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Analyzing the talent level of Michael Carter-Williams

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Michael Carter-Williams is strongest out the gate for the 2013 draft class, putting up a 22 point, 12 assist, 9 steal game in his first game and 26 points, 10 assists, 3 steals in his 3rd. Against two great defenses in Miami and Chicago, no less.

But as recent rookies Brandon Jennings and Jeremy Lin have proved among others, a start this hot does not guarantee long term stardom.

Here was how I rated Michael Carter-Williams talent level in June in my three categories Physical Impact Talent, Skill Impact (shoot, post, pass) talent and Feel for the Game talent, using these grades:

11: Transcendent, 10: Incredible 9: Elite, 8: Great, 7: Very good, 6: Decent, 5: Average, 4: Lacking, 3: Weak, 2: Very poor, 1: Awful

What the overall grades mean:

25+: Perennial all-star talent, 23-24: Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent, 19-22: Blue Chip starter talent, 17-18: Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent, 14-16: Rotation player talent, 12-13: Deep bench to rotation player talent, 11 or lower: Deep bench player talent


Physical impact grade: 6 / Decent

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking

Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good

Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade)

For players with a grade of 17, due to variables like shooting development, I estimated these probabilities of having talent higher or lower than this:

< 1% Perennial all-star talent (grade of 25+)
< 1% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent (23+)
15% Blue Chip starter talent (19+)
65% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent (17+)
98.5% Rotation player talent (14+)
99.5%+ Deep bench to Rotation player talent (12+)

Carter-Williams’ appeal was based on a combination of physical talents and feel for the game. As a good, but not elite athlete with ballhandling skills, he has talent attacking the basket off the dribble. His length is an asset defensively, but a thin frame may hurt him finishing plays at the rim.

His biggest strength is his feel for the game. He is a crafty and smooth player, allowing him to find space in the defense and to see the court passing the ball. His steals so far is also arguably a product of anticipation and vision.

This clip shows how MCW’s speed and feel, has helped him attack the basket and find teammates:

Why Carter-Williams didn’t rate higher is his shooting. He shot 30.7% from 3 and 67.9% from the FT line over two years at Syracuse, including 29.4% from 3 and 69.4% from the FT line his sophomore season. The 3 point shooting numbers are poor for the NCAA line, but the FTs were even more worrying as typically good shooting prospects, are at least in the 70s.

That shooting is the biggest difference in his NBA career so far, hitting 47.1% from 3 in his first 3 games, going 8 for 17 from outside. Considering most prospects need time to translate to the longer NBA line, this has been impressive. Carter-Williams has only gone 66.7% from the FT line by hitting 10 for 15. Both of course, are at a risk of small sample size trickery. MCW hitting 5 for 17 from 3 instead of 8 for 17, would have made his 3P% 29.4%, identical to his final year at Syracuse. On the other hand, hitting 12 for 17 from the FT line would have made his number 80% from there, more representative of a great FT shooter. To give you an example of how Carter-Williams could fall apart from 3, after Jeremy Lin started 1-10 from 3 his first 3 “Linsanity” games, he went on to go 12 for 26 from 3 in his next 8 games (46.2%),  a larger sample size than MCW has had, before reverting. A more positive comparison for MCW is Chandler Parsons who had a 4 years college career where he averaged 33.7% from 3 and a weak 61.1% from the FT line, but has gone on to average over 36.6% from 3 on 4.1 attempts a game in the NBA, making him one of the better shooting options at the SF position. Shooting like MCW in college is not a death sentence, it just makes it less likely.

If Carter-Williams settled into an above average shooter at the position, deserving of a grade of 6 or higher in my skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent category – I would rate him as a “blue chip” talent, roughly enough to be an above average starter. It’s surprising that a player with his college shooting career would shoot at an above average NBA rate, but the unpredictably of shooting is largely the reason for giving out that estimate of 15% chance at a blue chip talent. The only way I can see Carter-Williams surpassing even that to  become a perennial all-star and franchise player, is if he becomes one of the best shooters in the NBA. Nothing is impossible, but after his Syracuse results I’d need a larger sample size than 17 shots to put that in play. The worst case scenario is that Carter-Williams’ shooting falls apart and more, where the inability to hit open shots leads defenders to play way off him, Rajon Rondo-style.

