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.
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.
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.
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.