Coming into the league as a 23-year old rookie, you were heralded as an “NBA-ready” prospect, but your rookie season was filled with lots of ups-and-downs. I guess that a rookie is still a rookie no matter how polished they are supposed to be, and, to be fair, you did show some flashes of promise. Then, you were handed a real point guard, and a Hall of Fame coach, and it seemed logical to expect you to build on the positives from your rookie season, while also getting away from the negatives as well.
“Supposed to”, were the keywords from that sentence I guess, as things didn’t go as expected…at all. I still want to believe, but I’m quickly losing hope.
And here’s why.
Offensively, you went from an average player last season to an absolute liability this season. I’m not sure which metric to use to back that up with since your Usage Rate dropped as your Turnover Rate rose; your Offensive Rating fell 8 points from 101 to 93; and you were one of three players — Mike Beasley and Darko Milicic being the other two — who finished the season with negative Offensive Win Shares, and wound up tied with Darko for last on the roster, overall.
I don’t like comparing you to Darko, Wes.
Many think your offensive issues could be psychological, which could be a better or worse case scenario. It’s as if you don’t trust your abilities, and play it safe instead of being an aggressive playmaker, which we’ve seen a couple of times (I think). Passing up open shots to dump it off to a teammate who’s double-teamed hurts the team, as does settling for jumpers when there is a higher percentage shot that is just a few dribbles away.
Maybe you don’t trust your ball-handling abilities, and that’s fine, we can all improve, but they won’t improve if you don’t dribble. Even then, you’re 6’7, and quick, which should enable you to take a quick dribble to get in the lane and get a better shot up. Although you’re not a great foul shooter, you need to get to the line more than 0.5 times per game. Heck, you were still last on the team in free throw attempts per 36 minutes (0.8 per game) by almost half a shot. 34 attempts in a season is not OK for a starter averaging 20-minutes per game. I know, the other team is sweaty, and it’s gross when they foul you because of that, but it won’t kill you, and ultimately wipes away.
To wrap this up on a somewhat positive note, your defense was average at best, but it was average at worst, too. By now, we may have figured out that guarding shooting guards isn’t your thing, as you gave up an Opp. PER/ 48 Minutes of 18.3, but just a respectable 15.0 against small forwards. In addition, your per 36 minute averages of around one block and one steal were nice to see. Still, if you can’t score on opposing perimeter players, your defense on them won’t matter as the team cannot continue to start a player that ultimately cost them wins on any end of the floor.
It’s foolish to dismiss a player after their rookie year, but adding that second season into the sample doesn’t offer much hope to extrapolate. It’s possible it’s not too late. I mean, most of us counted out Nikola Pekovic before the season, and he’s a couple of years older than you, so it is technically possible. I’m just not sure how likely that is anymore. I want to be wrong here, I really do. All I know is that it’s beginning to be too much to bear watching you struggle night in and night out. I know you didn’t choose to be the #4 overall pick a couple years back, but you were, whether or not you like it.