As our summer mainstay, Aaron was writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. As the summer dies down and the leaves turn, this quixotic quest of a series has happily reached the last third. But it's certainly not done yet! Today we continue with Anthony Randolph, Kyle Korver, and Lou Amundson.
Have you ever suffered through an intense period of unrequited love, fandom, or friendship? A long and pronounced period of irredeemable obsession that is simply never returned? Whether it be loving a person that doesn't love you back, adoring a sports team that refuses to do the right thing, or attempting to befriend a nice person who's having none of it... there is a certain asymmetry natural in all interpersonal relationships, but in certain relationships, it goes beyond the normal asymmetry and becomes absolutely absurd. Almost as though the other party is simply mocking you. While it's never quite this stark, it often ends up appearing as though the other party simply can't stand you. "You dare to invest your soul into me? Pfah! I spit on this! I spit on that! I refuse to engage in such revelry!" This is common in sports, occasional in love, and more-often-than-most-admit in friendship as people change and friendships fade. We are all aware of unrequited love, through some form or another, and usually some personal experience.
I described that for a reason. Anthony Randolph is, by all accounts, a decent person. He's worked hard to get to where he's at in the league, and while he's never been fantastic, he's been an OK player. But the appreciation his game and per-minute statistics inspire is hilariously inordinate and absurd. He's the white whale of many NBA analysts -- he's this mystical player whose per-minute production is befitting of love songs and sojourns but whose overall product is virtually always incredibly disappointing. A ridiculously large margin of Randolph's playing time comes from garbage time minutes, enough so to call into question his always absurd advanced statistics. Consider last season -- Randolph only began playing 30+ MPG once the year had reached the end, just as he had the year before. The Wolves lost every single one of those games, although Randolph showed (once again) the sparkling per-minute production that makes him so alluring. He's averaged 22-10-2-1-3 in the past 11 30+ minute games he's played in, over a total of three years. The last game Randolph played 30+ minutes for that his team actually won? 11/24/2009, in a game where the Warriors upset Dallas. Randolph had 9 points and 6 rebounds in 30 minutes, shooting 3 of 10 from the field. It's positively ridiculous. Every single one of his statistically brilliant 30+ minute games came in a loss, and in every game his team happened to win where he played that much, he was a tertiary factor at best.
There's obvious potential in Randolph's game. Don't get me wrong. If only he could make a few less mistakes on the defensive end. If only he could parlay his electric at-rim scoring into any sort of outside game. If only he could put less emphasis on showing off his own numbers and more on devoting to a team concept. Randolph has all these ridiculous talents -- electric finishing, a controlled dribble, more athleticism than anyone has the right to have. But he's never been able to transform these skills into a well he can tap with any sort of regularity. He's been a phenomenal asset to have in lopsided losses, able to show off against third-string players to his heart's content. But it's been three years now since any coach has attempted to make Randolph a key piece in their rotations. Many balk, and say that perhaps his coaches are simply making a mistake -- I have my doubts. If it was just one season of being passed over, I'd probably agree. But Randolph has found himself passed over for three years, and has contributed next to nothing in the interim despite his obviously incredible per-minute numbers. His current contract fits the bill for a reclamation project, which is absolutely absurd -- the man is still in his early 20s! But that's Randolph for you. Here's hoping he finally figures it out in Denver -- when Randolph's on, he's too electric NOT to hope for it, honestly.
While Kyle Korver isn't really the best in any aspect of the game, there's one aspect about him that -- in my eyes -- makes him inordinately valuable. This lies in his unconventionally high shot release, a rarely-discussed aspect of a shooter's game. Namely, the asset is speed -- his odd release gives him the most reliable quick release in the entire game. This is evident when you watch a lot of Korver threes over and over again, but to try and look at this from a non-Synergy angle, here's a tape of him canning five threes against the Miami Heat. To discuss each three individually...
- SHOT #1: Here you can start to see where the release really helps his game. He catches the ball on a curl, hoping to get free of Chalmers in transition. Despite running well and getting to his spot, he didn't. Chalmers was up on him the second it was obvious he'd receive the ball. But it didn't matter at all -- by the time Chalmers had a hand in Korver's face, the ball was already at Korver's high-arcing point of release and leaving his hand. Here, even though the defender stayed very close to Korver, he still made the shot -- had he a normal release, he probably would've shanked it.
- SHOT #2: This one's significantly more open. He runs free off a screen, catches, and takes his time. Of course, to Korver, "taking his time" is still faster than most shooters in the league, and he's able to have the ball completely in the air by the time Miller hustles around the screen.
- SHOT #3: This one demonstrates another of Korver's skills -- ridiculously great off-ball movement. He'd be insanely good in OKC, that way. Korver gets an open shot here entirely by running back and forth and confusing both defenders that were near him, conflating their assignments and making both of them think he's covered by the other guy. The defenders don't even try to challenge him when he rises for the shot -- for good reason, as it would've been impossible for either to have really altered the shot at all for someone with his release.
- SHOT #4: The fourth three is a bit of a longer shot, but it also demonstrates just how valuable that split second can be. By stepping back behind the arc just one or two feet, Korver puts a slight delay in Miller's ability to get back on him, even though Miller knew exactly what Korver was doing and was sprinting towards him even as he caught the ball. It's the slow and steady grind of accumulating minor advantages -- the speed of his shot combined with the delay of those last few feet combined to make what would've been a highly guarded three into a wide open long shot for a hot shooter.
