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: starting small forward Ryan Gomes.
Name: Ryan Gomes
2010-11 Key Stats: 7.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 27.6 mpg
Years in the NBA:6
Years with the Clippers: 1
2010-2011 Salary: $4,000,000
Contract Status: Signed through 2013 at $4M per year.
In a Nutshell
Whereas I'm going to try to be balanced and even find some positives as we work through this process, I would have to be a Pollyanna to avoid this basic, simple assertion at the outset - Ryan Gomes stunk this season. It was easily the worst season of his career, and it wasn't a particularly stellar career to begin with. The fact that he was the 'big' free agent signing for the Clippers this summer (those quotation marks are ironic, in case that's not immediately obvious) just adds insult to injury. The fact that he was a starter by default practically all season rubs salt in the wounds of those who were originally injured and then were subsequently insulted.
I suppose it's a good thing that Ryan Gomes is not Travis Outlaw, a much more expensive and equally unproductive free agent signee from last summer who wound up in New Jersey. And it's not Gomes' fault that he's not LeBron James, the main prize from the Free Agency frenzy of 2010. It is however his fault that he wasn't even a decent version of Ryan Gomes this season.
The good news in all of this is that it's painfully obvious what the Clippers need to do this summer. Just like last summer, they need to add a quality small forward.
I'm reminded of the old joke about the young hick who was admonished by his mother to say nothing at all if he could think of nothing nice to say, so faced with an awkward silence on his blind date he blurts out "Gee, for a fat girl you sure don't sweat much."
Gomes did not do anything particularly well this season. Joining the team, he was supposed to be a high-IQ, low usage player who might be unspectacular, but who could be counted on to do the little things - make the extra pass, play solid defense, and shoot and rebound enough not to be a liability. Unfortunately, only the low usage part turned out to be true. On a team with players who theoretically needed a lot of touches at the four other starting spots heading into the season, it was definitely a good idea to have a player who could be productive without the ball in his hands. And among NBA players who started at least 50 games this season, Gomes had the eighth lowest usage, so that's good - kind of. The thing is, it's no real trick to be low usage if you aren't actually producing.
Gomes played reasonable, if mostly unremarkable defense as a Clipper. Far from a 'lock down' defender, his best moment probably came in the fifth game of the season (the Clippers first win) when he harassed Kevin Durant into a 6 for 24 shooting night. But games like that in which Gomes had a significant positive impact on the outcome were few and far between. And that one occurred way back in early November, so it's a pretty distant memory now.
For the most part, NBA players are fairly consistent from season to season. They may get more or fewer opportunities, in the form of minutes doled out by the coach, but veteran NBA players, in general terms, tend to produce very similar statistics on a per minute basis year over year. That's what makes this season from Gomes all the more remarkable. Case in point: in his previous four seasons, Gomes averaged between
10.9 and 13.3 13.6 and 15.3 points per 36 minutes. This season he averaged 7.2 9.4. In his entire five year career before this season, he averaged between 4.6 and 5.8 5.4 and 7.8 rebounds per 36 minutes. This season he averaged 3.3 4.4. Those numbers each represent over 30% in reduced productivity versus his career averages at the start of the season. He also shot career low percentages from the field (41% against better the 45% on his career at the beginning of the season) and even from the free throw line. There is only one statistical area I can find in which Ryan Gomes outperformed his career average by anything more than a rounding error - he only turned the ball over .7 times per 36 minutes, which I suppose is a good thing on a team that was turnover prone.
A barely serviceable shooter and rebounder based on his career numbers, this 30% erosion of production in those areas, not to mention the poor field goal shooting, turned him into one of the least efficient players in the entire league. Again among players who started at least 50 games, Gomes had the fifth worst PER (player efficiency rating) at 9.0. For those less familiar with PER, in principal it pegs the league average at 15, meaning that an average player should have a PER around 15. In theory, significantly higher than that indicates a very good player, while significantly lower indicates a very bad player. Below 10 usually indicates someone who shouldn't be on an NBA roster.
I'm no sports psychologist, but it seems to me that Gomes lacked confidence right from the outset of his first season with the Clippers. His first 13 games in LA featured shooting nights of 2 for 13, 1 for 6 (twice), and 0 for 4. And then he did something that NBA players really should not do - he stopped shooting. He passed up open shots time and again. When an NBA offense generates an open shot, and then the shooter passes it up, it rarely ends well. That shot was the goal of the offense on that possession. Creating a new one with an inevitably short shot clock is very difficult.
Gomes closed the season on a remarkable run - in the last eleven games in which he appeared (he missed the final six with soreness in his knees), he never made more than a single field goal in any game. He was a complete and total non-factor when he was on the floor.
Future with the Clippers
Gomes has two years left on a contract that is due to pay him $4M each season, so unless the Clippers can trade him (unlikely at least this year) or decide to walk away from an $8M commitment (even less likely), he's around for at least another season. I suppose this is as good a place as any to bring up the bright side of this situation - at least he's not making $7M for the next four seasons like Travis Outlaw. In the modern NBA, the two year contract is the new one year contract. Why? Because in year two it becomes an expiring contract and becomes useful as a trade chip, even if the player under the contract has no use. Gomes signed a three year deal, which it stands to reason is the new two year deal - the Clippers are stuck with him this season, but he could be a trade asset beginning next season. So there's that. (The above logic of course applies to Tuesday's subject Randy Foye as well - that $4.25M expiring deal could prove very useful at some point this season.)
Despite his lack of productivity this season, Gomes maintained a hold on the starting small forward position more or less from beginning to end. That's more an indictment of the other candidates (Rasual Butler, Al-Farouq Aminu and Jamario Moon) than a testament to Gomes, but it's a fact. The cupboard is pretty bare at the three, even if the 20 year old Aminu remains a possibility in the future as he improves and matures. If the Clippers are able to sign a veteran free agent small forward to step into the starter's role as is their intent, Gomes could provide depth at the position. If he can manage to play at his pre-2010 level, he could actually be a fairly productive backup. But if Ryan Gomes is the Clippers starting small forward for more than a handful of games next season for whatever reason, it will be a very, very bad sign.
Other 2011 Exit Interviews