First in a series concerning where the Orlando Magic went wrong in their disappointing 2010/11 season.
Armed with the mid-level exception and needing to fill several needs on his Magic club, Otis Smith targeted Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon as his starting small forward and backup point guard, respectively. Richardson's ranged shooting would provide an improvement over Matt Barnes, who held that spot a year ago. Smith said, "Quentin [is] a little bit better skill player, some similar toughness as Matt has."
Richardson, fresh off a season in which he shot a career-best 39.7 percent from three-point range, figured to be the fifth option with Orlando's starting group, the sort of player who could punish opposing defenses for sagging off him in a way Barnes could not. "The addition of Richardson will have the Magic breaking multiple 3-point shooting records," predicted NBA.com analyst John Schuhmann, who picked Orlando to lead the league in offensive efficiency.
(The Magic did not break three-point shooting records. They finished 10th in three-point accuracy, at 36.6 percent, their worst mark since coach Stan Van Gundy took over prior to the 2007/08 campaign.)
Richardson responded with the worst conversion rate on threes in his 11-year career, finishing with a 28.8 percent mark; he entered the season with a career three-point percentage of 35.9. Because he lacks a dribble-drive game, he struggles to create his own shot or create shots for his teammates. His offensive usefulness is predicated on spreading the floor and hitting open threes when called upon, though his size and strength make him an occasional post-up threat.
It's hard to imagine Richardson's shooting falling off even more next season. His 2010/11 campaign was an outlier, and I expect his percentages to return to their career norms next year.
Duhon also had an outlier of a season, but not just with regard to his shooting. We'll cover that first, though. Never regarded as a great shooter or scorer, Duhon's best offensive skill, apart from his passing, is his ability to convert open threes off the catch (sound familiar?). He owned a career mark of 36.2 percent on threes coming into the season, just above the league average, and had shot between 34.8 percent and 36 percent on threes in five of his six seasons; in the other year, his first with the New York Knicks, he shot 39.1 percent from beyond the arc.
With Orlando, he made 13 threes all year, in 52 attempts, for just 25 percent. There's your shooting outlier.
The next problem was his passing and playmaking, particularly in the pick-and-roll. In theory, pairing him with sure-handed, athletic backup center Marcin Gortat would yield several easy baskets per game, or at least apply pressure to the defense.
Instead, Duhon coughed the ball up, time and again, at an unprecedented rate for him. He turned the ball over on 30.3 percent of his possessions (here, a possession entails a shot attempt, free-throw attempt, or turnover), the worst mark in the league among players who logged at least 700 minutes. And while that list includes top-flight point guards like Rajon Rondo, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, understand that those All-Stars do other things besides pass, and do them more often than Duhon, whose usage rate was among the lowest in the league in 2010/11.
Specifically, and cruelly, the pick-and-roll, which was to be his bread-and-butter play, is what tripped Duhon up. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Duhon's turnovers on pick-and-roll plays overall rose from 10.3 percent in 2009/10 to 16.8 percent this season. To me, his biggest problem here was trying to throw passes through heavy traffic. He also struggled with his handle, losing control of his dribble in uncharacteristic ways.
To his credit, when his passes out of the pick-and-roll found shooters, they converted, scoring 1.18 points per shot. He simply didn't find them often enough.
Magic fans have reason to criticize Smith for the length and value of the contracts he gave Richardson and Duhon. In fairness to all parties involved, Richardson and Duhon appeared to be excellent fits at the time, and nobody could have foreseen their concurrent, unexpected, flukily bad seasons. Both ought to bounce back this season, though it's unclear if Duhon, now the third point guard, will ever see the floor regularly.