Tag Archives: Rudy Gay

The 2016-2017 All-Bizarro Leaders in Minutes

It’s about that time of the year again. It’s time to announce the most important All-NBA squad, a lineup composed of the most unusual players who led a team in time on the floor.

I started this because guys like LeBron James and James Harden are likely to lead their respective teams in total minutes, but there will be players who got a ton of burn on rebuilding teams that need someone, anyone to be a key cog during that phase. There could also be minute eaters on contending teams, an aging player with fresher legs than expected, or one who came back from a devastating injury only to pick up where he left off.

Since 2007, these are not the best All-NBA teams ever. Given the minutes they’ve totaled, maybe they’d log all of them together, 2,000-minute lineups bad enough to get coaching staffs fired, but net top-five picks. The good and bad even themselves out, really. As an example of how these rosters look, below is what 2016’s looked like.

2016 Tm MIN G MPG
Jordan Clarkson LAL 2552 79 32.3
Evan Fournier ORL 2566 79 32.5
Wesley Matthews DAL 2644 78 33.9
Matt Barnes MEM 2190 76 28.8
Anthony Davis NOP 2164 61 35.5

Clarkson received a ton of minutes despite competition in the backcourt in Kobe Bryant, D’Angelo Russell, Louis Williams, and whatever they could get from Marcelo Huertas and Nick Young. Meanwhile, Fournier had a rare, healthy season and appears to be one of the few players to spend a handful of years in Orlando. Davis was a choice for a similar, but more weird reason. He was reasonably healthy on a team with a roster that dropped like flies. Due to his decline in overall scoring efficiency, Matthews may not have completely recovered from a torn Achilles tendon, but is still capable of eating a ton of minutes at a position thin on depth league-wide. And finally, Barnes was a selection because of his age (35 years old) and having his two highest minute totals in his two most recent seasons.

This season was a challenge to find a five-man squad because most stars had great health, fueling an unexpectedly (to me, at least) great regular season. Below were my five picks.

Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic, 2,412 minutes

Payton led the Magic in minutes despite going back-and-forth between starting and coming off the bench, a common theme on this list. It felt unlikely that Nikola Vucevic, Bismack Biyombo, or Serge Ibaka would rank first because of their minute-crunches up front, but Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier were key cogs, much less tradeable than the frontline or Payton. In particular, there wasn’t a ton of depth behind Fournier until Orlando traded Ibaka for Terrence Ross, but Fournier played 14 less games than Payton and, well, now we’re here.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about Payton. That’s not to say he hasn’t improved. He’s a triple-double candidate with enough minutes, his shot percentages from around the rim to 16 feet have increased each year, and he’s still only 23 years old, but there’s a ceiling for guards who struggle from beyond the arc (27 percent on 2.2 attempts per 36 minutes), don’t draw a ton of fouls (2.7 team fouls and 3.2 free throws per 36), and aren’t freakishly good on defense. It’s hard to find consistency with that player type, especially on a mess of a roster.

Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers, 2,397 minutes

Clarkson makes his second-straight appearance, playing the second-most minutes among players of the last five years who started less than one-fourth of their games. The obstacles to playing time weren’t as stiff this time around. Kobe Bryant retired, Louis Williams’ career year with the Lakers lasted only until the trade deadline, and Nick Young missed 20 games in the best season of his own career.

But a bad team typically mixes in young pieces no matter what, like Tyler Ennis and David Nwaba, and just about any Laker was going to make this list. If it wasn’t Clarkson, it would’ve been Brandon Ingram or someone like Nick Young, second and fifth in total minutes, respectively. This might be the last time Clarkson is in this post anyway. Every summer is obviously important for teams, but it #feels even more so for the Lakers to return to playoff contention, and trading Clarkson and/or another young building block #feels necessary in order to do that.

Darren Collison, Sacramento Kings, 2,063 minutes

If not for the shocking mid-season trade, DeMarcus Cousins would’ve led the Kings in minutes. If not Boogie, it would’ve been Rudy Gay, but a torn Achilles injury sidelined him for the rest of the season and possibly some of 2018.  That left the random assortment remaining, and Collison squeaked by with just over 2,000 minutes. Collison’s one of 30 “active” players who’s averaged 10 or more points per game in each of their first eight seasons. It doesn’t feel like it was already his third season in Sacramento, but who knows if he’ll keep the streak going there as he’s a free agent this summer.

