Film Room: Darrell Arthur scouting report – video and in-depth analysis

In this latest installment of the Roundball Mining Company Film Room, we will take a look at Darrell Arthur, the player the Nuggets received in their surprise trade of Kosta Koufos.

But before getting to the analysis, it’s important to open with a major caveat: Do not expect to see the Darrell Arthur featured in this video on a nightly basis. Not with the same degree of efficiency, and not with the same volume of production.

The aim of this scouting report is to showcase the positives Arthur might have the chance and ability bring to Denver. And to that end I sampled plays from what arguably was his best outing last season. On Jan. 23, he led the Grizzlies to victory over the Lakers with a team-high 20 points on 9-15 (.600) shooting, with nine rebounds (four offensive), three assists, a steal and a block. Notably, that performance was a distant outlier from his season averages of 6.1 points (on a .451 field goal percentage), 2.9 rebounds, and about a half assist, steal and block per game.

The intent here is not to exaggerate his true abilities, or to falsely inflate hopes about what he can contribute to the Nuggets. Rather, it is to examine some of the skills he is capable of bringing to the table, with what will likely be some inconsistency and – given Denver’s traffic jam at the power forward position – in limited doses.

With that preemptive tempering of expectations setting the stage, let’s move on to the video and analysis.

 

 

Shooting

Arthur is somewhat intriguing in that he is the first power forward with range the Nuggets have had since Al Harrington. But unlike Big Al, Darrell can’t really shoot the three. His bread and butter is the catch-and-shoot long-range jumper. Using figures from HoopData.com, I calculated that 44 percent of his shot attempts are from 16-23 feet. And according to them, a full 95.6 percent of his makes from there were assisted.

Additionally, according to NBA.com/stats, among power forwards and centers who attempt two or more shots from that range, Arthur has the tenth best field goal percentage (.473), locating him right between David West and Kevin Garnett.

When you consider the effectiveness Golden State’s defense had in the playoffs (and other teams variably did throughout the regular season) when packing the paint against Karl’s dunker-rich but shooter-poor dribble-drive-motion offense, the value of a frontcourt player who can legitimately spread the floor becomes quickly apparent.

Another potentially interesting angle to Darrell’s role in Denver is that Brian Shaw, in one of his Summer League interviews, stated that part of what he planned to do offensively was get guys the ball at the elbow, given the versatility of good options for passing, shooting or driving from there. And since it just so happens that Arthur pretty much lives on that corner, he appears to be an obvious option for Shaw to implement some of those concepts.

Some observations from the video:

  • Arthur may be somewhat of a one trick pony on offense, but he knows his trick well, and he knows how to pick his spots and execute.
  • Two things I like from the third clip: 1) After missing his shot, Darrell sees that Gasol is getting the pass off the offensive rebound at the top of the key, and immediately breaks for the rim, where he’d have been in good position to make a play or rebound; and 2) after the play is reset, he gets right back to his same spot and shoots with confidence and no hesitation at all from the exact spot where he’d just missed. It’s hard to glean too much from a single play, but my visceral reaction is that he’s a smart, self-aware player who knows his role and has the self-assurance to unflinchingly take the shot when the ball comes to him.
  • My impression from watching this video was that Arthur plays quite well, and quite often off the pick-and-roll. MySynergySports.com reveals that his highest frequency shot type last season, taken 34.2 percent of the time, was indeed as P&R roll man. (His next highest shot type was the spot-up, considerably less frequent at 16.7 percent).
  • Returning to the concept of running plays through the elbow, in the final clip of the shooting segment, Gasol passes from the elbow to Arthur, who catches the ball midstream in a move from the high post and sinks a mid-range baseline jumper. Above I mentioned that Darrell took 44 percent of his shots from 16-23 feet at a percentage of .473. Interestingly, his field goal percentage from 10-15 feet was just as good (.475), but he took only 12 percent of his shots from there. I don’t know whether this is an artifact of Lionel Hollins directing him away from taking mid-range shots or if Arthur just drifted near the inside of the arc because he feels more comfortable there (like Dre feels more comfortable posting up). But this could be an area of Darrell’s game which Shaw might be able to expand and build upon.

 

Driving / At the Rim

This section of the video is really a mish-mash of different kinds of plays. As a stretch four, Darrell does not dwell near the basket on offense. He does find his way there regularly enough, though, as evidenced by the fact that 26 percent of his shot attempts last season were taken at the rim. And when he does make plays in the paint, it seems to be less by design than because it happens to be place where the best chance to make a good play opens up for him.

