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Thursday, May 15, 2008

David Thorpe Explains Why He Thinks J.J. Redick Can Be a Starting Shooting Guard for a Playoff Team

J.J. Redick wants the Orlando Magic to either significantly expand his playing time or else trade him to a team that will do so. Magic General Manager Otis Smith counters, "We do think he’s a pretty good player, but he’s a backup 2 (shooting guard)." Last year, David Thorpe wrote (ESPN Insider subscription required), "I've always believed Redick could become a starter for a playoff team, and he appears to be moving along that path now." I have done several posts disagreeing with Thorpe's contention that Redick is capable of being a starting shooting guard for a playoff team. Thorpe recently emailed me and during our exchange of messages I asked him point blank which starting shooting guards in the league he believes that Redick can effectively defend. Obviously, defense--particularly at the NBA level--is a team thing and not strictly a one on one deal but, as we have seen with Steve Nash in the NBA playoffs, when a starting player simply cannot guard his counterpart at all it places a great strain on his team's overall defense. Thorpe gave me permission to quote his reply verbatim in a post:

I find it absurd that you think JJ can not guard any starting two guard in the NBA. A good defender’s foundation is typically built on toughness, disposition, and intelligence. I have no doubt about his toughness and intelligence, and his disposition to defend should not be a problem if his coach tells him that he won’t be playing without trying to defend. But more importantly, most shooting guards need help in defending their opponent, when their opponent is a strong scoring threat. JJ would be no different. I do not think he would require much help (except on screens, of course) when he’s matched up with Rashad McCants, Ben Gordon, Maurice Evans, Larry Hughes, Willie Green, Michael Redd, Ray Allen, Ronnie Brewer, Richard Hamilton, Mike Dunleavy, Anthony Parker. Sure, some guys would post him up, and others can get shots over him. But they wouldn’t necessarily score efficiently in doing so. None of those guys would be a threat to just blow by him off the dribble all game. And none of those guys would love to chase him around screens all night, nor would they be able to just run and help on defense, leaving JJ open behind 3. A few years ago, when JJ was a senior in college, an All-Star two guard told me “I hope coach let’s us defend Redick with our point guard because that dude just runs too much for me. I have to save my strength to carry our team on offense”. Redick is a smart player, and would figure out how to be more effective as a defender.

The balance of offensive contributions to defensive liabilities is one that always must be measured. In Redick’s case, I think the balance scale would tip to the offensive side-meaning he would be more productive on offense than he would get “lit up” on defense. In many games. There are many, many players who play a lot, or start, in the NBA and are poor defenders. To single out JJ is a mistake.

Thorpe is correct when he says, "The balance of offensive contributions to defensive liabilities is one that always must be measured"--but I still disagree with his belief that Redick is a good enough offensive player to compensate for his defensive liabilities. From what I've seen of Redick, he will have trouble consistently getting open without having multiple screens set for him; that works fine in college with the longer shot clock and against the inferior defensive players/defensive game plans at that level but I doubt that any NBA team is going to build a significant portion of its offense around running Redick off of multiple screens the way that Duke did for him. Redick is not a Reggie Miller or Richard Hamilton; those guys are 6-7, long armed players who can get their shots off a lot more easily than Redick--who is generously listed at 6-4--can. As for his ability to defend starting shooting guards, Redick has less quickness/lateral mobility than every one of the players who Thorpe listed with the possible exception of Dunleavy, who is at least a half foot taller and can simply shoot faceup jumpers right over Redick. While it is true that "toughness, disposition, and intelligence" are important attributes for a good defender to have, a lack of lateral mobility is a serious problem, particularly for a perimeter player.

Obviously, if Orlando Coach Stan Van Gundy thought that Redick could make a significant offensive contribution while also guarding Hamilton then he would have played Redick in the Magic's playoff series versus Detroit, during which Hamiliton was the leading scorer. Still, there are certainly cases in which a player has not received much playing time with his first team only to emerge as a valuable contributor with another team. I don't believe that this will happen with Redick for the reasons that I listed above and in my previous posts about him but it will be interesting to see what happens if Redick is indeed traded by the Magic.

