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 Lester Hudson, Jimmer Fredette, and Marco Belinelli.
The issue with Lester Hudson's game is, in my view, a personally warped perception of what he's actually good at. Seriously. I don't think there's a single scoring guard in the league with a more ridiculous shooting chart than that of Hudson -- strange decisions all around. Consider his time in Cleveland, which is by far the high point to his NBA career thus far. In those 13 games, Hudson converted a patently absurd 72% of his shots at the rim. That was the sixth best mark in the league among 20+ MPG guards. What's about as good is his close-in post-up game, where he had a few crafty moves to convert from close-but-not-too-close -- Hudson was well above his position average from 3-9 feet, with a solid 39% FG% from that range. So, you'd think he'd try to leverage that by taking a few more shots there, right? Try and get closer in? Run offensive sets to get closer to the basket? ... Nope! What a ridiculous notion! Hudson chose instead to backload his shots, which is insanely absurd when you actually take some time to examine his conversion percentages from that range. He took 64% of his field goals from behind 10 feet, shooting a positively blistering 27% on those shots. That's not a typo. He barely made 1 of 4! Yeesh.
This isn't to say he was an awful player with the Cavs, in his much ballyhooed rise to semi-prominence. In fact, Hudson's decent play did a relatively good job covering up one of the most incredible collapses of a team's defense I've ever seen -- while the second-half-of-the-season Cavs were absolutely rudderless on defense, most people don't quite understand how bad they were. I entreat you to take a look at how the Cavs defense performed with Hudson on the bench in his 13-game stint (second table on the page). Not only did Hudson's play drastically improve the Cavaliers' offense in the absence of Kyrie Irving, with Hudson on the floor, Cavaliers players actually seemed to give half a damn on defense again (with the singular exception of Antawn Jamison, who was still... well... Antawn Jamison) . They made some rotations, and Hudson's general energy and hustle helped lead the team into the promised land of "only being a bottom-10-of-the-season" defense rather than a "bottom-10-of-the-century" defense. Truly a hard-fought victory for Hudson fans. He did do a good job from that respect, though, and while he's a bad individual defender he does seem to have a semi-inspirational impact on teammates. So that's something.
Then there's Hudsanity (Ed. Note: Nevermind, sources say it was technically #LESTERIA), where you start to get into the funny, the awkward, and the silly. The idea behind Hudsanity was simple enough, I think. Try and capture in a bottle the same sort of magic that New York had with Linsanity, as a way to help cope with the fact that the Cleveland Cavaliers went from a fringe playoff team to a busted mess as soon as they realized Varejao was out for the season and Kyrie would be out for a while too. Simple problem, though. Hudson wasn't nearly as good, and although the front office was happy to profit off of and utilize the localized meme to their advantage, they clearly didn't have the same investment in Hudson's success as most Cavs fans did. Leading to one of the most hilariously awkward moments I've ever seen for a fanbase -- Cleveland fans having to uncomfortably stop the adulation after the front office completely unexpectedly refused to re-up Hudson on an end-of-the-season contract. One day, Cavs fans were writing long scribes about Hudson's potential as a change-of-pace bench point guard and the Cavaliers' bench mob leader of the future. The next day, they were chuckling uncomfortably as the Grizzlies signed him and wondering why the hell the front office didn't let him finish the string with the Cavs. How do you even respond to that, as a fan? No, Hudson isn't phenomenal, but he has a unique set of skills and (with the right training on how to use those skills) I could definitely see him as an end-of-rotation guy on a decent team. The decision not to re-up him doesn't actually matter in the macro level, or the aggregate -- he's a 28 year old whose lifetime NBA earnings probably won't surpass $1,000,000, with a questionable NBA-level skillset and a genuinely poor utilization of that skillset. But it was still a memorably awkward situation for Cleveland fans, and I know I'm not likely to forget it any time soon.
