Player: Patrick Beverley
Position: Point Guard
Acquired: Free Agency (Overseas buy-out - St. Petersburg, Russia)
Contract: Final year ofa 3-year contract. To be paid $915,243 this season (will enter restricted free agency if Rockets extend him a qualifying offer this off-season)
Fun Fact: His mom opened a nail salon in Houston with Beverley's overseas earnings before Patrick even knew he'd be back in the NBA. Fate, I tell you. FATE!
Patrick Beverley is entering a pivotal moment in his NBA career. After being drafted, traded, and cut from the NBA once already, Patrick not only fought his way back into the NBA, but won a starting job. By now, however, working the scrappy underdog angle is just not going to cut it anymore for a team looking for a third star and a championship ring in a post-Chandler Parsons world.
The 26-year-old guard is entering his second year as a starter on an expiring contract in addition to playing for a contending a Western conference squad. He is entering his prime and this year he will need to step up now more than ever.
I've written at length about Beverley previously. In my opinion, it was the best piece I've written for TDS. As much as I'd like to think that had to do with some combination of writing prowess and excessive amounts of much free time, it had much more to do with the simple fact that Beverley presents an incredibly compelling case based on his life story and the experiences he brought to the table than any words I could ever put on paper.
Before getting into anything else about Patrick's 2014-15 prospects, I want to plug the documentary Hoop Reality, starring out very own favorite defensive spark plug. It is a sequel to Hoop Dreams, another award-winning documentary that you should watch, about inner city high school basketball in Chicago. Hoop Reality is available on Netflix and Amazon video and is worth every second of your time as a Rockets fan.
Now, on to the good stuff
What to Expect
Patrick Beverley's strengths are a perfect fit for a team composed like the Rockets. Championship caliber teams with superstar playmakers tend to have less-than-flashy point guards that fill key roles as 3-point shooters and defenders. Derek Fisher with Kobe and Mario Chalmers with LeBron are two recent examples. Ball dominant superstars run the show on offense for the most part and the Patrick Beverleys of the world do a lot of the dirty work.
We can expect him to fulfill his role as a complimentary back-court piece alongside James Harden, that much has been proven over the past season and a half.
To state the obvious, you should expect relentless defensive effort from Beverley this season. Constantly. Always.
Being selected to 2nd team all-defense in the NBA last season was a huge accomplishment for Patrick. It was a well-deserved validation of something Rockets fans knew all along. Beverley has consistently hounded top flight PG talent up and down the court.
In addition, Beverley is an above average rebounder and shot blocker at his position. His blocks in particular have impacted key moments in key games against key opponents. In the 4th quarter or overtime, Beverley has some impressive stuffs, like this one against Dallas or this one against Portland. The one that stands above them all is the following gem:
Even above all of that, Patrick's effort creates beneficial opportunities for the team that don't even show up on the stat sheet.
The best example possible is one of the most bizarre wins I've ever seen in my life. Last April, Houston played the Suns in a close game in the thick of a playoff race. In the final seconds, Harden launched a 3-pointer (that we didn't need, by the way, the game was tied) that serendipitously bounced off the rim straight into the air as the final buzzer sounded.
Patrick's motor didn't stop and he did what he naturally does, attack the basketball.
Beverley's technically meaningless charge and leap at the rim appeared to cause Jermaine O'Neal to react instinctively to challenge Patrick for the ball and, in the process, goaltends the game winning shot.
In addition, Patrick's ability to get under other people's skin can result in some indirect "steals" in games. Exhibit A: Kendrick Perkins.
This season, however, Beverley needs to pick it up on offense. According to NBAwowy.com, when Beverley was off the court last season, the team's scoring numbers universally went up. This was true both in general, and in every single category of shot (other than running jumpers, oddly enough) whether it be a jumper, a driving shot, a reverse layup, floaters, fade-aways, turnarounds, pullup, or step-backs -- Beverley made our scoring worse on a per-possession basis.
