(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Orlando Pinstriped Post recounts the Orlando Magic's season on a player-by-player basis, providing narrative evaluations and a subjective letter grade for each.
I find Chris Duhon an exceptionally difficult player to write about. He is not particularly controversial, or unique, nor did he play many games for the Orlando Magic this past season. He is, by any account, a fairly nondescript player.
One might be able to fill a few pages, though, simply compiling Magic fans' complaints about the veteran point guard from around the internet.
If Orlando's trade for Gilbert Arenas on December 18th pushed Duhon out of the rotation entirely, his shaky play before it set the stage. Leading up to the Arenas trade, coach Stan Van Gundy sometimes called upon Jason Williams to back up Jameer Nelson, relegating Duhon to the end of the bench. After Arenas' arrival, Williams left the team in protest (he later signed with the Memphis Grizzlies, only to retire due to a back ailment), and Duhon would log just 310 minutes in 28 appearances the rest of the season.
|Points Per Game||Assists Per Game||Turnovers Per Game|
|Points Per 36||Assists Per 36||Turnovers Per 36|
|PER||Assist Rate||Turnover Rate|
All statistics in this table from Duhon's player page at basketball-reference. Career-best statistics highlighted in gold; career-worst statistics highlighted in silver.
It is not difficult to understand why Duhon fell out of the rotation. Never a great offensive player, he compounded his problems by outright refusing to shoot, even when open. It may seem counterintuitive to ask a man who finished the season shooting 38 percent to look for his shot even more, but the reasoning is fairly simple: with Duhon not a threat to shoot--and thus not a threat to score--at all, defenses were free to ignore him to a staggering degree. Now, they'd likely ignore him anyway, as the Magic's least threatening offensive player, but he could have at least shot more often off the catch when left open. Orlando signed him in part due to his ability to make threes in those situations as he entered the season with a respectable 36.2 percent mark on three-pointers.
Instead, he took 52 threes overall, in 51 games, and missed 75 percent of them.
Another issue, which becomes obvious when one examines the stats card above, is turnovers. Duhon doesn't have the reputation of a great player, or even a good one--he does, after all, earn a salary below the league average--but he's at least respected for his ability to manage an offense and make plays. Indeed, in his last season with the New York Knicks, he and All-Star forward David Lee formed one of the league's best pick-and-roll combinations.
Bizarrely, Duhon proved ineffective as a playmaker, his biggest strength in his first six seasons.
He didn't apply pressure to a defense. He committed more than one turnover for every two assists. He became a liability, rather than an asset.
I don't expect Duhon to play worse next year; his sharp increase in turnovers seems fluky to me, given his track record. And, when he didn't turn the ball over, his passes generally resulted in buckets: in pick-and-roll situations, teammates scored on 52.2 percent of Duhon's passes to them, according to Synergy Sports Technology. For comparison, that figure ranks ahead of Portland Trail Blazers starter Andre Miller's (51.7 percent) and barely behind those of the Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo and the Dallas Mavericks' Jason Kidd (52.6 percent each).
Still, Duhon failed to meet even the team's modest, realistic expectations. He has to assert himself more offensively, and cut his mistakes, if he's to become a rotation-caliber player in this league again. It's fair to wonder if the team may have been better off playing Williams from the start, or if Duhon even represents an improvement over former backup Anthony Johnson, who did not play last season.