Opening the NBA Playbook: Darko’s Passing Is Okay

Zach Harper —  August 20, 2010 — 11 Comments

Maybe you’ve heard of Sebastian Pruiti. He’s been holding a takeover of the NBA blogging world over the past year with his great coverage of the New Jersey Nets on NetsAreScorching.com and getting his Hubie Brown on at NBAPlaybook.com. Not many bloggers and analysts can break down aspects of basketball the way he does.

Bassy (Nets blogger Bassy not Coney Island’s Through The Fire Bassy) decided to break down Darko Milicic’s passing ability. This was inspired by the hilariously hilarious NBATV David Kahn interview during a summer league game last month in which he compared Darko’s passing ability to biblical snacks from the highest of high powers. It left most people scratching their heads while it gave the Kahn-Darko supporters something to spout off as a defense of the past year while hoping someone created a diversion for them to slip out the back door.

Here is the link to Bassy’s breakdown with a snippet of text:

First, let’s take a look at the numbers really quick.  Darko averaged 1.8 assists and 1.4 turnovers in his 24 games with the Timberwolves, good for an Assist to Turnover ratio of 1.3.  That number isn’t all that bad, considering the average among centers who played at least 15 minutes per game is 0.93 (Darko was ranked 14th).  However, it doesn’t really tell the whole story, because turnovers can happen at any time (instead of purely passing turnovers), and as everyone knows, assists are a really tough statistic to keep track of.  So that means we have to look at the video tape to really get a feel of Darko’s passing ability.

In the flow of an offense where he doesn’t have to make a decision (and he can just throw a pass), Darko is actually a good (but not great passer). Now, he is no Vlade Divac, but in my opinion he is slightly above average.  The Timberwolves actually do a lot of cutting off of Darko when he has the basketball to take advantage of this.  In fact, this is almost exclusively how he got his assists with the Wolves.  If you go to Synergy and look up his assists, you see just about all his assists plays described as Cuts (and very little as spot up – more on this later).

Looking at the entire post and the video evidence Bassy provides to us, you can see that Darko is definitely not a bad passer. He has some ability and vision and works very well in the offense. But to compare him to some of the greatest passing big men of all time is just ludicrous. Darko isn’t bad but he isn’t good either. He’s okay. I don’t know if I’d sell average defense and okay passing for $20 million over four years but that’s going to be a debate we have constantly over the next four years.

On a scale of Yinka Dare to Vlade Divac, it looks like Darko’s passing is about a Dwight Howard.

Zach Harper

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11 responses to Opening the NBA Playbook: Darko’s Passing Is Okay

  1. awesome find. Thanks for the link. Pruiti blames some of Darko’s poor passing on lack of knowledge of the offense and then correlates this with low BBIQ. A Darko apologist might argue that Darko hadn’t played basketball in about a year and was brand new to the Twolves. His BBIQ may improve as he learns the offense better and has practiced and played more. he wasn’t even practicing in New York, right? Or, Darko could just be destined to suck. David Kahn will let us know, I’m sure.

  2. Yeah, I do think a lot of that could be ironed out with more experience with his teammates and with the system itself but at the same time, this is about what he’s shown everybody throughout his career. He’s an okay passer. It’s better than him being a bad passer. But let’s not pretend this is even Brad Miller out there.

  3. Consider also that big man passing in the triangle is a special, as in different skill. More demanding on big men than other systems in this regard, the sets and situations are not transferable. Arguably, for Darko, new to the system, to perform that well, is very promising. Generally, more experience equals better performance in the triangle.

  4. I believe that Darko will prove a lot this year in regards to his passing. It’s true saying that he has an excuse of not knowing the offense that well last year — he came over mid-season after not playing all season long for the Knicks; He had basically zero game experience. This year should be a different story and those cuts you speak of, he’ll know when they’re coming and hit em because he’ll know the offense much better — and having Wes or Brew on the receiving end of one of those backdoor cut passes will quickly turn into a highlight reel.

    I don’t think that the Vlade Divac comment was all that ludicrous, not smart but not stupid because the guy can dish the ball off smoothly and efficiently. The C-Webb comparison, that’s a whole different ball game and I think even Kahn knows that.

  5. Considering that Darko’s assist rate has always been abysmal, I doubt we’re going to see a ton of improvement. And to say it’s not far-fetched for him to be compared to Vlade in terms of passing is mind-boggling. Vlade was a better passer than Webber. Vlade could probably kick the ball with more accuracy than Darko can pass with his hands. That’s not even up for debate either.

  6. Considering Erick Dampier is finishing a contract in which he got paid 13 million dollars a season, and Desagani Diop has been paid more money than average minutes paid 4-5 million dollars a season for a competent big man is a bargain. He’s not the greatest thing ever but it is far far far from the worst contract ever, it is hardly even the worst contract ever given out by the Wolves. Amir Johnson got more than Darko did and people laugh at Khan? Drew Gooden is making 7-8 million a year? Marcin Gortat (who is better than darko) signed a 35 million dollar contract to play 8 minutes a game….and people blast 4-5 million?

    4-5 Million is a bargain for 7’1

    he might not be Vlade but I think it is time to stop blasting this contract. If he can adequately play 25-35 minutes a game it’ll be worth every penny considering some of the names I just mentioned

  7. If Dark averages 9 pts, 6-7 boards 1.5 blks and 2 assists a game and provides a road block inside this contract will be a steal

  8. Sebastian makes a really good point when he distinguishes between Darko’s ability to pass within the flow of the offense and his trouble passing when double teams come or the offense breaks down. Worth keeping an eye on.

  9. I agree with Justin. If we can get that kind of production from the serbian gangster his contract will be worth it

    and..

    This has nothing to do with this article. But any of you watch our boy Ricky ball against the US today? I thought he was rather impressive. Hes a Straight up baller

  10. I think you are mistaken. An NBA coach does not double team a “bad” offensive player or a “average” passer. I watched the videos and I think Darko was left one on one twice. The double teams came early, on the cuts, or late when Darko’s teammates didn’t move or cut. If you want to play NBA analyst than please be professional about players and GMs or build a NBA championship team and I will respect your opinion more. The triangle is build on moving, cutting, and it’s like a dance/choreography “this happens, so that must happen next” these players aren’t their yet. Check the history on how long it took the bulls and the lakers to get proficient at the triangle.

  11. Justin- I see your point and I agree that this really isn’t a horrible contract. But I do have to disagree with your reasoning. Darko’s minutes don’t have anything to do with his skill level. They have to do with the lack of depth that we have at his position, and the dilusional reasoning of Kahn. So to say that his contract is a steal, just because he is going to average those kinds of minutes is like saying that a salesman that works on commision should get paid by the number of calls that he makes, and not the actual number of sales. In both cases, you SHOULD earn your money by being effective, not by just being there.

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