Collison’s also the third guard on this list, but we were thin on candidates this season.

Nik Stauskas, Philadelphia 76ers, 2,188 minutes

Any 76er was going to make this list, but the Stauskas reclamation project topped T.J. McConnell, Dario Saric, and Robert Covington by 50 to 70 minutes. Suddenly, Stauskas’ next contract looks interesting. After a frustrating first couple of seasons, he became a league-average three-point shooter with the help of super-hot shooting from the corners at 48.5 percent. Stauskas could still improve around the rim, 53.6 percent this season when the average is 63, but he’s at least taken about 80 percent of his shots in the most efficient areas of the floor. That should bode well with a healthy Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, or at least one of the two being healthy.

Wilson Chandler, Denver Nuggets, 2,197 minutes

Chandler rounds out the squad as the tiny-ball center, leading the Nuggets in total minutes despite missing the 2016 season due to hip surgery. In second and third place for Denver was Danilo Gallinari, who’s only played 60 percent of games since 2012, and Jameer Nelson, who is old.

There should be minute shifts next season as Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, Emmanuel Mudiay, Juan Hernangomez, and Jamal Murray enter another year of their rookie contracts. That’s a ton of prospects, but Chandler and Gallinari should still get a ton of play if they stick around and stay healthy. Both offer the versatility and bodies to be modern-day power forwards, but it seems like the Nuggets are also primed for a trade. They’re deep, but too deep.

Honorable mentions: Dennis Schroeder and Tobias Harris.

As usual, hopefully Boris Diaw has 4,000 minutes in him next season.

Minutes and other stats, unless noted otherwise, were from Basketball-Reference. 

The NBA’s All-Bizarro Leaders in Minutes

The dead stage of the off-season is here.

This might be a hot take, but the best and/or most irreplaceable players should be on the floor as much as possible. That doesn’t always happen, though, and a season usually ends with more than a few teams with unexpected leaders in total minutes. Injuries pick apart the top of some rosters, other teams rebuild with somebody having to be a key cog, and some aging players continue to play a major role on the floor. Other weird things happen over 82 games that lead to some larger-than-expected minute totals, but those are three simple reasons for it.

So since it’s the off-season, why not make a five-player squad comprised of the most unusual minutes leaders? A while back, I actually tweeted my five bizarro minute leaders from last season, but I made an adjustment while putting this post together. Despite a center, Marc Gasol was an understandable leader in minutes for Memphis. He’s pretty good and stuff. A key component to being good at the NBA level is having basketball skills, and Gasol has them, or it. He has it.

Replacing Gasol was a Sacramento King not named DeMarcus Cousins or Rudy Gay, but still a decent player. Most of the guys were fine players who happened to log like 1,000 too many minutes for their team, usually a mediocre to bad one. 2014-2015’s bizarro minute leaders:

2015 Tm MIN G MPG
Shane Larkin NYK 1,865 76 24.5
Ben McLemore SAC 2,670 82 32.6
Solomon Hill IND 2,381 82 29.0
Wes Johnson LAL 2,245 76 29.5
Pau Gasol CHI 2,681 78 34.4

Larkin, McLemore, and Johnson were on teams retooling either in the summer or mid-season, Hill played over 10 times as many minutes as he did in 2014 thanks mostly to Paul George‘s freak leg injury, and Pau Gasol logged over 2,500 minutes for the first time since 2011. Things happened.

That’s as realistic of a starting five when it comes to picking weirdo minutes leaders. For the heck of it, I did the same exercise back to the 2006-07 season. I found most of these players to be truly interesting, but I figured some players like Khris Middleton would be strange only to those who weren’t all that aware of him yet.