To me, early Jeremy Lin is the all-around best comparison. Like Lin, Carter-Williams has the athleticism to attack the basket, size for his position and a strong feel for the game. And like Lin, the rest of his career will depend on shooting. Lin’s regression as a shooter made him a poor fit with James Harden and cost him his starting spot to begin this year, though by hitting 4 from 10 to start this year from 3 he may be on the rebound. My guess is that MCW at best is an above average, but non all-star PG, but at worst is a 3rd guard and average contributor. To Michael Carter-Williams’ credit, he has started his career with confidence and has seized the opportunity given to him by lack of offensive options above him in Philadelphia. His start sets the table for the rest of his career. He’s booked his place at the table for the long term, but how close to the head of the table will he be?

Written by jr.

November 3, 2013 at 3:26 pm

The Spurs secret sauce in Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter and searching for the next versions of them

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Kawhi Leonard | San Antonio Spurs

Kawhi Leonard | San Antonio Spurs (Photo credit: Basketball Schedule)

The Spurs are 2 wins from the 2013 NBA championhip, which amazes all of us because it looked like age closed their window when defeated by the Lakers in 5 in 2008 – which was oh, FIVE YEARS AGO! How did the Spurs get back to this point? While Tony Parker and Tim Duncan are still stars, the real story is that they found three blue chippers to start at SG, SF and C in Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter. A case can be made all three are top 10 starters at their position.

The league is predicated on the idea that getting stars and starters takes lottery picks, which teams routinely leading the league like the Spurs, don’t have. The Spurs found a loophole to this by drafting Splitter 28th in 2007, Leonard 15th in 2011 and signing Green in free agency, the Cavaliers waiving him a season after drafting him in the 2nd round at 46th overall.

What did the rest of the league miss in these three for the Spurs to pick them up? Here’s my take:

First, what all three have in common is an great, if not elite feel for the game – which is nothing surprising considering the Spurs history. All three are smooth, crafty, natural offensive players. Furthermore they show excellent instincts, positioning and timing defensively. I would argue Green has the most impressive feel for the three, followed by Leonard and Splitter trailing, but all three are above average for their position hands down.

Danny Green in addition to this, has turned himself into one of the best shooters in the NBA. This year he hit 42.9% from 3 on 5.2 attempts a game (6.8 attempts per 36 minutes), an exceptional combination of volume and accuracy. Green’s weakness is he’s not a slasher, due to average athleticism and ballhandling. His offensive game is predicated on spot up shooting. Green is big for a 2 at 6’6 with a 6’10 wingspan, which helps him on the defensive end and finishing at the basket. His size also gives him some post potential in the future at the 2.

Here are my talent grades for Green:

Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak

Skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9 / Elite

Feel for the Game talent grade: 9 / Elite

Total talent grade: 21 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

With a score about 19 as my threshold for a blue chipper and surefire starter, Green cleanly breaks the mark. Green’s shooting and feel is so good, that in combination with the ability to play SG and SF, it’d be enough for him to start – albeit his size and defense also helps him. How foreseeable was Green’s success? Green becoming an elite shooter is not a big surprise. His 41.8% and 37.3% 3pt marks as a junior and sophomore at UNC are fine, but the really impressive numbers are his FT%. He hit 85.2% as a senior, 87.3% as  junior and 84.8% as a sophomore from FT. FT shooting in the mid 80s or higher in college is typically reserved for elite shooting talents. One of the likely reasons Cleveland waived Green is he only hit 27.3% from 3 as a rookie on 22 total attempts. Since the NBA 3pt line is longer than the NCAA, an adjustment period even for an elite shooting talent is unsurprising. Among recent examples Kevin Durant hit 28.8% from 3 as a rookie and Kevin Martin 20.0%. Based on his 3pt shooting role at UNC and his FT%, I’d likely have Green at least an 8 / Great in skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent . I may have gone a point lower in physical impact talent grade, based on how much of a spot up shooter he was at the time. Even with those downgrades, Green projects as a blue chipper.

