Friday, February 12, 2010

Steada Treated

In our last installment, we looked at the 2010 cohort of role players who have remained on one team for six solid years. Here are a few more whom we omitted in that post:

TONY ALLEN (Boston 2004-present)
SASHA VUJACIC (L.A. Lakers 2004-present)
Each of these guys has been lucky to follow the journey of joining a team at the lowest point of its sinusoid curve, and then watching as the team climbs toward a championship, all while remaining a non-core role player. Sasha "The Machine" was drafted in 2004, immediately prior to the trades of Shaquille O'Neal and Gary Payton. My, but that Lakers team was bad (34-48) in Vujacic's first year, driving coach Rudy Tomjanovich into a second retirement. He hit a couple big shots for Los Angeles when it hit a scurvy fate in the 2006 and 2007 first rounds against Phoenix, but now that the Lakers are title contenders again, he averages 7.6 minutes and 2.5 points, having been supplanted in the rotation by Shannon Brown. He is lucky enough to consort with beautiful tennis star Maria Sharapova, though.
As for Allen, he plays decent defense and the Celtics sometimes view him as their "Kobe stopper". It's surprising that he's hung around for six years, though, as he is probably not the caliber of player that an elite team would like to have as their best backup wing.

DORELL WRIGHT (Miami 2004-present)
Wright has experienced the opposite trajectory to Vujacic and Allen: He was inducted into the Miami side in 2004 at their very peak, just after they acquired Shaquille O'Neal for the trio of Odom, Butler, and Grant. Miami won six playoff series and a championship in Wright's first two years, although he did not receive much serious run. Wright's best season was 2007-08, in which he averaged 25 minutes, 8 points, and 5 rebounds. That was also Miami's worst: Dwyane Wade had several injuries, Shaquille O'Neal was tired then traded, and the team blatantly "tanked" in hopes of a high draft pick. As Wade and Miami have haltingly returned to form in the last couple years, Wright's utilization has sunk. He is still on the team, though his contract is set to expire in June and some analysts think Miami will soon trade him for luxury-tax relief.

Prior to this week, I was planning to include all the guys below on my list of long-tenured role players. However, recent developments have moved me to see them as distinct creatures. I now feel inclined to create a new category: "Guys Who Did Not Ascend to All-Star Status Until Their Sixth or Seventh Season With The Same Team". This list would include Gerald Wallace (a 2010 All-Star in his sixth year with Charlotte, and his ninth overall), Chris Kaman (a 2010 All-Star in his seventh Clippy year) and Josh Smith (the most popularly mentioned 2010 All-Star snub, in his sixth campaign with Atlanta).

And here is another category: "Guys Who Seemingly Have All-Star Talent At Times But Have Never Put It Together For A Sustained Period, Yet Remain On One Team For Six Years": Luol Deng, Andris Biedrins, Andre Iguodala, Tayshaun Prince, and Kevin Martin are the charter members of this club. Richard Jefferson, who played for New Jersey from 2001-2008, also qualifies. Other than the big Latvian, these guys are all lanky wing players. Does this mean that good-but-not-great wing players are scarce and teams are afraid to lose them? Or that analysts have a tendency to overestimate the potential of slashers who really aren't all that?

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