in France, where he was named MVP of LNB Pro A, averaging 18 points, 3.2 rebounds and nearly three assists per game while leading his team to a number one seed in the playoffs. Such honors and accomplishments might sway a player to stay in Europe and forget his NBA dreams, but the NBA had always been Buycks’ goal, and no amount of overseas success would change that.

There was no jolt of inspiration, no prophetic visions demanding Buycks change his scoring ways. Those are fit for fairy tales, not real life. The need for reformation was a gradual realization, one that came after a good deal of reflection.

“After reevaluating myself, I wanted and needed to become a complete point guard,” said Buycks. “Overseas, I scored a lot, but that was my job. At this level, [my job] isn’t going to be scoring, it’s going to be running the offense and getting guys shots.”

In the Thunder’s first Summer League game, Buycks the scorer was nowhere to be found. In his place was a player that always thought pass first, penetrating the lane not with the intent to score, but to suck in defenders and sling the ball out to a perimeter shooter. His eyes were constantly, incessantly scanning the floor, searching for an open teammate.

Buycks dished 13 assists in that first game, each one trumpeting the arrival of a point guard transformed. And while he never matched that number again in Orlando or Las Vegas, he played every game with the same, steady, unselfish demeanor.

An oft-heard skepticism concerning scoring guards attempting to remold their game as a passer is whether they have the necessary court vision to do so. Luckily, to hear Buycks tell it, he always had the vision, it was just a matter of properly harnessing it. To do so, he studied the bread and butter play of most NBA offenses, the pick and roll, as well as those who’ve mastered it — among them, Tony Parker, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. “I watched a lot of film, both mine and of other players, (I wanted) to take pieces of other NBA players’ games and put it into my own,” said Buycks. The most important lesson Buycks gleaned from studying those prolific pick and roll operators was that of patience.

“(I have to) wait for that big to set a good screen,” Buycks said. “Because that’s what frees me up, which means the opponent has to help, and if they fight to get back to me, that means (the big and I) can have a pick and pop. Or, if their big runs back, I get to attack, and someone that’s not my man has to come over, meaning someone else is open.”

Buycks became more than just a capable passer, however;  in both Orlando and Vegas he was at times downright creative with his distribution. He’d whip no-look, over-the-shoulder passes to his big in in the pick and pop, or get deep into the lane, nearly under the basket, and rise only to wrap the ball around the back of the leaping defender to give his man an easy dunk.

His passing was in fact the first thing Rex Kalamian, an assistant coach of the the Oklahoma City Thunder and the head coach of the Thunder’s Summer League team commented on when asked about Buycks.

“He’s a willing and able passer and a very good pick and roll player,” said Kalamian. “Not only does he have the ability to get into the paint, he has the ability to find guys on the perimeter. When he drives, three or four defenders collapse on him, and he’s gotten a lot or our guys open shots because of his penetration and ability to get to the rim.”

The Thunder wasn’t the only team to take note of Buycks’ remarkable reformation. Buycks was supposed to play for the Miami Heat’s Summer League team in Las Vegas, but his performance in Orlando promptly changed those plans. Suitors both foreign and domestic pursued Buycks, and before the Orlando Summer League even ended, Buycks agreed to a multiyear deal with the Toronto Raptors.

That Toronto had interest in Buycks was no coincidence. Jeff Weltman, Toronto’s Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, used to be the Assistant General Manager of the Milwaukee Bucks, who worked out Buycks after he left Marquette. At the time, Weltman thought Buycks could eventually be a very good player, but needed to time to develop and address his issues. Following his exploits in Orlando, Weltman felt he had done just that.

When asked if he was surprised at the drastic changes in Buycks’ ability as a passer, Weltman beamed and softly shook his head. “Knowing the kind of guy he is, it doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Weltman. “He’s an incredibly hard worker. If [running the offense] was his weakness, he was going to find a way to attack it, and it was only a matter of time before he found his way into the league.”

While playing with his new team in Las Vegas, Buycks showed that his still very much existent scoring abilities could work in concert with his improved passing. He averaged 23 points per game on 15 shots (a stark contrast with his numbers in Orlando, where he averaged just 9.5 points on nearly seven shots per game), while still handing out seven assists per game.  Very few of his shots were those of a gunner. They came within the offense, when the timing and situation made sense for Buycks to channel his scoring mentality.

