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The Season in Review: Joel Przybilla

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Today we look at one of the key, yet unsung, contributors to this year's run:  Joel Anthony Przybilla.

If you haven't read the conversation guidelines for these threads, please take a look before commenting.  That said, I doubt you'll need them for this thread.

Joel Przybilla's 2008-09 stats:

Statistic

2008-2009

2007-2008

Net Change

Games Played

82

77

+5

Games Started

43

67

-24

Minutes per Game

23.8

23.6

+0.2

Points per Game

5.5

4.8

+0.7

FG ATT per Game

3.3

3.2

+0.1

Field Goal%

62.5%

57.6%

+4.9%

3PT ATT per Game

0

0

---

Three-Point%

---

---

---

FT ATT per Game

2.1

1.6

+0.5

Free Throw%

66.3%

68.0%

-1.7%

Off Rebs per Game

2.5

2.5

--

Def Rebs per Game

6.3

5.9

+0.4

TOT Rebs per Game

8.7

8.4

+0.3

Assists

0.3

0.4

-0.1

Steals

0.4

0.2

+0.2

Blocks

1.2

1.2

---

Turnovers

1.0

1.2

-0.2

Personal Fouls

2.6

3.0

-0.4

Effective FG%

62.5%

57.6%

+4.9%

True Shooting%

65.2%

61.1%

+4.1%

PER

15.4

12.3

+3.1

Plus-Minus

+3.61

-1.31

+4.92

It seems strange to begin a summation of Joel Przybilla's season with talk about offense, but clearly this is the area where Joel made the greatest strides this year.  And by "greatest" I mean "phenomenal", at least when compared to his standard production.  Up until this season Joel's offensive repertoire read like the natural ingredients list on a Twinkie.  You can look, but you're not going to find much.  Now all of a sudden he's throwing in short hooks, flipping dipsy-doodles, and catching in the lane for nice finishes.  His field goal percentage went up 5% and his PER jumped 3 points from his offense alone.

What we have here is a great example of synergy.  Offense feeds on offense.  Did Joel benefit from the team's three-point threats?  You bet he did.  His hands didn't all of a sudden become supple as butter-soaked satin.  (Please don't ask me how I know.  About the satin, I mean., not Joel's hands.  I'm going to move on now.)  The distance shooters cleared traffic for him so he could see the ball, guide it into his mitts, and put on some semblance of a move afterwards.  Did Joel also help the long-range bombers?  You bet he did.  He was more focused and more confident than we've ever seen him on that end of the court.  He made himself available instead of shying away from the possession.  He finished with authority, putting the ball home when he had the chance.  Teams couldn't just leave him.  That made the deep shooting easier.  You have to credit Joel and his teammates for having confidence in themselves and each other and making this work.  At 5.5 points per game he wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire.  But he didn't have to.  He did what he needed to and did it well.

In addition he gave us all of the Przybilla factors that we've come to love.  He worked hard.  He rebounded well.  His defensive rebounding percentage was 33.1%, which means one out of every three defensive rebounds available when he was on the court went into his hands.  With nine other guys on the floor that's not half bad.  He blocked a few shots.  He played good defense.  He helped when his wings got into trouble.  He set screens.  He was the lunch-pail guy through and through.

Two factors stand out in his season.

First, Joel helped ameliorate the sting of Greg Oden's learning curve.  Whether he started or came off the bench he became the Bactine every time we got rubbed raw by Greg's fouls or missed opportunities.  The team won whether Oden was on or off, whether he played 30 minutes or 10.  A significant slice of the credit goes to Joel.  We would not have had 54 wins--maybe not even close to 54 wins--without him.

Second, Joel was the first guy in almost every stare-down the season brought.  He wasn't afraid to badger opponents, stand up to their bullying, and bandy words that probably shouldn't have been caught by the camera.  The fierce showdowns he had with the parade of people who put the ball in his face towards the end of the season were both humorous and important.  It's crazy to think that the phrase, "Throw that ball at me again" repeated six times could mean something.  But it did.  If the Blazers are going to take crazy offense at little stuff you don't want to cross them with the big stuff.  Joel's teammates don't always get that.  He showed the way.  When Rudy Fernandez got clubbed by Trevor Ariza in that fateful L*kers game somebody in purple and gold had to check on Rudy first.  Everybody in scarlet and black was fixin' to kill somebody.  Outside of Jarrett Jack we haven't seen that spirit around here for a while. 

Even with the offensive tour de force the team scored better when Joel sat than when he played, to the tune of 4.2 points more per 100 possessions.  But hold up, because the team allowed 10.1 fewer points per 100 possessions when Joel was in the game.  You could fit the Love Boat, the Starship Enterprise, and Henry Abbott's paycheck in that gap with room left over.  Effective field goal percentage allowed and opponent foul shots were way down with Przy in the game, defensive rebounding was way up.  He may only affect the game in specific areas, but dang it...that game stays affected.

Joel is one of the few players on this team lacking for stuff to work on over the summer.  Stay in shape.  Continue practicing free throws and getting comfortable around the basket.  Other than that, he just needs to be Joel.

Does all of this make Joel untradeable?  Personally I don't think so.  Joel was THE guy at center for the Blazers this year.  He will probably be a critical guy at center again next year.  You will never, ever be sorry he's on your team.  Anytime, anywhere Joel can play for you.  However this team's future still rests with Greg Oden.  Somebody would have to make a hell of a deal to pry Joel away from the Blazers because they're going to have a hard time matching 54 wins, let alone exceeding that number, without him.  But if a long-term impact player were available and Joel had to be included in the deal to make it happen, it's still a possibility.  He is still heir to the limits he brought into the season and not even a banner year by most standards changes his basic make-up.  A trade is not a strong possibility.  It would shock the heck out of me.  But it's there.

I'd be sad to see it happen though.  I am comforted by the idea that if such a move were made it would be more likely to happen next year than this.  We're almost certainly going into battle with Joel on our side next season.  It remains to be seen (really being up to Oden) whether he's the starter again or a reserve but either way it's a comfort to have him.

How do you feel about Joel?  How do his strengths and limitations balance out to you?  Can you envision a team to whom he'd mean more than he means to the Blazers right now?  How long will the marriage between Przy and Portland last?  What would it take to pry him away if you were the GM?

See more stats at 82Games.com and Basketball-Reference.com.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)