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The Garbage Man - Outside the Curve

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We have written a lot about the international players on the 06-07 squad as of late. The focus has been primarily on Calderon and Garbajosa, two key members to the newly crowned world's best team - Spain. Now that both are coming off such a great run, Raps fans, including the HQ, are interested to see how their summer of success will translate into the coming NBA season.

For much of the summer Franchise and I have disagreed. Whether the topic was Salmons or Jones, the CV for TJ swap, or just the general direction of the team, we have had some heated debates. In lieu of this, it is perhaps not surprising that we choose to focus on two different players coming off the World Championships...he likes Calderon, I would rather talk Garbajosa. Now before I proceed, a few points of clarification:

I am sure that a few of the readers are taking the latest post on Calderon a little too seriously. It is probably a case of national pride. Let's set the record straight: Calderon is no Steve Nash, and in no way was it meant to take away from one of the greatest individual sporting accomplishments of all time. The article doesn't say: Calderon is the next Nash. The point was that if history were to repeat itself then the World Championships may be the start of Calderon taking his play to another level. MVP level? - Even the Raptor himsef would not make that argument. It will be interesting to see how Calderon performs this year, and as mentioned here before, it should be a heated battle in camp between him and TJ for the majority of the minutes.

The other topic of conversation of late is Garbs, and how he will perform this year. Ever since I did my initial research on this guy in "Who is Jorge Garbajosa" I have been somewhat skeptical I admit. The World's really did nothing to change my mind. To me when I see his game, I don't think he should be anything more than one of the last guys off the bench. I hope I am wrong. Now there have been some readers that think he is going to be a key component to the Raptors team this season. So, I decided to do a little more research on the Garbage Man and other Euro's who have made the jump as of late. I, unlike Franchise, have had my focus on this Spaniard...and perhaps the reason for this is that there seems to be a feeling, some momentum amongst the Raptors faithful, to annoint him the next fan favorite with the departure of Matt Bonner. I don't share that sentiment...yet.

Let's get one thing out of the way right now. I acknowledge and appreciate the fact that Garbs will bring hustle, a high basketball IQ and some decent glass cleaning skills to the Raps. I am not going to focus on these things. The thing I want to focus on is his offensive game. I have touched on it before and have dished out his stats during the Championship. They are not pretty. In particular inside the arc. Of course it is the arc that makes Garbs an interesting player. He is known for hitting the three. He can stretch the D. He put that ability and skill set on display in the finals against Greece as he stroked 6 long bombs. My initial reaction to watching him play was "Hey, the Raps have a shooter here." Then I thought about it a little more. I thought about the extra distance and I thought about how effective Garbs could be as a player if he doesn't make the NBA three. My gut instinct is "Not Very". Of course gut instinct isn't really worth much, facts are...so I found some.

It is still fairly rare to see guys who have made a career playing ball in Europe, make the NBA transition despite the fact that the international game has quickly been catching up to the NBA in terms of skill. For those individuals who have made the move what can we learn? Or more specifically, what can about them adjusting to the NBA three? So I needed a group of guys who have made the move as of late. Here's a few of the more noteworthy:

Jose Calderon
Sarunas Jasikevicius
Manu Ginobili
Beno Udrih
Andres Nocioni

Jose Calderon: As Raps fans we all know that Calderon was not much of a threat from three during his rookie season. He only took 43 attempts. The reason? He was only hitting at a 16.3% clip. What is interesting to note however, is that Calderon during his time in Europe was actually an above average three point shooter. In his final season with Tau Ceramica, Calderon took 108 three's and hit 45.4% of them. An excellent percentage. You have to think the extra differnce in distance, injuries and everything else considered, had something to do with this drastic decrease.

Sarunas Jasikevicius: I think it's a fair assumption to say that Sarunas has been a disappointment thus far for the Pacers. One of the primary reasons? Shooting percentage. Prior to being signed as a free-agent Sarunas was a sharp shooter for Maccabi Tel Aviv and ever since leaving Maryland shot over 50% from the floor. For seven seasons a PG shot over 50%. That's impressive. Perhaps even more impressive were his three point numbers. In the 2003/04 season Sarunas shot 58% from the outside and in the 2004/05 season hit 52.5%. So, how did this sharp shooting translate into the NBA? A 39.6% shooting percentage and a 36.4% three point percentage. Yikes.

