The Trouble With D-Mo – Despite the arrival of Jeremy Lin, James Harden and Dwight Howard, Donatas Motiejunas remains one of the most fascinating members of the Houston Rockets in my eyes. From his mind-bending eagle tattoo explanation to his smack talk about Dwight Howard, Motiejunas has been a source of intrigue ever since his arrival.
As I did with Chandler Parsons several days ago, I’ve been looking for a way to succinctly sum up Motiejunas’ game. Hop in, and take a ride with me through his stat sheet. The first and biggest question mark about D-Mo is his defense, and the numbers reinforce the idea that he needs improvement. His Defensive Rating is 109 points given up per 100 possessions, which is a far cry from Omer Asik (103) or even Greg Smith (105). His on/off court numbers also show opponents scoring more whenever he is on the floor. None of this should come as a surprise to anyone.
What is surprising is how his apparent skills don’t always translate into production on the offensive end. Motiejunas displayed some dazzling interior passing last year, yet he assisted on just 9.5 percent of his teammates’ baskets–a decent number, but far below elite passing bigs like Marc Gasol or Joakim Noah.
The big red flag for D-Mo is his shooting. Like with his passing, his shooting ability would seem to pass the eye test. I recall watching one interview with a teammate or coach (I think it was Kelvin Sampson) last season in which you could see Motiejunas draining corner threes in the background as easily as tossing paper wads into a trash bin. Yet he only shot 28.9 percent on threes when the bright lights were on. He only shot 30.6 percent on jump shots, period. He may be able to solve this problem by limiting his attempts to the corners, especially the left side, where he was much more effective.
So here’s the trouble with D-Mo: His production doesn’t live up to his skill. Motiejunas earned a spot in the rotation last year through hard work during practice, but lost it by fading during games. This year, he gets another chance to prove himself.
The one area in which the big Lithuanian is undeniably a force is in his post play. He shot 73.7 percent at the rim last year–an otherworldly number that bests the likes of Dwight Howard and Greg Smith–mostly due to his mesmerizing post moves. Unfortunately for D-Mo, Terrence Jones shot an even more impressive 74.4 percent at the rim. However, no big man on Houston’s roster can match D-Mo’s ability to get his own shot down low. If he can bring defense and shooting to match his offensive footwork, then watch out.
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