Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

2012 Report Card: Josh Harrellson

Stats:

Player Age G MP MPG PER TS% eFG% TRB% AST% TOV% USG%
Josh Harrellson 22 37 540 14.6 13.7 0.505 0.49 15.4 3.3 11.1 15

Per 36 Minutes:

FGA 3PA 3P% FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
9.9 3.9 0.339 1.7 0.615 3.1 6.5 9.6 0.7 1.5 1.3 1.3 3.2 10.8

If you find yourself mired in the meat-market metrics of talent evaluation, be it in sport, business, entertainment, or whatever, it’s important not to confuse hype and myth. There’s a difference, you see. Hype is something narrowly transfixed on expected results; results which hindsight will one day render prophetic or foolish, depending on whom or what you believe.

So when the hype surrounding an NBA-bound player surpasses substance and numbers, a roll of the dice can easily stop snake eyes. But if it’s myth supplanting the stats, well, sometimes that can just be fun as hell.

Few players in recent Knick memory embodied this idea of myth-over-hype better and more instantaneously than Josh Harrellson. Snagged from New Orleans for a human leather satchel full of Dolan Dollars in the second round of last year’s draft, Jorts – if you don’t know the story behind this, just let yourself out – sparked a cultish blogosphere love-fest as instantaneous as it was unbecoming his marginal stock.

Define marginal, you say? Well, for starters, dude was whelped in Missouri, a state so nondescript it couldn’t even inspire a new name in this weirdly awesome map. He didn’t play organized basketball until his freshman year of high school; started off at Southwestern Illinois College, which shares a conference with Logan College of Chiropractic; transferred to Kentucky to become the whipping boy of a hot-seated Billy Gillespie; toiled on the bench behind the likes of DeMarcus Cousins and Daniel Orton; and only in his senior year – under the guiding reptilian claw of John Calipari – established himself as possessing anything resembling next-level ability.

What he brought in spades was a big body, serviceable post defense, and rebounding – three things the front court-thin Knicks desperately needed heading into an offseason of lockout-worsened uncertainty. That, and a slew of folksy anecdotes revealing a man whose camera instincts were as inexcusably bad as his mating ones were sharp.

Through the first 16 games of the season, all of that was on admirable – if not heavy – display, and it looked as though Jorts would eventually carve (probably shouldn’t use “carve”; it’ll get him excited) a nice little rotational niche in Mike D’Antoni’s notoriously fickle offense. Even his three point shooting – not exactly a hallmark of his in Lexington – made many forget the corner-camped days and baleful departure of one Shawne Williams.

Shortly after the team’s Judgment Day home loss to the Nuggets, it was announced – mere minutes after I and every other reporter on hand had seen seen him dressing, nonchalant and crowd-less, in the locker room – that Jorts would miss the subsequent four to six weeks with a right wrist injury. The following Monday, the Knicks put in a call to Erie, summoning Jerome Jordan and Jeremy Lin to help bolster a lineup now wafer thin in both health and confidence. A few weeks later, Linsansity would for a brief, mesmerizing spell make Knick Knation forget the very real promise Harrellson showed during his pre-injury stint.

His early March return, while welcome, had the misfortune of falling betwixt two, equally tide-turning epochs, with Mike D’Antoni’s sudden resignation a week later meaning yet another adjustment for a player seemingly weaned on uncertainty and chaos. Jorts would finish the year once again proving serviceable, if not as dynamic as he’d been during the season’s first days and weeks. The somewhat reliable corner three-ball was gone, even if the defense, rebounding, and sideline joviality remained.

Returning as he’ll be for year two of a rookie contract cheaper than a Bluegrass vacation, it’s safe to assume the Knicks will welcome Jorts back hardily when training camps open in September. Of course, as with any second year man with hopes of earning his future salt, Jorts has some things to work on, namely:

• Shooting from 5-9 feet
• Regaining his shooting touch and ability to spread the floor
• Lateral quickness
• Reducing daily intake of sodium and uncooked meat
• Sculpting facial hair that doesn’t included invitations to join Village People tribute bands
• Not referring to girls at the bar as “hush puppy”
• Limiting himself to $50 of Buck Hunter Pro a night, and getting some sleep

He sticks to those, mostly slanderous recommendations, he’ll be just fine. Not an All-Star. Not a starter. Heck, maybe not even a regular rotation player. But that’s the beauty of Nick Collison – a player after whom Jorts would be wise to mold himself – and other NBA niche artists: They thrive less on palpable progress than focused expertise. With the right focus, Jorts can be that guy for the Knicks.