Is there anyone similar to Green in this draft? Two players I see as similar are New Mexico’s Tony Snell and the Russian Sergey Karasev. Both players like Green have a great if not elite feel for the game, as smooth and instinctive players. Snell is a great spot-up shooting talent, not so much because of his 39.0% and 38.7% 3pt seasons his junior and sophomore years, but hitting 84.3% and 83.1% from FT those seasons. He does not have the ballhandling to be known as a slasher, but is a good athlete and has a 6’11 wingspan, with the likely ability to defend SFs or SGs. The athleticism and length combined with his feel, likely give him huge defensive potential. When added to his sharpshooting, his “3s and defense” starting potential and similarity to Green at UNC is clear. Karasev is also an elite shooter, hitting a cumulative 36.5% 3pt/85.6% FT this year, again the FT especially impressive. At 6’7 with a 6’9 wingspan he likely has the size to play the 2 or 3, albeit is an underwhelming athlete which could hurt his ability to get to the basket despite impressive ballhandling. I see Karasev as a higher upside offensive player than Snell, because his ballhandling may be able to help him create his own shot more on the perimeter, plus may help him have a slashing game despite athleticism problems. However for athletic reasons, his defense may be less reliable. Either way, if he can shoot at a great, elite level, with his feel, it should be enough to carve out a starting role on the wing. The player people might think of Danny Green most when seeing, is fellow UNC player Reggie Bullock. Bullock is a spot-up shooter with a good feel for the game at 6’7 with a 6’9 wingspan, in a similar role as Green’s. The only pause I have is that despite his 42.9% 3pt, his 76.7% FT is more worrying than Green, Snell or Karasev’s. If everything goes right with his shooting translating, I can see Bullock being a comparable player to Green. But I see it as a bigger risk his range doesn’t translate and he struggles to find his place in the league, than I do for Snell and Karasev.

Kawhi Leonard aside from his great feel, has a lot to like about him physically. He has the explosiveness to attack the basket despite average ballhandling, while he’s 6’7 but with a huge 7’3 wingspan and elite strength, making him an imposing physical figure at SF. Leonard’s physical talents and instincts have allowed him to be a standout defender and rebounder for a young player.

The biggest reason Kawhi was underplayed going into his draft year, is his shooting. He shot only 29.1% 3pt/75.9% FT as a sophomore, not being known as a perimeter threat. In the NBA the Spurs have fixed his shot, Kawhi since putting up 37.6% 3pt/77.3% FT as a rookie and 37.4% 3pt/82.5% FT as a sophomore. His ability to hit open 3s and space the floor at SF when combined with his defensive presence, gives him huge value as a role player.

Here is my talent grades for Kawhi:

Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7 / Very good

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 23 (Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent grade)

This is a superb score. I would be very surprised if Kawhi didn’t make an all-star game in his career.

Going back to his San Diego State University days, his shooting was hard to predict. When a perimeter player isn’t a 3pt shooter in college, I typically don’t get below a grade of 4 / Lacking, in order to give them the benefit of the doubt they can develop. Since Leonard hitting 76% of his FTs is respectable and SFs hit 3s less than PGs or SGs, I’d likely have given him a grade of 5 / Average for his shooting career, based on my methods now. I may have given him a 7 / Very good in physical impact talent grade due to questions about his ballhandling. Despite this, even taking 2-3 points off, leaves Leonard as a blue chip talent. Leonard coming out of college looks a case of a somewhat risky pick, but one with value. If Leonard’s jumpshot had gone in the other direction and been broken in the pros, he may have still challenged a starting spot in a Gerald Wallace-like role providing size, athleticism, rebounding and slashing at SF. However it’s clear that if his shooting became good/great, it would lead to this star upside. Using my baseball pitcher analogy from last week, Kawhi coming out of college would be the pitcher who already proved he had a great combination of velocity and the ability to find the plate, but needed to widen his repertoire of pitches. That’s the right type of player to take.

