2016-17 Roster Review: Brandon Rush
I really liked the Brandon Rush signing last summer. Coming off a season in which he shot nearly 43% from 3 in just under 15 minutes per game on one of the best teams in NBA history, the paltry 1-year, $3.5 million deal the Wolves handed Rush seemed like a steal. One figured that Rush would provide much needed bench depth and three-point shooting as well as a solid veteran presence to a very young Wolves team that was devoid any senior leadership after Kevin Garnett retired and Tayshaun Prince was not resigned.
Rush averaged 15.2 minutes over the Wolves’ first five games, but was banished from the rotation after a 112-92 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, a game in which he was 0/5 from three. Over the first five games, Rush shot 27.2% from three and accumulated only 14 total points. He only saw 67 minutes of action between November 5th, the last game before his demotion, and January 11th, a game he started against the Houston Rockets in place of an injured Zach LaVine. The Wolves beat the Rockets as well as the Thunder two days later as Rush combined to play 76 minutes, score 25 points, and connect on seven of his 13 three-point attempts; Rush wouldn’t play again (save for three minutes against the Dallas Mavericks in the game after the win against the Thunder) until LaVine tore his ACL and was done for the year.
On paper Rush had a decent season. He averaged a skim-milky 4.2 points in approximately 22 minutes per game, but his 38.6% 3FG% on 2.4 attempts per game was second best on the team (he finished 0.1% behind LaVine). He even showed a shocking, nay, bewildering knack for getting chase down blocks!
ANOTHER! BRANDON RUSH: NOTED RIM PROTECTOR
— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) January 14, 2017
For a good chunk during the middle of the season, when he wasn’t playing at all, there were murmurs about Rush not getting enough playing time. He could shoot, after all, and perhaps provide decent enough defense, and the Wolves desperately needed more of each infused into the lineup; not playing him at all seemed like a waste.
But if his season ultimately proved anything it’s that (you may want to sit down for this one) Brandon Rush is not cut out to be heavily relied upon in an NBA rotation. As can be seen in his shot chart below, Rush’s spot up three-point shooting was good, particularly from the left corner, but he didn’t really provide much of anything else.
His offensive awareness was shaky at best – as evidenced by his propensity for electing to crash the lane rather than plant himself in the corner when Ricky Rubio drove towards the basket – and he just didn’t possess the lateral quickness or wingspan to hold his own on defense against rotation caliber opponents. Essentially, the value that Rush provided wasn’t big or consistent enough to justify having him as one of the top 10 players on your team.
However, if the Wolves want to bring Rush back on another 1-year, super cheap deal I think I would be all for it as long as they hit on at least one other wing acquisition, whether through the draft or free agency. Brandon Rush could be a valuable piece on a good team if he is their 12th or 13th player. This was seen two years ago when, as previously mentioned, he shot 43% from three with the Golden State Warriors. If Rush’s sole role is to stand in the corner and shoot 2-3 threes per game, he can be a productive player on a playoff team. Asking anything from him beyond that, as the Wolves did this past season, is asking too much.
In short, Brandon Rush’s season could be summarized in two distinct phases: 1. Not playing enough and 2. Playing too much. Rush has value because of his three-point shooting, but isn’t good enough to be anything beyond a team’s third or fourth wing player off the bench. If Tom Thibodeau wants to bring him back on another cheap, one-year deal, I’d be cool with that, but the Wolves must obtain at least one other wing player. That being said, replacement level wing shooting is one of the most abundant commodities in the NBA, so I wouldn’t be shocked if Rush wasn’t retained. He seems like a great guy, so no matter what happens I hope for his success in the future, whether with the Minnesota Timberwolves or elsewhere.