I thank David Thorpe for taking the time to write a response to my previous posts and for granting permission to quote his response here; it is always interesting to hear from NBA talent evaluators, even though I disagree with him in this particular instance.

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posted by David Friedman @ 7:18 PM



At Friday, May 16, 2008 7:03:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find your comments interesting considering the lack of playing time for Redick. Though when he has gotten good playing time he has been able to light up the scoreboard and yes as David Thorpe said scored more then the player defending him, not bad considering the offense was not setup with screens for him to get his shot off. Instead Redick was able to create his shot by himself (something that you say he can't do)as Thorpe and others have noted he can do in this league.
BTW can you explain why Redick was told he could be a starter and then told he could only be a backup. Same person different story each time asked yes I am talking about Otis Smith.
You keep on saying he can't play, yet as I said when given good time he has done what was asked of him. So instead of hating and knocking give the guy a chance that is all he has been asking.
I gather someone gave you a chance to write otherwise you wouldn't be getting what you have now.
I know you are going to say you earned it, well if you listen to one of your esteemed counterparts John Denton Florida Today and USA Today Redick has earned that chance to play and all those that just want to believe otherwise should just watch him on the court instead of on the bench and you would see the real story not the ones you keep making up as you go along because you don't have anything else better from lack of information.
Play Redick if he doesn't put out then you get to shout it out otherwise .........

At Friday, May 16, 2008 7:30:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


My evaluation of Redick's potential is based on the skill set that he has shown in college, summer league and the NBA. I won't believe that he has skills that he has yet to show unless or until he actually shows them; his fans seem to believe that if only he got to play 20 mpg then he would be very productive, while I think that he is not getting to play 20 mpg precisely because the coaching staff sees the same problems and limitations that I do.

Redick's NBA playing time has been limited but that also contains a message: unless you believe that two completely different coaching staffs are out to get Redick for some reason why do you suppose that they both have buried a former lottery pick on the bench when they hardly have All-Stars playing the shooting guard position in Orlando? The answer is that even when Redick had some decent games in the summer league he still showed the same basic skill set that he has had since college: the only thing that he is really good at is nailing wide open shots. A college team can keep setting screens until a jump shooter pops open but NBA offenses don't work that way, because the defenses are better and the shot clock is shorter. Redick is the Trajan Langdon of the current millenium and it is much more likely that he will be starting for CSKA Moscow someday than that he will be starting for an NBA playoff team.

When have you seen Redick creating a shot against NBA defenders? In garbage time against other bench players? Thorpe is saying that Redick can start for a playoff team at some point.

When did Smith say that Redick could start? He may have thought that when Orlando drafted Redick with a lottery pick but the Magic have pretty much found out that this is not the case.

If anything, considering Redick's draft position the team would be more inclined to play him since he is a high profile player receiving guaranteed money but instead he languishes on the bench behind career journeymen--and the reason for that is that those journeymen are better athletes and better defenders than Redick and they are even better offensive players simply because they can create their own shots.

Redick also appears to have an attitude problem, because you don't often hear the 10th, 11th or 12th man demanding to be traded. He has an inflated sense of his abilities and that leads one to wonder how hard he is really working on his weaknesses. It sounds like Redick believes Thorpe's articles and thinks that all he needs is a coaching staff that will put him on the court for at least 20 mpg.

At Friday, May 16, 2008 11:11:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

I think David Thorpe is on drugs. Reddick is just another overhyped white player who once they got to the NBA will do nothing. If he is so good, why didnt he play on the Magic's playoff team this year?

At Friday, May 16, 2008 1:12:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


There have been some All-Star players who did not play much for their first teams only to blossom later in their careers--Bob Love, Dale Ellis--but I agree that based on the skill set that he has shown thus far Redick certainly does not seem to be cut from that mold.