Is there anyone in the 2013 draft like Leonard? A player who stands out is fittingly, fellow San Diego State prospect Jamaal Franklin. Franklin like Leonard has both great to elite feel and a strong combination of athleticism, strength and length at his position, which looks to be more SG than SF. This gives him a lot of potential defensively and on the glass and attacking the basket offensively. Franklin’s weakness is shooting, only hitting 27.9% from 3pt and 32.5% his junior and sophomore year. But encouraging is 79.0% and 80.0% his junior and sophomore years from the FT line. If Franklin’s outside shooting can turn around to Kawhi’s level, he may end up playing like him. If his shot is broken, it’s likely he’s more of a defense/rebounding role player. A few concerns with Franklin is his shot selection in college was more wild than Kawhi’s despite his feel and seems like someone who has some crazy in him. Playing 3 years to Kawhi’s 2 also makes his 3pt shooting woes look worse. Nevertheless Franklin’s upside if he can follow a similar improvement as a shooter, is significant.

Tiago Splitter is a true 7 footer in shoes with a 7’2 wingspan and 9’1 standing reach, fine for a 7 footer albeit not long enough to be more than a decent shotblocker. He also has wide shoulders and strength and a good lower body. Splitter is also a good athlete, having the mobility to roll to the basket on the pick and roll. Splitter is not dominant in length, strength or athleticism, but it’s having a decent amount of all three that’s rare and allows him to physically impact the game offensively and defensively. His length and strength combined with his high feel for the game, is an impact combination defensively.

Splitter does not have shooting range and isn’t a true go-to post player, but he does have excellent hands and touch finishing at the basket. At C I consider strong hands/touch and the ability to finish, enough for an average skill level compared to others at the position. The ability to finish plays when they catch it, is a valued skill at the position.

Here is my talent grades for Splitter:

Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average

Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good

Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Splitter doesn’t grade out as exciting a talent as Kawhi or Green, but finding any blue chip C is difficult and valuable.

I can’t say with authority how Splitter looked in 2007 when he was drafted, since I wasn’t paying attention to him then. However by most accounts I’ve read, his feel and positioning were considered excellent at the time, as did his touch, which 58-62% FG seasons back it up. He likely was less physically developed at the time, but showing mobility, length and a wide frame. Overall it seems fair to suggest a true 7 footer C with a wide frame, strong feel for the game and great hands finishing at the basket would project as a blue chipper or very near it by this method at the time. In the case of Splitter as an established 7 footer in the ACB and Euroleague by 2007, it seems like the Spurs grabbing him so late isn’t because teams missed his talent, but by having more patience to wait for years for him to get out of his contract in Europe, eventually bringing him over for the 2010-2011 season.

Are there players in this draft like Splitter? Alex Len has some similarities. Len is a true 7 footer with a high feel for the game, who’s post and shooting game is raw, but seems to have good hands and touch. Len may never have a more versatile offensive game than Splitter, but if he can finish plays at the basket, when combined with his feel it could give him an offensive role. Len physically also has good mobility, with a body that needs to add strength but has the frame to – this seem similar to a young Splitter. He is longer than Splitter which gives him more shotblocking potential. Jeff Withey could also be similar, with excellent feel and positioning like Splitter and an offensive game similarity predicated on touch, instead of high volume post and shooting skills. Withey is mobile and athletic, arguably more explosive than Splitter – But also skinnier and unlikely to bulk up at his age. I see Len and Withey as likely starters due to their feel, length and touch at the basket. I suppose they have more star upside than Splitter if they can add a perimeter shooting game.

With Green, Leonard and Splitter at SG, SF and C for the foreseeable future and a number of great years left in the tank for Tony Parker, the Spurs level of success isn’t going anywhere. Chances are that as the Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili era winds down, the Spurs will make a seamless transition into what the Indiana Pacers are now, a team with less true starpower but filled with quality two way starters. Chances are the Spurs are going to be on the prowl for years for players with an great to elite feel for the game, in combination with other more widely adknowledged tools like Green’s shooting, Leonard’s size/athleticism and Splitter’s size/touch.

