J.J. Redick key stats
Consider: the Clippers are expecting him to start on a team that will make a deep run into the postseason, despite the fact that Redick has never been a full time starter in seven NBA seasons. He has started from time to time (54 starts in 424 regular season games) including eight times in the 2009 NBA playoffs, but the most he's ever started in a season was 22 times during the lockout season two years ago in Orlando. I've written quite a few player previews over the years, and I'm finding J.J. Redick to be as difficult to analyze as any player I've ever examined closely. There's been a great deal of excitement surrounding Redick as the Clippers new shooting guard ever since the team acquired him from Milwaukee as part of a three team trade back in July. They also received Jared Dudley in that deal, and it cost them Caron Butler, prized point guard Eric Bledsoe, and a 4 year, $27M contract for Redick. The deal is generally regarded as a good one for the Clippers, with Redick being the centerpiece. But what did they really get?
So what makes him such a great candidate to start for the Clippers? Are the expectations too high?
Maybe, maybe not. The simple fact of the matter is that he's coming into a position that was manned by Willie Green and a 36 year old Chauncey Billups last season. Green did a fine job for the Clippers in his 60 starts -- but ultimately a player of limited ability. The contrast with Billups is perhaps more telling. Billups was reasonably effective in his 22 regular season starts, making 37% of his threes and posting a PER of 15, but as a former Finals MVP, Chauncey wasn't entirely willing to accept a lesser role with the Clippers. His tendency to take bad shots and demand the ball -- not to mention his total inability to guard anyone -- became major liabilities in the playoffs, when Billups was healthy, but Green would ultimately have been the better choice.
It's Redick's seeming perfection (at least on offense) for the role the Clippers need him to play -- a dead-eye shooter who can make open shots and play off the ball, complementing cornerstones Chris Paul and Blake Griffin without taking the emphasis off of them -- that makes his arrival in Los Angeles so compelling. He is almost certainly an upgrade over Green or Billups -- and he could be a major weapon.
Coming out of college Redick seemed almost predestined to be the prototypical "great college player who can't make it in the NBA". Winner of the Naismith, Wooden and AP player of the year honors his senior season at Duke and a consensus first team All-American as both a junior and a senior, concerns about his athleticism had plenty of experts pronouncing him a reach when the Magic took him with the 11th pick in 2006. But ironically, in a weak draft that wound up being chock full of busts (five 2006 lottery picks are out of the league strictly based on lack of skill, Brandon Roy makes six no longer playing NBA basketball, while Tyrus Thomas and Andrea Bargnani have been massive disappointments) Redick has actually outperformed his draft position -- he's tied for fourth in career win score per 48 among active players from the 2006 draft.
A couple of seasons into his NBA career in Orlando, the doubters started realizing they were probably wrong about Redick. No, he did not really have the physical attributes you would ideally want in an NBA two-guard, but at the same time he wasn't a disaster on the physical front. Although he does have short arms for an NBA player, he does at least have good size for a shooting guard -- 6'4 without shoes. As for lateral quickness and leaping, he was below average in the tests at the pre-draft combine, but not ridiculously so.
On the other hand, he demonstrated in Orlando several abilities that few people knew he had. Everyone knew he could shoot in college and that he'd be able to shoot in the NBA -- and with career shooting percentages of .429 (FG%), .390 (3P%), .881 (FT%), .526 (eFG%) and .580 (TSP) he's proven that he is an elite shooter -- but it turned out he could do other things. For instance, he proved to be a better than expected playmaker at Orlando (he averaged 5 assists per 36 minutes in 50 games with the Magic last year, and is a more than adequate 3.2 assists per 36 for his career). He also proved to be a much better defender than expected. He's certainly no wing stopper, but neither has he been the liability most people expected. What he lacks in quickness and length he makes up for in positioning, work rate and basketball IQ -- attributes that should work well in Doc Rivers' defensive schemes.
Unfortunately, that's one thing we have yet to see -- Redick playing for Rivers. Excitement is rampant about the combination. Doc turned the mediocre Ray Allen into a defensive stalwart. Doc's offense got Allen lots of open three pointers. The thinking is that Redick can be Doc's new Ray Allen, but J.J. has yet to play a pre-season game because of a deep thigh bruise that has kept him out of action since the first week of training camp. So all of the anticipation about the Clippers new shooting guard playing for the Clippers new coach is just that so far -- anticipation.
Only time will tell if Redick is as good a fit for the Clippers on the court as he seems to be on paper. One thing is for certain -- he can shoot. The Clippers had several players capable of making threes last year -- notably Green and Caron Butler and Jamal Crawford. But they didn't have that Redick-type shooter -- that guy who you expect to make everything. The guy who shocks you if he misses an open look. With Paul breaking down defenses and Griffin commanding double teams in the post, there will be open looks in the Clippers offense, and Redick can make teams pay like no Clipper before. It's not a coincidence that guys like Green and Butler have had career years from deep playing next to Paul or that Crawford set the single season franchise record for made threes for the Clippers. Frankly, if Redick doesn't beat that record this season, I'll be surprised.
The league tends to forget every once in a while, but it's never long before shooting comes back into vogue. After Steph Curry and Klay Thompson rained jumpers on the league last year, shooting is as much in demand as ever, and the Clippers were certainly among the teams most aggressively pursuing shooters this off-season. Redick is the centerpiece of their campaign to improve in that regard. In theory, he's the perfect complement to Paul and Griffin and a great fit in Rivers' system -- we'll have to wait and see if he's as perfect in practice.