While Beverley's aggregate numbers spiked last season because of his drastic increase in minutes, his per-100 possession stats are revealing. Almost every base statistical category is exactly the same by that measurement, with a few deviations, according to Basketball-Reference.
Beverley is taking slightly more three pointers (6.7 to 7.3) and making them a slightly worse rate (37.5% to 36.1%) than his rookie season. Taking the biggest dive on a per-100 possession basis were Beverley's rebound (from 7.6 to 5.6) and assist numbers (from 8.2 to 4.3). One very big positive is that his turnovers per 100 possessions dropped from 3.1 to 1.9.
All of this is to say that while Beverley is seemingly on a fast track of improvement when you look at his career arc, his production since moving to the starting position has been statistically stagnant, and possibly even a slight regression from last year.
There are other, more specific, areas of concern as well.
In 2013-14, according to NBAwowy.com, 75.7 percent of Beverley's shots were jumpers and only 11.1 percent of attempts were on drives to the basket. Pat's athleticism and motor make his game much better suited to play an aggressive driving role on offense but more than 3/4 of the time he is relegated to a jump shooter on offense.
While Beverley is a serviceable three point shooter, he is not what you would consider very reliable given the volume of his attempts. I'd much rather see him doing this more often:
Just to drive the point home, Houston holds a record of 28-6 all-time when Beverley scores in double figures. The longest double-digit scoring streak Beverley has ever been on is just four games.
But, I saved the best for last.
Last season, per 82games.com, James Harden led the entire league in points per 48 "clutch" minutes (49.0) and shoots 3-pointers at a pretty ridiculous 45.8 percent clip. Comparatively, Beverley shot a paltry 21.4 percent while attempting a team-leading 8.2 three point shots per "clutch" 48 minutes. Harden takes 8.1 three pointers per 48 "clutch" minutes.
Don't get me wrong, he has greatly improved overall as a player. He has a better handle of the NBA game and is more comfortable in his position on the team. My only point is that his number show a bit of a plateau over his transition to a starting role and that, as a result, the pressure will be higher than ever on Patrick to perform in critical moments in games.
I have no doubts that once his contract is up that Houston will post a qualifying offer for Patrick Beverley and has a high likelihood of retaining him. None of what I have written is meant to suggest that Beverley cannot rise to the challenge. I have faith in his ability to rise to the occasion on offense in the role he has earned on the team. His work is cut out for him though; and he has an opportunity of a lifetime.
Mr. 94 feet, a nickname Beverley has wholeheartedly embraced, signifies his ability to cover the entire court on defense.
Technically, Beverley was listed as 25th in the league in distance traveled per 48 minutes for players who average over 15 minutes a game in 2013-14. According to SportsVU, Beverley traveled 130 miles in games last season. The point is, who cares?
Personally, Patrick Beverley's ability to put the ball through the hoop is significantly more important to me than his ability to move his body from one end of the court to the other. Patrick's defense and instincts are certainly elite, but he needs to become more of a two-way player to help push this team over the top (or at least into the second round).
As much as everyone (myself included) loves to love the Rockets that fight and claw their ways into our roster spots, we need the novelty of our players to manifest themselves in production on a consistent basis. There is certainly a method to Beverley's defensive madness, I just fear the method becoming an end in and of itself. Getting lost in the memes and caricatures of our players that are created by our collective Rockets consciousness has a tendency to blind us from the bigger picture about Houston's organizational development in the march to a championship.
Bottom line: Beverley needs to step it up on offense. His player identity and defensive DNA are crucial aspects of Houston's success, but his ability to dynamically and efficiently produce on offense will determine how far that success will take them. Fresh faces in the starting lineup and on the bench make Beverley's consistency and leadership this season all the more crucial.
I leave you, fine readers of TDS, with a compilation of the best of Patrick Beverley from last season -- enjoy!