2014 TM MIN G MPG
Randy Foye DEN 2,485 81 30.7
Jodie Meeks LAL 2,556 77 33.2
Khris Middleton MIL 2,460 82 30.0
Jeff Green BOS 2,805 82 34.2
Tristan Thompson CLE 2,594 82 31.6
2013 TM MIN G MPG
Luke Ridnour MIN 2,474 82 30.2
Greivis Vasquez NOH 2,685 78 34.4
J.R. Smith NYK 2,678 80 33.5
Martell Webster WAS 2,200 76 28.9
Tristan Thompson CLE 2,564 82 31.3
2012 TM MIN G MPG
Brandon Knight DET 2,129 66 32.3
Marco Belinelli NOH 1,966 66 29.8
Luis Scola HOU 2,067 66 31.3
Antawn Jamison CLE 2,151 65 33.1
Kris Humphries NJN 2,162 62 34.9
2011 TM MIN G MPG
Jason Kidd DAL 2,653 80 33.2
Beno Udrih SAC 2,734 79 34.6
John Salmons MIL 2,554 73 35.0
Boris Diaw CHA 2,778 82 33.9
J.J. Hickson CLE 2,256 80 28.2
2010 TM MIN G MPG
Andre Miller POR 2,500 82 30.5
Corey Brewer MIN 2,482 82 30.3
Rasual Butler LAC 2,702 82 33.0
Andre Bargnani TOR 2,799 80 35.0
Andray Blatche WAS 2,256 81 27.9
2009 TM MIN G MPG
Chris Duhon NYK 2,906 79 36.8
Jarrett Jack IND 2,716 82 33.1
Kelenna Azubuike GSW 2,375 74 32.1
Ronnie Brewer UTA 2,605 81 32.2
Ryan Gomes MIN 2,494 82 30.4
2008 TM MIN G MPG
Jamal Crawford NYK 3,190 80 39.9
Cuttino Mobley LAC 2,702 77 35.1
Ricky Davis MIA 2,963 82 36.1
Anthony Parker TOR 2,634 82 32.1
John Salmons SAC 2,517 81 31.1
2007 TM MIN G MPG
Ricky Davis MIN 3,021 81 37.3
Charlie Bell MIL 2,848 82 34.7
Desmond Mason NOK 2,575 75 34.3
Chris Wilcox SEA 2,586 82 31.5
Eddy Curry NYK 2,849 81 35.2

Random note: If you’ve ever fiddled with the simulations at WhatIfSports, the players in the seasons listed above are a bit pricey because of their minute totals and are some of the worst minute-per-dollar versions of themselves. That’s a solid site to kill time during the off-season, by the way. Their basketball simulation isn’t perfect, but it’s fun.

That was nine total squads, though. 2005-06 minutes leaders weren’t all that interesting, but we can get to a perfect round number by throwing out possible names to make the 2015-16 squad:

  • Roughly 95 percent of the players in the Atlantic Division.
  • Enes Kanter.
  • Meyers Leonard please, please, please, but Damian Lillard is just a bit more likely.
  • Zaza Pachulia or Wes Matthews.
  • Andrew Wiggins if he plays like 3,500 minutes.
  • Kobe Bryant, just because of age and stuff.
  • Rajon Rondo, a mediocre NBA player for a mediocre blog.

There were probably a few players I forgot, because of course.

All statistics were from Basketball-Reference. I love you.

When Josh Smith makes consecutive threes

Over the last four months I’ve posted both optimistic words about Josh Smith’s shot selection and amazement of how bad it’s become. Hopefully this post is somewhere in the middle, both accepting of his jump shot and that I can’tstopwriting about him.

Josh Smith can do many good things on an NBA court. Catering his game to what math says about it, well, that’s not one of them (though that’s also on Joe Dumars). He’s taken nearly as many shots within five feet, where he averages 1.282 points per attempt, as he does from 20 feet and beyond where he averages .705 points per attempt. It also feels mandatory to mention that because Smith’s a 23.6 percent shooter from the arc that he’s five attempts away from becoming the worst in league history, minimum 200 shots. He’ll be the worst even if he makes every one of those five attempts. Fun times.

Making five threes in a row is possible, by the way. The current chance of Smith accomplishing that is 0.0011 percent or basically the chances of making a straight flush in poker, but the former event actually happened over two games in the 2012-2013 season against Memphis and Miami, when the likelihood of such an occurrence back then was slightly higher at .0053 percent.

Smith’s a streaky three-point shooter, proven as recent as last night when he laughed in the face of math by making two threes in a row against the Spurs. He came into the game shooting 22.9 percent from three (again, on nearly 200 shots) which meant the chance of making his next two attempts was 5.2 percent. If we go by his accuracy since January 1, that percentage drops to 3.1.

