Stubbornness is a dish best served with karma. Finding success while being stubborn is fool’s gold. Yes, it can work for some (Steve Jobs, I guess), but sticking to a designated plan for years without adaptation can lead to downfall. And, for both good and bad, the Clippers currently possess one of the more stubborn coaches the NBA has ever seen in Doc Rivers.
Basketball is different now. The best players play no matter their age. Data, analytics, and numbers play just as big a role as the “eye test.” Although Doc’s loyalty to players is admirable, we have seen countless examples of Doc sticking with rotations that weren’t working just because he liked the player even when every piece of data screamed otherwise — and this year has been no different.
While we are seeing Avery Bradley play nearly 30 minutes a game, despite putting up career-worst stats (Check out Robert Flom’s recently published piece on AB) and hampering a team that is in a nosedive, the Clippers’ other guards (and there are a ton of them) are playing less and contributing more.
One of those guards is fan favorite Tyrone Wallace. An energy spark plug off the bench, along with Montrezl Harrell, Ty brings perhaps better perimeter defense than AB right now (I know he didn’t play that well against Kyle Korver last night, but he’s been really good this season), an affinity for finishing tough shots inside, a knack for getting hands in passing lanes, excellent help defense, and just all-around energy that typically sees a positive in the plus/minus category by games end. The sad part about all of this? He’s only averaging 10.5 minutes a game right now.
Ty came unheralded to the Clippers in the summer of 2017, on a two-way deal with the Agua Caliente Clippers, after being the last pick of the 2016 draft. No one expected anything from him — or even for him to play many minutes in the NBA — yet in a medium sample size (30 games), Ty averaged 9.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists a game while shooting 44.5 percent from the field. With the Clippers being as injured as they were last year, Ty started 19 of those 30 games and averaged 28.4 minutes. These numbers don’t jump out at you, but Ty passed almost every eye test (except for the obvious lack of three-point shooting) and impressed enough to be a spicy commodity come free agency when the Pelicans tried to pry him away from the Clips. Despite the Clips guard population being overrun (especially post-draft), they decided it would be foolish to let Ty go, and matched the Pels offer. I think 99% of Clips fans were fond of this idea, and I was no different.
Fast forward to this season. Stats don’t always tell the whole story. While his statistics don’t pass the test of, “Play this dude more”, he makes a positive impact in almost every game he plays. Whether this is locking down the second unit’s guards, not being afraid of the moment, getting the Clips out in transition (which doesn’t happen very often), or getting a steal on help defense, Ty does the little things so well that you almost forget that he is only averaging 4.1 points a game. He is also shooting above 45 percent from the field. Among guards on the team, that’s second behind only SGA. While Ty does have obvious offensive limitations and won’t fill a stat sheet, he is a candidate for more minutes on a squad that is currently hurting MIGHTILY on the defensive end and is in need of more transition offense.
While Ty’s box score stats aren’t eye-popping, his advanced stats back up his playing more than 10 minutes a game. The most important is that he leads the Clips in defensive rating among players who get at least 6 minutes a game at 103.2. This is way below the Clips 22nd overall rating in that category at 110.7. Wallace is also 2nd (behind Lou Williams) in net rating on the team at 6.7. He is second on the team behind Mike Scott in pace at 108.40, and is almost 3 points better in player impact estimate than his competitor in AB. He isn’t an elite scorer, but does have the fifth (Jerome Robinson is technically ahead of him but he doesn’t qualify) best offensive rating on the team as well at 109.9, the same exact number he posted last season.
It’s not guaranteed that playing Ty more would result in an immediate turnaround of the squad, but stats back him up as being a really good defender and all-around glue guy that could turn in more consistently solid games than AB if he played similar minutes. At this point, Avery has failed every eye test and Ty has passed nearly all of them. Ty may not be a candidate to start (although I think Doc should try it out), but he should be playing way more than he is currently, and I hope he gets his chance sooner rather than later.
All stats courtesy of stats.nba.com