Had I written this a year ago, I imagine a lot of people would've balked at the thought. Now, not so much. But I'm pretty sure Jimmer Fredette was the single most overhyped player in the last draft class. Fredette was bandied about as a game-changing shooting talent, whose unconscious stroke would make him an incredibly valuable piece going forward for the Kings. Needed to work the defense a bit, but a genuinely talented shooter who would finally give Tyreke Evans the shooters he needed to return to his rookie form. The great white hope. In hindsight? That expectation wasn't really fair to Fredette in the slightest, who absolutely was not in NBA shape when he first entered the league. Part of Fredette's problem his freshman season was conditioning -- at no point his rookie year did he really look the part of an NBA-fit player, and if you couldn't always tell on offense, you could virtually never miss it on defense. His defense was never going to be great, but most people didn't expect him to be THAT bad -- he simply couldn't stay with a soul or solve a rotation to save his life. It was tough, especially combined with his anemic rebounding and poor gambles. Fredette became, to some degree, a player whose minutes your defense had to survive -- which is fundamentally different than a player who's simply bad at defense, as he was actively forcing others to help to cover up his incredibly flawed defensive presence. Rough stuff, even given the rookie caveat.
On offense, he had a serious case of the sticky fingers. Never on a functioning NBA team should a player shooting a TS% below 50% on a team with ANY better offensive options be averaging a usage percentage above 20%. That's absurd. I realize it's probably a holdover from his BYU days, where Fredette shot the ball once every two minutes. And he had some offensive skills -- he was above average behind the three point line (despite NBA defenders being far more up in his grill than college defenders), on the longest two, and right at the rim. (Although it's worth noting that due to his lacking athleticism, he was barely able to get to the rim once a night). At some point, though, you need to make peace with what you are on an NBA level, and specifically make peace with the idea that you aren't what you were on a college level. I didn't really get the sense that Fredette did that. He still obviously has a few years to get to that realization, but he really hasn't quite yet. His passing was also rather depressing -- while he had a few nice connections (he was good at setting up Jason Thompson and Marcus Thornton, for two), in the aggregate his passing never struck me as reflective of any potential as a true NBA point guard, and his turnovers seemed rooted more in his lacking physical talent than in a surfeit of creativity. He put up an assist percentage of 15%, slightly above that of Kevin Martin's last season and slightly below that of Derek Fisher. He had almost the exact same percentage as Gary Neal, who I consistently argue is nowhere close to a backup point guard in the NBA. Both can make the occasional nice pass, both have some solid connections they default to, but in the whole picture they don't really have strong passing instincts and are score-first shooting guards at their core.
Unfortunately for Fredette, barring a full-time move to the large wing for Tyreke Evans (and perhaps even if that happens), minutes are going to be tight in Sacramento. Given his stellar rookie year, you have to imagine Isaiah should be good for 30+ minutes a night from day one. Same with Marcus Thornton. Aaron Brooks, if he's back to form after a stellar year in the CBA, will be taking up anywhere from 25-30 minutes a contest, and Tyreke should be able to fill the gaps quite nicely when he's not taking time at the SF spot. Which leaves Fredette with... 5 minutes a night? 10 on a good day? Yikes. Before the Brooks signing, it looked like he was in a position where he'd get 20 or so minutes a contest and a chance to really show if a summer of athletic training and shooting-coach visits couldn't improve his perceived ceiling a tad. Now, it just looks like the Kings have painted themselves into something of a corner. Fredette will get minutes, but only if one of the Kings' other pieces gets badly injured. His fans will continue to assert that he'd be great if they just gave him the minutes, his detractors will continue to note that he doesn't have NBA-caliber athleticism (even if Fredette could potentially pull a J.J. Redick and work himself into prime NBA shape with a brutal workout regimen), and the fence-sitters like me will wonder aimlessly whether Fredette's current tepid play is a general indicator that draft evaluators still have a long way to go before they weed out the Fredette-ish flash-in-the-pan types from lottery consideration.
He still has a chance to be a decent player, certainly -- the kid is halfway to 24, not halfway to 28. But given his old-ish age for a rookie and the general habits he's picked up, molding Jimmer into an NBA-level player with a clear understanding of his role on a good team won't be easy. Best of luck to the Kings -- they're going to need it. As for the off-court stuff.. for what seems like the 100th time, take some time to read our contributing writer Alex Arnon's encounter with Jimmer's wife. It's always -- ALWAYS -- worth a re-read.
Reading John Hollinger's player profiles is often a treat, and one of my favorite things to read about is his assessment of marginal NBA players. You can kind of expect the LeBron profile is going to be incredibly positive, and you roughly know what you're getting with the prominent highlight players in the league. With the marginal players, though, you can learn a few things you didn't necessarily know about the little guys, or little statistical oddities you didn't quite realize were there. There's a catch, though. Now that I'm doing this capsule series, where I'm basically writing a 700-1000 word essay on each player in the league, I've done enough scouting to notice a lot of these things myself. Which can occasionally make me sad when I read a Hollinger profile and read something that was going to be the entire basic theme of an upcoming capsule. Gosh, John. Get out of my head!
