So, now with a couple days off we'll take a peek at one of Houston's plentiful power forwards who failed to really crack the roster. The question is who do we review? Thomas Robinson, Donatas Motiejunas, or Terrence Jones? I figure we should go ahead and look at the power forward who had the option to start, did so well, and then fell into obscurity. Dinosaur Motorcycles.
Motiejunas was the 20th overall pick in 2011 (From Minnesota conveyed to Houston for the 22nd pick and Brad Miller). The lanky Lithuanian was brought over to the NBA last season with his famous "Don't go into the woods if you're afraid of wolves" line and in his first few starts Motiejunas proved he wasn't. Unfortunately whatever he found in the woods was sufficiently intimidating that he wound up riding the bench for the remainder of the season. Let's take a peek at what we got from D-Mo.
In his first season Motiejunas averaged 6 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 assist a game while contributing 12.2 minutes per game. His advanced stats reveal why he was benched so quickly (the eye test did as well but let's take a peek).
D-Mo's true shooting percentage was 53%. For comparison the league's marquee stretch forwards shot 58% (Dirk), 46% (Love, career average 56), and 53% (Aldridge). Houston averaged 56% true shooting percentage. Motiejunas contributed a total rebound rate of 10% (Grabbed 10% of available to him rebounds while he was on the floor). D-Mo also gave up the most points per 100 possessions of anyone reviewed so far by posting a defensive rating of 109. These stats get more startling when we begin to view them through usage and turnover rates where Motiejunas saw 22% of plays involve him and he turned the ball over 13.6% of the time. Break that down a bit into round figures (say 20% usage, 10% turnovers. 10% of his involvement would have been turnovers which means 2% of his total limited action he was giving the ball away, sounds small but so weren't his minutes and then he gave up points on the other end, compounding the hole dug by having him in).
Scoring. Motiejunas was below the Rockets average in true shooting but he shot right around the NBA's team average of 53%. Motie showed some pretty nice elementary post moves on the floor and he stretched the court when he was active. He stepped up when he got the opportunity to start but that ultimately wound up not being enough when the Rockets discovered they were better off smaller and a bit more experienced than with Motiejunas on the floor. Motiejunas's shot chart reflects a player with a decent efficiency in shots that Daryl Morey loves (Corner threes and at the rim). These stats all support Motie's penchant for post moves and where the floor was being stretched. Down the road Motiejunas could be a decent post presence for the Rockets and a decent stretch four offensively.
Rebounding. I want you to look at that total rebound rate before we really dive into this. 10% of available rebounds (8% of offensive rebounds available and 12% of defensive rebounds) were all he managed to collect. Motiejunas's rebounding rate was rivaled by former Rocket Kyle Lowry and was bested by former Rockets Marcus Morris and Patrick Patterson. There's a lot to say about body type in the NBA when it comes to rebounding. The bigger the build, the stronger the player, the more athletic the player, the more likely they are to eat glass. European players tend to take some time to develop that so it's not as though Motiejunas is hopeless. He was a rookie Euro seeing his first minutes of action. That's going to help him out here in the grading process.
Defense. I remember when I had the chance to see Motiejunas in person with fellow Dreamshake writer ThomasFenoglio and honorary SBNation member Rahul. We were all excited to see Motiejunas's output against the Wizards but I remember watching his defense and cringing. This theme continued throughout the season as I watched power forward after power forward abuse Motiejunas on the block and off the dribble. A major problem for Motiejunas at this point was that he came over to an NBA with a big number of crafty and experienced power forwards he had to try to slow down. Ultimately though part of defense comes down to effort and energy and it never quite showed that Motiejunas had the effort behind it. He certainly had the energy on some of his rebounding but it was absent on some of his defensive efforts.
As far as rookie seasons go Motiejunas was on the bench most of the year. We're not sure if that was seasoning, bias, or sensible. Donatas then saw the court in a starting capacity and was quickly stripped of that title. I became a Motiejunas believer over the course of the season, that needs to be clear. I never bought into being Nowitzki 2.0 and maybe the Bargnani or Okur 2.0 comparisons are apt. I think we'd all be thrilled if Motiejunas could produce 2005-2006 Mehmet Okur numbers. I'm going to cut Motiejunas some slack because it was his rookie season but I feel like the comments will be active again...
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