Written by jr.

June 13, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Unpopular opinion alert: Patrick Patterson has the blue chip upside, not Thomas Robinson!

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Thomas Robinson of the Kansas Jayhawks

Thomas Robinson of the Kansas Jayhawks (Photo credit: SD Dirk)

Two notes: One, A Substitute for War passed 100,000 lifetime page views! Although that feat gets less impressive when the amount of articles and days it took to get there it taken into account, it’s nice to be able to write something and know at least some people read it. Thank you to Matt Johnson for starting the blog and writing most of the early articles to help drive some traffic here, as well as any regular readers I might have. Secondly, the url is back to asubstituteforwar.wordpress.com though a quick check tells me typing in the old url should redirect it here, so it shouldn’t be a problem. 

The most “fun” deal of the NBA trade deadline was Sacramento shockingly giving up on Thomas Robinson, half a season from picking him 5th overall. Now by writing this article I’m not fully endorsing the deal for Sacramento. Surely there was more trade value available for Robinson and it feels like their motive was to dump his contract as they prepare their sale to the Seattle group. If they get a blue chip player out of Patterson, my guess is it’s unintentionally.

The general reaction to this deal, was that Sacramento gave up a potential blue chip player or all-star in Thomas Robinson, for a player who know is average in Patrick Patterson. I argue the opposite may end up true.

While with the Rockets, Patterson was very high on my “He has everything he needs to be good, why isn’t he good? This player confuses me.” list. Breaking it down: Patterson has an above average feel for the game. He’s been heralded for his high IQ and awareness on both ends going back to his Kentucky days. His skill level for a power forward is also impressive. He’s had one of the best midrange shooting %s in the entire league, let alone for big men, for most of his career – shooting 46%, 43% and 47% from 16-23 feet his 3 seasons in the league, to go along with very impressive 3-9 ft and 10-15 ft career splits. This year the Rockets had him extending his range and taking 3s on a regular basis. He also has a solid looking post game and impressive hands around the basket. Finally, physically Patterson is a solid 6’9 and explosive enough to play above the rim. In my talent grading system this makes him a comfortable blue chipper. Say a 5 in physical impact talent, an 8 in skill impact talent and an 8 in feel for the game talent, is a score of 21 which is a legitimate blue chip player and not far off from all-star status. Those splits are a reminscent of a player like David Lee, who has an impressive feel, a perimeter jumpshot and great touch and respectable athleticism (I would say Lee is more athletic than Patterson, but Patterson’s perimeter skill game is better). Lee isn’t dominant in any of physically, skill or in feel, but being pretty good across the board, makes him a blue chipper. Where has Patterson gone wrong? His physical talents haven’t translated to the game, for the most part. His incredibly low FTA rate for his career (1.5 per 36 minutes for his career) indicates a player who isn’t attacking the basket. His first 2 years he averaged 1.7 and 1.6 shots at the rim, though this year he made the move up to 2.5 a game, solid for 25.9mpg. But with the Rockets blitzing pace, those may be freebie transition points he had to get. With that said, the Rockets specialized pick and roll heavy system, may be responsible for Patterson being used as a floor spacing shooter and not taking advantage of his athleticism attacking the basket. Furthermore his just under 3600 MP total in the league is relatively low. I tend to believe 6000-7000 is when players truly become what they are and that minutes are far more important than age for development stages. As a comparison, Patterson has played less minutes in his career than Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker and Klay Thompson, who are one and a half seasons into their careers. If taking the perspective that Patterson has the reps of a player midway through his 2nd season, it becomes a lot more believable that with more experience and in a new system, he taps into his impressive talent level as an athletic power forward with a high skill and feel for the game combination.