- SHOT #5: At this point, Korver's playing the role of a tiger, fooling around with his food and picking away at the entrails. He's well behind the arc, well guarded, and it looks like he's got little chance of getting any airspace. But this situation is precisely where his shot release really comes into play. By the time his defender realizes he's shooting and goes to raise the arm, Korver's motion is already almost done. By the time the defender has fully obscured Korver's vision, the shot is released, and the defender has nothing to do but helplessly watch it sink. Having a release that quick means the defender needs to always be ready for the shot -- arms up, in his grill, and ready to contest. Because if not, Korver can just do this and make the defender look like an absolute schlub.
As you may have surmised, I quite like Korver. He's not the most phenomenal player in the world, of course -- he has absolutely no at-rim game to speak of, and last season, he took the "shooting specialist" title hilariously literally. Kyle Korver took less than 10% of last year's shots from within 15 feet, taking 66% of his shots from 3-point range and 25% of his shots from 15-23 feet. If the defense can force him to move inside (rare, due to his stroke, but bear with me) Korver becomes next to useless. He does have a few nice talents, though. His assist to turnover ratio is exceedingly high, which is great -- he doesn't tend to lose the ball and he's good at catching the open man if he does chance to be inside the range where he doesn't excel. Defensively, Korver's no stopper, but he's not chopped liver -- he doesn't have a particularly broad set of skills but what he does he does well. Quick hands, a lot of effort, and a knack for staying with his man off-ball that matches his knack for losing his defender when he moves off the ball on offense. I don't know how great he'll be with the Hawks -- if there's even the slightest decline in the efficacy of his release, at his age, he's going to find it hard to compensate. But Korver's an increasingly useful asset in a league that's become extremely reliant on producing the best three pointers possible, and a career 41% three point shooter with Korver's shooting fundamentals is exactly what almost every team would want.
Follow Lou Amundson by hustling every day.
I'm not Lou Amundson's biggest fan, but I can't deny that the man works his heart out and deserves just about everyone's respect. Amundson is one of the NBA's key undrafted talents -- he was passed over in the 2006 draft, and despite a few opportunities abroad, decided to try and hack it in the D-League to open up some NBA doors. He excelled defensively in the D-League as a hustle grit-n-grind type, and eventually, he was called up from the Colorado 14ers. He didn't play for his first team (Sacramento) but he got a series of 10-day contracts with Utah. Those didn't lead to much, but as soon as he got done in Utah, the Sixers called him up and signed him for the rest of the season and the next year. He followed that up with a trip to Phoenix, where Amundson really blossomed -- after playing 154 minutes in his first two years in the league, Amundson played 2212 minutes in two years with the Suns, proving to be every bit the energy backup the Suns needed to contend in 2010. He wasn't a major player, but he was an important one -- there's a distinction between the two with rag-tag groups like that 2010 Suns team, and Amundson's pet combination of relentless energy, obscene rebounding, and solid at-rim finishing combined to make those two years an incredibly effective one for old Lou.
Since then, he's been a bit less effective. Last year in particular was disappointing -- it's one thing to be disappointing on a Warriors team that wasn't really counting on him for much, but last year's Pacers had enough semi-decent players that Amundson's waning production became a problem -- after a decent spell in the wake of Jeff Foster's retirement, by the end of the year Amundson was down to well under a quarter of playing time a night. One of his biggest issues is that he's simply not very effective offensively from any range anymore -- he shot just 53% at the rim last year, which was one of the worst marks by a center in the entire league. He also shot well under 30% from all other ranges, which... is not very good. His rebounding rate was slightly above average, and his steal/block rates were high. But unless Amundson can recapture some of the offensive talents he displayed during his vital Phoenix tenure, he's going to have a lot of trouble staying in the league more than a year or two longer. That includes a decrease in his sky-high turnover rate -- the season's quite young, obviously, but Amundson has turned the ball over on 44% of all possessions he's handled it so far, which is patently absurd.
Still. At least when he leaves the NBA he'll still have his oil paintings! ... No, really. He will. Lou Amundson does oil painting and plays the guitar. This is a real thing. If I ever get the chance to interview him, I'm going to ask him about that. I honestly want to see his work -- I feel like it'd be interesting to see what he paints about, especially knowing what players like Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith, and Lance Thomas paint about. Also, outside of the NBA, Amundson is working on a second degree in finance. So that he can better manage his money after he leaves the NBA. Yep. A lot of fans think hustle players have to be dumb. And a lot of fans are very, very wrong.
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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. Nobody quite figured the Kyle Korver riddle, but one guy got Lou and A-Rad. Good show, @MillerNBA.
- Player #271 started in 57 of 63 games last year. He was a rookie. He's got a shot to be something really good, even if he didn't get much fanfare for his troubles last season.
- Player #272 started a single game last year, and he should've started a lot more. His coach seems to hate him, inexplicably. He draws more charges than most players and posted solid efficiency numbers on high usage when he was on the court. Very good on the offensive glass, too.
- Player #273 is retired. It was an unexpected retirement after a relatively solid season for him, but he's getting up there in the years and
Barring traumatic events, I should be good to have 6 sets up this week. We'll see. Join us later today for Alex Arnon's second installment of his recurring Small Market Mondays feature.
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