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. Today's three: Devin Harris, Danny Granger, Ronnie Price.
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Follow Devin Harris on Twitter when his cat runs all over his keyboard and he gets absorbed into the internet.
Let's say you had a time machine. You go back about five years, because why go back farther than wifi? You make an effort to find the Aaron McGuire of the past, a starry-eyed 17-year-old with reasonably-sized (although retrospectively hilarious) physicist dreams and a more-reasonably-sized liking for basketball. Let's say you ask me to spin my opinion of what will happen to Devin Harris, then the 23-year-old point guard of the defending Western Conference champion Dallas Mavericks. That's right, you went back in time just to ask me - a stranger in at least two fundamental ways - about Devin Harris, making you either the biggest Devin Harris fan in the world or someone that completely abuses time travel. Anyway, I'd humor you and proceed to lay out numerous reasons why Harris was on track to be a quality starting point guard whose overall game was pretty solid. His ranged shot was poor but the point guard position was (I would've said) evolving to more of a drive and kick game with targets such as Dirk, Garnett, and Bosh, rangy-shooting big men. After all, the ability to make long shots off the dribble is irrelevant if a team can build your point guard a template with range shooters at every position. The game was primed to upend the post-riarchy, and Devin Harris was set to be a massive beneficiary as soon as he improved his passing. Which he'd definitely do. Right? RIGHT?!
Well, that would've been the thought, had I answered you instead of calling the police and asking them to apprehend you. It's not totally misguided, all things considered -- the point guard position IS clearly evolving, and there have been teams over the last 5-6 years to see incredible offensive success without a shooter from the point guard position. Unfortunately, the game essentially left poor Devin Harris behind -- the point guards that have found success with the no-shooting template tend to be phenomenal in one-on-one situations within 15 feet, melding that seamlessly with pinpoint passing and (usually) coaches who understood how to creatively augment positions around their new realities. Devin Harris struggles from the problem of "not quite" -- he's not quite unguardable at the rim, falling short of a Tony Parker-type elite finisher. He's not quite a good enough range shooter to keep defenses honest when he gets outside the rim -- Harris has conventionally been below league average at everything but directly-at-rim scoring, and although there were hints early in his Dallas tenure that he'd develop a better acumen for passing, he simply never made good on that. His assist to turnover ratio has tended towards a steady-state 2:1, and while his assists have gotten better, he's never quite dealt with his serious ball-control problems. His only supremely notable talent over his career has been his ability to draw free throws -- his singular all-star appearance came in a year where he shot under 30% from three on 3 shots a night, with below average shooting everywhere outside of 9 feet and relatively anemic passing stats. His all-star worthiness was saved by the fact that he drew almost 9 free throws a contest, adding 7 points a game to an otherwise lacking statistical profile.
Which is not to say he completely deserved it, just that he sure as hell wouldn't have if he hadn't drawn more free throws than virtually anyone else in the league. He was 5th in the league at free throws attempted, despite missing a somewhat remarkable 13 games in the season. Just two years after that all-star berth, Harris is now floating around the league somewhat aimlessly. He was one of the tertiary pieces around the main Favors/Kanter-Williams trade back in 2011, and was actually relatively valued by Utah when he first arrived. That gradually faded as they realized Harris is 28 years old and hasn't ever really been a fantastic, world-changing point guard -- the best way to describe him now is as a slightly overpaid version of Ramon Sessions. He can be very, very effective if you put the right players around him and give him room to thrive -- if you don't, he'll be ineffective and leave you wanting. He's currently taken root with the Hawks, and unlike a lot of people, I actually really love this move for the Hawks. I don't know how well he'll fit in a two-point lineup with Teague, but I do know that the two-man game between Horford and Harris will be very solid, just as he played well with Dirk. And we know from his experience in New Jersey that Harris and Anthony Morrow have a unique and effective brand of chemistry between shooter and passer. I feel that Harris and Josh Smith could work really well together as well, and I just have a good feeling about how everything fits with that team. While they lost Joe Johnson, I suspect the upgrade to their backup point spot combined with a full year of Horford should put the Hawks in about the same place they were before -- low seed in the east, but with clean books going forward and a lot of flexibility.
One last thing about Harris. He's a Milwaukee boy, born and bred. Born in Milwaukee, went to school in Madison, and goes home to Wisconsin in the offseason. So, that said? Why the hell has he never played for the Bucks? They never had the chance to draft him, but wouldn't it have made sense to pursue him back in 2008? This just seems like one of those things that hasn't happened yet but clearly should have. I realize it doesn't make perfect basketball sense anymore, as they have Jennings and Monta, but he's the one free agent who actually might assign some pride and advantage to the Bucks. Hammond should probably be proactive and try to get on this before it's too late.
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Follow Danny Granger on Twitter at @dgranger33.
Granger is relatively disappointing to Pacers fans, all things considered, but I'd argue that it's simply not his fault. If there was ever a case of a player's career being absolutely derailed by a terrible coach making terrible decisions, it's Granger's story. Bit of backstory. Danny Granger, although he had a relatively healthy early career, was always dogged by a few injury demons. Some missed games in college, some knee issues, some back problems. He mostly plays through them, but they're there and have been obvious for years. But his coach in the late 2010s -- Jim O'Brien -- was an old-school coach. And by old-school, I mean that he runs his players straight into the ground without apology or regret. Coming into 2010 having missed 15 games the year prior with knee and ankle issues, O'Brien thought it'd be an excellent idea to start the season off playing Granger over 36 minutes a night. Somewhat predictably, injury struck hard and Granger tore his plantar fascia. He's never been consistently dominant since, and that's a damn shame.