Thomas Robinson on the other hand is a player I’ve picked on for some time, beginning with ranking him out of my top 20 before the NBA Draft. Robinson is an NBA player, but in my opinion is a flawed talent. His biggest issue is his feel for the game is below average for a PF. He often plays like he’s in a permanent rush and the game moves fast for him and is choppy and robotic instead of smooth and natural. Robinson doesn’t make the game look easy, he makes it look like an effort. Other than that Robinson is a solid enough prospect. He’s got great explosiveness and strength for a power forward, which with solid ballhandling should translate to impressive physical impact on the game. In regards to his skill game, he doesn’t have great touch around the basket or post ability, but his midrange jumpshot is coming along very nicely. Robinson has a good combination of physical impact and skill impact talents, but the problem is that if a player is below average in physical impact, skill impact or feel for the game, to be a star he has to be an elite talent in the other two, not just a good one. Stephen Curry doesn’t physically impact the game a whole lot, but he has an amazing combination of skill and feel for his position. Andre Iguodala has a serious perimeter skill problem for a 2, but is dynamic physically and in feel. Robinson’s physical impact and skill impact as a combination is a notch below what it needs to be to still make it to blue chipper status despite questionable feel. If I gave Robinson an 8 in physical impact, 5 in skill impact and 2 in feel for the game, his score would be 15. This is enough for a long and solid career as a contributer. Unless he takes a big leap forward in skill or becomes dominant physically, my guess is he’s headed for a career resembling Kris Humphries and Jordan Hill, athletic, rebounding power forwards with a perimeter jumpshot, who have a hard time finding a starting role due to a lack of feel or versatility in their skill games. Of course, the Knicks dumped Jordan Hill midway through his rough rookie season to the Houston Rockets. It wouldn’t surprise me if this trade is similarly inconsequential to the Rockets as grabbing Hill was.

Now, I’m not saying it’s a guarantee Patterson is > Robinson. Patterson’s inability to mix it up physically could be a character flaw, not every player reaches their talent level. Robinson could also develop into such a dynamic combination of physical impact and skill plays to make up for his clearly unimpressive feel for the game. But I would bet on Patterson without hesitating.

Written by jr.

February 27, 2013 at 9:37 pm

33pt breakdown: Why I believe Jimmer Fredette is more talented than Tyreke Evans

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Jimmer Fredette Jumper

Jimmer Fredette Jumper (Photo credit: TheDailySportsHerald)

The Sacramento Kings are the Amanda Bynes of the NBA. They’re a mess. They need new ownership, a new GM and an almost entirely new roster. Who will they keep? Demarcus Cousins, despite not entirely getting it, is a true blue chip piece. Marcus Thornton is a great young SG. Thomas Robinson, James Johnson and Isaiah Thomas can contribute to a winning team.

Tyreke Evans and Jimmer Fredette are two players who’s place on the team is in flux. Tyreke has long had the reputation as a superstar talent, due to his 20 pt, 5 reb, 5 ast rookie season he hasn’t been to follow up on. Jimmer was being written off as a bust before this season before getting hot in limited minutes. There likely isn’t enough minutes for both of them in the backcourt long term.

I believe despite their reputations, it is Jimmer and not Tyreke who is the more talented player. Here are my 33pt grades for them:

Physical tools talent:

Tyreke Evans – 11: Tyreke’s talent in this category ranks as historic to me. Not only is he explosive and built like a tank, but he’s an outstanding ball-handling talent. This is what made him a devastating force driving to the basket his rookie season. Tyreke is the closest thing to a SG version of Lebron in the league physically. His grade is a 10 or 11 in the category.

Jimmer Fredette – 2: Jimmer is an extremely perimeter orientated PG/SG. His game is predicated on jumpshots and he is an average ball-handler. Decent strength to finish at the basket helps him avoid a grade of 1 in the category.

Skill talent:

Tyreke Evans – 1: Tyreke is completely hapless in this category. For a 2 guard he has a brutal jumpshot, weak passing skills and weak touch. He does not appear to be a natural in regards to skill at all.

Jimmer Fredette – 9: Jimmer had an extremely skilled college career, shooting over 39% from 3 and 88% from the FT line over a huge volume during 4 years at BYU. During his rookie season it took some immediate time to adapt to the NBA 3pt line, but so far this year has shown signs of the wet shooting talent he was drafted as. He can create shots off the dribble as well as spotting up and is an respectable passer. Jimmer is a very skilled guard and deserves a high grade of 9 or 10 for a 2 guard.