Grades (5 point scale):
Offense: 2
Defense: 3
Teamwork: 3
Rootability: 4
Performance/Expectations: 4
Final Grade: B-

27 comments on “2012 Report Card: Josh Harrellson

  1. JC Knickfan

    Though I’m sick of seeing offensive charges called when defensive really does not have position established, but every team could use charge master. Jared Jeffries was our guy for this year and I dare say Josh should be his understudy. And yes I do think JJ will be back for vet min.

    And of course he does need to work on his catch and shoot to actual be staple in the rotation.

  2. thenamestsam

    Very nice write up. I think I’m a lot lower on Jorts than most. I think his defense is pretty significantly over-rated. Yes, he’s a very solid post defender, but he’s too small to guard true centers and honestly, how many back-to-the-basket power forwards are left in the NBA? 4? 5? His lack of height and quickness is always going to limit him as a help defender and make him a liability guarding the quicker smaller 4s who mostly dominate the position now. If your primary defesnive skillset is only useful against about 4 or 5 players in the whole league you’re probably not really that good on defense.

    Good rebounder, good teammate who can shoot 3s and bang bodies is a recipe for a long career in this league, but I just don’t see the talent to ever be anything more than a 12th man type.

  3. cgreene

    Topic switch back to The Heat situation. This is a GREAT read by Kelly Dwyer. I agree with pretty much everything he says here and, maybe, most of all the fact that The Heat may win but they aren’t a great team. I would add to that that makes them not actually really that fun to watch for long stretches save the 2 or 3 amazing feats of athleticism by Lebron or Wade per game. It’s not great basketball. It’s just talent.

    http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nba-ball-dont-lie/miami-heat-season-might-end-earlier-anticipated-again-174238267.html

  4. Kevin McElroy

    thenamestsam:
    Very nice write up. I think I’m a lot lower on Jorts than most. I think his defense is pretty significantly over-rated. Yes, he’s a very solid post defender, but he’s too small to guard true centers and honestly, how many back-to-the-basket power forwards are left in the NBA? 4? 5? His lack of height and quickness is always going to limit him as a help defender and make him a liability guarding the quicker smaller 4s who mostly dominate the position now. If your primary defesnive skillset is only useful against about 4 or 5 players in the whole league you’re probably not really that good on defense.

    Good rebounder, good teammate who can shoot 3s and bang bodies is a recipe for a long career in this league, but I just don’t see the talent to ever be anything more than a 12th man type.

    Twelfth man? He was a pretty serviceable 8th/9th man as a rookie. He’ll get 10 mins a game for the next 5 years I bet.

  5. Robert Silverman

    johnlocke:
    Different topic, but for all those equating Dolan to greed and corruption — check out Thunder ownership:

    http://www.tulsaworld.com/business/article.aspx?subjectid=49&articleid=20120607_49_0_Hoursa144263

    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/chesapeake-ceo-spent-on-jets-leveraged-nba-team-2012-06-07

    Don’t forget Clay “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” Bennett. I’ve been howling about this for months. Not only is Aubs a crook, read up on Chesapeake Energy and fracking. It’ll horrify you

  6. thenamestsam

    Kevin McElroy: Twelfth man?He was a pretty serviceable 8th/9th man as a rookie.He’ll get 10 mins a game for the next 5 years I bet.

    A little hard to categorize because of the roster instability, but he was 14th on the team in total minutes and 13th in minutes per game. Walker and Douglas were both solidly out of the rotation by the end of the year for non-injury reasons but that still leaves him 11th or 12th on the overall depth chart.

    Combined with the fact that he came out after his senior year and his below average athleticism and I don’t see too much room for growth there. The bright spot is that he hasn’t been playing basketball that long, so maybe there’s more room for improvement left than normal for a 24 year old, but I’m not that optimistic.