My impression is that thus far he’s essentially been a rim opportunist, and that this, like mid-range shooting, could be another underdeveloped aspect of his game. Although he may not have much of a natural knack for playing near the basket, neither is he incompetent, and if that part of his offensive skill set could be better cultivated, it would add more dimensionality to his scoring.

Observations:

  • At the very least, Arthur seems to be a quick, smart decision maker. As seen in the first two clips, he wasted no time in making the best play available when the opportunity presented itself.
  • The second clip raises a question: Are his poor rebounding numbers – a very meager 6.3 per 36 minutes, per Basketball-Reference.com – due to his simply being a sub-par rebounder? Are they more a function of having been stationed above the elbow all these years? Or is it just a lack of effort? He seems to have the strength and toughness to stake out good position and battle down low when he commits to doing so. This will be something to watch for this season.
  • I really like everything about the second clip. Arthur immediately goes to help when Rudy Gay gets doubled, and when Antawn Jamison closes out on him just as he’s receiving the pass, he quickly swings it so they can find a better shot. Conley does just that, getting it to a wide open Bayless in the corner. And from the moment Bayless releases his shot, Arthur is tracking the ball in anticipation of getting himself into the best position for the offensive rebound. Again, it’s unwise to read too much into a single play, but he does seem to have a very solid court awareness and high basketball IQ.
  • After spending so much time watching Kenneth Faried over the last two seasons, it’s a little hard to apply worlds like “explosive,” “speed,” “energy” or “hustle” to Darrell Arthur. By visual (and perhaps also emotional) comparison, everything he does seems to move almost in slow motion. I’m not sure if that’s a pace thing (Memphis has that molasses flow), a body language thing or if that’s just what normal looks like given that the intensity of guys like Faried and Brewer is off the charts. But regardless, if you look at what Arthur actually doing, there are some very good signs. When he goes to the basket off a high pick-and-roll, he barrels straight downhill. He does put in hard work around the rim – when he’s there. And in the fourth clip, we can see that he’s capable of running the floor at a good clip in transition. So there is some reason to be cautiously optimistic that he might be a better fit on a fast-paced, high energy team than he might appear at first glance.

 

Passing / Defense / Intangibles

Darrell Arthur is not exactly the type of player to fill up the stat sheet. In addition to his 6.3 rebounds per 36 minutes noted above, he had 1.2 assists, 0.9 steals and 1.2 blocks. Not unrespectable in the blocks and steals, but fairly underwhelming numbers taken as a whole, and there’s no good reason to assume he’ll be improving these areas of his game all that much.

Tim Connelly specifically cited Arthur’s pick-and-roll defense as one of the main reasons they traded for him, and I had been hoping to include some of that in this scouting report, but the Lakers just weren’t running too many P&Rs in this particular game. (Kobe had 23 field goal attempts, and the Lakers as a team had 15 assists). So unfortunately, that part of the project had to be shelved for this one.

What we can see here is Arthur making some good, heady plays with a lot of effort and hustle. And it may well be the case that if he can do this on a regular basis it will be more valuable to the Nuggets than padding the box score, especially considering Denver has lost Brewer’s spark of energy off the bench. And if we can learn anything from the clips shown in this section, it may be that while Darrell may not be extremely proficient in any particular statistical area listed above, he at the very least seems competent in all of them.

Observations:

  • It seems possible that Arthur could play the bulk of his minutes alongside McGee. He excels in P&R defense, where JaVale struggles. And his range can space the floor and open room inside for McGee to operate. If this assumption plays out, it would be excellent to see Darrell feeding JaVale the kind of bounce pass we see in the first clip. That’s exactly the type of thing Shaw was alluding to in talking about initiating plays from the elbow, and we know Arthur is likely to be spending a lot of time there.
  • If this game is any indication of how good Arthur’s overall sense of positioning is, that is great news for Denver. As seen in the second and third clips (and others in the previous sections of the video) he often seems to find himself in the right place at the right time to make a good play. Considering the difficulties the Nuggets have had with players being caught out of position all too often, having a player who doesn’t struggle in that department is a good thing. (Though of course, it’s impossible to point that out without remembering that to acquire Arthur they traded Koufos, their only frontcourt player who consistently stayed in position).
  • Ultimately, we can’t know how large or small a role Darrell will have until the season starts unfolding. But if he consistently brings the kind of energy and effort on display in the last two clips (and many others before them), then Nuggets fans probably will not have too much to complain about, as he’ll likely be making a positive impact on both sides of the court.

