After a stint playing for Saski Baskonia in Europe, Shane Larkin is back in the NBA. The former ACC player of the year sacrificed bigger offers from teams overseas to get another shot at making it in the league. That goal starts with earning a role on the Celtics.
Picture the prototypical back-up point guard: Probably a low-risk, take care of the ball, jack-of-all trades type guy. That is not Shane Larkin. He’s undersized, inconsistent, but capable of making some fun plays. That all starts with his athleticism. Larkin has great quickness and can jump out of the gym. Check out this putback dunk at the 34 second mark here.
That’s really impressive for a guy that only stands 5’10”.
Larkin does offer more than just freakishly athletic putbacks. He’s a solid finisher at the rim, and can attack the defense off the dribble. He can create his own shot with step-back jumpers and pull-ups. He’s got a few other tricks too, like a decent floater he occasionally uses.
With Terry Rozier and possibly Marcus Smart coming off the bench, he’ll probably be spending some time off the ball. Larkin seems capable of contributing in this role. In small samples, he’s been an effective cutter over the years. There are plenty of ways to maximize his speed on the court. He should be able to get some easy buckets by cutting past inattentive defenders like Avery Bradley did. Boston could even use Larkin in some of those big looping actions that IT used to run.
One question mark is going to be his shooting. He’s a streaky shooter from beyond the arc. Looking at his entire body of work, he has a couple seasons of good shooting mixed with a couple of subpar ones. He wasn’t shy about firing away from deep last season, posting a career high in 3PA per game. But he only made 33.8% percent of them. He does take plenty of pull-up jumpers and other difficult shots. So he may benefit from playing in Boston’s offense and getting some open spot-up looks. Regardless, I wouldn’t bet on consistent shooting from him this season.
Turnovers are a major issue for him on offense though. During his last stint in the NBA, Larkin turned the ball over a ton. His TOV% was 21, which ranked 6th worst among NBA guards in 2016.
Now, to be fair, he was playing on a god-awful Brooklyn team. However, Larkin actually turned the ball over more in Europe last season. It’s still an issue to be concerned about, even if he won’t be asked to carry the offense when he’s on the floor in Boston.
There’s no getting around this, Larkin is not much of defender. This is where his short wingspan and lack of size really catches up to him. He struggles against bigger opponents and getting around screens. It shows up statisically too. Brooklyn’s already terrible defense was worse with him on the floor in 2016. His Synergy numbers were also poor, as he placed in the 7th percentile of defenders in the 2016 season. It’s not all bad though. You can count on him to at least give good effort, and come away with some pesky steals.
It’s unlikely that anyone this deep in the rotation is going to move the needle for the Celtics this season. But Larkin is the type of player that could swing a quarter here and there with his play off the bench. It’s the first time in his career he’s been on a great NBA team. Now he just needs to make the most of that opportunity.