64 Games With Shelvin Mack In A Lockout-Shortened Season: When The Going Gets Steady
[NOTE: Truth About It.net 2011-12 Player Reviews continue, where we take a look at the past, present and future of those players who have touched the Wizards franchise during the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season. Now, we take a look at sophomore John Wall's rookie backup. That's right... Shelvin Mack. TAI's Ryan Gracia, Rashad Mobley and Kyle Weidie look back on Mack's foray into the NBA. -Kyle W.]
Player Review Index: Morris Almond (we’d like to) | Andray Blatche | Trevor Booker | Brian Cook (maybe) | Jordan Crawford | Maurice Evans | Rashard Lewis | Shelvin Mack | Cartier Martin | Roger Mason Jr. | JaVale McGee | Nenê | Kevin Seraphin (coming soon) | Chris Singleton | James Singleton | Ronny Turiaf (meh) | Edwin Ubiles (we’ll see) | Jan Vesely | John Wall | Nick Young
Shelvin Mack: DC Council Ratings
In 64 games off the bench, Mack earned a grand total of 10 bench stars, an average almost equal to the bench stars of Andray Blatche in his 13 games off the bench. Oh well.
Mack did, however, have some good games. Game 56 against the New Jersey Nets where Mack dropped 10 points and eight assists (just one turnover) comes to mind (although the Wiz got smacked that game). Mack was also very key in Game 15 with nine points and five assists in nine and a half minutes off the bench when Washington played Denver close in a four-point loss. So yea, there were moments, very brief moments.
It’s been a blur for Shelvin Mack, this game of basketball. Playing in 64 out of 66 games compacted into four months of a lockout-shortened season is a lot for a second round draft pick. Leaving the Butler Bulldogs after three seasons, the last two making it all the way to the NCAAA championship game — losing to Duke and UConn — Mack twice saw 38 college games (and class) in four and a half months. So basketball has been a blur, if not a steady blur. His sophomore NBA campaign is already in session.
“Steady” became the word most associated with Mack the Washington Wizard. Now, one can’t compare the environment of Butler University to that of the Washington Wizards this past season; it could be safely assumed that Mack’s maturity dwarfed that of the professional team leaders he inherited — Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and Nick Young. So, part of the success points to the idea that Mack was relatively immune to the toxic surroundings of losing in poor fashion. He came from a damn good college program, but that only gets Mack to this point.
With all that he was able to learn in 779 minutes (26th amongst NBA rookies) backing up John Wall, Mack called his rookie season a success. Although, when pressed during exit interviews with the media, he wouldn’t give himself an official letter grade. He came into games, limited mistakes, and occasionally did his thing. But the Wizards need much more from the backup point guard position.
“I feel like it’s the hardest position in the NBA,” Mack told me. He knows all about the challenges that come with being a pro-level point. The biggest part of a Mack analysis questions whether the Wizards are set with John Wall’s backup for years to come, or if they need to keep searching for something better.
The first blemish on Mack’s record is his shooting. His .427 effective field goal percentage (eFG%) was worse than Chris Singleton’s .442, although better than Wall’s .424 and Rashard Lewis’ .424. Mack’s rookie shooting percentages compare closely with Antonio Daniels’ rookie season numbers with the Vancouver Grizzlies in 1997-98, which isn’t anything to brag about. The most damning evidence against Mack’s ability to take charge of Washington’s offense is that the Wizards scored 88.7 points per 48 minutes with Mack on the court, a team-worst aside from Edwin Ubiles, who played 52 total minutes. With Mack on the bench, the Wizards scored 95.1 points per 48 minutes.
Also note that on the season the Wizards averaged 95.11 possessions per 48 minutes (their Pace). With Mack on the court, the Pace dropped to 91.3 possessions per 48. Is slowed-down Mack a nice compliment to Wall’s 96.3 possessions per 48 when he was on the court? Several “what-ifs.”
Out of the 27 Wizards 5-man lineups that saw 20 of more total minutes together, the Mack-led lineup of Cartier Martin, Mo Evans James Singleton, and Nene (ranked 24th in minutes with 23 total over three games), finished with the best plus-minus per 48 minutes — plus-33.4. A Mack-led lineup of Morris Almond, Evans, Singleton, and Nene (ranked 19th in minutes with 26 total over three games) finished with the third best plus-minus per 48 — plus-21.8. Then again, a lineup featuring Mack, Jordan Crawford, Chris Singleton, Jan Vesely, and Kevin Seraphin played 28 total minutes together (ranked 17th) over nine games and finished with a minus-28.7 per 48 minutes.
These are all sub-contending players, but a rookie leading other rookies (and sophomores) clearly didn’t work out as well as a rookie point playing with veterans. And any Wizards point guard’s job would be made easier if they had more scorers, young or old.
Washington’s offensive rating (OffRtg – team points per 100 possessions), coupled with defensive rating (DefRtg – points allowed per 100 possessions), with Mack on the court versus on the bench might tell a more complete story. OffRtg with Mack on the floor was 96.9; 98.1 with him on the bench. Not a huge difference, considering the Wizards’ bench. DefRtg with Mack on the court was 99.2; with Mack off the court it jumped to 105.3 — a difference of 6.1. Combine everything and the 2011-12 Wizards were five points better than their opponent over 100 possessions with rookie Shelvin Mack on the court. That’s all fine and good, but where do we go from here?