Manu Ginobili: I will be the first to admit that Manu's game is more getting to the hoop rather than stroking the outside jumper. None the less I had to look to see how his stats have changed since becoming one of the NBA's true international stars. Manu played two seasons for Kinder Bologna in the Euroleague. In the 2000-2001 season he shot a great 56% from the floor but only 29% from the land beyond. In the 2001-2002 season, the year before making his NBA debut he still shot over 50% from the floor and managed to gain some consistency with the three pointer improving the shooting percentage to 34%. Since then? Unlike Calderon and Sarunas, Manu has managed to avoid the huge drop in shooting percentage and during his time with the Spurs he has shot above 45% from the floor and has actually been more deadly from the NBA three point range shooting 36% from outside. Maybe this is why he's one of the best players on one of the league's best teams.

Beno Udrih: So what about Manu's teammate? Beno has not exactly gotten a ton of minutes in his two NBA seasons, averaging just shy of 13 per contest. During the regular season one can only assume that it has not been his shooting that has kept him tied to the bench (the playoffs are a different story) as Beno has shot well (Career .448 shooting percentage, .387 from three). So was Beno a shooter before entering into Popovic's world? Yes. In particular from inside the arc where in both the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons he shot above 50% from the floor. The three point story? Somewhat different and Udrih was only hitting at a clip of 30% or so. Looks like he has made an ok transition, except other parts of his game continually get him in the dog house.

Andres Nocioni: So how about the next NBA international star? Nocioni became a force late this season and is a key component to the Bulls squad. Much like Sarunas, Andres was signed as a FA, and obviously is not shy to shoot the rock, in particular from the outside. Last season Andres took 238 three point attempts, and hit just shy of 40%. That high percentage however is far different then when he was first introduced to the L. In his rookie season Andres shot an ugly 25.8 percent from three. Another Tau Ceramica alum, Andres was a shooter when playing in the Euroleague and was a consistent threat from outside, shooting 44% and just shy of 40% in his last two seasons. One has to think the Bulls were questioning the signing when Andres was first making the transition.

So then what trends are there here if any? Nothing is written in stone and each player is different, but if I were a betting man, and looking at how some of the most recent imports to the NBA game performed, in particular from outside the arc in their first season in the L, I would say Garbs is in for a rough ride. The concern here is that Garbs is not that great of a shooter now, as witnessed by his percentages in the World's and this past season with Tau where he shot just over 40% from both inside and outside the international arc. That leaves me thinking if he does struggle like a number of his compatriots did in their rookie seasons, it may be a long year for the Garbage Man. Of course this is what I expected with this signing. I don't expect Jorge to come in and play a lot of minutes and unlike some of the readers, this is why I believe he and Humphries will be battling it out for PT off the bench. Both can rebound and get in the passing lanes, and if Garbs struggles shooting, then where's the difference between these two guys? Age is one, upside is another, and all of those things point to Humphries. All this being said, a team player who hustles and plays D is a great asset off the bench. I just don't think we will be singing his long range praises this season.

Any finally here's some quick hits this Sunday, something we have not done in a while here:

- With all of the focus on the international players as of late I think the one person that gets lost in the shuffle may be the best signing of the off-season, Fred Jones.

- Why is it the Raptors, supposedly Canada's team, are not playing an exhibition game somewhere in Canada other than Toronto? Doesn't the Raptors organization almost have to bring a game to Newfoundland after the fiasco the last time around? What about Montreal? Vancouver? Somewhere other than New York?!

- Training camp please start. It's one thing to make educated guesses at how things will go, it's another thing to watch them play out.

- When are the Raps going to introduce and start selling those new uni's?

- How do you think Cuban would have reacted had it not be Pau Gasol breaking his foot but Dirk? Can you say tirade and NBA's largest fine?

- Love the Don Nelson hiring in Golden State.

- Just a hunch but I say Shaq comes into the Heat camp at least 25 pounds overweight.

- The team I can't figure out at this point is the Hornets. If they mesh they could be very good, but I think it will take another season or two.

- I don't have LeafsTV but are there commercials for the Raps on there? Is it not strange that when I watch Raps TV I am forced to sit through Marlie and Leafs commercials? I thought it was all ball, all day? False advertising.

HOWLAND