Where Dell Demps Can Find Value in the Marketplace

Published: July 14, 2015

On the surface, the signing of Alonzo Gee seemed like just another low risk move meant to improve depth at the end of the bench and maybe improve the locker room as well. And while it might turn out to be just that, it could also be an example of where Dell Demps can exploit the marketplace over the next couple of years, and where he can zig when others zag.

Shooting has become all the rage in the NBA, and rightfully so, as we have seen 3-point makes and takes trend upwards for nearly 20 years, and just this last postseason we saw the five top three-point shooting teams also become the last five left standing in the postseason. Because of that, shooters are getting drafted higher and paid more in free agency than they might have in past years, even if they don’t have many other skills to hang their hat on. Demure Carroll was the same defensive player 2 years ago, but the belief was that he couldn’t shoot a lick. He changed that perception in Atlanta. Two years ago, he signed a 2 year/6 million dollar deal to play with Atlanta. This offseason, he got 4 years and 60 million dollars from the Raptors.

The lesson here is that if you can get a guy who can shoot, do it. But those guys are getting paid, especially if they can do other things as well. If they can only shoot, you still have to pay them, but then you also have to make sure you have a roster that can cover up their weaknesses and/or lack of abilities. Dell Demps, however, is in a unique position where maybe he can pass on the high end shooters and concentrate on getting guys who are able to do other things well. Why can Demps afford to do that? Two reasons: Anthony Davis and Alvin Gentry.

In a fascinating piece published back in March, Stephen Shea proclaimed that Anthony Davis gets his teammates shots they don’t deserve. He found it puzzling that while most teams needed good ball movement to create open looks, New Orleans got open looks at a ridiculously high rate, and attributed that to one person – Anthony Davis. Shea shows several examples of Davis drawing an insane amount of attention, and his teammates reaping the benefits, and that again was with ball movement numbers (passes, time of possession per pace, etc) that was at the bottom of the league.

Davis got his teammates more open looks, and those looks are going to be converted more often – even by a below average shooter. Look no further than Quincy Pondexter, who had hit 28 of his previous 107 three-point attempts (26%) in the year and a half prior to joining the Pelicans. In the 45 games after joining the Pelicans, that percentage skyrocketed to 43% . In fact, Kirk Goldsberry had an interesting piece on Grantland this week in which he showcased another Grizzly, Vince Carter and the opposite effect joining Memphis had on him. Carter went from 40% on his spot-up 3’s in Dallas to 30% in Memphis. He didn’t learn how to shoot, he just had fewer open looks. Goldsberry goes on to say,

But here’s the thing about spot-up shooters: More than just about any other type of scorer, their performances depend on external factors. Even the best catch-and-shoot guys live and die by the ability of their teams to create the kinds of shots they thrive on; Tom Thibodeau’s Kyle Korver was a lot less scary than Mike Budenholzer’s version. Yet while there is no shortage of evidence to support this idea, there is a shortage of teams that are capable of generating wide-open catch-and-shoot looks beyond the arc on a regular basis. And every time a big-name spot-up guy switches uniforms, he and the team acquiring him are taking on all the risk that comes with changing a shooting environment.

What GM’s attempt to do is find a guy who was good at this skill before in another situation and hope that he does it as well in their situation. Often times, the results do not match from destination to destination. With Anthony Davis in tow, however, Dell Demps can afford to pluck below average or average shooters from a situation and has reason to believe they can perform better on his roster. Instead of going after the guys that everyone else wants, he can take the guys with other skills and assume that what others see as a weakness will be average at worst, and a strength at best in his system because of his once-in-a-generation talent.

And it is not just Davis who will get the Pelicans more open looks and more catch-and-shoot opportunities. With largely the same roster, the Warriors took 3 more catch-and-shoot three’s per game than they did the year before Gentry arrived. Their number of “wide open” three’s went up 11% according to NBA.com. It is no coincidence, then that the Warriors went from a team that shot 38% overall from deep to 40%. That seems minor, but when you take 25+ a game, that is a point and a half a game, and that makes a legitimate difference.

Now, let’s bring this all back to a guy like Alonzo Gee. Gee can be classified, at best, as an average three-point shooter. He has shot 33% on 509 attempts over his six year career. He takes a large portion from the corners (55% of his attempts, 75% in his last two seasons), and though it is a small sample size from last year, the data says he can make them when it is a catch-and-shoot (42%) and/or wide open (45%). The year before, both numbers were over 37%, despite his overall percentage being just 32.8%.

Again, maybe Gee takes off like Pondexter did or maybe he is just an end of bench guy who never really makes an impact. What he represents, however, is the type of player Dell Demps should be on the lookout for. And they don’t have to just be bargain basement guys, either. There are several wing players who are elite in a few areas but don’t get th top end contractss because they lack the one skill the whole league seems to covet. Dell should continue to be on the lookout for guys who are undervalued because of their lack of high level shooting.

Because the Pelicans have two components in place that can turn that weakness into a strength.


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