The longer something is in your life the harder it is to appreciate, especially when it was average to begin with. Average things are overlooked. They blend in. They do their job then slide out of the way. They present no need for extensive study or further exploration. “They are what they are.”
When it come to NBA players, Brandon Bass epitomizes “average.” He’s a 28-year-old power forward competing in his ninth season with an equal number of strengths and weaknesses, and a PER that’s 0.1 above league average. However his skill-set is adaptable to just about any playing style in the league. He can find 15-35 minutes per game on almost any team.
Brad Stevens on Brandon Bass: “Bass has been a rock for us. He’s been a solid, dependable guy all year.” #CelticsTalk
— Marc D’Amico (@Marc_DAmico) December 4, 2013
We don’t appreciate Bass so much as accept him. He has a reliable jump shot that upgrades to being softer than heaven’s whitest cloud when launched between 8 and 16 feet. It’s the least efficient shot an NBA player can take, except when that player literally makes it half the time, as Bass is doing this year.
Despite moving extremely well for someone his size, Bass can’t hedge on a pick-and-roll to save his life, and when shots go up towards the rim he struggles finding an opposing player to box out. But there’s two areas of his game that have noticeably improved since he joined the Celtics three years ago: post offense and almost everything related to defense that wasn’t already noted as one of his weaknesses.
Let’s start with offense. I honestly don’t remember if I already used this clip earlier in the season. My sincerest apologies if you’ve already seen it. But what the hell, watch it again.
What makes this so awesome is Gerald Wallace, who begins to cut across the lane almost immediately after entering the ball to Bass, like he didn’t know Bass was planning to attack right away. It’s a play I wanted to highlight because it shows just how aggressive Bass has been when given the ball in situations where he can take his man one-on-one. According to mySynergySports, Bass is ending 24.7% of his offensive possessions with a post-up. From there he’s averaging 0.98 points per possession, good for 14th in the entire league.
Last season those numbers were 8.7% and 0.89 PPP, as Bass was instead used primarily as a spot-up shooter. It should surprise nobody that Brad Stevens is asking guys from last year’s team to do different things given the dramatic change in Boston’s personnel, but for Bass to triple his post touches and improve his efficiency is very impressive. Who knew he could be effective down there?
Another area he’s been astounding this year is on defense, specifically as someone who makes timely rotations from the weakside, blocks shots, stays in front of his man, and holds his ground down low. Here he is closing out on Josh Smith from a game much earlier in the season.
Why is this impressive? Bass closes out going full speed but still manages to get low and keep Smith at bay. He stops a left-handed drive, forces Smith to his right, and the Pistons eventually end their possession with a three by Rodney Stuckey as the shot clock nears zero.
And here we have Bass jostling for position on the right block with Zach Randolph. Not many players have done this and lived to tell the tale, but Bass is one. In fact, he’s held his own against most assignments, despite being undersized more times than not.
For now, Brandon Bass is a Celtic, one of the longest tenured members bridging two vastly separate eras. Good news for Boston, because he’s the exact type of player you want on board while making a drastic transition.
He’s stable. He’s consistent. He knows his limitations, understands his role, and works like hell every single night. And who says veterans don’t get better, because Bass definitely has.
Even though it should only be a few more months before we all have to say good bye, it feels good rooting for him. Bass is average, but this season he’s been average in the most perfect way.
Michael Pina is a contributor at Red94, CelticsHub, The Classical, Bleacher Report, Sports On Earth and Boston Magazine. Follow him here.