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Friday, January 20, 2012

Castaways and Cutouts

Call them underutilized, or ignored, or shunned. Just don't call them bad. Every so often a team will have a player who is playing spectacularly, yet remains underused. I decided to examine some of these players. I began this exercise by looking at two metrics, PER and usage rate. I looked for players who had good efficiency ratings (17 or higher), yet usage rates under 20. This means that this player is essentially playing near All-Star level, but still sees less than one out of five of the possessions on the floor. For the purposes of this article, I only used players who have played in 10 or more games and average 15 minutes or more. Sorry Mike Miller (and his 150 TS%!!!).

Samuel Dalembert- C Houston Rockets
The Rockets came within a David Stern folly of landing Pau Gasol and from the moment Stern balked the narrative was that Houston needed a big man. They got Dalembert in the offseason seemingly as a stopgap until Daryl Morey could come up with something better. Well, all Dalembert has done is sport a 21.14 PER with a career high in true shooting percentage. Despite this, he only sees 14.78 percent of the possessions. Now, you might be concerned that Dalembert needs scoring chances served to him on a silver platter to get points. Not so, as his percentage of baskets assisted in a career low at 55.1 percent. Add in his 77.5 percent shooting at the rim and Houston might want to look to get Haitian Sensation a few more looks.

Spencer Hawes- C Philadelphia 76ers
Much has been made about Hawes' torrid start. Yet he still remains underutilized. He has a 20.87 PER, easily All-Star quality, with a usage rate just a hair over 17. Hawes' value is in spreading the floor. He is a decent 3-point threat, but is canning 57 percent of his shots from 16-23 feet. That is deadly from a 7-footer (in case you're wondering, Dirk is at 53 percent). Hawes does require 77.2 percent of his shots to be assisted, but the Sixers have the point guards for that. Plus, Hawes gives it back with the 2nd best assist rate among centers.

Marc Gasol- C Memphis Grizzlies
Note to head coaches: if you have a center, use him. Gasol has a PER of 19.55, a little less than the guys listed above, but he draws about 5 free throw attempts per game, and at 68.2 percent from the line, it is certainly a benefit. Gasol has a fairly high assist rate for a center at 20.1 and only has had 58.9 percent of his baskets assisted this year meaning that he can find shots on his own.

Andre Iguodala- SF Philadelphia 76ers
Iggy was on the border due to some red flags in his game, but is still playing really well despite seeing less use than Elton Brand, Jrue Holiday, and Evan Turner who have been worse. Iguodala's best qualities are that he doesn't need to be assisted (just 48.6 percent of his buckets are) and that he has a 28.54 assist rate, which is 2nd among small forwards and better than his starting point guard. The problem is that one-third of those assists are made from 16 feet or further. It's a precarious situation if you're relying on guys to keep hitting long 2's. Iguodala himself is probably guilty of taking too many long jumpers as 68% of his field goal attempts come from 16 feet out or further. Yet, his TS% is 11th among small forwards and as long as he's making and creating shots, he probably should get the ball a little more.

Jose Calderon- PG Toronto Raptors
This is one is baffling. Calderon has a 17.86 PER and only uses 15.92 percent of the possessions. His true shooting percentage is tied for fourth among point guards and he gets more than two-thirds of his shots without an assist from a teammate. Not to mention he is creating a ton of shots. His assist rate is 3rd among all point guards (only back-ups Earl Watson and Chris Duhon are better) and his assist to turnover ratio leads the league by a lot. Almost 75 percent of his possessions end in assists while less than 15 percent lead to a turnover. That is pretty insane considering all the possessions that go to the less effective Jerryd Bayless and Leandro Barbosa. When he's not setting up shots, he's knocking them down. He shoots 86.7 percent at the rim, 66.7 from 3-9 feet, and 62.5 from 10-15 feet. He's also a decent 3-point shooter though his current 33 percent is down from his career 38 percent. I guess what I'm saying is that Ricky Rubio isn't the only awesome Spanish point guard, yet Calderon is trapped in the anonymity of the Air Canada Centre.

Andris Biedrins- C Golden State Warriors
This one is a pet project because I like Biedrins, but this Latvian can play. His PER is 17.06 and his usage rate is, get ready, 8.9! Now Biedrins isn't a shot creator and won't shoot the ball if he isn't within 5 feet, but when he is close and shoots, the ball is going in. His 69.3 TS% is 2nd among all centers while his 81 percent at the rim leads the position. He won't give it away either as his turnover rate is 6th best among centers. Now, there is the ugly stat that he's drawn 4 free throw attempts this season and connected on none of them. Yeah, zero. And his career 50.8 percent from the line means he'll avoid contact, but the Warriors have a nearly automatic option if they can find a way to get it to him. I suggest Mark Jackson figure that out.

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