Ahearn is the shooter from Missouri State who has played a few games for the Miami Heat. He’s a rather unique little sausage; an extremely brilliant shooter from the foul line and from three point range, and who can masquerade as a point guard reasonably well, but who is unathletic and doesn’t contribute much elsewhere. The most notable part of all that is the efficiency; Ahearn always shoots over 40% from three and over 90% from the line, and I do mean always.
Last year was no different. Finally leaving the D-League to go and get some proper money, Ahearn signed with ACB team Estudiantes Madrid, for whom he averaged 14.2 ppg in 24 mpg with absolutely no other statistical contributions other than fouls. He shot only 30% from two point range, but he hit his customary 41% from three, and also shot 98% from the line (57-58). When his contract expired, Ahearn returned to the D-League, where he averaged 44.5 mpg, 26.2 ppg, 6.0 apg and 4.7 rpg for the Erie BayHawks, shooting 45% from the field, 43% from three and 96% from the line.
In these posts, when I say about someone that “he’s a good shooter, but not good enough of one to make the NBA” – and I’ve had to say it a lot – Blake Ahearn is my yardstick for that. He’s about as good of a shooter as there can be, and even he can’t get in. Strange times.
Budinger doesn’t really need to be here. He proved himself last year as a rotation calibre player and accomplished scorer, who was sorely overlooked in the draft. He could stand to defend better and get to the line more, but he makes shots and doesn’t make mistakes. And he’s got three more years on his contract. So I don’t think he needs to be here all that much.
Crocker just finished a four year career at Oklahoma. Underwhelming early, the wider problems Oklahoma had last year meant Crocker shone (in relative terms) as a consistent, veteran presence. Nonetheless, Crocker is a decent player, with good size and a jump shot, occasionally useful defence, and who tried hard to fill Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin-sized rebounding hole last season. But while he was a good college player, he’s not an NBA player.
Massachusetts graduate Forbes continues to build a nearly-but-not-quite CV. He started the year with Vanoli Cremona in Italy, averaging 13.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, before leaving to play for Israeli team Ironi Ramat Gan, where he averaged 20.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. The lack of a three point shot continues to be Forbes’s downfall – combined, Forbes shot only 29% from three point range last season, which is not too different to the norm for him. Nevertheless, aside from that, Forbes is a strong all-around offensive player.
Hill was just one many rewards the Rockets enjoyed from dealing Tracy McGrady’s expiring contract. He’s not as good as Carl Landry and probably never will be, but he had a decent rookie year nonetheless. This doesn’t mean, though, that he’s a viable backup centre option. Even though he’s going to play centre for this summer league, I strongly don’t recommend he plays there in the NBA. Not at 235lbs.
Some people might love the way Wisconsin play, but I hate it. It’s 28 seconds of dribble hand-offs while waiting for a 6’8 forward to get open for a three point shot, and if that doesn’t happen, they give it to Trevon Hughes to see what he can do off the dribble. It’s just dull to me, and it probably didn’t benefit Hughes either. 6’1 scoring guards who shoot 40% and average less than 3 assists per game are not NBA material. But Hughes is athletic, can handle the ball, penetrate off the dribble, and is a decent outside shooter. If he doesn’t go to France or Germany and put up about 14/3 next year, I’ll be surprised.
Johnson is signed to the Rockets to an unguaranteed contract for next year. He continues to make and miss the fringes of the NBA, able to score and rebound but still unable to stop fouling. When not in the NBA last season, Johnson was in the D-League, where he averaged 23.3 points and 11.2 rebounds for the Sioux Falls Skyforce and was arguably the league’s best player. The Rockets gave him a chunk of their MLE at the very end of the season, in a Spurs-like act of loyalty buying, and he now has a decent chance to make their roster again. But with the arrival of Patterson, and the presence of Mike Harris (who has a similarly unguaranteed deal), it is not a clear path to survival. Johnson is also now 27 year sold, so it’s time to stop with the silly fouls.
Leunen was a second-round draft pick of the Rockets back in 2008, a jump shooting power forward not unlike Pat Garrity without NBA athleticism or a position he can defend. He spent last year in Italy playing for NGC Cantu, where he averaged 12.2 points and 5.8 rebounds in 33 minutes per game, helping the team to an unexpected 4th place finish in Serie A. Leunen will probably never join the NBA, especially since his rebounding numbers have gone down, but Cantu are happy with him and Leunen already has a contract there for next season.
Lewis stuck at USC for his senior season, despite the desolation of the franchise right now due to the Tim Floyd incident. That was noble. However, that magnanimity didn’t help his performance. On a much weakened USC roster, Lewis struggled offensively, averaging 13.8 ppg but doing so in 36 mpg and on sub-40% shooting. Lewis also doesn’t have much range on his jump shot – it’s OK from mid range, but he struggles from farther than that, and shot only 30% from three on the season. He also turned it over too much and recorded a PER of only 12. Lewis is a good defensive player, but not good enough of one. (It’s the old Ahearn rationale again.)
Kelvin Lewis was the “second guy” on the University of Houston roster last year, behind the statistically dominant Aubrey Coleman. (Incidentally, you would have thought Aubrey would on the Rockets roster, no?) Playing on the team where his dad is an assistant coach, the 6’4 Lewis averaged 15.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game, shooting 41% from the field and 40% from three. He played entirely off the ball – as does everyone when Coleman is around – and usually the tougher defensive matchup. However, Lewis is a pretty average defender and not a slasher, making him largely a catch-and-shoot player on the next level.
McFarland has been starting at centre for Wake Forest, where his primary role on the team is to be really, really annoying. This is meant as a compliment, and will no doubt be interpreted as one by people who long for basketball’s more physical eras; Chas (pronounced Chase) is a physical and (some might say) a dirty player. He is a willing antagonist and compelling protagonist, who’ll grab a few rebounds and push people around rather than try to keep up with them. He doesn’t have much offensive talent, however, save for some finishes around the basket and an awesome spin move from the top of the arc that I have seen on more than one occasion. (That is to say, I’ve seen it twice.)
Patrick Patterson has not yet signed his rookie contract. Does this mean Houston are still entertaining the idea of including him big trades?
Ish Smith is awesome. Frighteningly quick with the ball, and the ultimate one man fast break, Smith is a dazzling open court player who can buy your offence 15 points a night just by getting to the basket before the opposing defence does. Mark Jackson is convinced Smith should have be drafted, and Mark Jackson knows this to be true because he saw Smith play once. (Once.) He won’t be drafted, though, because he’s just too damn small. Smith also can’t shoot, which leaves you with a point guard who can only make floaters and open layups, and who can’t defend his position. That’s probably not getting it done.
Great fun, though.
Taylor didn’t have much playing time in his rookie year, appearing in only 303 minutes. He also didn’t show much ability to play point guard; it wasn’t what they drafted him to, but it would have been a welcome bonus to his game. Taylor is undersized at 6’4, but very athletic and very strong, which makes up for it. He can shoot from outside and drive to the basket – albeit with very little in between – and defends his position aggressively and effectively, despite his height disadvantage. Houston paid $2.5 million for his draft rights and then gave him a four year contract, so he is a lock to be back.