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 we continue with David Lee, Kevin Seraphin, Jerryd Bayless.
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Follow David Lee on Twitter at @dlee042.
David Lee sneaks up on you, a bit. If you're making a list of the best big men in the league, Lee will never deign to crack it -- his stats are on-the-whole phenomenal but his game is on-the-whole average. He's an above average offensive player from most areas of the floor -- for his career, he generally shoots in the 40% range on 16-23 foot twos (though clocked in well below that at 36% last season), near 50% from the true midrange, around 44% on close-but-not-at-rim shots, and in the high sixties on at-rim conversion. That's very good from midrange and very good at the rim, while semi-passable from the long midrange and pretty awful at his post-move, 3-9 foot shots. This reflects in how he distributes his shots -- Lee is pretty good about staying away from doomed post moves and sticking to what he's good at. Strong moves to get as close to the basket as possible, in-rhythm midrange shots, and just enough floor spacing to draw a big out of the paint every now and again. He's good in isolation, good in the pick and roll, and good at keeping the ball under control when he runs his own plays. Still, though. Does his game really help his teammates?
This is what I've really struggled with. I've never really watched a game with Lee and thought, "wow, Lee's play has really opened up the floor for his teammates." The problem with Lee's game is that, as a player, he's extremely slow and lumbering. He's also relatively easy to telegraph. This doesn't necessarily make him easy to guard, per se -- Lee's been relatively slow his whole career, which has made him adapt to the extra coverage he gets. Lee can finish in traffic, or make shots while guarded. In some ways, it makes his offensive game that much more impressive. But the problem with Lee is that his slow frame means that his offensive talents don't really help the guards around him that much. Sure, Lee's midrange is great, but it never really spaces the floor very effectively. His man plays off him until Lee is guaranteed to shoot, then lunges in knowing they'll have time to recover if Lee decides to pass it. Alternatively, if he tries a fancy post move, defenders have about twenty years and some change to prepare their angles for a clean and easy block. Why do you think he shoots so poorly from 3-9 feet, and always seems to be among the league's big-man leaders in percentage of shots blocked? (No, Virginia, not blocks -- percentage of THE PLAYER'S shots that get blocked.) Lee's game is potent, and his offense is very impressive for a man his size. But his lack of speed and mobility do no favors for his teammates, and while his stats have always been rather excellent, I've never been quite as big on him as most.
The other reason -- also connected with his mobility -- is his defense. While Lee hustles for rebounds with the best of them and gets into scrums like his life depends on it, his lack of quickness and length will always impact his ability to really contribute on the defensive end. This isn't to say he doesn't try. Lee puts effort in on the defensive end, and he doesn't at all strike me as a Carmelo-type who simply falls asleep and takes plays off. But he just isn't that good, you know? Physically he can't hack it on the defensive end, despite his fantastic offense. He has a very poor sense of when players are rushing past him when he's on the weakside, and while he tries to stay to his man, his poor fundamentals like his footwork and physical failings leave him doomed against 90% of the big men in the league. He is a relatively decent rebounder -- or rather, was. He's actually been relatively bollocks on the boards since he arrived in Golden State, and while he was a phenomenal rebounder in New York (both per-possession and in the aggregate totals), there's little sign that's extended to his Golden State days. Still, I'm very excited to watch him this coming year. Bogut is a defensive game-changer, to the point of hiding Lee's crummy defense. And I have a feeling that Lee and Bogut will space out offensively very, very well. Assuming they both stay healthy, mind you. Perhaps not the fairest assumption, but one we'll always make before injuries inevitably defer the dream.
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Follow Kevin Seraphin on Twitter at @kevin_seraphin.
It surprises many, but Kevin Seraphin is actually a really solid basketball player. He's not a star, no -- Seraphin's ceiling is probably of the 14-8 sort, sopping up minutes as a big-time glue guy on a contender. But you can do things with that in this league. Offensively, he's got a minor repertoire -- he's essentially bunk beyond 10 feet, with poor free throws and no consistent jump shot to speak of. But within that range? Look out. Seraphin is hyper-athletic, strong, and multifaceted -- he's the owner of what might be the best currently-employed hook shot in the NBA, and his at-rim finishes are as breathtaking as they are efficient. Poor rebounder, as of yet, but he has a bit of time to figure out how to box out. Probably never going to be a double-digit rebounds kind of guy, though -- very important that the Wizards place good rebounders around Seraphin, to hide that aspect a bit.
On defense, it's definitely a credit to his genetics and childhood coaching-- the raw skillset Seraphin has shown in his scant years is the league is extremely nice. He sets -- according to teammates -- the toughest screens in the NBA. There are some issues -- he bites on too many pump fakes, needs to build a bit more bulk, and needs to develop better instincts on when to help. But Seraphin's pick and roll defense is quite effective even at his young age, and he has the athletic tools to be an absolute beast. And unlike many hyper-athletic prospects, Seraphin isn't too old to still make good on his potential. He actually only began to learn the game of basketball at the age of 15 -- at 7 years into his basketball learning, Seraphin is dropping games like this excellent one against the best defense in the league like it isn't a huge deal. But it is. Seraphin's toughness, hard work, and talent have carried him to a very interesting spot, and one that Seraphin surely wouldn't have expected seven years ago. When, remember, he didn't know a damn thing about the game. Fancy that.
