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 Luke Harangody, Chris Bosh, and Sebastian Telfair.
Follow Luke Harangody on Twitter at @lukeharangody. (Warning: May Not Actually Be Luke Harangody.)
There aren't a ton of things to say about Luke Harangody. I like the Cleveland Cavaliers. I like most of the players on the Cavaliers. I appreciate their contributions to the team. But Harangody? I find it difficult to really appreciate the things he brings to the Cavaliers, primarily because I genuinely have no idea what they are. Samardo Samuels gives us a constant stream of beautiful yet incomprehensible slop to pass on to our grandchildren. Luke Walton gives us a bro, on those nights where we simply need a bro. Omri Casspi I don't need to go into again. But Harangody? He's the end-of-the-bench guy to end all guys. He's the last living soul I want to see on a basketball court. Perhaps somewhere there's someone who goes to Cavs games eagerly awaiting Harangody's presence. If that someone exists, I never want to meet them, because I feel like they're probably a bit off-kilter, and would probably kill on sight.
I'm not going to go hyperbolic enough to say that I'd outplay him (because I sure as hell wouldn't, and I'll get back to that later), but dear god, he is not an NBA player. To begin with shooting: he's one of the worst shooters (and worst finishers) ever to play in the league. Let me put it this way. Luke Harangody has made 102 shots in his NBA career. 85 of them were assisted. In almost 1000 NBA minutes, Harangody has made 17 unassisted shots. In total. Despite the gaudy assisted-to-created percentage, Harangody has shot an astonishingly low 37% from the field over his NBA career, including 24% from three point range. He makes a single three pointer for every four he puts up, and he's put up 80 in his two-year career. That's... not very good, folks. Glancing upon the other reasons Harangody's NBA minutes befuddle me... how about his rebounding rate? It's under 15%, which is atrocious for a big forward. At least he's a great passer, posting an assist rate of 4.2% in 2012. Oh wait. That was the 73rd worst assist rate in the entire league. Well, uh, dang.
Just about the only reason you can credibly come up with for Harangody's playing time is his exceptional ability to keep from turning the ball over, as he posted a turnover rate of 5.4% in 2012. That was the 53rd lowest turnover rate ever registered by a 10+ MPG player in the history of the league. Which, I admit, is pretty cool. It's pretty cool that Luke Harangody managed to go through 231 garbage time minutes and only have four turnovers. Does that really excuse his complete inability of any other basketball talent? I... no, not really. I don't think so. Luke Harangody is a good basketball player relative to the folks at your local YMCA, and he'd probably be a half-decent starter for a second-place team in a German league. But Harangody is akin to a constant reminder at the back of your head, this nudging note that any old average white-bred semi-athlete would look like crap in the NBA. We all know good old Johnny McFlippant at the gym, that one guy who complains that NBA players "don't work hard at all" and that he'd dominate seamlessly at the NBA level. I suppose that's why Harangody exists. It's this constant drumbeat reminder that Johnny McFlippant is completely and utterly wrong. That's how I've decided to rationalize Luke Harangody's presence in the NBA. It's Stern's constant reminder of just how embarrassing it would be if I were an NBA player. I've finally figured it out. Thanks, Player Capsules.
Follow Chris Bosh on Twitter at @chrisbosh.
I'm not really sure what to say about Chris Bosh, because everyone seems to write about the Heat and everyone seems to have said their piece on him already. Let's talk about expectations and reputations, I suppose. I think the most pointed observation one can make about him is that he -- even more than LeBron, more than Wade, and (perhaps) even more than the Heat franchise itself -- is the single Heat player whose public reputation reflects the weight of the Heat's collective reputation. What I mean by that is relatively straightforward, but it's a hard-to-parse statement, so I'll explain by example. After the 2011 season, when the Heat made the finals and folded against a Mavericks team that was on a historic run, very few people seemed eager to criticize Wade. When people eviscerated LeBron they didn't simply do it based on his Heat collapse. LeBron criticism was necessarily rooted in LeBron's past -- his "disappointing" runs in Cleveland, his 2010 disaster, et cetera. LeBron certainly bore the load, but the load was based on his career in its totality, not on a single run.