Feel for the Game talent:

Tyreke Evans – 2: I’m not seeing any reason to give Tyreke a higher grade than this for feel for the game. His court vision is simply terrible, being unable to recognize where his teammates are spatially even enough to make a pass on a fast-break. He has little feel for the court and is often out of control.

Jimmer Fredette – 8: Jimmer was a very crafty player mentally at BYU. He recognized space and angles which allowed him to creatively get off shots or drive to the rim within space. He made scoring look relatively easy and natural.

Total grades:

Tyreke Evans – 14 (average player talent grade)

Jimmer Fredette – 19 (borderline all-star talent grade)

Jimmer and Tyreke is an interesting combination to compare because they have inverse strengths/weaknesses in physical talent and skill. Jimmer is a great skill talent for his position but lacks physical talent. Tyreke has massive physical talent for his position but lacks skill talent. If one considers physical and skill talent as having equal worth as I do, their combined physical/skill talent would thus be similar due to each hitting a home run in one of the categories and striking out in the other.

Thus the tiebreaker is feel for the game. And in that it doesn’t appear to be a comparison. Jimmer is a more intelligent player with better court vision and Tyreke has no vision or feel for the court at all. Jimmer thus comes out with an easily higher grade.

Tyreke Evans is the definition of a “one tool” player using this grading system. As amazing as his physical talent score is because of his ability to attacking the basket is, he does not have skill or mental talents. Jimmer has the chance to be a “two tool” talent by standing out in both skill and feel for the game.

The Kings or their fans shouldn’t give up on Jimmer Fredette. Players who can shoot and who are smart stick in the league even if they aren’t athletic enough. Fredette is much more JJ Redick or Stephen Curry than Adam Morrison. Redick was written off early in his career as a bust, but he turned it around and is in the middle of an impact career. Redick had the skill and feel for the game to make it. The misconception about Adam Morrison is that he fell out of the league because of his athleticism, but what really killed the ‘Stache is that he couldn’t shoot consistently. Judging from his college and NBA 3P%/FT% numbers, Jimmer is much more like Redick or Curry than Morrison as a shooter and skill player.

Tyreke Evans has allure due to the sexiness of amazing physical talent and the adage of “you can’t teach physical tools, but you can teach skill”. But if one accepts a player like Jimmer’s skill and vision advantage over Tyreke is mostly innate, it becomes easier to accept that Fredette may actually be the more talented player.

Written by jr.

November 18, 2012 at 5:19 pm

33pt breakdown: Does Kyrie Irving have generational potential?

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English: Kyrie Irving at the 2010 Nike Hoop Su...

English: Kyrie Irving at the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember when Kyrie Irving before the 2011 draft, was being widely labelled a player who “will be a good PG, but doesn’t have superstar or franchise player upside.” Well that didn’t last long. He only had arguably the most impressive rookie season for a player under 20 years old that we’ve seen (PER: 21.4) and has followed that up by taking yet another leap in his sophomore season far. Kyrie Irving is already a superstar and he’s young enough to have plenty of room to develop.

Yet the more I look at Irving’s talent, the more it becomes plausible to me that it’s still being understated. Here’s my breakdown using the 33pt method of grading player talent level:

Physical impact: Before this draft, one of the reasons Irving’s upside had been doubted, was that he’s not an athletic freak like Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, and John Wall. While that’s true, he’s not that far behind. He has terrific size and strength for a SG (6’3) and he’s one of the fastest PGs in the league. This combination helps him get into the paint and finish with the best of them. Adding to this is the fact that Irving is a spectacular – and possibly historic – ball-handling talent. If Gus Williams hadn’t already taken the nickname the Wizard, it would apply to Irving. Irving can do whatever he wants with the ball in his hands. This only makes him a more terrific talent attacking the basket, which is the key way PGs physically impose themselves on the game. I wouldn’t give him the perfect grade in physical impact that Rose and Westbrook have (11), but Irving being between an 8 and 10 in the category is reasonable.

