Player Capsules #21-23: Luis Scola, Corey Maggette, Shane Battier

Posted on Sat 19 November 2011 in 2011 Player Capsules by Aaron McGuire

As one of our mainstay features, Aaron is writing posts highlighting every si__ngle player in the NBA. Role players, superstars, key cogs, or players who are barely as useful as ballboys -- none are exempt from the prying eyes of our readers. Check the index for a lowdown on order, intent, and all that jazz. Today's trio includes Luis Scola, Corey Maggette, and Shane Battier.

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[021] Scola, Luis

My opinions on Luis Scola are rather two-tiered. On one hand, I have a ton of respect for him -- offensively, he's one of the top tier bigs in the league in terms of giving your team an overall package of efficiency and consistency. With the exception of an injured spell near the end of last season, Scola was one of the few bright spots for a scrappy but overmatched Rockets team that would've easily been a top 5 seed in the east but barely sniffed the playoffs in a stacked west. Something that happens to the Rockets so often that the situation should be named after them. Maybe they can join the Astros and muddle up Houston sports entirely by transplanting to the eastern conference, I.E., the NBA's AL. This isn't very relevant to the post, though. Scola is often an offensive superstar, and of all the bigs in the league over the last few seasons, there are few I'd be more happy about having on my team. On the magical 2008 Rockets team that won 22 straight games, he was the cog that really made everything click. He's been the Rockets main star the last two years -- two quality, scrappy teams, even if they weren't playoff teams. And most importantly, he was essentially on god-mode during the FIBA World Championships in 2010, too -- my opinion of his offensive NBA game may actually be sort of biased due to how ridiculously impressed I was with his performance in that tournament. Kevin Durant was the best player in that tournament, but Scola was easily the second best and probably would've been considered the best if Argentina had gotten a bit farther. He's got an absolutely nasty offensive game and he dominated all comers.

The thing with Scola is that his success in FIBA in many ways exemplifies his flaws as a legitimate second option on a contender. Sure, he was amazing in FIBA play. But why was he so good? Mostly because nobody could guard him. And that's something you see with some regularity when you pay attention to Scola. When he's faced up with good NBA defenders, he's not nearly as consistently impressive -- he has his games where he dominates, of course, but he generally operates better the less defensive pressure he demands, or the worse his defenders. Which is a usual trait for ANY player, but for a player like Scola that relies so much on his footwork, defensive pressure can really That's a big part of why he was so good when Yao was in his prime -- if you have to choose between covering Yao or covering Scola, the defenders would more often than not sag onto Yao, giving Scola enough room to operate freely offensively. And all this talk about his offense getting worse against better competition ignores his defense, which is generally not incredibly positive. It isn't absolutely atrocious, mind you -- he's OK at bodying his man and he defends long-range shooting bigs passably -- but he's poor on help and generally puts in a relatively lacking performance. He bites on basically any fake you put in front of him -- he doesn't learn, really, and it hurts his value a lot. Because you really need to place him next to a strong defensive big who can put an entire team's defense on his back. For instance, Bogut, Howard, or Garnett/Duncan/Yao in their primes. Without that? He's not really being used effectively, and his defensive struggles are going to harm his value quite a lot.

LScola4 Luis Scola

At this point I believe that all the players should vote. not only the 30 reps. 7 minutes ago

Still. Doesn't mean I don't have regrets related to Scola. After all, he was actually drafted by the Spurs -- they just traded him on draft day for Ian Maihinmi. Had the Spurs not shanked that draft day trade? It's quite possible the Spurs would have gotten a title sometime in the last few years. Duncan has been slowly degrading on offense, but his defense is still very good, and he's still a top five big man defender in the Western Conference (with Aldridge, Bynum, Chandler, and Gasol rounding out the top five). Put an offensively talented big man like Scola next to 2008-2011 Duncan, and suddenly you have a roster that could easily push the Lakers and the Celtics in 2008, possibly make a conference finals in 2009, and have a fighting shot against the Suns in 2010. Don't think I haven't thought about this before. Like, two hundred times before. Also, Manu and Scola have amazing chemistry. Augh. I can't keep thinking about this. Beyond all this, he's a stand-up guy. Great sense of humor, loves the game, great personality. And -- of particular interest for me -- he's one of the players most aching to get back on the court. Which I respect, though the more that comes out about the disclaimer movement the less I believe that a vote would've ended in a season. Regardless, losing a season (which is essentially what the union chose to do) is the equivalent of losing 10 years of wages for many NBA players, as I noted in my last lockout article. Given that? They probably should've engaged their membership more before they went through with it, and Scola's tweet and general attitude towards the disclaimer reflects that, I think. Much respect, Scola. And condolences, too.

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[022] Maggette, Corey

Hey, look. It's Corey Maggette. Mags redefines the general concept of a stats-first kind of player. His stats have an almost disturbingly inverse relationship to his teams' performances. If his team is crap, he'll have the stats of a minor star. If his team is good, he'll be playing rarely or poorly when he does. He's the epitome of a team-harming contributor, one whose defense is worse than it looks (which is especially bad given how bad his defense LOOKS) and who fights his teammates for stats. Like rebounds -- if you watch him on the defensive end, his rebounding is mostly notable in how surreptitiously he pulls the Javale/Blatche kinds of "Hey, screw you, teammate! Give me that rebound!" plays. Regardless. His stats are always better than his contributions. And he's consistently overpaid, making him the worst kind of players. Overpaid, harms your team, and lacks the personal charm/brand to make up for his flaws. Not to mention his offensive game is based primarily on drawing free throws (hence his efficiency), so you can't even enjoy him for his volume scoring.

