Their beloved veteran shooting guard was gone, lost for the game (and possible longer), and all the Magic really had to turn to was (sigh) that former Dukie, J.J. Redick.
As it turns out, everyone who has ever been a fan of Duke was a winner, three-fold, on Sunday, as Redick helped carry the offensive load, the Magic defeated the Nuggets, and Redick’s Blue Devils advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament.
Of course, Redick wasn’t on the team. But he might as well have been. He had reverted to his old scoring ways, was getting involved in areas skeptics never thought he could (rebounding and passing), and logged a career-high 46 minutes.
Redick finished with a stellar line of 23 points (on 8-of-15 shooting), seven rebounds, and eight assists.
Not exactly what many have come to expect out of the scorner white kid with jelled black hair and a chip on his shoulder.
Oh, it’s there folks, and for good reason.
We all know the story by now. Redick destroyed the ACC as he pleased, was selected 11th overall in the 2006 NBA Draft, and was thrown to the bench for the better part of the last four years to rot.
Of course, Redick earned extended minutes in last year’s dramatic playoff run due to injury, shined on both ends of the court, and earned some well-deserved extra playing time at the start of the 2009-10 season.
Despite playing behind the likes of Keyon Dooling, Keith Bogans, Courtney Lee, and so many other no-name players, the former lottery pick who apparently couldn’t guard anyone, create his own shot, rebound, or create for others was finally getting a chance.
No, not his piddly 14 minutes per game in his rookie season, the eight minutes per game in year two, or even the 17 minutes per game last season.
Redick was finally hitting the floor on a consistent basis, and despite at times failing to crack 15 minutes in a game, he’s still hovering right around 22 minutes per game.
Not bad for an unathletic white kid who can’t guard anyone or create his own shot. But for the 11th overall pick in the 2006 draft? Twenty-two minutes?
All that talk about his lack of athleticism, bad defense, lack of offensive ability; it needs to stop.
Redick guarded Ray Allen in the playoffs last year, and regardless of the points Allen accumulated, he fared extremely well. The game tape doesn’t lie.
As for creating his own shot and offense, Redick’s free throw numbers tell the story. The guy is averaging 9.4 points on the season on just 6.7 attempted shots per game.
How does that happen? He shoots solid percentages, and he finds ways to get to the line. Nearly three times per game on average, actually, and he nails the freebies down at nearly 87 percent a clip.
However, unless you actually watch tape on Redick and see the awesome “transformation” from a guy who got drafted and was never backed by his team, to a guy who is finally gaining confidence and being used correctly, these numbers won’t do anything for you.
Perhaps some numbers that no one else is looking at will, however.
ESPN has been ranting and raving when covering the Magic vs. Nuggets game, laughing Redick’s elite performance off as a fluke, that he was somehow energized by his former team (Duke) making it to the Final Four, and that we should expect him to regress back to normal anytime now.
That’s what Rotoworld.com says, anyways. And really, unless Vince Carter’s ankle injury is more serious that thought, they’ll be right. Yes, they will be right, but that doesn’t mean they actually are.
To understand this, one has to take a closer look at Redick’s productivity. You can’t just look at what he does in 15 or less minutes per game. This guy was an elite shooter and volume scorer in the ACC. He can’t drop 40, 30, or even 20 points on a regular basis with 22 minutes per game and a measly 6.7 shot attempts per game.
No one can. Kobe Bryant can’t. Dwyane Wade can dream. Even LeBron James would be lost trying to do so.
Redick, like any strong shooter or scorer, needs opportunities and shots. And the best part (or worst part?) is that he knows this. He knows it so well, that he worked hard in the off-season to improve his dribbling and creating ability, and now has a strong driving ability, which allows him to regularly keep the defender honest, and also allows him to get to the charity stripe, where he thrives.
But saying it is one thing. Proving it is entirely another.
Well, in an effort to sway the public; yes, even the pre-decided Duke, Redick, and all-things-Magic haters, there is evidence that supports Redick’s case.
There are stats, numbers, and situational evidence that proves that he can be an effective starter in the NBA, and at the very least, should be playing close to 30 minutes per game, and should damn well be throwing up at least 10 shots per game.
Every star (elite) player in the NBA logs close to, if not much more than 30 minutes per game. Considering Redick is already at 22, it’s fairly reasonable to think he could jump to a consistent 30 if he continues to play at a high level (in regards to next season, of course), but especially so if there are any injuries.
Regardless, the rationalization behind this is that when Redick logs at least 30 minutes per game, he has proven to be a solid performer.
In 11 games with at least 30 minutes of play, Redick has averaged 12.8 points per game, while averaging over 21 points per game in three games with over 40 minutes.
But talking about minutes is only half the battle.
Redick currently averages just 6.7 shot attempts per game and averages 9.4 points per game, but what would happen if he averaged over 10 attempts? A quick look at his success in games with 10+ attempts shows he can do much more when given more opportunities to succeed.
In 11 games with at least 10 shot attempts, Redick averaged 16 points per game, further displaying his ability to rack up the points, so long as he gets a decent amount of opportunities.
Considering the “elite” players in the league get well over 15 shots per game, and extreme cases over 20 per game, this isn’t demanding a lot for Redick to be able to prove his worth.
However, even with this information, there will still be people who say that Redick scores most of his points in mop-up time, or that the more Redick plays, the less effective the Orlando Magic are.
Well, that simply just isn’t true.
In the 11 games where Redick has logged 30+ minutes, the Magic are 7-4, while they have another solid 7-4 record in the 11 games where Redick shoots at least 10 shots.
The fact is, J.J. Redick isn’t going to overly complain about a lack of minutes or a mediocre role. On a talented Magic team that can go deep in the playoffs, he’s not going to be a distraction, and he’s not going to ruin a good thing.
But that doesn’t mean he can’t get a good, solid, logical backing from an unbiased writer.
Redick came along slowly in his rookie season. He struggled with defense and ironically enough, actually struggled with his offensive game in his second season.
However, now that we are all able to clearly see he can play at a high level, it’s becoming more clearly by the day that his poor play in the past was very arguably circumstantial, that he should have been getting more minutes all along, and that he was never given a fair shake.
It’s still arguable to this day that he isn’t being given the minutes or role he deserves, and the horrible truth is, that may never be the case.