 

As a final note, I relied exclusively on Arthur’s stats from last season for this post. But it’s important to point out that he did struggle with injuries in 2012-13, and had been on a far better trajectory in the previous season. Taking that into consideration, if Arthur can remain healthy, he stands a very good chance of being an important (if limited) contributor to the Nuggets.

 

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Joel is a long time Denver Nuggets (and Broncos) fan from Colorado who's been living in Japan since the mid-90s, and blogging about the Nuggets since 2008. You can contact and follow him on Twitter: @denbutsu.
  • steve

    good post…i loved the pick up. Im not a fan of koufos…he was very inconsistent IMO in every facet of his game. I think Arthur is a piece that we needed to have. How many times did we see lawson drive and kick out to an open jump shooter and they either brick the shot or pass on open looks to get back to the rim? far toooo many! IF we can have at least 1 consistant player that can keep the other team honest, it’ll be a big help to our offense. I also think he is a much better defender than what we have. He moves his feet well and like Joel said, he’s smart and puts himself in good positions, which is unlike Faried and mcgee who sit back to far or get beat off the dribble, hard.

  • kwelitysoul

    To sum up Arthur and for that matter this new look Nuggets squad, time will tell…

  • Scott

    Don’t really see him getting PT over JJ unless Hickson is played at C for times, yet that seems like an impossibility at this point after resigning Moz. I for one see he gets traded along with Dre and whoever else for more SG depth. I would actually though like to see us keep our starting 5 (that includes gallo and E4 in my mind) and NateRob and Hickson as our 2 main bench guys and see what we can trade for the rest.

    • herpderpnuggets

      yeah people forget that the offseason is still far from being over, and a trade is still very possible, especially before the deadline

    • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com/ JoelRMC

      FWIW, I’m pretty sure DA couldn’t be traded before 12/15.

      • LBJ

        I thought that only FAs couldn’t be traded before 12/15 – not traded guys?

    • alex47666

      or we end up trading faried and Arthur backs up Hickson

      • Charliemyboy

        Faried is not needed as a jump shooter and I hope Josh knows this. He has a Dennis Rodman type here and would cause doggy bags if he traded Kenneth. He changes the game when he’s in and just needs another year or so. He can dominate.

        • alex47666

          at the end of the day faried needs to at least come off the bench he defense is just as bad as Hickson he cant spread the floor yet( athur and hickson can) that would help mcgee out even more. he has no post moves if Arthur wasnt injury prone player he would be the best option has post moves is the best defender and has an outside shot. Hickson has size is a great rebounder and just like faried can improve on D

  • Jordan Queen

    Nice post. His versatility will be needed. He will be a great player to pair with Javale due to his shooting ability. I’ll be curious to see how he does this season. I’m hearing a lot of people mention that he could get traded rather quickly here. Personally I think we are more likely to move Faried if he doesn’t develop a jumper. Which is sad because I think he goes about the game the right way and we need his intensity. George Karl didn’t play him and Javale at the same time because their skill sets are so similar and they clog the offense. Hickson and Arthur give us more offensive flexibilty at the 4.

  • PlatoPlaysBasketball

    DA should see some time at the three I think, at least until Gallo returns. I think his value to Shaw’s schemes in terms of added versatility through P&R defense and mid-range game will prove to be no small thing.

  • Adam Kunce

    As much as I loved KK, and I still do, it is sometimes good to change up a team. Is Arthur a superstar? Was KK? Of course not. KK never can do what Arthur does, and vice vera. KK was a good re bounder, but not much of a scoring threat. Arthur has shown he can score. We have a Supa star In KF that could be one of the best re bounders to ever play the game. Trade scoring for re bounding… I’m cool with dat.

  • NuggZeit

    If DA can make a jump in effectiveness this season, then the Koufos trade goes from a negative to at least even, maybe positive for Nuggs. Obviously I hope that happens. We could go big with McGee, Hickson & DA at the 3 in the front court. Not sure how we get big in the backcourt at this point, Hamilton & E4? Anyway, could be some nice rotations.