That’s exactly what happened, though.

As his 3-point percentage might show, however, Smith will have cold spells where he misses, say, eight in a row. His longest drought this season is currently 11 threes from December 23 to January 7, according to Basketball-Reference, which is currently about as likely to happen again as making another pair of threes. The odds for each are 5.55 percent and 5.18, respectively.

Here are some other occurrences in the NBA about as likely to happen as Smith either making two threes in a row or missing 11 straight, going off his new three-point percentage that’s a shade under 23.6 percent:

  • Brandon Jennings missing seven straight threes from above the break. Don’t count this out. Judging by the distance of a lot of his threes, this has happened multiple times this season.
  • Chris Bosh missing five mid-range shots in a row. With the looks LeBron James and Dwyane Wade give him, that possibility seems, um, not possible.
  • Carmelo Anthony missing five straight threes from above the break. More likely is Anthony making five straight threes and the Knicks still losing.
  • Stephen Curry missing in general, which feels like never.
  • And for the poker players, making two-pair is slightly less likely, calculating to 4.75 percent.

Smith doesn’t care for math, though, as last night was far from the only time he’s made consecutive threes this season — he’s accomplished that eight other times. Smith’s made 46 threes at a 23.5 percent clip, which should mean on average he’d only make two threes in a row just twice and maybe three in a contract year. A similar thing happened in 2013 when Smith shot just 30.3 percent from the arc, making 61 of 201 attempts but he made consecutive threes at twice the average occurrence — 12 compared to 5.6. As usual, the downswings were rough as he once missed 15 straight threes. Earlier seasons show similar variance, though this might be common for several shooters.

Smith’s been a downright streaky three-point shooter, for better or for worse with last night showing both sides. After making two consecutive threes early against San Antonio, Smith attempted another in the fourth quarter in which he proceeded to miss everything. Order was restored, but he’s going to keep hoisting threes whether his shooting hand is hot or so cold it confirms my suspicion he shoots with mittens.

If my math is off, feel free to chime in.

Josh Smith nearly goes documentary, barely misses out on 30-for-30 performance

Erik Drost | Flickr

Erik Drost | Flickr

What if I told you two days ago the Detroit Pistons had a 13-point fourth quarter lead against the 20-win Blazers, only to blow it and lose on a buzzer-beater by Damian Lillard? Not only that, but Josh Smith scored 31 points on only 17 shots.

We’ll probably never see that efficient of a performance again by Smith, who Detroit should’ve kept feeding the ball to while they had a double-digit lead. Unfortunately, he only took one shot in the fourth quarter and overtime combined. Detroit wouldn’t let that happen twice in a row, not even against the best defense in the league in Indiana.

For better or for worse, Smith was chucking all game last night against the Pacers, nearly mimicking the ESPN documentary series by finishing with 29 shots and 30 points. There were moments of brilliance that were overshadowed by frustrating shot selection: fade away jumpers, long twos with 12 seconds on the shot clock, isolations leading to more long twos. All three of those kind of shots by Smith resulted in barely grazing the rim when they didn’t go through the net. When the first long two swished, Indiana must’ve had an evil grin knowing Smith would continue flirting outside the paint.

And for the most part, he did:

Shotchart_1387306921333

Josh Smith’s shot chart versus Indiana

As you can see from the shot chart above, long jumpers accounted for over half (!!!) his attempts, bringing back memories of Rudy Gay‘s performance against Houston. Though Smith was effective from those spots percentage-wise, he was at his best when he scored by moving off the ball. Twice he took advantage of miscommunication between Paul George and whoever was guarding Greg Monroe.

Rather than showing Smith’s baskets from moving without the ball by pasting screenshots that take up a ton of space, I put them in a short video with captions up top:

Smith could’ve easily sat around the perimeter, hoping Brandon Jennings would feed him for, you know, a jumper he only makes 25 percent of the time on over 200 attempts, according to NBA.com. He produces just 0.68 points per spot-up shot, according to Synergy, ranking 205th in the league. That’s not good when 20 percent of his shots come from that situation. 

