Name: Ryan Hollins
2012-2013 Key Stats: 3.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 11.1 mpg
Years in the NBA: 7
Years with the Clippers: 1
2012-2013 Salary: Minimum
Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent; the Clippers do not hold his Bird Rights
In a Nutshell
I was completely unenthusiastic about the Ryan Hollins signing when it happened last summer but it must be said that Hollins performed admirably as a Clipper. He shot a career high .614 from the field and outperformed his career averages in rebounding and shot blocking as well.
Coach Vinny Del Negro played yo-yo with Hollins minutes much of the season. Del Negro mostly played a 10 man rotation, and Hollins began the season as the backup center, often playing more minutes than Lamar Odom as Odom worked his way into basketball condition. Hollins was soon supplanted for the fourth big spot by Ronny Turiaf at which point Ryan claimed his rightful position as chief towel-waver on the bench. Hollins accumulated 22 DNP-CDs from the beginning of December until mid-March, mixed with garbage minutes and injury backup time. Then he suddenly re-emerged ahead of Turiaf in the rotation in the final month of the season. As if all that wasn't strange enough, during the first five playoff games Del Negro played both Hollins AND Turiaf in a five big rotation, with Hollins playing most first half minutes and Turiaf taking the second half rotation, in a vain attempt to slow the Memphis bigs.
All in all, Hollins provided good energy with the second unit, defensive activity and enough offense to get by. His pick and roll defense was excellent, and was probably a big part of the reason that he was able to remain in the rotation as much as he did since having bigs who can defend the pick and roll is such an important part of today's NBA. He's still a limited player -- he lacks the strength to be a great post defender or rebounder and consequently he's a bit of a foul machine -- but he was more than serviceable for the Clippers this season.
The term 'energy guy' is thrown around too much, but it certainly applies to Hollins. As part of a second unit that thrived early in the season on pressure defense and transition offense Hollins fit right in. Not the most graceful of athletes, Hollins nonetheless possesses surprising lateral quickness for a seven footer, and was able to show and trap very effectively pick and roll coverages. His long lean frame gives him the look of a shot blocker, and indeed early in his NBA career it seemed that he might turn into a rejection specialist, averaging 2.6 blocks per 36 minutes in his third season. Strangely, his shot-blocking fell sharply to just over one per 36 minutes over the last three seasons, but he was once again a valuable rim-protector this season, averaging 1.8 per 36, second on the team after DeAndre Jordan.
Offensively, Hollins fit in well in the "Lob City" paradigm, rolling to the basket and finishing lobs with skill and frequency. He made .614 of his field goal attempts, mostly because he limited himself to easy ones, but importantly he also made his free throws. While Blake Griffin missed one in three freebies and the other three Clipper bigs were among the seven worst free throw shooters in the entire league, Hollins shot a more than respectable 75% from the line -- I have little doubt that reliability was at least a part of the reason that Hollins resurfaced in the rotation in the final month, as Del Negro got fed up with having to worry about teams hacking his other bigs.
Hollins propensity for confrontation might be considered a strength or a weakness. He is more than willing to get into someone's face, to give a hard foul, to stand up for his teammates. That can be useful, but the technicals and flagrants that come along with it have a price as well.
For his career Hollins has been an anemic rebounder for a guy his size, which is a big part of the reason that I was lukewarm at his arrival. His 7.5 boards per 36 minutes, while not great by any means, were much better than his career average (6.4) and in line with Turiaf's rebounding (7.8), but far below the per minute numbers for the Clippers other bigs.
Hollins biggest weakness in the NBA, coincidentally. is probably his weakness. Basketball-reference lists him at 7'0 230; the Clippers listed him at 240 this season. Regardless, he is probably the frailest seven footer in the league. (By comparison, the Nuggets listed JaVale McGee at 7'0 252.)
That lack of size and strength makes it difficult for him to hold his position in the low post, so while he is a good help defender on the pick and roll, on weak side shot blocks and on rotations, he is a pretty terrible on-ball post defender. The problem then compounds when he is forced to reach and foul against stronger opponents. Hollins averaged a ridiculous 7.2 fouls per 36 minutes on the season -- a number that rose to 9.7 fouls per 36 in the playoffs. The Clippers defense was much improved this season, but they were terrible at defending without fouling -- in fact, they were 29th out of 30 NBA teams in opponent free throws per field goal attempt. Of course you can't blame all of that on Hollins, but he certainly wasn't part of the solution. Hollins' frailty doesn't matter a lot in every matchup -- but against the Grizzlies in the playoffs, it was disastrous.
Future with the Clippers
Hollins is a free agent. After playing for the Clippers on a one year minimum deal, there's little reason to suspect that he'll command much more than that this off-season. He'll get another NBA job -- he's certainly earned that -- but I don't envision a bidding war for his services. So the question will be fit and opportunity. As a fourth or hopefully fifth big as he was this season, he's a good value but I'm guessing he'll end up providing that value elsewhere. The Clippers will be looking to upgrade at that spot if possible, and the tendency in the case of an 11th man type is to move on -- the player wants to go to another team in hopes of a better opportunity, the team wants to try another player in hopes of getting lucky with a real contributor. If you're looking for a third string big, why not sign one who's in his early 20s and still has some headroom rather than a known quantity who'll be 29 before next season starts? Ryan's an LA kid who went to Muir in Pasadena and played college ball at UCLA so he'd probably love to stick around, but I'd be surprised if he were back with the Clippers.