Evolution through blood, sweat, and teardrops
DeJuan Blair would appear to have a bright future in the NBA. In his first year — without, as Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich likes to remind, a single offensive move — Blair led all rookies in field goal percentage while averaging 7.8 points and 6.4 rebounds in only 18 minutes per game.
Given such raw potential, and with Hall of Fame big man Tim Duncan on hand to mentor him, DeJuan Blair might even have an All-Star appearance in his future. The only caveat to that last statement is the assumption that Duncan serves as the perfect mentor for Blair.
With the public on hand for their first extended look at the Spurs’ offseason work, DeJuan Blair kicked off his season not with a Duncanesque bank shot or drop step, but through shades of Tony Parker.
“I taught myself [the teardrop], man,” Blair said after the team’s open scrimmage on Sunday. “Tony was in France.”
The shot that made Tony Parker
To state the obvious, Tony Parker is fast, faster than most. But amongst NBA speedsters there have been faster, more explosive players. Some have combined measurable or superior speed with a better shot (Aaron Brooks), and some with a bigger frame (Derrick Rose).
So what then offensively separates Tony Parker from the Speedy Claxtons, T.J. Fords, and Leandro Barbosas of the world? As the former NBA Live cover athlete stated in a long ago interview with IGN:
“It’s the teardrop. So many players want to go in and dunk, but when the defense runs up on you, one of the best ways to score is throwing the ball up and over the top. That’s why the teardrop is more effective. It’s a shot young players should work on.”
More than a nice shot, the teardrop floater transformed Tony Parker into an All-Star. If Parker entered the league a bundle of raw, untamed speed, the teardrop is the means through which he channels it into tangible results.
While the shot has its drawbacks, namely that the very nature of the teardrop — which is released before the defense can converge — is prohibitive to drawing fouls, it is a shot from which an entire game can be built upon.
Just as Tim Duncan has an entire face-up game based on the threat of his bank shot, the development of a teardrop floater has opened up an array of dribble hesitations, feints, and spin moves used to set up Tony Parker’s signature shot.
Tony Parker’s protegees: George Hill and….DeJuan Blair?!
As a point guard-sized combo guard, not to mention Tony Parker’s backup, the teardrop would seem the natural evolution for George Hill’s game.
The teardrop, however, will probably not be as transformative for Hill. Finishing was not a problem, creating shots was. As such, overuse of such a shot would be counterproductive for Hill.
Last season, Hill’s improvements were based on finishing (both open jumpers and at the rim). Like Richard Jefferson in his prime, to keep his offensive efficiency up Hill relies on fast break points, a decent percentage from 3-pointers, and free throws. A shot designed to avoid contact takes away from that last part.
The Beauty to DeJuan Blair’s Beastliness
DeJuan Blair’s most pressing need right now is some range on his jumper. Not so much for his individual game, though it would help, but to be able to play next to Tim Duncan for extended minutes he’s going to have to keep the lane free. If DeJuan Blair is going to take a step past being a role player, the teardrop will be the perfect remedy.
Creating shots is not going to be a problem for Blair, he creates them from nothing through his offensive rebounding. And while he finished at a high percentage, most of those baskets came on the receiving end of pick-and-roll passes or tip-ins. But he does have some basic tools for an offensive game independent of other players, as our own Timothy Varner pointed out:
Blair has good speed and handles for a man of his size. His game is deceptive in this way, but he motored to the hoop on a number of occasions last season.