Inflexibility can be a death sentence to NBA hopefuls. If a player refuses to adapt or adjust, to change his game in a way that results in a lesser but more stable role, their time in the league will be counted in quarters, not seasons. We’ve seen this countless times with players that have been nothing else but “the man” everywhere they go, only to find themselves hopelessly out of their depths once they arrive in the NBA. Unable or unwilling to find other ways to contribute to the team, the player slowly drifts out of relevance.

But not every NBA aspirator must follow this unfortunate path. For those who realize their future in the NBA depends on their ability to aid a team in areas besides scoring, and who work tirelessly to cultivate their skills in those other areas, a spot on an NBA roster remains a possibility. Dwight Buycks proved as much this summer.

“Hard work pays off. I worked hard down in Orlando and gave myself a chance. The Raptors saw me, and now I have a home; it’s a blessing,” said Buycks. “I’ve had a long journey of working, and the journey’s just started.”

Slipping Into Delirium

Robby Kalland currently covers the Atlanta Hawks for Peachtree Hoops of SB Nation and will be moving to Hawks.com this August. – Ed.

Spending eight days in Las Vegas and watching approximately 32-40 basketball games of varying quality from awful to decent (with the majority leaning to the former) will do strange things to a man.

As I write this, I am sitting on a red-eye flight from Las Vegas to Atlanta. Since first landing in Las Vegas late Saturday night, I’ve lost a good portion of my money and all of my sanity. This week was my first Las Vegas experience and my first Summer League experience. Coming in, I thought the toughest thing would be staying out of casinos and avoiding going bankrupt. I figured watching basketball would be the least of my worries. I even expected basketball to be a respite from the insanity that is Las Vegas.

I was wrong.

The first three or four days of my Summer League were wonderful. I had been experiencing basketball withdrawals since the NBA Finals. I hadn’t seen my Hawks play in over a month. I craved basketball; I NEEDED basketball.

Despite the generally low quality of play, the first few days I thoroughly enjoyed sitting on the baseline watching and observing games. I joyously took in anywhere from 4-8 games a day with my laptop and body in perpetual danger of being taken out by the seemingly ever-present rogue basketball that would exit the court due to an errant pass or air-ball.

Luckily, my laptop and body are leaving Las Vegas unscathed; despite the best efforts of the players and half-time half-court shot contestants.

However, after day three or four, the basketball became monotonous…very monotonous. The bad play that was somewhat endearing early in the week became increasingly frustrating; forcing me to look elsewhere for entertainment.

This search for entertainment led me into the stands, where I hunted down executives, coaches, and players for on and off record conversations. The easy access to these people all in one place that are normally difficult to find is one of the main attractions to Summer League (for some it is the entire reason for going). However, there are still only so many conversations that one can have to avoid watching basketball. By the end of day four, I was running out of distractions, and thus, unknowingly, on the verge of losing my sanity.

Wednesday, my fourth day in Vegas, was when the lack of sleep and constant mediocre basketball really took its toll. It began Tuesday night, when the decision was made to head out to the Hard Rock to meet up with a number of other media members. The night progressed and many beverages were consumed, which, as is inevitable, led to a late-night (or early morning depending on how you look at it) food run. As we left the McDonald’s by the hotel, it donned on us that the next day would be a rough one. Why? This is why.

Daylight was not our friend. After sleeping briefly, we made our way back to UNLV for more basketball. Running on fumes and caffeine we pressed on, just hoping to make it through another day. Around the middle of the afternnon, as I sat in the upper press section of the Thomas & Mack Center, regret began to sink in. Regret that I had stayed out so late. Regret that I was staying in Vegas so long. I quickly learned that I was not alone in having these feelings as I looked down press row at dozens of weary-eyed, downtrodden writers. Some handled the grind well and remained vigilant in their tasks of watching and writing for as long as they could. For others, a state of delirium set in quickly. Those that had been there from the beginning were on their seventh day and struggled to stay mentally invested what was happening on the court. This, again, led to the collective group attempting to find alternative forms of entertainment. This pattern repeated itself over the next four days, as we all attempted to find ways to keep ourselves amused. The most common form of entertainment was to make jokes, puns, or post funny GIFs or images on Twitter to elicit a laugh from the rest of press row. As the week progressed and we entered the final weekend of Summer League, the ratio of basketball analysis to jokes swung dramatically, and the jokes and puns got progressively worse and worse. By the end of the week we had all become so slap-happy, that what was happening on the court became mere background to our musings. Saturday brought the worst of everything, thanks to one unwitting participant: Scoop Jardine. The first game of the day was a quarterfinal that featured the Cleveland Cavaliers and former Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine. We all filed into Thomas & Mack and took our seats in the upper press section and prepared for another eight hours of basketball, knowing full and well that it was the last full day any of us would have to endure. Looking to just press through the day, we watched as the Cavaliers warmed up on our side of the floor. As they warmed up, we took notice of Scoop Jardine, not for his basketball ability, but for the pun-ability of his name. This began the worst four hour stretch of puns ever as we all succumbed to our delirious state, even those that had held out and fought the good fight for so long.

