or, can a grown man forget how to make layups? One of the underlying assumptions in the Blazers’ entry into the free agent market to pursue luminaries like Chuck Hayes, Carl Landry, Reggie Evans and Joel Przybilla is that Marcus Camby is washed up. Given his total failure to produce on offense last year, this assumption is reasonably intuitive. Camby posted career lows in PER and True Shooting Percentage. Here’s an illustration of just how inefficient Camby was last year in comparison to previous years: Last year Camby’s scoring was insanely inefficient, especially given his low usage rate. A 43% TS number is frankly so bad it is difficult to justify leaving someone on the floor with that number regardless of other production. So if Camby continues to score like that, we are going to see a lot of small ball, and Chuck Hayes will be playing 40 minutes a night or something. On the other hand, is it possible that Camby could bring his offense back to the point where he is no longer a massive liability? Unfortunately, the list of comparables is incredibly slim. His Basketball Reference similarity scores include players who are nothing like him, such as Elden Campbell and Brad Miller, along with a number of players who are so old they didn’t even keep track of rebounds back then. Frankly, the vast majority of non-star players who accumulate defensive counting stats like Camby mostly dunk the ball instead of trebucheting it in the vague direction of the basket from 19 feet away. So what we can do is compare Camby to himself. Which parts of Camby’s efficiency have declined and killed his TS%?
This is where the alternative title for the post comes from. I think there is a common misconception that the decline in efficiency was largely the result of him missing more jumpshots. In reality, Blazer fans witnessed a huge outlier in his shooting where he shot 48% from 16-23 feet in his time with Portland in 2009-10. Last year’s jump shooting performance was more in keeping with his actual jump shooting skill, which is probably around 35%. The real problem over the last two years has been his inability to finish layups. Is this simply the result of chance, like the dip in 2007-08 was, or is it a sign of real decline? I would make two points in favor of this being a blip as opposed to a decline. First, the number of total field goals is not all that large. In a sample of just 294 attempts last year (total!), even 20 more brings him from horribly inefficient to playable. Second, scoring efficiency tends to be more unpredictable than any other stat. If Camby were truly decrepit and unable to play at an NBA level, he wouldn’t be doing other stuff well. And he did other stuff brilliantly last year! Perhaps as well as he has in his entire career!
His block rate has declined, but is still quite good. Other than that, it is pretty much all onward and upward with his non-scoring stats. Based on these numbers, I expect that even at age 38, Camby’s poor efficiency numbers in 2010-11 were an aberration rather than signs of an irreversible decline. He probably won’t be very efficient this year, but he should be good enough to play in situations that demand his size and defensive contributions without totally torpedoing the offense. Please try to explain his newfound inability to shoot free throws at a respectable percentage in the comments because I am at a loss.