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 Jared Dudley, Dwight Howard, and Ryan Anderson.
Follow Jared Dudley on Twitter at @JaredDudley619.
Jared Dudley is a good example of a big overachiever in the NBA. It's a well-known fact that Dudley's athleticism is lacking -- at the beginning of last season, his teammates jokingly put the over/under of Dudley's in-game dunks during the 2012 season at two dunks. Not one, not three, not four, not five ... two dunks. As this interview notes, he definitely got to two. Hilariously so, in fact. As luck would have it, Dudley converted a total of three dunks in the 2012 season, crushing expectations and basically winning his own personal Larry O'Brien trophy. No, but really. If Steve Nash wins a ring this year, I think Jared Dudley should get a copy of it for his 2012 dunk achievements. I'm not being facetious. Get it done, Steve. Seriously, though -- his athleticism is insanely lacking, and the fact that he's managed to be an effective NBA player (on teams that have primarily been fast-paced, even!) is phenomenal, and a credit to Dudley's awesome work ethic. He was one of the most efficient offensive players in the entire NBA last year, despite his only having three dunks! That's pretty phenomenal, and it's a testament to his excellent work ethic.
One of the useful things about Dudley as a player that doesn't get mentioned much is how little he takes off the table. It's one of those things most people ignore when assessing shooting guards, but with a player like Dudley, it's essential to putting him in proper context that you take some time to think about that. He's customarily had one of the most efficient shot-selection charts in all of basketball, with around two-thirds of his shots coming at the rim or from three. That includes 75 corner threes, arguably the best shot in basketball -- he scored 87 points on those 75 shots. He's a strong finisher at the rim (without having an ability to dunk, as I said), and he's got a solid (if not exceptional) free throw stroke. His defense isn't best in the league or anything close, but it's not bad at all -- he's got limits athletically (though his losing weight under the tutelage of Steve Nash has really helped that), but he plays hard and smart on the defensive end, having a particular talent at going for steals without getting too far out of position. There's very little that Dudley does actively poorly -- eventually, if you do everything at an average or barely-sub-average level, you're going to be a solid NBA player. That's about where Dudley stands.
He's also a very nice guy. As I said in the riddle yesterday, a friend of mine once met him in Sky Harbor airport. Apparently he was really kind to her, and while my friend (not a huge Suns fan) couldn't name Dudley for the life of her, he gave her some courtside tickets to a random game simply because she recognized he was a Suns player. Supremely nice. Dudley is known by most fans for his generally positive working relationship with Bill Simmons, his love for media, and an effusive personality that makes almost anyone who watches his interviews like him a lot. See this interview for an example. Jared Dudley: fat kid at heart, who's just so happened to take residence in all of ours. No, he's not an amazing player -- his shot creation is relatively limited and he really does need to be set up in his key spots to be valuable. And while he's good at smart contests, at some point his lack of raw athletic talent comes back to bite him. But he hustles, he's efficient, and he works as hard as anyone else in the game. There isn't all that much to dislike in the game or demeanor of Jared Dudley. Very solid.
Follow Dwight Howard on Twitter at @DwightHoward.
Oh, lord. Today's Player Capsule (Plus) features a player I was hoping I wouldn't have to write about for a while. Not after the ridiculous season he's had, where he sunk to new depths of distasteful disregard for his fans and franchise. Did Dwight owe the Magic anything? Perhaps not, but he certainly didn't need to do the things he did. He didn't need to conduct himself the way he did, or make himself out to be the person he has. In today's feature, I examine Dwight from a more pop-culture based sphere than my usual sources for these extended capsules, going into an extensive documentation of Harvey Dent's heel turn in The Dark Knight and discussing how, exactly, Dwight's actions have disturbed me and made me question my entire feelings about his career to-date. Here's an excerpt.
Dwight Howard's transformation from a lovable happy-go-lucky superstar into a capricious jerk came virtually out of nowhere. There were a few indications that Dwight wasn't exactly as he appeared -- the multiple children-out-of-wedlock he refuses to accept are his, the stories of him exposing himself to a porn star while the porn star was on a date, the internal indications that Dwight wanted more power in the Magic organization. But did anyone really see anything like this coming? Who, one year ago, would've guessed that Dwight Howard would have effectively alienated every single Magic fan on the face of the earth and turned himself into enemy #1 in the NBA? Dwight Howard, that lovable scamp with the penchant for children's music and childish jokes? Really? A villain?
Well, yeah. He's re-contextualized his entire career in one particularly low year. I don't need to belabor the point -- we all were there, and we all know what he's done. He pushed out one of the best coaches in the league in a pressure-heavy attempt to force change, he rehabbed and partied in Los Angeles while his team fell meekly in the playoffs (couldn't have flown out to Orlando to at least attend a game?), he obliterated every vestige of bargaining power the Orlando Magic had, and in the end he was rewarded for all his transgressions with the opportunity of a lifetime. A fulfillment of every dream. He accomplished this all in an unbelievably callous, cruel, and dithering fashion. He lied or misrepresented the truth at every stage. He alienated teammates (including a locker room fight with a player who was -- not more than two years ago -- one of his best friends), crushed the hearts of Magic fans, and burned every bridge he could find. He utterly bailed on a basketball camp for disadvantaged children, for God's sake. Even LeBron never brought the children into it.