  7. Frank

    thenamestsam: Combined with the fact that he came out after his senior year and his below average athleticism and I don’t see too much room for growth there.

    The big X factor for Harrellson is whether he can actually hit that 3 pointer with regularity. He shot ~36% from 3 prior to his injury (at the end of January) and never recovered his touch. If he can shoot high 30s from 3 point range, he’ll play in this league a long time. he’s a passable post defender and had a better total rebounding rate than either Paul Millsap or Dejuan Blair. I can see him having a Matt Bonner type of career – better defensively although will probably never shoot 42+% from 3 point range like Bonner does.

    It’s highly possible that that 3 point shooting he showed at the beginning of the year was an outlier though — he was never known to be a good shooter before then, and it feels a little like he’s not as good as he looked prior to the wrist injury.

  8. Kevin McElroy

    thenamestsam: A little hard to categorize because of the roster instability, but he was 14th on the team in total minutes and 13th in minutes per game. Walker and Douglas were both solidly out of the rotation by the end of the year for non-injury reasons but that still leaves him 11th or 12th on the overall depth chart.

    He averaged 15 mins per game and got into the vast majority of games when he was healthy. Where he ranked in terms of D’Antoni and Woodson’s favor is irrelevant — when healthy he had the role typically associated with the 8th or 9th man (unless you’re talking about a team that plays 11 or 12 guys at least 15 mins each which I have never heard of). And in that 8th/9th man role he had a 13.7 PER with above average defense. So to me that suggests that he is better than a benchwarmer, which is the functional equivalent of a “Twelfth Man.”

  9. thenamestsam

    Frank: The big X factor for Harrellson is whether he can actually hit that 3 pointer with regularity. He shot ~36% from 3 prior to his injury (at the end of January) and never recovered his touch.If he can shoot high 30s from 3 point range, he’ll play in this league a long time.he’s a passable post defender and had a better total rebounding rate than either Paul Millsap or Dejuan Blair.I can see him having a Matt Bonner type of career – better defensively although will probably never shoot 42+% from 3 point range like Bonner does.

    It’s highly possible that that 3 point shooting he showed at the beginning of the year was an outlier though — he was never known to be a good shooter before then, and it feels a little like he’s not as good as he looked prior to the wrist injury.

    I agree with all of this. If he can hit that 3 consistently then he’ll be more of a 8th or 9th guy than a 12th, although Bonner is still a pretty limited specialist as you can see from Pop’s usage of him. There are some matchups where he can be very useful and some where he’s a serious liability.

  10. thenamestsam

    @ Kevin

    I don’t think it’s worth taking too much time to argue about this, since we’re effectively debating semantics, but I’d say end of the year fully healthy rotation:

    Lin, Shump, Melo, Amare, Ty are the starters. Fields, Baron, Jeffries, Novak, J.R. all clearly ahead of him in the pecking order.

    That makes him either 11th or 12th depending on whether or not you prefer Bibby over him. Yes, he played a decent number of minutes because of how in flux the rotation was throughout the year, but if everyone had ever been a healthy at the same time he would have been a bench warmer, nothing more. Hell, Mike Bibby also played 14 minutes a game this year. He’s still not more than a 12th man. Honestly I don’t think we’re that far apart here. You said above you think he’ll play 10 minutes a game. I basically agree with that. Even though no team plays 12 guys 10+ minutes, if you look over the course of the season, the guys who average 10 minutes are the 12th men. They play less than that when everyone is healthy, but that’s a rare occurrence in the NBA.

    Anyway I think the part of your comment that I really disagree with is the “above-average defense” part, and that’s probably the true center of our disagreement. I just don’t see it. I think he’s above average as a man to man post-defender against PFs but that might be the most marginalized defensive skill in the league. He’s awful as a help defender, below average against face-up 4s, and can’t guard any other position. I just don’t see how that package adds up to above-average defense overall.

  11. jon abbey

    he was pretty easily NY’s second best post defender behind Chandler (and ahead of Jeffries) just based on observation, and not just PFs, centers too. if he can go back to the early season version who could also hit jumpers, he could be a very solid 8th-10th guy IMO.

