In our previous Roundball Mining Company Film Room installment, we took a look at one of the four Nuggets offseason roster acquisitions, power forward Darrell Arthur. Today we move on to shooting guard Randy Foye, traded to Denver from Utah in the three-way deal that sent Andre Iguodala to the Warriors.
“This team needs shooters,” was a frequently uttered mantra among Nuggets fans last season, and Foye, a .377 career 3-point shooter (.410 last season) certainly should help bolster Denver’s woeful shooting from the arc. The real question, however, is whether he can do much else.
Not to put too fine a point on it, a cursory look at his stats (from Basketball-Reference.com) suggests he’s an awful rebounder; a below-average distributor whose assist rate has steadily worsened over the last four seasons; a fairly terrible mid-range shooter (his 3-point percentage was actually higher than his 2-point percentage last season); a player whose very good free throw shooting is largely negated by his inability to get to the line (he has averaged fewer than two free throw attempts in over 26 minutes of play over the last two seasons); and a subpar defender. His low turnover rate seemingly does little to redeem his other apparent shortcomings.
But is he truly so one-dimensional? Is 3-point shooting really the only thing he brings to the table?
The clips in this video scouting report were all taken from a single game in which the Jazz fell to the Rockets 116-124 on Dec. 1, 2012. It was one of Foye’s better games of the season, and as such this comes with the usual caveat of a single-game sample size not necessarily being representative of his true overall abilities or potential.
Nevertheless, we can observe some signs of his potential to improve in some of the weaknesses described above, specifically defense and passing. And being that he’ll be competing for minutes with Denver’s host of talented guards and wings, he may well need to diversify his contributions in order to keep himself in the regular rotation.
So what can Nuggets fans expect from Randy Foye? Without further delay, let’s proceed to the video and analysis.
ESPN’s recent 5-on-5 points to an emerging consensus among NBA analysts that James Harden is the best shooting guard in the league. And even those who disagree would acknowledge that the 2012-13 fifth-leading scorer, with his combination of explosive drives to the rim and solid perimeter shooting, is a nightmare to defend.
Randy Foye certainly had his hands full in this game, spending the bulk of his 32 minutes defending Harden single-handedly. And whether it is merely anomalous or promisingly indicative of Foye’s defensive abilities, he did a very respectable job of constraining Harden. And (paging Andre Miller) the most encouraging thing throughout is that even when his efforts fall short, the effort is consistently there.
In this section of the video, we see basically good defense in the first four clips and basically… not so much in the latter four. Only time will tell where on this spectrum Foye will end up as a Nugget, but if he needs more than 3-shooting to stay on the floor, defense is an area where he has a reasonable chance of m
Clip 2: This is probably my favorite of all the defensive plays. At 6-foot-4, Foye is undersized, and is also not incredibly strong. Still, he shows some toughness here, battling Harden to keep him out of good position while Toney Douglas tries to get him the ball. Harden looks hungry to drive, but with the shot clock winding down to three seconds, settles for and misses a pull-up 3-pointer.
Clip 4: Harden is a great passer, and ultimately creates points on this play by getting the ball to a cutting Omer Asik. But blame this one not on Foye – who did his part by staying in front of Harden, cutting off the drive and keeping him well out of scoring position – but on the three flat-footed Jazz defenders who allowed Asik to casually stroll to the rim. Foye’s 2012-13 defensive rating of 111 is near the bottom of the barrel (both Lawson and Miller were just slightly better at 109), but it’s important to consider that he had Al Jefferson anchoring the middle.
And while we’re on this aside, it’s worth pointing out here that this is the first of several failures in help defense by Utah’s big men that we will see. I’ve said previously that with Koufos gone, Arthur’s defensive capabilities – especially in pick-and-rolls – could go far in earning him minutes, even in a crowded field of power forwards. With Iguodala gone, the Nuggets really have no great guard defenders at the perimeter (Fournier may well now be their best), which will greatly elevate the importance of interior help defense. A frontcourt of Arthur playing man-on with McGee blocking and altering shots just might be Denver’s best defensive big man combo.
Clip 5: This is basically the opposite of the previous clip, in which Harden gets a quick first step and blows by Foye, but misses the layup due to the help defense.
Clip 7: He gets lucky, but this is pretty bad defense from Foye. He’s sagging way too far off, and when Harden cuts to the top of the arc, Foye can’t stick with him, and inadvertently gets screened by teammate Enes Kanter’s screen. He flies out at the last second, but not in time to contest Harden’s 3-point attempt.
Clip 8: Both Foye and the frontcourt get torched. It’s the worst of clips four and five combined, and my fear of what the Nuggets defense could look like this season if we don’t see significant improvements from both Faried and McGee, and/or if Brian Shaw can’t pull off some Copperfield-scale Statue-of-Liberty-disappearing type magic.
There’s not much need for a clip-by-clip breakdown in this section. The main point worth driving home is that, when combing through this game for defensive plays, the one thing that clearly stood out alongside Foye’s spirited effort in defending Harden was the fact that on nearly every defensive possession he was the first man down the court, and usually the only one even attempting to disrupt Houston’s transition offense. Shaw and Connelly have both repeatedly iterated that the Nuggets will continue to be a fast-paced team. Randy Foye won’t be transmogrifying into Tony Allen anytime soon, but effort is so important in defense, and even if he’s average-ish in the halfcourt, if he can consistently break up transition plays he’ll fill some of the void left by the departure of Iguodala and Brewer.
