Dissecting Rice: Will Glen Have the Grains for Regular Season Run?
Room for Rice?
The Washington roster is big heavy. And that’s intentional:
to take advantage of an Eastern Conference in flux and to prepare for a deep run in the playoffs. Randy Wittman’s defense wants to be tough, and robust. Nene, Marcin Gortat, Kris Humphries, Drew Gooden, DeJuan Blair, and Kevin Seraphin are a decent set of tools to work with.
Al Harrington could be another player on the roster 6-foot-9 or taller. Otto Porter is listed at 6-foot-9 (but is still about 25 pounds lighter than Uncle Al). That leaves a backcourt and wing options of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Paul Pierce, Andre Miller, Glen Rice, Garrett Temple, Martell Webster, and of course, Otto.
Webster won’t be cleared for basketball activity for another two-to-four months (according to the original schedule). Pierce will turn 37 before the season; his minutes will need to be monitored. Wall played all 93 games last season, but missed significant time in the season prior with a stress injury; his minutes should be monitored. Beal missed time last season with a stress injury after being taxed heavily by Wittman early on; his minutes should be monitored. Miller and Temple are who they are.
That long-winded intro all leads to one thing: Randy Wittman just might have to love the kids, or a specific kid. One kid Sam Cassell likes to call “Junior.”
The big mystery for close observers of the Wizards of summer league—fans, team brass, even the players themselves: How will the performances of Rice and Porter translate to real basketball? (And will they even get a chance?)
Impossible to answer, but much more easy to narrow down. The above description of roster makeup has already done the legwork.
No, “Junior” is not Otto Porter, Jr., although, he will plenty of chances. “Junior,” is Glen Rice, Jr. For him, a strong training camp will be key to him getting a chance at minutes. Strong performances in those minutes could be key for a good start to Washington’s season.
Rice can ball. Not only did he lead the Wizards (and the entire Las Vegas Summer League) in scoring with 25 points per game, but he also led his team in rebounding (7.8, which was tied for 11th best of summer leaguers who players in four or more games) and steals (2.5, tied for the 5th best average of summer). He was named the Most Valuable Player.
Rice was limited to 11 games, 109 total minutes as a rookie in the NBA last season. He missed a significant amount of time due to a fractured right wrist and spent 19 games (531 minutes) with the D-League’s Iowa Energy.
His shot did not fall often during his brief time as a Wizard (an eFG% of .365,
better only than Eric Maynor), but his defensive rebound rate of 7.6 boards per 100 possessions tied Nene for fifth-best on the team. Rice’s 2.8 steals per 100 possessions tied Garrett Temple for the team lead. Even Rice’s 3.3 assists per 100 possession was the eighth-best rate on the team, just below Trevor Ariza’s 3.6. The fact that Rice managed to put up these types of stats in garbage time bodes well.
Rice’s ability to get to the free throw line was the most impressive part of his Las Vegas M.V.P. performance. His 64 total free throw attempts over six games led the summer league (10.6 per game! … to 7.8 makes, 73.4%). Houston’s Isaiah Canaan finished second with 47 attempts (making 39, 83%); Canaan played two more games (51 more minutes) than Rice. No other summer league player cracked 40 free throw attempts.
Over his 19 D-League games, Rice averaged 5.9 free throw attempts per 36 minutes, ranked sixth in the D-League and up from the 4.8 FTAs per 36 that he averaged in 42 games with the Rio Grande Vipers in 2012-13.
Rebounding, passing, and stealing the ball are also acts that tend to statistically translate into productive players. Rice’s rebounding, assist, and steal percentage rates (the amount of time that player accounts for all such action while he is on the floor) correlate between his D-League and NBA play last season (D-League, 19 games; NBA, 11 games): TRB% 11.4, 10.6; AST% 10.4, 9.3; STL% 2.8, 2.8.
These fancy stats might not mean much in the end—Rice still must prove himself against NBA-caliber defenders, and Wittman won’t take any game slippage, else Rice will find himself at the end of the bench. But unlike last season, Wittman isn’t necessarily coaching for his job. He’ll have to think more about the long run, and that means dedicating more time to a wider range of players in the early going. The coach can’t afford looking past any player, especially Rice.
The question is always asked and we inevitably, sometimes regrettably, search for an answer.
To whom would you compare Player X’s game?
I was asked on the radio (106.7 The Fan with Grant and Danny) a week or so ago about Rice and struggled to find a comparison to his game. I didn’t want to throw out Dwyane Wade. Too soon to set the bar that high. Or is it?
Rice is about 0.75 of an inch taller than Wade without shoes, but Wade has a wingspan that’s 1.5 inches longer (pre-draft combine numbers via DraftExpress). Rice’s max vertical measure five inches higher than Wade’s—all measurements taken a decade apart. The listed difference in height between the two is two inches—6-foot-6 for Rice, 6-foot-4 for Wade.
You want to say that Wade is the better athlete, but the body control Rice displayed in drawing fouls during summer league was Wade-esque. Plus, Rice has a 3-point shot while the end of Wade’s career may be doomed because he never found one (unlike Jason Kidd).
Instead, the comparison I blurted out for those filling their sports talk radio need was Michael Redd. I immediately didn’t feel good about it. Now, that feeling may have been wrong.
Redd was a career 38 percent shooter from deep. His career-best 44.4 percent ranked 8th in the NBA in 2001-02. Redd’s second-best career mark of .438 ranked second in the NBA in 2002-03.
Rice currently isn’t the shooter that Redd was. Rice can be streaky, inconsistent. His motion is not always consistent or fluid. He made .429 of his 3s as a freshman at Georgia Tech but averaged just 1.8 attempts per game. As a sophomore he shot .294 on 4.5 3-point attempts per game and .333 on 4.3 attempts as a junior.
As a rookie D-League player Rice shot .379 from deep on 4.7 attempts per game and .351 on 5.8 attempts per game last season. As a Wizard, Rice shot just .294 from 3-point land on 1.5 attempts per game.
In Las Vegas, he made .361 of his 3-point shots on 6.0 attempts per game. To be a 37 percent shooter from beyond the arc in the NBA sounds like a lofty yet reasonable goal for Rice.
To the Basketball-Reference statistical machine…
There have been 44 instances in the NBA’s 3-point era where a guard/forward who is between 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-7 has averaged 8.5 or more free throw attempts per 100 possessions and has shot at least .370 from deep (minimum 60 games). The feat has been accomplished by 20 different players. Paul Pierce leads the way with seven times achieved; followed by Reggie Miller (6); Manu Ginobili (5); Mitch Richmond (4); and Vince Carter, Michael Jordan, and Kevin Martin each with three.
Michael Redd and Glen Rice, Sr. also appear on the list. Such an effort, at some point in the distant future, would be a career-year (and maker) for a second-round pick like Rice, “Junior.”
Nice to have goals.