[stats via NBA.com/stats and Basketball-Reference.com]
—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
There’s an issue when the starting point guard shoots only an eFG% of .424 (John Wall). There may be an even bigger issue when his backup shoots an eFG% of just .427 (Shelvin Mack). So, yeah, Mack spoke words of truth when asked by Kyle Weidie about where the coaches want him to improve this off-season during his exit interview:
“I would say just improving on my shooting. The statistics … it’s not very well, knowing to the capability I have to shoot. Just work on that, and always working on ball-handing and things like that. Just make sure you keep tuning up your game.”
And he will have plenty of time before the start of next season to tune his game. Of course, Mack is only a rookie and only received 12.2 minutes a contest during a tightly-squeezed season, but his job as this team’s second point guard is to keep the game moving for the offense and even bring a shot of energy to lift the team when Wall needs to refuel on the bench. He brought a calming presence to the court when he was running the show, sometimes a breath of fresh air opposite the tempo of an end-to-end track meet that came with Wall on the floor. Mack’s rookie contract should keep him in Washington through the 2013-14 season qualifying offer after which he would become a restricted free agent. It will be very interesting to see where he fits into the rotation until then.
Could the team grab a veteran to help mold the two youngsters into savvier players (moving Mack deeper on the bench for learning purposes)? Or are they content with what they have seen from Mack and what he brings to the table as Wall’s backup? Per Basketball-Reference.com, his 6.1 assists per 36 minutes aren’t too bad for a second-round pick without a training camp or a top-notch shooter for him on the wing. And with Mack’s calm style of play where he lets the game come to him, a boost in his shooting percentage would do wonders for him and the confidence he needs to run the team when given the opportunity. He didn’t have that this past season and it showed, as Mack looked like a quiet and typically-naïve young rookie when the game needed to be grabbed by the horns. He has the capacity to serve as the backup and Mack’s ability to provide such a drastic change in tempo against opposing teams when Wall takes his occasional breathers each game could be a very valuable asset to the Wizards. Is it enough to balance the almost five less possessions per 48 minutes that come with Mack’s presence rather than Wall’s? That depends on how finely tuned his skills are come training camp.
—Ryan Gracia (@rgracia2378)
Two of the major casualties of last year’s NBA lockout were the cancellation of all the summer leagues and the lack of communication between coaches and 2011 draftees — which included young Shelvin Mack. Under normal circumstances, Mack would have gotten specific instructions during minicamp, he’d have carried out those instructions during summer league while being coached up by Wizards assistant coaches, and, by the time training camp opened up before the season, Mack would feel as comfortable as a backup rookie point guard could possibly feel.
Instead, Mack and the rest of the 2011 draftees and free agents were thrown into the fire and forced to fend for themselves during an intense season. Mack’s confidence wavered, and given that he played 12.2 minutes per game, it comes as no surprise.
This season, Mack should volunteer (assuming he hasn’t already been nominated) to participate in the Vegas Summer League (where some games will be played at the Thomas and Mack Center, fittingly enough). Perhaps John Wall has outgrown this league, so Mack — freed from the restrictive shackles of last year’s lockout — will be able to work with other young Wizards players and assistant coaches. He can gain confidence in his individual game, and he’ll have an opportunity to improve on that .427 eFG%, as well as the fact that the Wizards scored a full seven points less with him on the floor.
Hopefully Mack has also taken a cue from Wall, and watched some playoff basketball — specifically that Celtics-Heat series. Hopefully he paid special attention to backup point guards Norris Cole (Heat) and Keyon Dooling (Celtics). Neither player tallied high point or assist totals, but they often found ways to impact the game in limited minutes. Both Cole and Dooling play in-your-jockstrap defense, but Cole has the ability to push the ball up the court, while Dooling seems to have a knack for hitting timely, open shots.
Mack should make it his business to perfect one aspect of his game (shooting, defense, pace), so Randy Wittman and the Wizards know exactly what to expect when he checks into the game. If he starts his second year with the Wizards the way he performed during his entire rookie year, Mr. Shelvin Mack could fall out of the rotation … or off the team completely.
—Rashad Mobley (@rashad20)
THINKING POSITIVE ON TWITTER
Shelvin Mack is always thinking positive on Twitter (@ShelvinMack). As a presumed sneaker head, he also tweets Instragram pics of his shoes, or what goes in his shoes, his “babies” (aka feet). Or you may see Mack tweet a photo of him and “his vet,” Rashard Lewis. Or, this observation: “I never seen Paul pierce with a fresh hair cut….”
Otherwise, also note that Mack will be hosting a big bash in Lexington, Kentucky this Friday. Hopefully it will be just a brief reprieve from all the work Mack is putting in on his jump shot this summer — he shot just .293 on Js last season. But, hey, Mack did throw down one rookie dunk (and it wasn’t even on a fastbreak, but in the half court), so let’s remember that…