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 three: Chris Paul, Jordan Hill, and Jeff Teague.
• • •
Follow Chris Paul on twitter at @CP3.
We're going to do something a bit different today, for Chris Paul's capsule. This capsule went extremely long -- by design, of course. There are few blogs I respect and love more than Matt Moore's Hardwood Paroxysm, a site with seventeen thousand great writers that love the game and love to write. Knowing full well that many of these capsules were going to go extremely long, I worked out a deal with Matt that would allow me to throw an extremely long capsule his way every few weeks. Moore, being the awesome guy he is, was very excited about it and told me to go for it. This is the first result of this particular partnership -- Player Capsules Plus, in a shout-out to Basketball Reference's excellent Play Index Plus features. An elongated, extended capsule on a player whose game deserves it -- either philosophically, statistically, or because of a long-standing personal relationship I have with the player. Today, I'm going long from a philosophical perspective and taking on an outwardly strange comparison -- that of Chris Paul with objectivism, Ayn Rand, and Howard Roark.
And that's the thing. With Chris Paul, I get the sense that Paul's basketball genius exists on two planes. One is the brightest of American ideals -- a self-made genius with glorious talents whose abilities have been realized to their greatest extent and whose powers are limited only by those around him. The other is the lowest of American stereotypes -- the man whose work ends up taking credit for all success they've ever accomplished all the while finding a way to avoid all culpability for failure. Which is to say... Paul lends himself well to excuses. "His supporting cast has been terrible, therefore, he is not at fault for his poor playoff record. His teammates can't handle a pass, therefore, he is not at fault for being on an average to sub-par team. His genius must be constrained to the confines of a 24-second shot clock, therefore, he is not at fault for overdribbling or trying too hard to make the beautiful play." In the same way, Rand sets Roark up to be a man without failure. Every failure that Roark suffers isn't his own, it's a societal flaw or an inability of the people around Roark to appreciate him utterly. If Roark lets us down, it's because of those blasted conventions. Or the people around him. Or the inability of others to recognize his genius. If Paul lets us down, it's the same story -- outmoded convention, awful teammates, or inadequate appreciation.
• • •
Follow Jordan Hill on twitter at @jordanchill43.
Athletic. Energetic. Frenetic. These are words that describe Hill's game. One of the things I really like about Hill is his activity defending the pick and roll. He gets in the face of players, and though he's not always excellent at cutting off the play, he does an excellent job getting in position and putting up a good contest. Late in the season, this was especially obvious when he'd moved on from the Houston Rockets and traded to the Los Angeles Lakers -- on defense of the pick and roll, Bynum and Gasol have as of late virtually no activity whatsoever, and Hill's enthusiasm and energy was a welcome respite from the lackadaisical way his counterparts approached the defensive assignment. On offense, he's similarly active, but similarly unpolished -- he finishes well at the rim but definitely isn't a low post scorer. If you dump the ball to him and ask him to initiate the offense, you're probably wasting a possession -- but if you set up an open midrange shot, or give him an open lane to dunk? Then he's solid. His athleticism shines in those situations. I'm not sure he's really going to ever have a great post-up game or be a 30-36 MPG type player, but his energy and pick and roll defense should keep him in the league for a long time. Especially if he gets minutes with Steve Nash.
Assuming the trial goes well, at least. On a personal level, recent events would indicate Hill isn't quite so praiseworthy, at least not by some accounts. He's currently battling felony assault charges, reportedly on suspicion of punching his ex, throwing her into a wall, and putting her in a chokehold. The allegations are just that, at the moment -- allegations -- but they lend a more troubled view to Hill's demeanor than the nobility of fighting back from tragedy that pieces like this excellent one grant. I tend to have the view that I don't tend to outright believe an allegation until it gets hashed out in court, but I do tend to lend more credence to allegations leveled specifically by the person who's been reportedly abused. It's hard to do something like that -- if they're willing to put themselves out there like that, it's unlikely they're completely making stuff up. If you know what I mean. It's possible, but unlikely. In any case, allegations like this one are more believable and sad to me than allegations like that leveled against Matt Barnes, whose wife openly denies the existence of and did not charge Barnes with anything.