As for Bosh? I saw numerous people criticize Bosh as an ill-fitting piece, or one that needed to be traded immediately. They questioned his toughness and his ability to act as a center on a title team. They questioned every aspect of his game and then some, and continued to do so throughout the entire offseason. There was no real reflection on the rest of his career -- the entire criticism was necessarily centered around his single playoff run, and the team's results after the failed run. Bosh bore the brunt of the Heat's failure, in the erosion of his own personal brand and reputation as a star in the league. It lasted through the entirety of last season -- until the finals, that is. Now? Belay that reputation, Captain. As the Heat refused to fold this year and upset a favored Thunder team in an embarrassingly lopsided Finals, Bosh found his reputation take a complete 180 in no time flat. Whereas 2011 Bosh was the weak link that disappointed the basketball universe with his "soft" play and inadequate interior defense, 2012 Bosh was a crucial piece and the best big man on a title team. He's now virtually invaluable, in the eyes of NBA consigliati -- arguably one of the 10 best players in the league, and many would now assess him the greatest power forward in the league. Twitter goes nuts at everything he says, and he's seen as this changed and much-improved player off of last year's disappointment.
The problem with this 180, at least to me, is that it isn't really rooted in anything Bosh has done differently. There was one big difference between 2011 Bosh and 2012 Bosh -- one played on a team with LeBron James playing up to his potential, and the other didn't. That's about it. In the 2011 playoffs, Chris Bosh averaged 19-9-1 in around 40 minutes a game. In the 2012 playoffs, Chris Bosh averaged 14-8-1 in about 32 minutes a game. His rebounding rate was a slight bit higher in 2012, and his field goal percentage was a bit higher as well. Perhaps he passed a little more willingly. The Heat were slightly better in the playoffs defensively in 2012 than they were in 2011, and Bosh played a role in that as well, but I thought he did a remarkably decent job on defense in 2011 given his lacking credentials on that end from his Toronto tenure. I'm not sure the gap between the two years defensively is as vast as most people assess. You could chalk it up to his absence in the 2012 playoffs showing his value, but I think that's actually kind of absurd -- the Heat went 5-4 without Bosh in the 2012 playoffs, not 0-943. And beyond a single blowout loss to the Pacers, there wasn't a single other embarrassing loss in that span. The Heat weren't as good without Bosh, but they weren't some hapless hobo puppy either.
The point I'm generally trying to make is that many conflate the results of Bosh's unit with the performance of Bosh himself. Bosh is important to the Heat, don't get me wrong -- he's their only good big man, and even in the modern league's lessened emphasis on strong frontcourts, that's still a ridiculously important thing. But this sudden surge of Bosh appreciation, and this sudden desire to express a whole scale reversal of Bosh's previous reputation befuddles me. Bosh is a really good player, and he's always been one. The Heat lost last year as a result of what everyone on the team did, and they won this year as a result of what everyone on the team did. Some players played better (namely LeBron, Chalmers, and the supporting bananas), some players played worse (namely Wade), and some players played virtually the exact same (Bosh). To go from assessing Bosh to be a nigh-worthless Flintstones-era diva to some kind of incredible all-NBA talent based on the contributions of others simply seems like a hilarious flip, to me. I understand it, mind you -- I'm guilty of the same thing, for various players and coaches alike. Just not for Bosh, I suppose.
Follow Sebastian Telfair on Twitter at @BassyS31T.
Do you remember? Do you remember when Sebastian Telfair was young, and he had all the promise the world could offer? I do. Only vaguely, though. I didn't follow basketball nearly as much when I was a teenager, as I was when Telfair was a prospect. But I do remember one thing -- he was hyped. Telfair wasn't just another old preps-to-pros players, he was a revolution for the point guard position. In Telfair, you had the first ever true point guard drafted straight out of high school. Generally, teams considered point guard the position that needed the most development -- you needed to let a point guard evolve and forge within flames of college ball. You had to let him see multiple coaches, multiple styles, multiple casts. A point guard developed a certain language with every coach they played under, and the NBA saw them as translators. You couldn't have a translator that had only learned a single language, and you couldn't have a point guard that hadn't learned to play with multiple coaches. It just wasn't done.
