We're running a series of "exit interviews" of the 2011 Los Angeles Clippers. An overview and analysis, player by player, of the 14 Clippers who ended the 2010-2011 season on the roster. In this edition: "combo guard" Randy Foye.
Name: Randy Foye
2010-11 Key Stats: 9.8 ppg, 2.7 apg, 24.6 mpg
Years in the NBA: 5
Years with the Clippers: 1
2010-2011 Salary: $4,250,000
Contract Status: Signed through 2012
In a Nutshell
The first of the Clippers' free agent "catches" of the summer of 2010, Randy Foye was supposed to bring scoring punch off the bench while giving the team another ball-handler and outside shooter. Foye's signing, along with Ryan Gomes', wasn't the big splash that most fans had hoped for, but the initial expectation was that Foye would provide good value for his relatively inexpensive contract by adding some needed versatility to the Clippers' backcourt.
Nine months later, the results are mixed. Foye suffered a tweaked hamstring following the second game of the season, then returned three weeks later, only to re-aggravate the injury and miss another few weeks. Basically, because of the injury, Foye didn't start playing regular minutes until mid-January, and by then the Clippers were well under .500, though in the midst of their best stretch of the season. Then, when Eric Gordon went down with a wrist injury near the end of the month, Foye moved into the starting lineup and performed admirably, averaging 17.1 points a game in February, before easing back into a supporting role with Gordon's subsequent return and falling into a slump to finish his first year in Los Angeles.
As the numbers suggest, Foye was at his best last season when starting or playing a lot of minutes, but clearly less effective in the more limited bench role the Clippers had envisioned for him. Largely because of Ryan Gomes' season-long struggles and the lack of other reliable options at small forward, Vinny Del Negro played a lot of three-guard lineups, with Foye often serving as the "3" in these situations. Whether the Clippers find a real small forward in the offseason or sit tight in that area, the three-guard-lineup doesn't figure to be a sustainable solution going forward, which likely would mean less court time for Foye. Can he morph into the consistent sixth man the Clippers need him to be? We'll get an answer next season, when Foye has had even more time to adjust to L.A. - at least that's the hope.
Every now and then, you'll see glimpses of what made Foye a lottery pick following an impressive collegiate career at Villanova. He's smooth with the ball and can score in a variety of ways - off the dribble, on spot-ups, at the rim and on the perimeter - though he does the bulk of his work from mid-range, from which he shot 40 percent last season. His range extends beyond the arc, and while he had his worst 3-point shooting campaign in 2010-2011, his career mark stands at a respectable .360. To top it all off, he's not afraid to take the big shot, as he demonstrated in a Feb. 9 game at Madison Square Garden, scoring 11 points - six of them on two huge 3-pointers - in the final 3:47 of the Clippers' 116-108 win over the Knicks.
Foye's primary benefit to the Clippers, though, lies in his versatility. For a team that faced point-guard questions - Baron Davis' health, Eric Bledsoe's youth and, later, Mo Williams' play-making skills - all season long, Foye's ability to handle the ball came as a plus. At 6'4", he can slide over to the 2 as well, and when Gordon sat out all of February, Foye had some performances that proved he's still a capable starter on occasion. When the Clippers trotted out their oft-used three-guard lineup, Foye, the biggest of the team's backcourt options, consistently went head-to-head with much taller opponents, Kevin Durant being his most memorable assignment (for being seven inches shorter than Durant, Foye actually did a commendable job).
Beyond the scoring and the versatility, Foye possesses the skills that most teams wouldn't mind having in a first option off the bench. In addition to playing decent defense, he can run both a pick-and-roll and a fast break, two of the Clippers' primary modes of attack, and creates reasonably well for his teammates, Blake Griffin in particular. Foye is an excellent free-throw shooter to boot; his .893 mark from the line last season just beat out Williams' .880 and got him playing time at the end of close games.
As much as Foye can help the Clippers, it's far easier to pick at his flaws. Because he was taken before the likes of Rudy Gay and Rajon Rondo in the 2006 NBA Draft, his shortcomings are even more obvious, but they'd stand out regardless of where he was selected.
Foye's issues start on offense, where he over-dribbles even before initiating the offense, seemingly oblivious to the shot clock. Too often he'll take up too much time dribbling away at the top of the key, only to find that when he finally makes a move there aren't enough seconds left to create a quality look. He's an above-average passer, but when you're constantly scrambling to beat the clock, it's significantly more difficult to take advantage of that skill. Compounding the problem are Foye's struggles to get to the rim, where he's a poor finisher anyway - he's still quick and clever with the ball, but he's been less explosive ever since he missed more than half of 2007-2008 with a knee problem. Nowadays, instead of driving to the basket, Foye usually probes the perimeter looking for enough separation to launch a jump shot.
Which brings us to Foye's shot selection. Frequency of shots isn't the main concern here; it's the quality of the shots. At least on a per-minute basis, Foye probably takes more long jumpers with his foot on the 3-point line than anyone in the league. What makes this habit even more infuriating is that you'll often see him pass up a 3-pointer to take a step inside the arc and fire away. It's probably a comfort thing, but that doesn't excuse Foye's affinity for the least efficient shot in basketball. In short, Foye is primarily a jump-shooter at this point in his career, but he's neither very accurate nor judicious with these low-percentage looks, which helps explain why he shot only .388 from the field last season.
On defense, Foye's average lateral quickness means opposing point guards can blow by him, and his lack of height invites taller wing players to post him up. This is where Foye's "tweener" status really hurts him and, by extension, his team. Next to other vertically challenged players like Williams and Gordon, he offers virtually no rebounding - his 6.7% defensive rebound rate last season was fifth-worst among all players (Gordon was even worse, at 6.5%) - while giving opposing teams more mismatches to work with. Even though the Clippers gain offensive versatility and another ball-handler with Foye on the floor, the sacrifices in size and rebounding put even more pressure on the frontcourt to step up defensively.
Future with the Clippers
Foye has one year left on a contract that is due to pay him $4.25 million next season. If Year 1 was the first half of the Randy Foye experiment, let's hope 2011-2012 provides more substantial clues as to whether Foye can become the bench scorer the Clippers need and whether he sticks with the team after his deal expires.
Foye's history of injuries, however, complicates things. After missing 43 games in his second year in the league, he sat out 12 games in each of the next two seasons before being sidelined for 19 contests in 2010-2011. Foye's missed games, combined with Gordon's own injury-induced absences and with William's mid-season arrival, meant he never got a chance to truly mesh with the team. Assuming the Clippers enjoy better health next season, I expect we'll get a clearer look at Foye. The Clips, as currently constructed, have a lot of use for a guard like Foye, considering Gordon has health concerns of his own and Bledsoe remains a volatile option behind Williams. For a little more than $4 million, you could certainly do worse.
That said, if Foye disappoints next year, the Clippers would have little incentive to bring back an injury-prone guard with no defined position. It would be one thing if Foye had an elite skill he could rely on, but his jump shooting is probably his strongest attribute, which really isn't saying much. The possibility still exists, though, that he can somehow condense his scoring outbursts as a starter into consistent production off the bench, but he's running out of time at this point. As long as Foye keeps jacking up contested 22-footers, he's a wildly inefficient scorer who has a lot of impressing to do next season.
Other 2011 Exit Interviews