Player Capsules 2012, #73-75: Jason Maxiell, Hamed Haddadi, Al Jefferson

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 Jason Maxiell, Hamed Haddadi, and Al Jefferson.

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Follow Jason Maxiell on Twitter at @JasonMaxiell.

I'm going to assume that most of our readers have graduated something. Not primary school, mind you -- college or high school is where it's at. Assuming you have, I'm also assuming most everyone has a sense of what it's like to hit that lull that comes gently wrapped with every student's senior year. You know what I mean -- if not from your own experience, from that of your friends. There's this feeling that wells up inside the heart of the graduate to-be. Essentially, if you're so close to the finish line, why expend that much effort finishing it out? Colloquially called "senioritis", the so-called disease presents with symptoms of missed assignments, comically lacking study habits, and incessant tardiness. The thing that amuses me about it is that it isn't simply something endemic to school -- I've seen two of my coworkers retire among the five jobs I've worked in my life, and the exact same thing applied to their work. As soon as they knew their retirement was coming through, their work became slipshod and their work ethic crumbled. Whether it was a fellow transcriptionist in college or a business analyst at a large organization, no presence was safe from the crumbling work ethic of the nearly-departed.

You may be wondering what this has to do with Jason Maxiell. It strikes me as a little weird, but when I watch Maxiell play, I don't get the sense that he's a player long for this league. I get the sense, actually, that he's essentially got senioritis. He's going to be gone pretty soon. It just looks like Maxiell plays with a foot out the door. Not out the door of the Pistons, necessarily, but of the league in general. This isn't incredibly surprising, on a broad scale. He's never been a particularly fantastic player. But his age is frankly rather shocking when you look at his play. Honestly? I thought he was over 30 when I was watching some Synergy footage to start this post. 32-33 was my guess. But no, he's 29. The problem with Maxiell isn't his age so much as his conditioning -- while he was an effective player in his youth as a raw athlete, as his athleticism wanes his ability to contribute anything tangible to a basketball team has waned just as badly. Why? Simply put, Maxiell never developed any real skills beyond his athletic dominance. He can't shoot a free throw to save his life, he has no pet post moves beyond his dunks, and his rebounding is incredibly anemic -- for a center or a power forward, it really doesn't matter which. So when the athleticism wanes, his entire game goes downhill.

As for the defense? As a young player, Maxiell was a reasonably competent defender. As he's aged and lost his leap, he's also lost a lot of mobility and quickness, which has turned him from a "bad" perimeter defender to a "holy crap, are you kidding me" perimeter defender. Open shots galore, if you put him on a strong shooter like Pau Gasol or Tim Duncan. His post defense is better, because he doesn't need to move as much, but it's still not good. This is all pretty sad, actually, as years ago Maxiell really looked to be a strong prospect. Undersized, sure, but a blue collar worker and showed flashes of being a potentially excellent defender. As his weight's ballooned and his conditioning has fallen off, he's lost the speed and leap that helped him stay a step ahead of his assignment. And then his size -- extremely small for a center, and even small for a forward at 6'7" -- comes to rear its ugly head and his defensive competency ends. He's still got the basic instincts, but with lessened speed he simply can't measure up to his old defensive chops. And it's because of this -- and, of course, his ridiculously poor touch and worsening finishing abiltiy -- that I wonder if Maxiell is even going to get a new contract after the Pistons ride out his current expiring deal. We'll see, I suppose.

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