Skill: Kyrie is already one of the most skilled PGs in the league. He’s an absolute monster shooting the ball, hitting over 40% of his 3s so far in his short NBA career and over 85% of his FTs – at Duke as a freshman he shot over 46% from 3 from the NCAA 3pt line and 90% from the line. Irving’s height for a PG is a key for releasing the shots over his opponents, to go along with his natural ability. Kyrie is on track to be one of the best shooters in the league for the rest of his career from deep and his midrange shooting game and shot creating, already good, will likely be devastating for most of it. The one area of his skill game that is less than spectacular is his passing, but the PG position has evolved where score first players are valued if not preferred. I’ll give Kyrie a grade of 10 or 11 in natural skill/shooting talent.

Feel for the Game: Kyrie’s feel for the game is absolutely spectacular. He is one of the most natural and smooth players in the game and feels as if he is playing on water. Spatially he is constantly comfortable with where he is on the court compared to the other 9 players and makes the game look easy. Kyrie is a definition of a player with elite feel for the game. I’ll grade him between 9 and 11 in this category for a PG.

Adding it up: Kyrie Irving scores as a monster across the board. He’s elite in physical impact due to his size, speed and ball handling allowing him to be an unstoppable penetrator and finisher. He will likely be the most skilled guard in the league. And his feel for the game should also be among the best in the league. A score like 9 in physical impact, 10 in skill and 10 in feel for the game seems justified. This would give him a score of 29 give or take a few points. This score is not only great but elite. There isn’t 20 players in NBA history I’d have at 29 or over using this grading system. Anthony Davis at the moment has more attention as a possible generational talent, but this indicates Irving is not far behind him, if he is at all.

Who does Irving resemble the most to me? One name sticks out: Jerry West. While that’s a high bar for Irving to get to, I see a lot of similarities. Irving’s size and explosiveness appears to be around West’s level. West was a score first player who passed enough to be his team’s PG, which is how I’d describe Irving as well. West was one of the best shooters of all time and Irving has had a historically incredible start to his career shooting. West was a wizard ballhandling and so was Irving. West had a supreme spatial awareness and feel for the game, which Irving also is special in. Overall, while Irving has parts of his game that differ from Jerry West, I see this as the best comparison. While he still has work to do to reach that ceiling, if Davis can be compared to Kevin Garnett, I believe Kyrie Irving can be compared to Jerry West just as justifiably. I believe Kyrie Irving’s upside is being one of the top 20 players of all time.

Written by jr.

November 14, 2012 at 6:30 pm

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33 pt method – Evaluating the “Bs”, from Balkman to Bynum

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For an explanation of the 33 pt method, read this.

A list of my scores for players with the last name:


Here is my scores for players with the last name B. My explanations for my scores are somewhat dry. For many players it seems more straight forward to rank them than explain well.

Remember that this is an attempted evaluation of talent, NOT production. A player’s talent level doesn’t necessarily match his production. Age also is irrelevant in these rankings for this reason, all players are evaluated on what they can/will be capable of at their peak. My scores for players are meant to be a subjective process that can be scored differently than others, I only aim to create a system that consistently evaluates a player’s talent, regardless of differing opinion on said player’s talent.


Renaldo Balkman

Physical: 5 – Brought some energy for a wing, but not that athletically imposing

Skill: 1 – Extremely lacking in skills for a wing player

Feel for the Game: 6 – A decent understanding of the game and the court

Total score: 12

Marcus Banks

Physical: 8 – A very impressive mix of speed and size for a point

Skill: 1 – Very lacking in shooting or passing skills

Feel for the Game: 3 – Unspectacular vision or decision making

Total score: 12

Leandro Barbosa

Physical: 4 – Very decent speed for a SG, but undersized and overall a perimeter orientated/jumpshot orientated guard

Skill: 7 – A good shooter and ballhandler

Feel for the Game: 4 – Always played as if in a rush, a sign of weak feel

Total score: 15

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Written by jr.

August 28, 2012 at 9:57 pm