As our summer mainstay, Aaron's writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. Intent is to get you talking, thinking, and appreciating the myriad of wonderful folks who play in our favorite sports league. This morning's trio: Byron Mullens, Beno Udrih, Gerald Henderson.
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Follow Byron Mullens on twitter by following @GoofyLookingDude and waiting for him to begin existing.
Want to know how bad of a season it was for fans of the Charlotte Bobcats? Byron Mullens -- the oft-maligned draft 'mistake' from Sam Presti in 2009 -- breaking out for several months of double digit scoring on inefficient percentages made up one of the biggest positive surprises of the 2012 season for the squad. Really. He was one of Rich Cho's first acquisitions, and honestly, he was a pretty decent success story for the Bobcats in a season without any. The Bobcats traded a 2013 2nd round pick for Mullens, which sounds bad until you realize that the Bobcats do need to at least make some attempt at reaching the salary floor and the 32nd pick isn't a place where you tend to get players all THAT much better than Mullens in the first place.
It was a somewhat savvy move on Rich Cho's part, getting an underrated asset without really giving up much of value. So that's good. Of course, when I say "underrated" asset, I'm being a bit kind. Mullens isn't THAT great -- he's a soft-shooting center who should probably stop shooting. Last season, he ended up with an overall field goal percentage of 42% despite shooting a somewhat decent percentage at the rim -- 64%, to be exact. He's got a reputation as a solid midrange shooter for a big man, but that's mostly based on form rather than results. He takes a ton of shots from that range, far more than he should -- he's first overall among centers who played 20+ MPG this season in percentage of shots taken from the 16-23 foot range. And it's not by a low mark, either. Examine the following table.
To summarize this table -- Byron Mullens took 46% of his shots from 16-23 feet, which is beyond insane -- shots from that range make up 11% more of Byron's shots, distributionally, than the #2 center who played > 20 MPG, Marcus Camby. This is despite the fact that his field goal percentage from that range, 35%, was 26th overall among the 39 centers who played greater than 20 minutes per game. That's a story of horrible, terrible, no-good very-bad shot selection. Beyond that, his story on offense is essentially a broad picture of varied inefficiency. Want a center who ranks in the bottom five in shooting percentage from any range from 3-15 feet, and 26th overall from 15-23 feet besides? Byron's your guy. This isn't to say he doesn't have a few skills, though -- he's a passable finisher at the rim, he's an improving rebounder, and he's got some serious NBA size. With a coach who's better at getting Mullens to cease the awful shot selection and a mentor to teach him how to defend NBA bigs and stay engaged on the defensive end, he could someday be a relatively decent backup center.
That's about all most teams can muster out of those early second round picks, which makes me think that Cho made a pretty good pickup for a team that's relatively far from contending in the first place. Basically covers every aspect of his game I wanted to look at, but one last thing. Is there a guy in the league as goofy looking as Mullens? A single one? Look at this man. Someone needs to inform him of three things. First, Dragonball Z eyebrows are not actually things normal people strive for. Second, that isn't an afro and you aren't fooling anybody. Third, invest in a razor. Invest in thirty razors. Buy the Gilette corporation. I don't care. Whatever it takes to get that... whatever it is off your face, man. I just... I can't.... what.
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Follow Beno Udrih on twitter at @JustinBieber.
Beno Udrih is one of those players who I was referring to in the Donald Sloan capsule. In it, I mentioned that I liked that Sloan was showing a willingness from NBA teams to start using the D-League to look for players to back up your team's superstar, rather than taking "crusty veteran #64,231" from the pile of expiring or over-long contracts. No particular offense meant for Udrih, but he's exactly the kind of player I'm talking about. He's a nice guy and a serviceable backup, certainly. His per-36 numbers -- 11-8-3 -- are exactly the sort of production you want from a backup point. Some points, some rebounds, but a decent assist rate and a good chemistry guy for the bench. Doesn't make it any less true that any number of D-League players could do exactly what Udrih does for a team, and do it for less than the insane $5-7 million a year he's done it for over the duration of his last 5-year contract. He'll be making $7 million dollars this year for his decidedly backup-level point guard talents, this season. Pretty absurd, no matter how nice of a guy he is.
The main reason I wanted to talk about Udrih? Sure, there's some of the usual trivia about him. The number 19 apparently was chosen because his dad was born on the 19th of some month. He's one of the many athletes who use a portion of their salary to buy tickets for underprivileged kids. He's left handed. He's from Slovenia. But none of this gets to the heart of Beno's story. The heart of it is... he has no heart. Nor a reflection. This is because he is a vampire. This may surprise most people, especially his family. But it's true. Beno Udrih is a vampire, and in the estimation of one Gregg Popovich, he is a failure at being even that! Pop is a bit over-critical, as he has managed to make over $30,000,000 in his NBA career and still has next season's $7,000,000 contract looming. But evidently, he is a failure at being a vampire. Which is sad. I hope that Brandon Jennings gets him some Underarmor-brand extension fangs the next time he needs to try and feed -- dude's gotta eat, and it's admittedly a little embarrassing that he can't snag a little dog. I mean, man. Seriously?
