Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Confusion Over 'Creating'

[NOTE: This post is intended as a supplement to 'Assessing Ariza.']

There is a widespread assumption that a player can simply practice over the offseason and develop the ability to 'create' off the dribble. More than just misunderstanding the essence of this skill, this really demonstrates an overall lack of appreciation of the extreme talent level of some of the NBA’s elite wings.

This aforementioned phenomenon is most pervasive at draft time. Without fail, one can expect fans and pseudo-experts to point to any particularly raw and athletic perimeter player and apply the mistaken assumption that “he can’t really create his own shot too well off the dribble but that's ok, he can develop that later.”

It almost never happens as planned. Richard Jefferson and Andre Iguodala are really the only two perimeter players that come to mind that developed the ability to score off the dribble after entering the league.

It is pretty obvious why this is so very rare. The fluidity required to break down an NBA level defender is something most easily attainable at a young age while overall hand-eye coordination is still in a critical period of plasticity.

A person can't just begin practicing at age 23 and simply expect to cultivate that crucial feel for the ball and total control of his body required to break down an NBA defender.

The one counter-example always presented by subscribers to the assumption of ‘creating ability’ procurement is Tracy McGrady. On the contrary, McGrady entered the league with ball handling as one of his primary strengths. (see 1:56 mark of video) He was starting at point guard for the Raptors by his third year. He didn’t just simply practice over the summer before joining the Magic. T-Mac already had the ability to 'create' his own shot but just simply was not given the opportunity to put it on display.

This is not to say that general ball handling cannot be improved. It certainly can and most players do improve in this area. But that is markedly distinct from developing the full blown ability to 'create'.

I'm not completely ruling out the possibility that Ariza someday comes to develop the ability to 'create' off the dribble. There are few absolutes in sports. My point is that fans should not simply expect this ability to come as part of some natural, expected maturation process.

It's highly, highly unlikely to occur. If it does happen for Ariza, it was something extremely out of the ordinary and should be appreciated as such.

Such a development should not just be a foregone conclusion as has been presented and as seems to be perceived by many fans.


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