Until Telfair, that is. He changed all that. Him and Livingston, that year. The first two ever. And he was set to take the NBA by storm, too -- just look at this 2004 Sports Illustrated profile. When Kyrie Irving chose to abdicate the NCAA after his maiden season, there were few who really thought it strange or unreasonable to make the jump so early. It was through the efforts of Telfair, Jennings, Wall and the like that the practice has become commonplace. But Telfair was the first, and in terms of how he was viewed before he made the leap, perhaps the most highly rated. Just about everyone seemed to think the question with Telfair wasn't how good he could be, but how good he would be. Sure, he was a little undersized. Sure, he couldn't really... er... shoot. But these concerns were tertiary -- his passing vision was incredible, his floor sense was impeccable, and the thought held that he didn't really "need" the experience of adapting to different coaches. He was good enough to bypass that completely.
Now? Well... I don't like admitting this about players, but relative to expectations, it's hard to argue that Telfair has been anything beyond an unmitigated failure in the NBA. As I said, he's undersized -- at the time he entered the league, he weighed in at 165 pounds and a hair under 6'0". That's extremely small. And as I noted... his shooting is abhorrent. Any analysis of Telfair as a player has to start and end with his shooting, which completely undermines every positive aspect of his game. He doesn't even have a remotely passable three point shot, and he doesn't really have any particularly effective jumpers from any range. The problem with Bassy isn't that he can't get open, either -- despite his height, he has a killer half-step and an insane crossover dribble that regularly floors the competition. Telfair has little trouble getting himself open, when he's handling the ball. The problem comes in the fact that even as a wide-open shooter, Telfair simply isn't a very good one. His shooting motion has had a bad hitch since day one, he compulsively rushes his shots, and he tends to chuck the ball with even a modicum of open air. Which is bad, since (as I just said) his jumpshot is terribly broken.
As for defense? Passing? Rebounding? Not great, none of it. He's good at creating in the open floor, but when you force Telfair to mold a game plan around better players surrounding him on his team, he struggles mightily. And that's sort of the point, if you're a point guard that isn't the best player on the team. The question I've had for a while -- and it's strange to ask, but it's legitimate -- is how Telfair would look in a world where he actually was the best player on a team. I'm talking a busted Euroleague squad, a decent CBA team, a good Turkish League club -- how would Telfair look if you let him combine his relentless hustle with the ability to spend every possession creating in the open court and full license to chuck with abandon? I was thinking I'd probably get my chance to see that around the middle of last season, where he'd been absolutely awful for the Suns and looked to have his ticket punched to an undisclosed overseas location.
But then something rather amazing happened, as the good folk at Valley of the Sun described here. For the last quarter of the season, Telfair apparently forgot that his career has been a disappointment. He forgot that he'd spent an entire career playing like a 3rd string point guard with obvious, glaring faults. He forgot all of that, showed his trademark confidence, and played his game. And you know what? He was really friggin' good. The Suns picked him up for the 2013 season, and it looks like the hot streak combined with his hustle may keep Telfair from the murkier waters abroad for at least a season or two longer. You know what? Good for him. He'll make double the money and have a chance to rehabilitate his career, a touch, playing for a pretty bad team with a coach that cares about him regardless. That's a good situation. And while Telfair has been a failure in the NBA, he's keeping that flicker of hope alive. After all, he's only 27. He's got time. Right?
... alright, no, not really. We can't always get what we want, I suppose.
• • •
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. We returned to some element of normalcy yesterday, where someone got each player right but nobody got all of them right. Props to Brian for being the only one to get Harangody right, and props to basically everyone for getting 2/3 of them right.
- Time's running out. If Player #124 wants to beat DeJuan Blair at anything, it's time to start... you know... doing it.
- Never in NBA history has the PG helming the 25th best offense in the league gotten as much effusive praise as Player #125.
- Harden's beard will never have a thing on yours, Player #126. Even when you retire.
Sorry for the late post. Family emergencies and four hour drives take a lot out of you. See you tomorrow.