No, but really. Hollinger's profile on Marco Belinelli called to light the same exact trend I was planning on covering in the guy's capsule -- that is, the idea that Marco has become one of the most predictable per-minute players in the entire league. You know virtually exactly what you're going to get, to the letter. Marco Belinelli will give you:
- An effective field goal percent within three percentage points of 50% -- erring above 50% with a good PG, below 50% without.
- Five or six three point heaves per 36 minutes played, with a little over two makes a night.
- A minuscule turnover rate to go with a bare minimum assist rate and some of the worst guard rebounding in the NBA.
- Complete and utter disinterest on the defensive end to the point of being actively harmful.
- An awful and patchy beard that sometimes includes a mustache but usually just looks like overgrown peach fuzz.
That's Marco for you. He's incredibly predictable at this point, and a fringe NBA player solely for the fact that he can make a few threes and he has a name most people recognize. Important, important stuff. And this is really one of Chicago's big free agency acquisitions? I hate to make every single Bulls capsule an indictment on the management, but I can't really help it -- what the hell is Reinsdorf doing? If he wants to take the plunge and field a bad team while Rose is out, and he wants to be cheap (as the refusal to take the Asik deal indicates), he might as well make connections with some D-League teams. Just let the Bulls run through 10-day D-League contracts on a season-long talent search for players who could actually make waves with Rose in the fold. Instead, they just seem to be signing a bunch of crusty vets. That gives this Bulls team the "upside" of having wasted money on poor veterans who hurt the Bulls' win total and get them slightly better draft position while simultaneously taking up roster space with refuse that have no chance of being better pieces when Rose gets back to form. Combined with the "downside" that the vets actually make the team slightly better and put the team in draft purgatory, with no chance at a high lottery pick but simultaneously no chance at making waves in the playoffs.
If you don't want to spend money, then, well, don't. Use D-League talent and actually roll the dice on players who have the outside potential of being solid supporting pieces when Rose returns to the fold. Find undrafted rookies, European guys, et cetera. I just don't understand the strategy here. Snagging low-variance veterans who have displayed little outside potential on semi-low value contracts makes a lot of sense if you're looking at a juggernaut of a 60 game winner that needs to shore up a few minor things for the Eastern Conference Finals versus the Heat. Not so much if you're looking at a middling-tier season with a recovering Derrick Rose. If you're thinking for the future, you'd have kept Asik to keep the defensive core intact. If you're thinking to tank, there are better ways to do it. I just don't get it, and honestly, I feel immensely for Bulls fans who have to deal with this sort of rudderless frittering. Chicago fans are immensely loyal even when their team is remarkably bad, evinced through their league-leading attendance figures through the Bulls' dark post-Jordan epoch. They deserve better than rearranging deck chairs on a doomed team with low-upside vets and no broader plan. Come on, Reinsdorf. Get it together.
• • •
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. I was pretty lax on the Friday riddles last week, as everybody got 3/3 on them. That includes: Free_Zero20, Jeffrey, J, Luke, Chilai, and Sam. Whew. Let's see if I can't make these harder next time.
- Player #175's single hilarious dance move in this year's playoffs was funny. Completely overshadowed his play, which is actually a good thing for him, because he's awful.
- An article featuring Player #176 received one of the highest-traffic links in this site's history. It was a Proboards forum. I still don't get it. Will be a Player Capsule (Plus).
- One of the better defensive centers out there, this guy. Which is good, because even though Player #177 can technically run the floor, beyond passing, you seriously don't want him doing too much on the offensive end.
Two short notices: first, I spent about an hour this week adding a stylesheet to the comments. If you refresh the page, you should see a more-stylized comments page than before. Given that we're getting 10-20 comments a post now, I figured it'd be worth my time to make them better from a standpoint of not reading floating white text with poorly produced list statements. Second, going forward, I'm going to try and link every player's name in his "Follow ____ on Twitter" blurb to their basketball-reference page, in case you'd like to look at their stats while you're reading the capsule. Hope that's helpful to some people.
Until next time, then.