Now, some funny Seraphin stuff. Kevin Seraphin is on the book as a big supporter of the segwey -- he bought one off JaVale McGee back in late 2011 and proceeded to drive it essentially everywhere, taking his newfound means of transport out to the Washington Monument, around Georgetown, and (according to some sources) to practice. Also, Seraphin used it to (as he said) "drive around the house." To be honest? If I were to get a segwey -- and this will never happen, but let's suspend reality -- I'd probably do the same thing. Can you imagine how hilarious that would feel? The bleeding edge inefficiency of driving a segwey around a personal home slays me. Seraphin is also the proud owner of two interesting pets -- a snake named Snakey and a bird named April. While I admit that I don't know French and can't understand a word he says in the bird video, the information is invaluable to me. After all, after JaVale McGee burst our bubble on the belief that he owned a platypus, I needed proof that at least one NBA player used some portion of their wealth to buy interesting pets. I needed it. And for providing that, Seraphin has instantly become my favorite Wizard. Good show, Kevin.
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Follow Jerryd Bayless on Twitter at @jay_bay4.
Well, I'll be damned. For once, a player's stats completely took me by surprise. I watched a bunch of tape through Synergy sports, though, and I can safely conclude that the 42% shooting from three point range that Bayless put up isn't an error in my data. I really thought it was -- Bayless has up-til-now been a relatively awful shooter from distance, with his previous best season a barely-average 33%, and every season prior to that being in the mid 20s, early 30s. Still. I realized he'd had a better year last season, but THAT much better? All things considered, last season was something of a revelation for the relocated Arizonan. Bayless seems to have ironed out some of the kinks in his shot (although his shot selection still drove me nuts when I watched Raptors games). He's always had the potential to do that, mind you -- he's shot over 80% from the free throw line over his career, and when you're that accurate from the line, you usually have at least the potential to be a good three point bomber -- but it was only last season that his outside shooting really started to match the intuition on his shot.
For the first time in his four year career, Jerryd Bayless posted an above-average PER and a WS/48 above 0.100. Although he was a bit turnover prone in prior seasons, he was able to finally find a good medium between overhandling and passing, posting the best assist rate of his career coupled with one of the lowest turnover rates. There are still some issues, though -- we like to talk about players doing what they're best at and taking the ball inside, but Bayless is simply not of that brood. Over his career, he takes only one or two shots per game at the rim, and there's a good reason why. The secret with Bayless is that he's simply not a good finisher, and he doesn't have a go-to shot in the 3-9 foot range that he can really rely on. He's also doubly prone to turnovers when he drives it into the paint -- Bayless is at his distributing best when he's precipitating his moves around the perimeter and dropping pretty passes to cutting bigs. The reason, so far as I can explain it, is that his size and ball control is compromised when he's moving too quickly. He's a good standstill passer, and a good passer when he's moving leisurely, but the tradeoff between a Bayless pass made in rapid motion and one made in casual motion is that he simply can't make unpredictable (or even hard-to-predict) angles when he's moving quickly. This leads to him telegraphing his pass something fierce and losing his handle more often, hence the poor shooting and the constant turnovers in the painted area.
Still. His issues driving and finishing in the paint notwithstanding, if Bayless keeps his three point shot up to his recent standards, he should be a decent player in the NBA. Offensively, he has talent -- he's above average from the long two as well as (now) the three, and takes the majority of his shots from that range in an effort to spread the defense for his big men. Generally to some success. Defensively, he's pretty awful, though that's rather par for the course for shooting guards stuck in point guard frames. When he tries to apply defensive pressure he genuinely struggles to stay out of foul trouble. And although I love summer league, this is worth noting. Bayless was the MVP of the 2009 summer league. He proceeded to be a marginal, 14 minute-a-game stopgap the next season despite being healthy for virtually the entire season for a Portland team struggling with injuries. Summer league is a trip, and a great experience -- but all that said, even the highest success in the summer league is no guarantee of stardom -- or even anything more than stopgap production -- in the big leagues. Very little translates like you'd expect. Well, except a Jimmer/DeMarcus reality show. That probably translates about as well as you'd expect.
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At the end of each post, I'll be scribing riddles for the next group. 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 you combine J and Brian -- one of whom got Lee and Bayless, the other who got Seraphin -- you'd have a 3/3, but as-is you've just got two 2/3s and a sense that they coulda been contenders. Alack.
- It's been a long road to recognition, but I think most people finally recognize that Player #70 is one of the ten best in the league.
- What's with all these Wizards? Player #71 was voted "most likely to be mistaken for a current Los Angeles Clipper."
- "O Brother, where art thou?" / "Los Angeles, [Player #72]." / "Oh. Okay. Cool. I'll visit sometime."
See you later today, as we're trying to do two sets both today and tomorrow. If I can hack it. Fingers crossed?