  12. Kevin McElroy

    thenamestsam,

    Ranking players that are currently on the Knicks is inconsequential to my argument. A typical NBA team plays an 8 or 9 man rotation. “12th man” therefore means someone who only plays in instances of disastrous injury or foul trouble. “8th man” or “9th man” means someone who you can get by with playing for 12-15 minutes a night as your worst player who actually gets minutes. When healthy, Harrellson played 15 minutes a night with a roughly league average PER and a “useful” (if you want to quibble with “above-average”) defensive tool kit. He did this as a rookie. He did this despite being placed in a number of very different lineups and offensive systems. It seems fairly incontroversial — given this evidence — to say that he will likely remain (or at the very least become) an adequate 8th or 9th man.

  13. Kevin McElroy

    Like if your claim is basically “he can be good for 15 minutes a night but you should have 10 or 11 guys who would be even better for 15 minutes a night so that he only has to do it when they are injured,” my response would be “if you can put that roster together, that’s awesome.” But as long as when the situation arises, he can be counted on for 15 effective minutes, you can’t say that he’s a non-rotation player.

  14. 2FOR18

    He’ll probably be around their 8th or 9th best player next year.

    Lin, Shump, melo, Amare, Chandler

    Fields, Jeffries, Jerome Jordan, Jorts

    Then what? Their 2nd round pick, Toney Douglas, and whoever they can sign with their exceptions. They better get lucky with their “then whats”, or else it’s going to get ugly when the inevitable injuries that hit every team happen.

  15. Frank

    I also think at least one of JR and Novak is coming back. I’m not sure JR gets offered much more than the mini-MLE unless it’s with a very bad team with lots of capspace to spend (like NJ). And if it’s a choice between the mini-MLE and basically the same $ amount with the NYK, he’ll stay.

  16. thenamestsam

    We can argue about the difference between an 8th man and a 9th man some other time. Right now I have to say: Good god, Lebron. Love him or hate him, seeing someone go to that place is the best part about watching sports to me. I couldn’t stop giggling. Unreal. Rondo playing amazing too. Wade…quiet so far. He’s going to need to get going because thats not really a maintainable pace for anyone, Lebron included.

  17. jon abbey

    it pretty much was, he could have easily gone for 50 if he’d needed to. a constant whirlwind on D too, amazing performance and he would have played 48 if it hadn’t been such a blowout.

    one game away from LeBron/Durant!

  18. jon abbey

    good call, Pete:

    Peter Vecsey ?@PeterVecsey1

    Not a good sign for Miami that LeBron starts out with a long fadeaway. That’s when he’s at his worst

  19. Brian Cronin

    It is kind of a shame, just from a viewer standpoint, that the Celtics couldn’t stay sort of close. Once it was a blowout, Lebron obviously no longer needed to score so he didn’t.

  20. Frank

    A performance like that is exactly what that Posnanski article was talking about. He is obviously capable of this pretty much whenever he wants to – question is – does he want to do it enough to reach down like he did last night?

    From Boston’s perspective – Lebron took 26 shots and only 4 of them were at the rim, and they only gave up 9 FTA for a free throw rate of well below his season average (0.34 last night vs 0.43 reg season). You can’t ask for much more than that from your defense. It so happened that he shot 15/22 on jump shots last night. I didn’t watch much more than 30% of the game or so, but it sure looked like a lot of them were contested.

    Brian Cronin:
    It is kind of a shame, just from a viewer standpoint, that the Celtics couldn’t stay sort of close. Once it was a blowout, Lebron obviously no longer needed to score so he didn’t.

    For some reason, Spoelstra left LBJ out there even when it wasn’t close. That’s another 45 min game for him. You would have thought that Spoelstra learned his lesson from last year, when he averaged 45.2 min/game against Chicago (and 44.6 and 42.4 min/game in the 2 series prior to that) before running out of gas against Dallas. And last year, he only played 15 playoff games before the finals (with more time off between each one).

    He’s averaging 45.5 min/game in this Boston series after averaging 42.2 and 38 min/game in the 2 previous series, and will have played 18 games with that kind of minute load before the Finals even start.

  21. jon abbey

    Frank:

    For some reason, Spoelstra left LBJ out there even when it wasn’t close.

    he said at halftime he wasn’t coming out, I think even sitting him for those last three minutes wasn’t easy.

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