How did Beno Udrih get here?
I'm not privy to Beno's workout habits or his video room work. I have not heard good things about either, both in published reports (by both Sam Amick and Ailene Voisin) and behind the scenes. It's an accepted notion: Beno is lazy, or became lazy some time around July 2008, when he just so happened to sign a $30 million contract. Another accepted notion is that Beno does not play through injuries most other players would play through. (In fact, this notion is what led San Antonio's Gregg Popovich to decide 57-year-old Jacque Vaughn would be a better back-up than the 25-year-old Slovenian, which led to the Spurs dropping Beno for absolutely nothing, despite his [at-the-time] cheap, one-year contract.)
But those are all notions -- sad notions, mind you -- and we care (or should care) more about production. How did Beno Udrih get here?
As section214 has noted in the past, Beno wasn't actually far off his 2007-08, contract-earning production in reputation-killing 2008-09. In 2007-08: 13 points, 4.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 turnovers on 46% shooting. In 2008-09: 11 points, 4.7 assists, 3 rebounds, 2.2 turnovers on 46% shooting. His scoring suffered due to taking fewer shots, but he upped his assists with no collateral damage on the turnover side. By most accounts (including my own), Beno was a worse defender in 2008-09, though he was clearly not good in 2007-08.
One of the biggest statistical differences between the seasons is Beno's three-point shooting. In 2007-08, he shot 38% from long-range. Last season, he only shot 31%. That seems like a huge deal -- maybe that's where his points went?! But no, actually not. It was only a difference of eight points over the course of the season, or 11.06 points per game instead of his actual 10.95.
The three-point shooting numbers are interesting, though, in that they speak of the complete incineration of Beno's confidence, or well as the dysfunction of the team under Kenny Natt.
In 2007-08, 19% of Beno's field goal attempts came from long range. That's a good chunk, especially considering Beno isn't adept at getting to the stripe. (Players with lots of free throw attempts typically have their true two-point FGA levels understated, the reason being that they are attempting lots of twos which result in FTAs in the box score in lieu of FGAs.) Again, in '07-08, Beno shot well from deep. There was incentive to continue shooting those threes, and perhaps shoot more threes. When you make 38% of your threes, every attempt is worth 1.14 points. You'd need to hit 57% of your two-point shots to hit the equivalent value. (It's not quite that simple, because of fouls and the natural limitation on three-point attempts, but you get the idea.) For Beno in '07-08, threes were usually a good idea!
Things changed at the start of 2008-09. Through the end of November, Beno had hit only nine of 34 three-point attempts, or 26%. That's a poor value shot (0.78 points per shot). He had still taken a good portion of his shots from long range -- 17% -- but it wasn't working out so well.
In December, it continued. He still took threes (18% of his FGAs) but he kept missing them, shooting 24% for the month and now 25% on the season. The Kings were, at this point, one of the bleakest teams in the league, battling with the Clippers, Thunder, Grizzlies and Wizards to be the worst.
In January, under Kenny Natt, Beno took more threes than ever! Some 22% of Beno's January shots came from behind the arc. Why? Because he started hitting them. In a four-game stretch toward the end of the month, he hit 9-of-14 threes.
In February, it continued. Beno shot less (thank you, Rashad and Andres) but kept his three-point share at 17%, and hit half of the 14 he took. But he suffered an injury late in the month, and missed the first half of March. When he came back, he came off the bench for one game ... and had a decent performance (10/7, 50% shooting). He hit one three that game. He would only hit one more over the final 15 games of the season.
In March and April, Beno took 168 shots. Only 13 -- 7.7% of them -- were three-pointers. Beno completely abandoned that part of his game. Not coincidentally, he missed most (11) of them. His confidence was completely shot, thanks in part to his own bad performance, as well as no doubt Natt's tough love attitude (which we all championed) and the utter awfulness of the Kings. The team was going nowhere fast. As the driver, Beno needed no navigator. He knew how to get there, and he showed it.
There's another weird artifact from March and April last season with regards to Beno: he passed as he had never passed before. He averaged 6.2 assists per game over those 16 games, far more than his seasonal average of 4.7 and season-to-date average of 4.3. He had a pretty wonderful string of assist-heavy games after returning from injury: 7, 6, 6, 7, 6, 5, 7, 6, 9, 8, 6, 6, 5, 4, 6, 5. By both Beno and Sacramento standards, that's pretty good! And he kept his turnovers to 2 per game. His shooting frequency didn't decrease during March and April. He shot as poorly as ever, and stopped taking threes, but he still took shots. But for some reason, he upped his "point guard performance." Was it the exile of John Salmons (an isolation player) and Brad Miller (a facilitator)? Probably. It's interesting to note going forward.
But the shot ... he abandoned his most efficient shot -- the three -- when the going got rough. His competition for minutes was Bobby Jackson and Will Solomon. How's it going to be when his competition is Tyreke Evans and Sergio Rodriguez? How will Beno respond when, quite literally, his NBA career is on the line? History ain't smiling. It will be up to Beno to overcome his confidence issues, and the coaching staff to massage his spirit in the fashion that releases the quality we have seen in spurts. Putting Kevin Martin and Jason Thompson on the floor and letting them play, that's the easy part. Making Beno Udrih consistently productive is where you earn your paycheck.
I mean, we know he has it in him, right?
As always, all data from Basketball-Reference.com.