Good thing Smith cut to the rim instead, an area where he shoots nearly 67 percent from and produces 1.24 points per attempt (35th-best). He also showed off a lefty jump hook last night, one he doesn’t take anywhere near as often probably because of the cramped spacing between him, Monroe, and Andre Drummond. Not a lot of those hook shots dropped versus Luis Scola, Paul George or David West, but for the season he’s 24-of-44. Efficiency!

But those efficient shots were scattered between the long jumpers Smith chucked to varying degrees of success. Maybe he took more of them than usual because of Mount Hibbert lurking in the paint, but they’ve become a daily occurrence regardless of the opponent. It puts an earlier blog post praising his shot selection to waste, though it does make Detroit handing Indiana their first home loss of the season that much more impressive.

Rudy Gay’s $19.3 million player option

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via Flickr

Before looking at Rudy Gay, let’s take a moment to remember the December 9, 2013 Sacramento Kings who blew out Dallas, mostly thanks to the combined 87 points from DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas, and Derrick Williams. Basketball-Reference should commemorate them by giving them their own team page.

You can do a simple Google search about the trade sending Gay to Sacramento and discover just how many people wanted to chime in on it. While the trade is certainly worthy of discussion, I’ll look at what I find most interesting about it: the $19.3 million player option Gay can exercise next season.

By trading for Gay, the Kings hope he doesn’t take the last year of an $82 million contract he signed with Memphis back in 2010. If he indeed doesn’t and the Kings let him walk this summer, the trade is a salary dump both ways. Each team sheds the salaries of players not in their long-term future and spends it more wisely elsewhere. Sacramento needs some of that money Gay would turn down in order to re-sign Isaiah Thomas, one of the best reserves in the NBA before the trade. They’ll have to work around the luxury tax if Gay chooses the $19.3 million, the tax being an embarrassing obstacle for a team that’s shown signs of hope but is not yet a playoff contender.

And at this point, taking the player option would be Gay’s best move. Sure, players generally prefer more years of guaranteed money, even if the annual salary is cheaper than their player option since injuries, among other things, can derail future earnings. However, Zach Lowe at Grantland made a good point. Players like Andrei Kirilenko have opted out of the final year of their contracts, but they didn’t turn down anything close to the $19 million and change that Gay can take.

Gay’s value is also at its all-time lowest. He’s 27 and about to enter his prime, yet Toronto only got John Salmons, Greivis Vazquez, Chuck Hayes, and Patrick Patterson in return. Three of those players are decent pieces on a good team, but that’s not even close to the haul you’d expect in exchange for someone paid like a superstar, save for Amar’e Stoudemire’s uninsured knees. In the same column by Lowe, he writes that some GMs wouldn’t even want Gay for the midlevel exception, an amount only a fraction of what the player option would pay out.

But Sacramento was interested in the small forward, and there’s a chance it could work out better for them than it did for Toronto. For one, the Raptors already had a high volume-shooting wing in DeMar DeRozan while Sacramento has Derrick Williams and Ben McLemore, two likely starters who play much better off the ball at this point in their careers. Gay’s also replacing one of the worst starting small forwards in the league in John Salmons, whose PER so far is nearly half of Gay’s.

The problem lies in how he works with DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas, who have usage rates of 35 and 28 percent, respectively. Both will now be in the starting lineup with Gay, thanks to the trade, and both need the ball. They’ve certainly been more efficient with it than Gay has, and if the former Raptor continues using possessions at his current rate (about 30 percent), this makes the trade a potential disaster. Bad times all around, both on the court and in the checkbook.

Neither result bodes all that well for Sacramento anyway. If Gay fits in well and the Kings win a few more games than expected, they lessen the value of their first round pick in the upcoming draft. Even more confusing is if it brings Gay’s value up to the point he tests free agency, meaning Sacramento may get nothing in return for him and, in the process, worsen their No. 1 pick in a loaded draft.

If Gay doesn’t work out in Sacramento and his current value somehow continues to decline, then he’s better suited to exercise his player option, which also sets the franchise back yet another season. Sacramento could avoid the $19.3 million and end the paranoia altogether by offering a salary at about half the price but with long-term security for Gay, say $46 million for four years, but that only creates more problems down the road.

All of this is the cost of acquiring Rudy Gay, whose stock continues to drop but price tag only gets more expensive. That’s no longer Toronto’s problem, but Sacramento’s.

For more Rudy Gay-related postings, check this out.

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