But it really does need to be hashed out in court before any of this is more than hearsay, and for that reason, I'm really wondering what happens to him. Jail time would obviously put a serious damper on his NBA career, and it's doubtful he's going to be offered a multi-year contract until he either gets exonerated or gets off without jail time. Which is perfectly reasonable from a decisionmaker's perspective, but obviously not a good career situation for Hill. Assuming he's innocent, I hope he gets exonerated quickly -- he's currently an unrestricted free agent and contract negotiations with the Lakers have been (reportedly) not going very well. Assuming he's guilty, I honestly hope he goes to jail, because no man should treat their partner the way Hill reportedly did. In any event, his twitter handle IS "jordanchill", which is pretty decent. It isn't exactly a top 10 twitter name but it's a solid entry in the Basketball Jones pun gun segment. Good on ya', Jordan.
• • •
Follow Jeff Teague on twitter at @Teague0.
When I see Jeff Teague, I kind of see an evolutionary version of Ramon Sessions. At least in how he gets his offense. He's significantly more athletic than Sessions, which explains why Teague was a first round pick as opposed to a 56th pick like Sessions. Teague operates with a similar reliance to Sessions on his a developed driving game, getting open for shots primarily by driving aimlessly every other possession beforehand in hopes that eventually they can fake out defenders to take an open jump shot. He's a better three point shooter than Ramon, but also worse at getting to the rim -- he takes fewer shots than Ramon there, and he doesn't have quite as much command of the midrange jump shot as Sessions does. Not that Sessions is great at it either, but he's slightly better than Teague, and can be counted on to more reliably get a few more shots per game if you use him optimally. Defensively, Teague is better than Sessions, and provides solid (if not absolutely remarkable) defense from the point guard position. He did a fantastic job on Rose in last year's ATL-CHI series, and I can't say enough about how far he's developed in using his raw athleticism on defense ever since he came into the league.
Teague is less of a pure point, though, and is significantly worse at passing and setting up his teammates -- there's a sense of precision in some of Ramon's passes that's absent in virtually all of Teague's, and a sense that Teague doesn't totally have a plan when he puts the ball on the floor. Sessions has been a pretty solid setup man since he stepped foot in the league. Teague hasn't, and has never shown any particular proficiency at it. And in fact, on a per-minute basis, he's actually gotten worse over his three years -- from 6.1 per 36 minutes his rookie year to 5.4 per 36 minutes last year. Significantly more minutes, so the raw totals look nicer, but it's hard to make a case he's really improved as a passer. We're beginning to reach "what you see is what you get" levels with Teague, as we have with Sessions. We know now that Ramon Sessions is a guy that gives you about 15 points per game, a massive gob of assists, and next-to-nothing on defense. That's what we've seen, and it's what his teams get. Teague too has reached some consensus about his game -- some decent scoring production, very little passing acumen in a traditional point guard sense, and some solid defense.
It's not that he can't be more, necessarily, it's that after three years of roughly the same per-minute totals, you can start to make assumptions about the player's development and broader game. Sometimes a player will wildly overachieve their per-minute averages after a few years of steady state production, but it's extraordinarily unlikely. And so, you reach that place with Teague -- he's not going to be one of the 10 best points in the league with passing as anemic as his. Nor is he going to be properly assessed due to his youth and the sense with Teague -- as with Ramon Sessions -- that he's a breakout or two away from being a top flight point guard. It'll be just as untrue as with Sessions, but the theory will persist. Teague's a great defender, a decent scorer, a poor passer. He's reached an age and a level of minutes played where it's unfair to really expect a quantum leap forward at this point. He's solid, reasonable, passable. But will he ever really be a star, or a starting point guard on a contending team? Good question. His 2011 performance against the Bulls indicates he could be, if every player around him is clicking and making up for his lack of passing acumen. A tall order, but if he stays on the same team as Josh Smith and Al Horford, he'll be just fine.
• • •
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. We finally had a few 3/3 guesses, for this batch. Nudirtybastard from the comments got all three right, as did our very own Alex Arnon! And before you accuse him of tampering -- nobody on-staff but Alex and I have any access to the list. He was just as clueless as the rest of the world!
- Player #28 is a goofy looking white guy who had his own Jeremy Lin-esque "breakout" few weeks last year. Not... really that good, though.
- The Nic Cage of NBA players. Player #29 is a vampire, though not a very good one!
- Player #30 is one of the few players from my alma mater I like. Good guy, decent defender, old school game. Like his father.
See you later, when I'm off my plane. (Yes, the capsules will be late today -- the next batch will come around 7-8, eastern time. This is because I'm going to be on a plane all day, without Wifi. It's a rough life, for capsule readers!)