Here’s a quick look at what Noce brings to the table and whether the Kings can make do without his contributions.
Three point shooter. Nocioni belatedly developed NBA 3 point range in his latter years with Chicago. His career average is .370, with his highest average of .399 coming last year, when he split time between Chicago and Sacramento. (in fact, he averaged around .441 in the 23games he played for the Kings last season).
Unfortunately, Nocioni is averaging just .346 (47-136) from 3points this season, the lowest since his rookie year (when he hit .258, hitting 25 out of 97attempts). He also has been way off in the last month, completely obliterating all the good work he did in November.
What makes things worse for Nocioni is the emergence of Israeli rookie sensation Omri Casspi, who is now hitting an unbelievable .455 from 3points. Add to that the 3point prowess of Beno Udrih, Donte Greene, Ime Udoka and, in a few weeks or so, Kevin Martin and Francisco Garcia, and Nocioni becomes the last and least of the Kings’ 3point options.<!--EndFragment-->
Willing to take it to the rim. Nocioni made a reputation in the Euroleague and in his earlier years with the Bulls as a hard charging forward who is more than willing to take it to the hole.
Unfortunately, Nocioni (and his coaches) seem to have fallen in love with his “3point range”, transforming him from a bruising inside player with an outside shot to a hit-and-miss 3point shooter who occasionally goes for the lay up. As a result, his scoring and shooting percentages have gone down. Compare his 05-06 and 06-07 seasons when he shot just 238 and 209 three pointers, averaging 13 and 14.1 points respectively with his 07-08 and 08-09 seasons when he shot 346 and 311 threes and averaged just 13.2 and 11.4 points respectively.
His cause isn’t helped by the presence of Jason Thompson, a legit inside player (something the Bulls didn’t have), Jon Brockman, a willing inside player and the troika of Beno Udrih, Sergio Rodriguez and Tyreke Evans, who are all quick and wily slashers. It seems a trifle weird that these players (3 of whom are considerably smaller than Noce) are willing to mix it up inside while Nocioni camps out on the three point line.
Tough rebounder. Nocioni’s tenacity and willingness to bang inside made him a capable rebounder, one willing to fight bigger and taller players for the ball. In his first playoff game with Chicago, Noce grabbed 18 rebounds while scoring 25points. His career numbers are decent for an SF, but not outstanding.
This year. Noce has been horrible on the boards, logging almost a full rebound (3.4rebs) less than his worst year (4.2rebs in 2007) in Chicago. True, he is more often than not out on the perimeter, guarding the other team’s SF but we’ve seen rebounding PG’s like Jason Kidd (5.3rebs) and Rajon Rondo (4.1rebs) get way more than that!
And with Jon Brockman, Jason Thompson, K9 and, in a bit, Hilton Armstrong, the Kings are able to parade a host of big men all better at the boards than Nocioni.
An effective physical defender. Nocioni is a very physical defender, using his body and strength to keep superstar forwards off their favorite spots. He usually draws the Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony-type assignments. More often than not, he has been effective, making the likes of Kevin Durant bleed for their points.
Three weeks ago, Nocioni lost his starting spot to rookie Omri Casspi. After Nocioni had a good game against Denver, coach Paul Westphal was asked about Nocioni’s struggles. Particularly telling was Westphal’s statement that Nocioni has been struggling on both the offensive and defensive side of things, which was why he was coming off the bench.
To make matters worse for Noce, Donte Greene finally bought into the defensive stopper concept and has done a tremendous job against the very same people Nocioni used to draw as defensive assignments. Omri Casspi has also been better than advertised (as far as defense and rebounding is concerned) and Ime Udoka has lived up to his billing as a Bruce Bowen type player (great defender with 3point range).
As the last few games have shown us, in crucial defensive situations, Noce, more often than not, takes as seat while his younger teammates get the job done.
THE FINAL VERDICT
Yep, just as I thought. Kings do not need Nocioni at all.
Not “a little”, not “sometimes”. They do not need him at all.
And yes, trade him now, please.<!--EndFragment-->