Not airballing my layups anymore
Join Date: Jun 2007
Re: ESPN Insider - The Official Thread
When analyzing a player, we also have to use care when using plus-minus, especially this early in the season (the same could be said about adjusted plus-minus, too). One player might have a far more impressive plus-minus than another, but only because one replacement player is much worse than the other.
So a trick evaluators use is to imagine how players would do if they were to simply switch teams. How would Hornets rookie Brian Roberts do in Cleveland? Would he help the Cavs win more? And would Waiters do more in New Orleans than Roberts? This is not based on projections, but strictly a subjective look at how each one is playing at this time.
No one would argue that Roberts will be better than Waiters once the latter matures -- which is likely but not assured. But right now, it's hard to argue that the already mature and crafty Roberts would not help Cleveland more today, while the Hornets would suffer with Waiters.(Thinking about Waiters and Austin Rivers playing together is a painful exercise.)
Highlights and exciting players are also obstacles for fans. Remember when everyone just knew that Kobe Bryant was the king of clutch? A deeper study of the data proved otherwise, for both him and the Lakers.
Similarly, a player who can grab 10 rebounds, all below the rim, in 30 minutes a game is still more valuable than the guy who flies all over the place for his seven rebounds in 36 minutes. It may not look as pretty, but the first player is obviously having a greater impact.
Waiters does indeed have some Dwyane Wade in him and a little Eric Gordon, too. And that screams DYNAMIC! Meanwhile, Barnes looks like the elite prep player he was -- he's longer, taller, smoother and more skilled and athletic than most small forwards we'll ever see. Those aspects of their games will sell tickets, sure, but they only matter to talent evaluators when they are used to administer efficient and productive punishments on their opponents.
Jarvis Hayes, a former lottery pick in 2003, was a big and strong wing player from an athletic college conference who stormed out of the gates for the Wizards as a rookie. He averaged better than 11 ppg his first two months and earned a spot next to the likes of LeBron, Melo, Bosh and Wade in the rookie-soph game. But Hayes was never even an average NBA player during his career because of poor shooting percentages and a lack of understanding of how to best utilize his strengths.
There is a stark difference between perception and reality, which objective stats show us more clearly. I believe that guys like Waiters and Barnes are fully capable of becoming long-term starters, and possibly stars -- something I have always projected for Barnes -- but it is not yet written in stone.
Until then, they will be highly marketed rookies, for sure, but only average in terms of production. Meanwhile, there will be other rookies (and veterans) helping their teams play better, only with less attention.
This week's rookie observations
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bobcats -- Dec. 6: There is a lot to love about MKG's consistent efforts every night. But there is one glaring consistency that he needs to improve over time to begin to reach his vast potential: his inability to get to the free throw line. Since Thanksgiving, he has played more than 175 minutes and has shot just four free throws.
More shot fakes, better attacking angles and simply just valuing the act of getting fouled will help him a great deal. This is not something to worry about, as rookies have such a steep learning curve, but it is something to keep an eye on.
Jared Sullinger, Celtics -- Dec. 6: The Celtics are not playing as well as they hoped to be, but as a veteran group, there is little sense of panic. For a youngster like Sullinger, it is important to develop some trust from his coach, a place where he can be counted on to produce most nights. Sullinger has quietly done that by dominating the defensive boards during his minutes.
If he can maintain this level on just this one part of the game, he will ensure more minutes for himself because Boston takes great pride in cleaning up missed shots. And more minutes will give him the chance to develop other parts of his game.
Tony Wroten, Grizzlies -- Dec. 6: The Grizzlies are possibly the top story in the West, maybe the whole league. But down the road, they could need a third point guard. Enter Wroten, who was recently sent to the D-League. Playing time is what he needs most right now if he's going to fill in when necessary for the contenders in Tennessee.
Andre Drummond, Pistons -- Dec. 5: I can hear the criticism now. All he does is dunk! But it is never an opposing coach who utters that silly phrase, because they know a dunk is the highest percentage shot in basketball. Sure, Drummond has a few nifty moves in his still-in-training-wheels offensive game, as he showed against Golden State with a nice spin to the rim and 1. But his dunks are what make his coaches smile and his opponents sweat, because he is getting them the right way by hanging around the paint with his hands up, ready to catch and explode.
So many young athletes enter the NBA and don't play that way, instead choosing to show off their perimeter skills or finesse game in the paint. For example, DeMarcus Cousins took four shots per game inside (making 64 percent) and three per game from 16 to 23 feet (making 37 percent) as a rookie. Drummond, on the hand, takes almost four shots a game inside and less than a half a shot per game from the perimeter. With his size and agility, he won't need a perimeter game for years.
Will Barton, Trail Blazers -- Dec. 3: It hasn't been a good beginning for Barton, in part because few rooks are prepared for spot duty. But on Monday, Barton made 3 of 5 shots, nailing a corner 3 and racing the floor for two easy buckets. This is significant because it meant he had played solidly, scoring wise, in two consecutive games for the first time this season. (He scored seven points on 3-for-5 shooting on Saturday.)
His quickness and length are intriguing, but a few rookies have gone to Portland and disappeared the past few seasons, so Barton has his work cut out for him. The good news is that he made his first 3 in the first quarter of Monday's contest as his team was getting drilled, and it helped spark them back into the game. Coaches remember that kind of stuff.
Bradley Beal, Wizards -- Dec. 3: Unlike many rookies, Beal is not having a big problem with shot selection; he is just missing shot after shot. Remember, he did not shoot well for most of the college season, surprising everyone who had pegged him as the next Ray Allen. But he found his shot as the Gators ran to the Elite Eight, and Wizards fans hope that he can pull off something similar this season. Hopefully before March, of course.