The NBA is a superstar league, we all know it. NBA teams need their cream of the crop to rise to the top. It’s early, sure, of course it is. However, a lot of the NBA’s top dogs just aren’t producing at the moment. Whether it’s the home grown, grass fed, 100% organic draft product, let’s say Klay Thompson. Or the highly coveted incredibly expensive free agent acquisition, yes I’m looking at you LaMarcus Aldridge. There are a startling number of slow starters this season.
So who is a late bloomer and who is worse for the wear?
Bravely or stupidly I’ll take a look at a few slow start candidates and attempt to predict whether this is a slump or long-term trend.
All stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com as of November 7, 2015.
There were two trains of thought with Aldridge heading to San Antonio. The first, “Aldridge will get better looks in the Spurs system, shoot higher percentages, and be a MVP candidate.” The second, “Aldridge’s personal numbers will suffer mightily as he struggles to play this new brand of team basketball.” So far the second concept seems to hold true. Aldridge has struggled mightily to find his place in the Spurs offense, in fact he’s struggling period.
I thought that Pop would force Aldridge to take better shots but to this point he hasn’t. Aldridge still takes the majority of his shots in the 16 feet to just inside the 3-point line area. He took that shot 37% of the time in Portland last year and he has only dialled it back to 36% in San Antonio.
All shotcharts via vorped.com
Notice how much prettier the chart gets in the paint? The 3-point shot has value, but Aldridge isn’t taking the deep shots with the extra-risk / extra-reward factor. He’s instead taking a high percentage of low percentage shots. He isn’t helping the Spurs shooting those, he isn’t helping his fantasy owners, and he isn’t helping his own numbers.
This can’t continue, I don’t believe Pop let’s this slide forever. I envision Grandpa Duncan showing him how the backboard works in the very new future. Aldridge is a volume scorer, I don’t foresee him being in the MVP race, nor do I predict a huge turnaround landing him as one of the league’s elite offensive players. However, this won’t continue. He’s playing well below potential and the environment in San Antonio has never let anyone play well below potential for an entire season.
Thompson has been bad, I don’t think anyone foresaw Steph Curry getting this much hotter, but still… That being said, Thompson has really struggled to both knock down his open shots and free himself off-ball. For some reason like Aldridge, Thompson is taking more deep two’s and less three’s. Want to see something real ridiculous?
He’s taking the same number of deep two point shots as he’s taking from deep, the kicker? He’s shooting the exact same percent from both distances. Unlike with Aldridge I’m a tad more cynical with Thompson. Thompson struggled a ton in the Finals last year and he has rode that wild wave into this season. While his numbers will likely correct themselves some, the higher usage from Curry, the Warriors ability to blow anyone out on any given night, and his own slump may stop him from making a second straight All-Star appearance.
It’s over, it’s sad, I’m sorry. It really is though. Bryant was awful last year, he hurt his team when he was on the floor and he’s worse this year. Bryant is playing the third least minutes of his career and somehow averaging a career high in 3-point attempts. Remarkably, he’s doing this while shooting an abysmal 22% from deep. I’m not a huge Bryant fan and it hurts me to see this version of him on the floor, I can only imagine what it’s like for the Lakers faithful. . .
I confess, I have no good news. I don’t think it gets any better for Bryant or the Lakers. The positive is Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson are studly. Bryant, if he remains healthy, will likely chuck his way to the grave. Which might not be the worst thing ever.
In Kobe's defense, all the best gun fighters went out shooting. Riding off into the sunset isn't for everyone. pic.twitter.com/UNIDYOojmE
— Josh Eberley 🇨🇦 (@JoshEberley) November 4, 2015
I want to attribute this one to rust, I really, really do. Anthony is coming off a partial season in which he played hurt. There’s lots of time still and there should be lots of optimism, because the Knicks are married to Anthony for better or worse. Keeping that in mind, Anthony has been bad. If we take away his one rather amazing performance against the Wizards, he hasn’t shot above 40% even once. . . I won’t post his averages without the Wizards game because my articles aren’t inspired to draw tears.
A lot of red shown here for a max player. A lot of red for anyone at that volume. Of players shooting at least 16 shots a night, Anthony ranks second last in field goal percentage. (Last place is James Harden if you were curious.) That means notable high volume and low efficiency players such as Reggie Jackson, Rudy Gay, Paul George, and even Victor Oladipo are making better use of their opportunities.
I hope it turns around, this is a tough call. The Knicks have shown more life than I thought possible at this point. Kristaps Porzingis is my favourite rookie thus far. If the Knicks can compete maybe Anthony can find his shooting mojo, a rhythm that most have all but forgotten. If not, see my line in the Bryant section on chucking to his grave.
The Players MVP has been in a drought, a biblical Moses in that desert type drought. Seriously, the guy dropped 43 points on 56% shooting last night, he has only played six games, and yet his field goal percentage is still a scary 34%. What’s wrong with Harden? Maybe his critics were right and he is far too reliant on the charity stripe. Maybe it’s the pitiful 3-point shooting to this point in the season. Maybe it’s growing pains with Ty Lawson and him taking turns running the offense. You tell me.
This is old, but far too juicy to leave out.
Stephen Curry could go 0-for-88 from downtown in his next game and still have a higher 3FG% than James Harden.
— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) November 3, 2015
Maybe this is cosmic justice for everyone slighting the Warriors Championship run, ignoring them this off-season, and Curry not receiving one Finals MVP vote. Harden won’t be this bad all year, I can promise that. He’s too damn good, too strong going to the basket, and a much better shooter than the stats show right now. Unlike Anthony and Bryant he is’t coming back from an injured season at 30+.
Did I get it wrong?
Did I poke you in your favourite player soft spot?
Yell at me on twitter; @Josheberley