 

 

 

 

Those are just four of the many awful puns that were created by the group of sleep-deprived writers just trying to endure another day. As the day continued, the bad jokes and puns moved on from the initial subject matter of Scoop Jardine and entered entirely new realms of terrible.

That Saturday proved to be the final straw for some. There were those that changed flights to get out of Las Vegas a day or two early, while others decided to skip Sunday’s games and go elsewhere in the city for the day. Both choices were admirable and wise, but I had been claimed by the Summer League beast, caught in its trance.

Another day of basketball awaited me.

Sunday was a mercifully shorter day with just two games and also featured a trimmed down press row as many had left that morning or decided not to come. Those of us left tried our best to stay awake and alert while soaking in two more games. However, despite my best efforts to stay focused, Vegas had claimed my sanity and I stared blankly at the court. My 12:35 AM flight back to Atlanta could not come fast enough.

Las Vegas remains undefeated. It will always take something, whether it is money or sanity (or both), Vegas finds a way. Summer League was an unforgettable experience that was both wonderful and terrible all at the same time, mirroring the city in which it is held.

Now it is time to recuperate and try to regain my sanity, only 350 days until next year, when we get to lose it all over again.

Summer League Fringe Event- Andrew Goudelock: Conscience Does Make Cowards.

Andrew Goudelock has carved a very atypical path to the NBA. After leaving the College of Charleston as it’s all-time leading scorer, he was a second round pick of the Lakers in the 2011 Draft. Over the course of that season, he played in 40 games, averaging 4.4 points and under 1 assist and rebound per game on .391 shooting from the field. After being cut by the Lakers before the 2012-13 season, he was drafted by the Sioux Falls SkyForce with the second overall selection of the 2012 D-League Draft (after former Purdue standout JaJuan Johnson). While with Sioux Falls, he averaged 20.3 points, 5.2 assists and 3.4 rebounds, marked improvements from his passing and rebounding numbers in the NBA, even at 36 minutes. When asked about the ability to get into the paint he’s shown at Summer League, he had this to say.

“In the D-League, when my shot wasn’t falling I had to do something else” and describes himself in the D-League as “more of a get to the rim guy, with floaters and things like that. It comes in handy when your shot isn’t falling.” He credits the D-League for helping him refine the rougher edges of his game.

“The D-League has helped me out so much, completing my game, and showing everything I can do.”

After a couple months with Sioux Falls, Goudelock was traded to the eventual D-League champion Rio Grande Valley Vipers, where he was even better than in Sioux Falls, posting averages of 21.4 points, 5.8 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals on .491 shooting from the field, .404 from the line. For his efforts, he was named the 2012-13 NBA D-League MVP, and was called back up to the Lakers in time to play in the regular season finale against the Houston Rockets. He played in three playoff games with the Lakers, starting Game 3 against the Spurs and recording a career high 20 points in the loss.

And so, Andrew Goudelock came to Vegas Summer League 2013 with the Bulls, trying to prove once and for all that he belongs in the NBA. He averaged 19.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.0 assists on .471 shooting in five games in Las Vegas.

“I think it definitely helps,” Goudelock said about Summer League.  ”Guys that haven’t seen me besides the playoffs with the Lakers or in the D-League, you know it’s a good opportunity for them the see the other sides of my game besides more than scoring the ball.”

When asked about what he can take from his experiences in the D-League and this Summer in Vegas, he responded. “I played point the whole time today, and we got the dub. I played point the whole time in the D-League, and we won a championship. I’m a winner. That’s the biggest thing, it’s a basketball game, and everyone’s playing to win. I just wanna come out here and show that, I can do a little bit of everything.”

Whatever anyone says about Andrew Goudelock, they can never say that he lacks for confidence. If he doesn’t make an NBA roster this summer, he’ll certainly try again next year. If he doesn’t make it then, he’ll try again the year after that. No is never an answer where the NBA is concerned for the indefatigable Andrew Goudelock.