GH And Petey's Timberwolves Blog

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

What Eddie Needs To Do

As promised, I will start with a personal anecdote. I figure people might appreciate hearing my basketball story, and it seems to tie in well with what I wanted to say about Eddie.

Despite the fact that I was always one of the tallest kids in my class growing up, I never really played basketball. I was quite athletic, and I played a lot of soccer and baseball growing up, as well as a little bit of floor hockey. Unfortunately, I more or less stopped growing once I got to high school, people started passing me up. And although I had stopped growing vertically, my job at a local Chinese restaurant helped me to continue growing horizontally.

At some point during my senior year, I decided that it was time to stop being so damn fat, so I went out and ran. A few weeks later I took up lifting. I had started playing a little bit of basketball by this point, but nothing remotely serious.

By the time I got to college, I had started to convert a lot of my excess fat to muscle, though not all of it. I was about 6'1" and weighed about 215, although that tended to go up and down a lot. I was still a little fat, but I had gotten quite strong, and my shoulders were quite broad. When I first started playing IM ball at Carleton, I didn't really know what I was doing. I didn't really have any skills since I had never played before and had no knowledge of the game since I hadn't even watched all that much basketball.

One day, I was chatting with a friend of mine who played on the Men's basketball team there and asking for advice on how to play. He recommended to me that I try to start posting up. Obviously, for any sort of high level basketball, I'd be too short to do this, but for Carleton IM ball, I was plenty big.

My game changed dramatically when I started doing this. I had a very intuitive sense about how to use my body to create space, and my rebounding was coming along as well. It was about this time that I started getting into watching the NBA as well, so my knowledge of the game increased as well. I developed a jump hook, which became my patented move.

After a while, however, I began to feel that my game was incomplete. I needed to be close to the basket to score, and I admired those people who could shoot well from outside because they could score from anywhere on the court. I was limited to that small space underneath the basket.

I decided it was time to learn how to shoot. My biggest problem with jump shooting was that my form was inconsistent. Once I was able to refine my technique and shoot the ball the same way every time, I became a decent jump shooter. I even had a little bit of three-point range, though I was selective about when I shot them.

Bringing this new aspect of my game to the court, I quickly learned something about jump shooters. They're lazy. Sitting back and launching shots from outside is a very easy way to play the game. Posting up required much more energy. Most of the people at Carleton who shot a lot of jump shots were either too small to post up, or too slow to try and drive to the hoop. All of my admiration for these people went straight out the window.

Of course, it's an important skill to have, especially in the NBA. When an open shot presents itself, it's important that you be able to make it. However, jump shooting is also a trap. Because it's so much easier to just shoot the ball than it is to get to the rim, it's quite alluring to just sit back and shoot the ball. This of course, violates the fundamental theorem of basketball.

This brings me back to Eddie G. He had tremendous success shooting the 3 early in the season. Since then, his 3-point shooting has gone completely to shit. Since his amazing 7-15 night against Philly, he's gone just 18-71. That's a pathetic 0.76 points per shot. Because Eddie shot so well early in the season, he fell into the jump shooting trap. He became perfectly content to sit outside and wait for any available opportunity to shoot the ball. The average value of an NBA possession is almost exactly 1 point (I'm not exactly sure what an average NBA shot is worth pointwise). As all teams should do, the Wolves need aim to maximize the average amount of points per shot. Being an above average team, they should be able to get shots that net much higher than the above 0.76 points.

This means, every time Eddie shoots a three early in a possession, the Wolves are losing out on points that they should have gotten. We all though Eddie was an amazing three-point shooter early in the season, but the truth is that he's not really that good. He's a career .338 shooter. This averages out to 1.014 points per shot. This is pretty good, but not spectacular. The Wolves should aim to get a shot better than this on every possession.

During the Toronto game, Eddie's long shots looked terrible. Even the one that went in was a fluke, bouncing off the rim, then the backboard, then the rim again before it went in. Every time he put up a three, I internally shouted to myself "Stop that!"

The other aspects of his game have been getting better. He's had three solid rebounding efforts in a row (7-18-9) and three solid blocking efforts (3-4-3). His post game looked solid as well. He was able to hit and even when he didn't, he was often able to get his own rebound. Of course, rebounding your own miss goes a long way toward maximizing points per possession.

So here's what needs to happen with Eddie. Flip needs to cut him off from shooting threes. No more threes unless there is less than 4 seconds on the shot clock. Flip also then should start running post plays for Eddie, and should start running plays that will put him near the basket in order to put him in good position for an offensive rebound. Eddie needs to buckle down and focus on making good hustle plays and playing good defense. When he knows he can't shoot the three anymore, this should keep him from being distracted and allow him to do all the other things he does so well.

As his game continues to grow, we'll eventually work in the three point shooting again. But for now, Flip should simplify and "just say no" to Griffin three point shooting.