Also, make no mistake, dominant is exactly how one would describe Granger's pre-injury game. In 2009, Granger averaged 26-5-3-1-1 in 36 minutes per game, shooting an incredibly efficient 40% from three on seven three pointers a game and almost 90% from behind the line. Those are superstar numbers for a large wing -- the rebounding could use a bit of improvement, but that kind of scoring production is insane. Granger's also an underrated defender -- or at least, he was. He hasn't been an effective stopper since the injury, as he's lost a lot of lift and athleticism. Which isn't to say he's not an effective player. Granger, despite the disappointment Pacers fans have that he hasn't been able to recapture the dominance he gave them a glimpse of, has been pretty solid since his all-star year. The scoring has tailed off a bit, which does put a more critical eye to Granger's somewhat lacking presence as a rebounder. But he's still a somewhat effective defender (if not a shut-down stopper as he used to be) and still one of the most effective three-point shooters in the NBA. Not to mention one of the best free throw shooters. And he has an incredibly low turnover rate for the number of possessions he eats up. No, Danny Granger is not a superstar -- 2009 may have been a true reflection of his just-reached ceiling, but Jim O'Brien did his best at depriving the world of Danny Granger as a superstar. But he's still an effective and valuable player, and trading him away for nothing would be absurd even with that contract.
Off the court, Granger is hilarious and awesome. He's an avid comic book fan and video game buff, with his favorite hero being Batman. Thus, before his wedding, Granger discussed a few things with his fiancee. I'm sure one of them was where the consoles would go, and I'm sure another was where he'd put his comic collection. Those are normal conversations. Significantly less normal was Granger's next question, asking if it'd be alright if Granger used a portion of his rather significant wealth to build a real-life Batcave. Apparently, Danny Granger chose his fiancee well, because she was OK with it and the "Grangercave" in his Albuquerque home has been under construction for the last 4 years. He had to take some features out, including an underground tunnel entrance he drew up that didn't come anywhere close to meeting New Mexico building codes. But, as he's quick to point out, they still have the underground thing going on. He gave a construction update to Sports Illustrated late last year, teasing a few of the features of the cave -- these include a pathway that lights up as you drive down it, a moat, a circular island that turns cars so you never need to back out. He says the decor is based off the Batcave from the Michael Keaton films, and Granger's estimated construction date is quickly approaching -- it's probable that by early next season we'll have a few pictures. Yes, okay. This is a complete waste of money and a ridiculous, overwhelmingly absurd luxury purchase. I'm a very frugal person in general, so I understand and sympathize with that view. But holy crap, Danny Granger built a Batcave. He basically took every comic book fan's childhood dream and turned it into a beautiful reality. Would I build a Batcave if I had Granger's wealth? Probably not, but that's mostly because I lack the chutzpah -- good on Danny for taking a ridiculous, insane dream and making it an even-more-ridiculous reality.
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Follow Ronnie Price on Twitter whensoever he gets one.
I don't know a whole lot about Price. I've always wondered what exactly kept him in the league, all things considered -- he's carved out a relatively consistent role as a backup point guard with limited free-agent interest every year, despite putting up pretty abysmal career shooting numbers. He's never shot above 43% from the field (and only twice in a 7-year career has he shot above 40%) and never shot above 33% from three. That tends to be the mendoza line below which you simply stop taking threes. He's not an extraordinary player either from a per-minute perspective or a raw production perspective, averaging about 4 points, a rebound, and an assist a game in 11 minutes a night over his career. Which translates to per-36 statistics of 11-4-4 -- which isn't really all that incredible, though the rebounding is admittedly very good for a point guard of his height. All of this comes with a high turnover rate, too. And yes, he's NBA-small, clocking in at around 6'2", which makes his rebounding rather impressive but his passing that much more anemic. While his poor NBA shooting would keep him a pretty sub-par NBA player even with better passing numbers, at least his lengthy career would be explicable by his play. As-is, he's a point guard who doesn't pass or score efficiently. Even with his defense -- which is solid -- you start to wonder what exactly makes Price stick in the NBA like he has.
As for personally, I don't have all that much personal experience with Ronnie Price, but what I do know may begin to answer that question. I refer to a 2011 piece from late in the season, where the Salt Lake Tribune did a short profile on him. It's actually a pretty nice read -- Price (whose college degree came in business management) appears to fully understand how fleeting NBA careers can be, and is preparing for his post-NBA career with gusto. He's also, much like Adonal Foyle and Derek Fisher, one of those players whose intelligence can salvage longer careers than you'd perhaps expect. He represented Utah during labor negotiations in the lockout, and has the respect of virtually every coach he's ever played for for his intelligence, defensive intensity, and the chip on his shoulder that comes from going undrafted and having to make his own path. Which I can respect. By all accounts, it appears Price has more or less stayed in the league on the strength of his character and the intangible off-court sense that he's a better person than he is a player. He's a really good defender, don't get me wrong, but a floor general that's been as much of an offensive bust in the NBA as Price rarely can play even limited minutes without hurting his team. Even so, you have to respect a guy whose intelligence and grit have helped him continue salvaging a career that most never thought would come at all. So, respect to Price for keeping a level head and making his own way. In some ways, it's what the NBA is all about.
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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. This time, one commenter and one twitter friend got a perfect 3/3 score -- Martin from the previous post's comments and @sfelshman on twitter. Go team!
- I used to blame Player #46 badly for his collapse in the 2011 playoffs. That is, until the events of this summer.
- There are a scant few players whose games are as controversial as Player #47. An offensive dynamo. OK, but not excellent.
- Starter on a team that made the finals, Player #48 has made $18 million dollars pre-tax over his career. Shouldn't have made that much.
I haven't yet decided if I'll do a repeat of last week's "post-a-day" schedule or go with 6 on M/W/F again. I'll surprise you!