With all of the talk going on about
Quick, what makes a good NBA player?
Obviously talent is the base, and that talent can take many forms. However, as long as some kind of talent is there, it’s not necessarily the determining factor in whether (and how much) you get to play in this league. Scoring 20 points in a game is cool, but not in itself that impressive. Probably 350 of the 450-odd NBA players should be able to score 20 points once in a blue moon, given the chance. It’s not a good defensive showing or a Sportscenter highlight either. What makes you a player in this league is simple: consistency. Your spikes make the news, but your baseline gets you off the pines and between the lines.
Unless you get pretty lucky with your timing (as with the late, great Herm Gilliam in the ’77 Conference Finals) it’s unlikely that your Big Spike is going to coincide with the team’s Important Moment. Witness all of these guys pulling out impressive games during the pre-season. It shows that the potential is there, but potential unrealized doesn’t add up to anything but regrets and frustration. In those Important Moments (and in some ways every regular season game becomes one) coaches are going to go with guys on whom they can rely. Now that Isiah Thomas has been relieved of his duties, your reputation in this league is built up over months at least, if not years. It’s certainly not determined by a single game or even a hot week. If I’m coaching the Trail Blazers right now and I’m aiming for a playoff seed, I know my bread and butter consists of Lamarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, and Greg Oden. When I choose players to play alongside them I’m going to take the guy who gives me a bankable 13 and 6 plus decent defense every night over the guy who might give me 20 but might give me 3. If I need the 20, I can channel extra attempts into Lamarcus and Brandon. The potential gain of giving big minutes to Random Inexperienced Guy is less than the potential loss.
When the counted games start, don’t be surprised to see guys like Channing Frye, Martell Webster, and of course Steve Blake and Joel Przybilla take up the lion’s share of the minutes. Rudy Fernandez looks pretty consistent already and he’ll have no trouble earning minutes. Sergio might be headed that way but we need more data (preferably in real games) to be sure. Significant action for any of these other guys is a ways off yet…or at least it’s a long-shot that Nate would call their names. They don’t have the track record of consistency even in pre-season, let alone in the actual league. It'll take a while for them to prove that they belong.