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An Appreciation Of Brandon Bass

 

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.

 

 

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.

  • hax

    He's been clutch too. A couple games late in the 4th, it's Bass hitting the mid-range jumper, or free throws to clinch the game. This is a guy who gets opportunities and takes advantage.

    I first remember him being the 'energy off the bench' guy for the Mavs, back when everyone on their bench seemed talented and full of redbull energy drink.

    Then I remember saying 'oh, come on!!' when he would hit shots against us with the Magic. Blaming our supposedly stalwart defense.

    Then he came here and straight up won the PF job. Of course he got ignored, since Rondo/Truth/KG/Allen(bradley) were out there. Mid-range jumper. Bang!

    Now this year, he has shown that he can create his own shot, not just get set up by future hall of famers who are drawing his defender away. He's hitting shots with guys all over him, and he's got some dribbles. He's only 6'8, with an athletic body these days. Most guys that size are SF's. Bass is so tough, and willing to bang around in the paint, he ends up a PF. If he gets traded, I hope we get something worthy in return.

  • GowGow

    Good work, Michael. This is why I visit this website.

  • willybeamin

    Have to admit I'm not a big Bass guy, but I have really changed my tune this year. I still maintain that he is the ideal big man to have coming off your bench playing the exact game he's playing now, not a starting 4 on a contender.

  • Ray

    I'm not so sure it will be easy to move Bass. Consider what the Celtics want in return: cap relief, picks or prospects. Bass is making $6.5m this year and the next. A reasonable contract for his skills, but a little bigger than the easy to move category.

    If Boston is to get cap relief in return, they will have to be trading him for an expiring contract. In this scenario the likely trading partner is a playoff team looking to fill a hole. Probably a contender or a playoff team over the cap. Looking at http://www.hoopsworld.com/2014-nba-free-agents, the best match I can find is Trevor Ariza on Washington. Maybe Villanueva on Detroit. Not really good matches though.

    As far as draft picks go, nobody is sending out picks to get Bass. I think we can all agree on this without further discussion.

    The final option is prospects. Again, it is difficult to visualize how this would happen. I suppose if a team has prospects that Ainge values more that they do internally. But we would be talking 2-3 young players to match salaries with Bass (unless the partner has some cap neutral flotsam to send the Celtics way).

    I suppose a buyout is a possibility – initially I dismissed it since this contract was Bass's big payday and why would he take less? Maybe he would take slightly less, say $10m of the $13m he is owed, knowing that a veteran's minimum contract will be available and the possibility of a MLE contract next season. Would this be enough of a cap reduction from the Celtics perspective? The other motivation on Boston's end would be to get worse for this season's pick. But, it seems unlikely to me unless there is a falling out (no indication that is in the cards) or Bass demands it (not likely in my eyes).

    So while I think it makes sense for Boston to be open to sending out Bass, I'm not sure I see that endgame as likely. I think it is more likely he plays out his contract or is moved next season.

    • Eric

      I think you are right in theory: he makes a bit too much to be easily tradable for salary cap reasons, and he's not garnering us picks, unless you think some bad team is going to trade an early second rounder. Perhaps he could garner us some prospects, but unless you think, say, Portland is desperate enough to shore up its frontline bench to ship out McCollom. I don't see it.

      It could only be for salary relief. I'm looking at Washington, but not for Ariza, who's too valuable to them. More like Vesely and Shannon Brown, who are both expiring. That eats into their cap space for next year, but they'd still have ~$15-17 million. Plus they'd need to send us more than that, nice as $7 million in cap space next year would be. Those Wiz guys are terrible, and Bass would help their frontline immensely.

      • Eric

        All of which is to say that I agree with your point: we are stuck with him. Which I'm fine with. He's really grown on me, starting with last postseason.

    • hax

      Trading him alone for cap relief is bad, but if the other team is willing to take on one of our 3 year contracts, then it's worth it.
      Knicks would probably never do this, but they also never would have done the bargnani deal we thought. http://img200.imageshack.us/img200/5892/46d.png

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