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_Follow Gerald Henderson on twitter __@GhJr09.___
Have you ever watched games from the era before the three point line came into effect, or games from the 3-4 years afterwards before Mark Price and Steve Kerr types showed that the three could be a very effective wrinkle in a good offense? If not, I highly suggest you do. I'd start with this 1969 classic -- it's the fourth quarter of Russell's final game, and it's really fun. Decent quality, too. Anyway, the point isn't just to go on a meaningless tangent -- this is pretty relevant to Gerald Henderson. I don't think there's a single player today that "plays old" in quite the way Gerald does. I don't mean that as a detraction or a compliment -- I mean it as a statement. Gerald Henderson's game is old school, and if you watch some footage from previous eras, you'll see exactly what I mean. Before the three point line, the game was significantly more compressed. Players nowadays camp out behind the three point line, creating a separation between spot up shooters and their defenders.
Back in that era, though, players who were trying to shoot spot-up shots would get in as close as they possibly could, which made the game play in a distinctly smaller area than the modern game. This in turn led to offensive sets having an almost football-ish quality to them, or a cellular component -- the ball was the nucleus and the players gravitated around it, covering close-up players and defense being more focused on trying to cut off passing lanes and block at-rim shots. It wasn't necessarily a worse game, though I for one greatly appreciate the focus on offensive strategies that has permeated the modern league. But it was different. And, to bring this back to our player, Gerald Henderson basically still plays like he's in that era. Maybe not the pre three-point era -- he does take about one per game -- but in the 5-7 years before the three point ball became a strategic mainstay in the offenses of the league's best coaches? There were hundreds of players like Gerald, who would take a three every game or so and take more when they were hot, but tended away from the shot for comfort.
While Gerald is more athletic than most of those players, he also plays defense in a similar way -- he focuses less on help defense and more on distinctly staying close to his man and sticking to him. Especially fighting through screens, which is one of the more effective ways Gerald uses his athleticism in the big leagues. I'm of the opinion that he's a better defender than most of the numbers show -- while his overall defensive PPP (per Synergy) is rather high (0.87 PPP -- 257th in the league) I feel like the Bobcats' poor defenders at every other position had an effect on Henderson's synergy numbers. There is some evidence of that effect in isolated incidents -- in the case of the Celtics, every big man who shares more than 50% of their minutes with Kevin Garnett ends up having sparkling Synergy numbers, even if their Synergy numbers were awful in the seasons before and after. Whereas that's an example of a rising tide lifting all boats, Henderson's depressed numbers may be a sign of a lowered tide causing multiple shipwrecks and millions of dollars of property damage. (Seriously, have you SEEN the Bobcats' defense last year?!)
Beyond the three point shot, there are other aspects of Henderson's game that hearken back to another era. For one, he doesn't draw fouls with any regularity. He's averaged about four free throw attempts per 36 minutes over his career, and has been decently below average for shooting guards for the majority of his career -- there are marginally more free throws in today's game, and as a guy who isn't a huge fan of free throws on an aesthetic perspective, it's kind of nice to watch a guy who plays physical but doesn't tend to fall to the floor out of nowhere in search of a call that shouldn't come. Overall, I like Henderson. When I was at Duke I wasn't his biggest fan, at least not until my roommate played him in a pickup game and told me about how nice he apparently was. I never did get a chance to meet him, but the more people I talked to the more people said that he was actually one of the nicest people on the team. So, yeah. Out of the Duke guys in the NBA, Henderson's definitely one of my favorites. There was Hondo, there was Rondo, there was Lando, there was Hendo. Maybe not in that order. Still. Keep on it, fella.
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At the end of each post, I'll be scribing riddles for the next batch. Whoever gets the most right will get a shout out at the end of the next post. Tweet me your answers at @docrostov, or post them in the comments. If several people tie, I'll post everyone who tied. This was a return to normal riddle form, as our top scorers were in yesterday's comments with a rousing 1/3 players (Gerald Henderson).
- Knicks fans glammed onto Player #31 quite a lot -- seemed to get really close to him. When they didn't bring him back last summer, it made many of my Knicks fan friends unreasonably sad.
- Matt Moore likes trolling Spurs fans by mentioning Player #32 over and over again. Would be funny if Player #32 wasn't an amazing dude.
- From the moment Player #33 signed this contract I thought the Clippers had made a huge mistake.
See you on Wednesday, folks!