One of the underrated results of the awful trade that brought John Salmons back to the Kings was that Maggette went to the Bobcats, thus ensuring that the Maggette-less Bucks will be a decent team next season (WHENEVER THAT ENDS UP BEING) and the Bobcats will be doomed from day one. Theoretically, the Bobcats got the better end of the deal, since Maggette is better by most statistical metrics to an aging wheels-falling-off Stephen Jackson. They didn't really, though, because even at his age Jackson is one of the top shooting guard defenders in the league and adding him to the Bogut/Mbah a Moute defensive tandem is going to make the Bucks even more absurdly good on the defensive side of the court. And while S-Jax's tendency to go it alone on offense is often bad news, the Bucks need someone who finishes possessions in a way that works within any competent offense. Mags isn't it. Maybe S-Jax will be. Not much else to say. I really don't like him much, as I venture is obvious. Bye, Mags.

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[023] Battier, Shane

Let's start out with this -- Battier is hilarious. See: his twitter at the beginning of the lockout. Or his twitter feed from when he got trapped in an elevator before game 3 of the WCSF. Or his very old website from when he played at Duke, back from when being 'proficient with the Yahoo! search engine' was impressive to anyone outside of his grandmother. Battier is an intelligent, humorous man who is relatively good at the game of basketball. He's a cerebral player who is both a good defender and a disappointing one, depending on where you get your expectations from. He's a player known by most as one of the better defenders in the NBA, but that's not quite true. Battier is great at reading an offense and figuring out where to be on help. Absolutely one of the best in the league at it. But in one-on-one defense? This New York Times article essentially misses the point when it comes to Battier's defense (though, to be fair, it's spot on with basically everything else -- recommended read, especially for the biographical part). His real mastery of the defensive end comes in his incessant switches and his contagious knack for filling his team's defensive holes. One-on-one, Battier doesn't really do anything special -- he scouts the players he defends and he tries to work them out of rhythm, but that's essentially what any good defensive wing does. That isn't what makes Battier special.

What makes him special is his ability to do all this with lacking athleticism, so-so dribbling ability, and generally a lack of conventional basketball talent. Which isn't to say he's bad -- he's not, at all. He's a straight decent player, primarily because he's a good one-on-one defender and an excellent help defender, and the number of excellent help defenders that play the wing position in the NBA is essentially one. Battier. The vast majority of Battier's value comes in his ability to substantially impact your team defense through his switches, his reading the passing lanes, and his weakside blocks rather than his ability to act as a stopper. Andre Iguodala, Tony Allen, and Bruce Bowen all were far better at that than Battier, and Battier's athleticism will always be a limiting factor for him on one-on-one defense. Still, none of those three players have ever had quite the effect on a team's overall defense as Battier has had, due to none of them having quite the ability to read the overall opposing offense schemes like Battier can. He's a wing who, defensively, plays like a center. That's absurd. And it's a major part of why I consider him such a cerebral player -- Battier gets over his inability to contribute statistically by using his mental understanding of the game to contribute in a way nobody else in the game really does. On offense, he's relatively forgettable and essentially naught more than a finisher for the plays others create for him. But his defensive impact -- both in stifling the opposing team's offense and making more difficult an opposing team's rebounding -- is what really makes him who he is.

Now, I've gone over how he's a funny guy, but I'd like to finish this capsule with my absolute favorite Shane Battier story. It happened at Duke. In 2010, I was at Cameron Indoor Stadium to watch on the big screen as Duke played West Virginia in the final four. I didn't like that game much because of Da'Sean Butler's ACL tear, one of the saddest things I've watched in college basketball and one of the most despicable moments I witnessed while being a Duke student (not for our team, which was respectful about it -- it was the fans at Cameron indoor, which were generally boisterous and ecstatic about the terrible stroke of luck despite the fact that Butler's career was irreparably ruined by the injury). But there was a great moment, there. There was a commercial break, and the audience was talking amongst ourselves. Cue the drunk frat bro in front of me, talking to his respectively drunk polo-wearing friend.

"Man, look, there's Shane's jersey!"
"Oh, legit dude. He's my favorite player of all time."
"...wait what? What about Jordan?"
"He's literally inferior."
"Haha, dude, that's crazy."
"My bro Shane is mad underrated son, are you one of those fags who doesn't know the score?"
"Uh I guess so, I think he's pretty average overall."
"No dude, you're a fag. Shane Battier is a top ten player in the nba."
"The only players better are Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, and Kobe Bryant."

The game came back on, and they stopped talking about it. They never returned to the subject, either because the guy thought he'd made his point or his friend thought there was no use continuing the discussion. They were both right. And it remains, to this day, one of the most absurd serious beliefs I've ever heard about the game of basketball. Right up there with "Corey Maggette is a passable basketball player."

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Apologies for the relative lack of updates to the player capsules this week. I realize this is one of the more popular features on this site, I just felt the need to go in depth on the lockout stuff and quite frankly didn't feel like editing the capsule drafts into a finished product after the legal morass I had to sift through. And that CBA proposal. Hope you enjoyed this installment. I may try to post two of these tomorrow, as we have some pretty short players coming up.