Popovich and McClinton
Spurs fans are delirious right now. DeJuan Blair is a beast. We couldn’t be happier to have him. His granddad, or some clever imposter, kindly left a message in our comments. Welcome to the lovefest.
If someone asks what effect trading for Richard Jefferson and drafting DeJuan Blair has on a fanbase, the answer is that people start seeing Rasheed Wallace more often than the sasquatch.Â Even if the rumors are true, I’m sure it’s nothing more than Timmeh and Sheed getting in a little fishing.
We’re all a little giddy. Why not pour a little more kerosene on the fire?
Nando De Colo is a solid player, and one that could contribute to the team down the road. But I want to turn our attention to Jack McClinton, a stud shooter that could get lost in the self-congratulatory frenzy.
Maybe the Spurs do moneyball. If Blair had not slid to 37, R.C. Buford has indicated the Spurs would have selected McClinton with that pick. Buford made a striking assertion: Jack McClinton was the best shooter in the draft.Â The numbers bear this out. Luke Winn writes:
A league scouting director whom I trust — partly because he insisted that UCLA’s Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was the biggest second-round sleeper last year, even though this scout’s team didn’t get him — told me last week to watch out for Miami’s Jack McClinton. He’s an undersized shooting guard (just under 6-1 in shoes), but there are teams that believe he can become an instant-offense guy off the bench, somewhat like Eddie House has provided for the Celtics.
I used Synergy’s data to look at how complete a scorer McClinton was last season compared to other shooting/combo guards in the draft, breaking down the chart into five categories: PPP on guarded catch-and-shoot situations, PPP on unguarded catch-and-shoot situations, shots off the dribble, shots taken off screens and shots in one-on-one situations.
There’s some evidence here that McClinton is a legit prospect, if he can overcome his lack of height. He’s by far the best catch-and-shoot prospect in unguarded situations, at 1.80 PPP. On a roster with a star who consistently draws help on drives, McClinton could play a valuable role by merely spreading out defenses and knocking down wide-open threes. He’s no slouch in guarded catch-and-shoot situations, either, ranking fourth in that group at 1.07 PPP. (The best contested shooter is North Carolina’s Wayne Ellington, at 1.31 PPP, and that fact may help him get a first-round contract.)
What sets McClinton apart from the rest of this group is his ability to efficiently create his own shot, as he’s the only player above 1.00 PPP in shots taken off the dribble or in one-on-one situations — meaning defenses will have to respect his driving ability on the perimeter.
You can find a chart here that suggests Jack McClinton is a better shooter than Stephen Curry and James Harden.
But what intrigues me more about McClinton is the endorsement he got from Popovich, sans Buford. In his post-draft press conference, Buford said the Spurs fell in love with McClinton not just because he could shoot, but because he was the best defender they worked out.
Maybe that’s post-draft hyperbole. But let’s remember something: Popovich has a tremendous eye for point guards (in this case, a “specialty” guard). His eyes trusted a teenage Tony Parker, saw something of a scam in Beno Udrih, and identified an unheralded combo guard from IUPUI as a Day 1 contributor.Â The Spurs don’t help anyone by kidding themselves about McClinton’s ability to defend. If after two workouts they saw him as a lockdown defender, I’ll bet they’re correct.
Assuming McClinton makes the team, the Spurs should have great depth and diversity in their backcourt. It will be difficult to find minutes for everybody, but a foursome of Parker-Hill-Mason-Ginobili looks great, especially if Michael Finley and Jack McClinton have their back. If Finley doesn’t pick up his deal, Malik Hairston or a player like Austin Nichols can occupy the 6th guard spot.Â The backcourt looks solid. In fact, it projects out as one of the best in the league.
The Spurs know what kind of players compliment their system and core. After the 2008 Finals, Popovich and crew decided they needed to move beyond offensively-challenged guards. Watching Eddie House play effectively against the Lakers sparked an interest amongst the Spurs brass. They began their search for an instant offense specialty guard, and it ran through Jannero Pargo, Salim Stoudamire, Blake Ahearn and DeMarcus Nelson. Pargo took another contract, Stoudamire suffered injury, Ahearn didn’t pan out, and Nelson was snatched from Austin by the Bulls. If McClinton shows up as a bulldog defender and knocks down shots, he’ll stick. The Spurs will have their Eddie House. We’ll know soon enough.