    For me the big question is how his recovery from the achilles is coming along – any news on this? and what is the expectation with an achilles tear?

    • Daniel Winston

      He had it the season before last. Last year was his first year back and by the end of the year he was normal. It shouldn’t be a factor by now.

  • dynamo.joe

    I don’t understand how bad shooting spreads a defense. Any defense that doesn’t have it’s head up its butt will let him take that 22 ft shot all day and tell their PF, “stay near the basket, let him have that shot, every time he takes it, they take 1 more step to a loss tonite”.

    That 22 ft shot is, basically, the equivalent of a bottom 5 offense, which would require us to have a top 3 defense if we wanted to make the playoffs. What are the chances that Shaw can implement a top 3 defense?

    I looked at his numbers. Do we know he can’t shoot 3’s? What his numbers show is that he doesn’t shoot 3’s. He has 27 attempts in 4500 minutes. Why would you be able to hit .47 on 22 ft shots and not be able to hit corner 3’s?

    • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com/ JoelRMC

      From my post: “unlike Big Al, Darrell can’t really shoot the three”.

      How are you defining “bad shooting”? As I noted above, he’s right there with West and Garnett with his long-range jumper. I guess you may be getting at 3s and at-rim being the highest value shots, but I disagree with the notion that a power forward with a legit 16-23 foot shot won’t help spread the floor.

      • dynamo.joe

        I don’t even necessarily think that it won’t. But if it does it’s because other NBA players/coaches are also stupid, not because shooting .47 from midrange constitutes good offense.

        An elite offense scores at about 1.1 pts/possession. So explain to me why a defense shouldn’t allow the 0.94pts/possession offense to happen all the time? Allowing that shot is basically improving your defense by 15pts/game. Taking that shot is like slitting your wrist and taking a warm bath, you won’t die quickly, but you are likely to die. Or maybe death by 1000 cuts if you are partial to ancient Chinese death penalties.

        There are a small number of players for whom this constitutes good offense; http://bkref.com/tiny/TaNSd
        Just not many. And none named Darrell or Arthur.

        I realize that you said he can’t shoot three’s. I am just saying there isn’t really any evidence to support a conclusion one way or another. The sample size is too small.

        • Ernie

          Ideally you are correct, in that you want most of your shots to be layups, which typically are made at close to 80% (1.6 PPP), and corner 3’s at 40% (1.2 PPP if you have the right shooters).

          I think all Joel is saying is that now instead of having a below average option for when the shot clock is winding down that DA could offer an above average option. And so instead of thinking about it as gearing your offense for 20 foot jumpers it is instead possibly improving your end of shot clock offense from whatever KKK was or our other guys offer (probably .75 PPP) up to that 0.94 at DA’s level. And thus the entire overall offense could benefit for when those layups and corner threes are not available.

          • dynamo.joe

            I’ll agree with you that under 3 seconds and you take any shot and hope for the best/rebound. But that video shows DA taking shots with 12 or more seconds in every case. DA clearly believes this is “good offense”, not an emergency option.

        • TomRMC

          Per http://www.82games.com/locations.htm , the average NBA offense gets 1.17 ppp at the rim and 1.19 ppp from corner threes.

          We know teams look for those shots. Yet the average team scores only about .94 ppp overall. Because they also take other shots that drag down the average. Sometimes the defense holds them to long twos, with an expectation of less than .69 ppp.

          But Darrell Arthur turns those long twos — some of the worst shots in the game — into league-average shots. That’s actually a really big deal. It’s a big victory for the offense when they can get an average-value shot off against well-above-average defense. If .94 ppp is your WORST option, you probably have an elite offense.

        • PlatoPlaysBasketball

          The reason he shoots at 47% is because defenses have to key in on the midrange shot. If the defense didn’t contest, i.e., spread out, I’m sure he can hit at a better clip than that. But defenses will and have tried to contest those midrange shots, which is why he isn’t an elite shooter. Those ‘good offense’ players are elite, and make those shots with a hand in the face(see Dirk). if you have a guy who can make them even somewhat consistently, that spreads out the defense, creating spacing for your shooter to pass inside to a big, or hit a cutting wing to the basket. It won’t make us elite by itself, but it does add a wrinkle for defenses to pay attention to.

  • Guest

    DA seems like a solid rotation player with some skills our team needs. We need to somehow turn 8 above-average-to-very-good players to 2 top-15 players.