At Friday, May 16, 2008 1:55:00 PM, Blogger madnice said...

Of course David I agree. I just dont see it from Redick. And I heard the complaints that he wanted more time. Your point about Redick getting points in garbage time is very on point. Does Redick pay Thorpe in any way? I never thought Redick was any good. And in the NCAAs he didnt show up at all. Imagine if he played like Curry did. They would say hes the next Jerry West or something crazy like that.

At Saturday, May 17, 2008 7:38:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I do not think he would require much help (except on screens, of course) when he’s matched up with...Ben Gordon, Michael Redd, Ray Allen, Ronnie Brewer, Richard Hamilton."

yeah right. any of those guys would eat redick's lunch.

At Sunday, May 18, 2008 8:33:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He's a slow, short, spot up shooter. He won't get taller, or faster. That doesn't mean he's hopeless though. He has all the tools to become the next Steve Kerr... Kerr is a better shooter, and a smarter player. He didn't start for a playoff team, so I guess JJ is out of luck.


At Monday, May 19, 2008 3:39:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


When I interviewed Steve Kerr for my article about him he told me that he was on his way out of the league until the Bulls picked him up and put him in the Triangle Offense. So he needed to be in just the right situation just to be a reserve player. As you rightly note, Kerr was a better shooter and smarter player than Redick, so the likelihood that Redick will be a solid contributor--let alone a starter for a playoff team--seems exceedingly remote to me. Thorpe is adamant that he is right about this. We'll see.

At Monday, May 19, 2008 1:39:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Redick is a role player only - not a superstar, just a kid who can hit shots. On the right team - one that has a true dominant go-to scorer - Redick can help space the floor. I'd like to think that Redick's defense is terrible, but the truth is a lot of guys in the league play terrible D. I think his problem is that Orlando's offense doesn't have a dominant scorer that must be double-teamed. Instead, they have Lew and Hedo, two guys who can be single covered, and Howard, a guy who can be fouled when he gets close to scoring. That means Redick never gets any airspace to take a shot. In other words, he never gets any run. Put him in a Nuggets uniform, however, and he can play off Carmelo's double teams...

At Monday, May 19, 2008 5:42:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Although Detroit did not double team Howard very much most teams do double team Howard--I remember one sequence in the Toronto series when five defenders surrounded him in the paint! Redick would not play ahead of J.R. Smith, Anthony Carter or Chucky Atkins in Denver.

Although Thorpe would disagree, it is my contention that Redick not only is a poor defender now but that he lacks some of the requisite tools to ever be an adequate defender at the shooting guard position. For one thing, Redick is more of a point guard size than a shooting guard size; that obviously will not change, nor will the fact that he is way too slow to guard point guards, so he could not even play alongside a point guard who can guard some shooting guards (like, say, Chauncey Billups) because there are no point guards that Redick can guard. Most starting shooting guards in the NBA can either shoot over the smaller Redick at will, drive around him or post him up--or all of the above. I don't completely dismiss the idea that Redick could be a 15 mpg player in the right situation but I think that it is very, very unlikely that he will ever start for a playoff team.

At Wednesday, May 21, 2008 9:52:00 AM, Blogger The Original MSG said...

As a Duke grad from San Antonio, I would love to see Redick come to the Spurs. His defensive liability would be reduced because of the team-defense structure of the spurs, and he would be a great fit into the spread offense that rewards shooters with ball movement.
Right system, right parts = championships.

At Wednesday, May 21, 2008 5:29:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Original MSG:

Perhaps Redick could come off the bench in San Antonio as Kerr did but--as discussed above--Kerr was a better shooter and a smarter player than Redick. Kerr already had championship experience before the Spurs signed him. Also, Thorpe's contention is that Redick could one day start for a playoff team; I completely disagree with that but I have not ruled out the notion that Redick could be a rotation player on a playoff team, though I am skeptical of that idea as well.


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