The Rockets ran so many isos for Harden and Lin that there weren’t too many chances in this game to see Foye’s P&R defense. Here we see one pretty good effort by Foye followed by him getting absolutely obliterated by a screen. I had to include that clip because… well hey, he’s a Nugget now, but how can you not enjoy watching that happening to any Jazz player?
I doubt anyone has ever characterized Foye as an “energy guy,” but in these two clips his effort is on display yet again. Reading between the lines of these, and all the defensive clips taken together as a whole, my overall impression is that Foye is essentially a hard-working but risk-averse defender. He’ll make a hustle play when the opportunity arises, but won’t willfully leave his assignment to do so. He won’t gamble on steals, but he’ll pick the low-hanging fruit.
My guess is that Foye will basically be a presence of stability and consistency – if even to only an aveerage degree – on defense. He won’t bring the high risk/high reward gambling of Brewer, nor will he bring the trying-so-hard-he-makes-too-many-mistakes of Faried. The downside of this is that, even if he’s fairly effective on the balance, he’ll more than likely be a low-impact defender in terms of sparking energy and making bigtime plays. But on a team with so many wild cards, simply being solid and even-keeled (Koufos comes to mind) could be a valuable contribution in itself.
Clips 1-4: Those who subscribe to the “hot hand” hypothesis (I do not) would say Foye had it going on in this game. His 3-pointer was dropping like clockwork. More to our point here, however, 3-point shooting is without a doubt, one of Foye’s greatest strength. He has a quick release, good shooting form and a high degree of accuracy. He can sink it from the arc even when his shot is contested, but the Rockets were leaving him pretty much wide open on a good number of possessions here as well.
That’s something to watch for if the Nuggets field a lineup of, say, Lawson-Foye-Gallo-Chandler(/Arthur)-McGee that features so many guys who can score in so many different ways (most of whom will be higher defensive priorities than Foye) that he stands a good chance of getting his fair share of open looks when he’s on the court, and doing a good amount of damage with them. Also, Denver’s floor spacing problems were well known to most Nuggets fans last season, and with so many players who score a lot at the rim, Foye should also be a big help in spacing the court.
Clip 5: Foye’s bread and butter is the catch-and-shoot, but here he atypically hesitates and pulls up. I have no idea how consistently he makes non-catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, but this could especially be important in the postseason, when opponents make adjustments and defenses clamp down.
Clips 6 and 7: Foye misses these shots, but to me they are the offensive parallel plays to his defensive transition plays when Houston scored. His off-the-ball movement and sense of positioning is strong; he knows how to run, shake off his defender, and find the good, open spot. Even when his shot doesn’t hit the mark, his play is fundamentally sound, and again, on a team stack with more erratic players (Robinson-Foye-Hamilton-Faried-McGee lineup, anyone?), solid if unspectacular play could prove valuable.
In the opening of this post I described how poor Foye’s assist numbers are. Watching his three assists in this game, however, I’m left with a sort of cognitive dissonance. His passes here aren’t just pretty good, they’re pretty damn great, and it seems he should be entirely capable of doing a better job in the distribution department. So what’s with his poor assist rate?
One possibility is his role up to this point. If this game was any indication, his prime directive was to take the shot immediately if he got the ball at the arc (and the memo to the other players was not to give it to him unless he was there). As such, he’d primarily finish the offensive possessions in which he got touches, leaving little room for passing the rock to his teammates.
Also, according to John Hollinger, “he’s struggled mightily to run the offense any time he’s been asked to play the point,” most notably in Chauncey Billups’ injury absence during Foye’s time with the Clippers. So there may have been a legitimate trepidation by his coaches to delegate much ball handling responsibility his way.
But can Brian Shaw find some kind of middle ground? Perhaps there is a way to increase Foye’s offensive efficiency by integrating him into the flow of the offense beyond merely being a 3-point catch-and-shoot specialist. We shall see, but it does look from this admittedly tiny sample size like possesses the talent and potential to at least nominally improve this aspect of his game.
Defense creating offense, driving to the basket, and sneaking behind the defense for easy layups are much more the pièce de résistance of Fournier than Foye, but these final few clips harken back to the themes that seem to be threaded through his overall mode of play.
Randy Foye is clearly a hard-working player who puts in a consistent effort on both ends of the floor. From what I can gather, he has solid fundamentals, a fairly high basketball IQ, and a good understanding of his limitations and how to play within them.
He’s not all that athletic, and outside of his 3-point shooting he really doesn’t excel in any way. But considering any possible point guard he might be paired with, or the two-PG lineups we may well see with both Fournier and Foye on the bench, he stands a chance of making a meaningful contribution on the defensive end. (True, given Denver’s point guards, that may be damning with faint praise). And he’ll surely make a positive, if limited contribution on the offensive end of the court, perhaps just as much by providing his teammates with good floor spacing as by his own scoring.
Further scouting reports of new Nuggets players (perhaps not all video) may be on the way, and as we get closer to training camp we’ll be bringing you more season previews, player evaluations and other analysis, so as always, stay tuned to Roundball Mining Company.