And where did this come from, exactly? Straight out of nowhere.
Follow Ryan Anderson on Twitter at @ryananderson33.
I think most fans have a lot of misconceptions about his game. He's seen (as most tall white shooters are) as a gigantic sieve on defense with no capabilities on that end, completely lacking even the most cursory of defensive talents. Might as well not be there. On offense, he's seen as nothing more than a spot-up shooter, with no real moves or shot-creation of his own. When the Magic let him go, and offered him up for the Hornets to sign him at a relatively minuscule deal, most people shrugged and figured it was fine. After all, Anderson wasn't the future, so it's not that big of a deal, right? No defense, minor offense, et cetera. Or so they say. There are a few problems with this. Ryan Anderson wasn't just "decent" at the things he was good at. He was ridiculously incredible at them. Anderson made more three pointers than any other player in the league last season. He took almost 7 per game, and somehow still managed to shoot a hair under 40% on them. Insane efficiency combined with insane volume. Absolutely ridiculous.
On defense, I'm not going to pretend he's good -- he isn't. He's slow-footed, and he doesn't yet have a great sense of when to commit and when to help. It's a bit of a problem, from the power forward position, because it relies on the center to really shut things down defensively. (Just a note, though -- if Monty can successfully put him at the wing, that problem will cease to be quite as harmful. One poor wing defender is way less harmful to a team's overall defensive structure than a power forward with defensive troubles. ) He's not horribly ineffective -- he can block reasonably well, and he pesters the post decently as long as you aren't putting him against someone with serious inches and weight on him. The big thing, though? His rebounding is incredible. On both ends of the floor. Offensively, due to his primarily operating beyond the arc, you'd expect his game to be lacking -- it isn't, and he posted one of the highest offensive rebound rates in the game last season (which led to lots of easy layups for Anderson -- something he can convert with relative ease because he's actually very good at layups). His defensive rebounding is slightly below expectations, but that's somewhat to be expected. He played next to Dwight Howard, after all, and given his lacking athleticism he was prone to tipping out defensive rebounds to ensure a Magic player corralled them. But his rebounding was very solid, all things considered.
Hell, Anderson had a PER above 21 -- that's top 30 in the league! He's ridiculous. I'm all for looking deeper into the statistics. That PER doesn't mean he's one of the 30 best players in the league, no. But at some point you need to call a spade a spade. Ryan Anderson is a downright excellent rebounding talent, one of the better three point shooters in the game, and quietly excellent on the offensive glass. He isn't simply some Jodie Meeks style spot-up three point shooter. Tom Haberstroh once wrote a controversial article calling out the similarities between Anderson's game and Dirk Nowitzki (then the reigning Finals MVP). You know what? He had a lot of good points. Anderson's defense is problematic, and he's not going to be a player like Dirk. But combining his efficiency, quiet rebounding talent, and general skillset you have a player with a heck of a lot of talent that most people are completely asleep on. His current contract -- $8 million a year -- is patently reasonable for a player that's proved to have the skills he's had, and while his playoff runs have (up to now) been incomprehensibly poor given his talent, the sample size is so small it's hard to build a compelling case that the runs describe his game better than his excellent regular season performance.
I'm very excited to see how Monty leverages Anderson's talent in New Orleans -- they're essentially one solid point guard away from having the upside of a top-4 seed. And, to be totally honest with you, I'm very disappointed in the Orlando front office for losing faith in the wonderful young player they've developed. An Anderson-Afflalo core could've been the first step forward towards the next contending Magic team. And if the price is as low as $8 million a year, why balk? I just don't get it. Perhaps that's just me, though. I like Anderson, even though his defense concerns me -- if he can swing to playing as a large wing, a la Danny Granger, I think he has the upside potential of a 3 to 4 time all-star. A Rashard Lewis type. And people like to forget this, because of his current state, but Rashard Lewis could play. Anderson can too, even though seemingly nobody believe in him. So, at least from one scribe, here's hoping he proves the doubters silly at the hive next season.
• • •
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.
- A defensive ace, Player #145's offense leaves about as much to be desired as it possibly could. Should make a decent Laker, tho.
- Player #146 went to college with me. Literally. I never had a class with him, but girls in my freshman dorm loved him.
- Gonna spend this whole capsule talking about the Wilcoxon signed-rank test and none of you LeFoolios can stop me. (I probably won't do this.)
This has been an incredibly busy week at work, somehow. Really can't wait for the weekend at this point. Keep on keepin' on.