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Midseason progress report: Brad Wanamaker

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While not flashy or particularly exciting to watch, Brad Wanamaker is consistent and dependable.

Los Angeles Clippers v Boston Celtics Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Brad Wanamaker has shown himself to be a dependable deputy when Kemba Walker is either sitting or unavailable. Showing the steady hand and calm composure of a veteran player, the second-year player has a wealth of experience in the world’s second tier of basketball competition over in Europe.

That time abroad has proven to be invaluable to the Celtics on numerous occasions throughout the first half of this season. While not flashy or particularly exciting to watch, Wanamaker is consistent and dependable. Those are two very important trait for a second unit guard.

When the team is healthy, Stevens likes to stagger the “four horsemen” to ensure both the starting and second unit both have reliable scoring options. So far this season, that plan hasn’t worked out due to injuries, but it’s provided role players like Wanamaker playing time and opportunities to step into a bigger role on both ends of the floor.

When looking at his statistical output, you can see that while there has been an uptick in production (which is correlated to his increased usage this year), he is not exactly setting the world on fire. What he is doing, however, is playing his position within the teams scheme. Stevens has Wanamaker playing a limited role on offense that is designed to accentuate his skills rather than push them to their limits, predominately being used in three play types per Synergy:

  • The pick-and-roll ball handler (32 percent of possessions)
  • Spot-up shooter (26.1 percent of possessions)
  • Focal point of transition (22.5 percent of possessions)

All three of these directly play into Wanamaker’s strengths on offense. He is trusted with the ball in his hands due to his low turnover rate while his shooting from deep is sitting at 38 percent for his career.

When he is running the pick-and-roll offense, he is operating at league average level as a scorer, shooting 34.5 percent on 29 of 84 shooting and drawing fouls on a further 11 possessions. His stocky frame enables him to curl off the screen and get into the teeth of the defense on his way to the rim, having the strength to hold his own as he goes up for the shot.

He’s excelled as a spot up shooter, especially from behind the arc where he is currently ranked in the 83rd percentile by Cleaning the Glass at a 40 percent clip. Overall his effectiveness from deep goes beyond the box score, it enhances Boston’s equal opportunity offensive scheme. Having a secondary guard who can pass the rock and relocate to the corner to then operate as an insurance policy in case a play breaks down is a luxury most teams don’t currently have.

The final aspect in which Wanamaker is adding value on offense for the Celtics is in transition. Using his quick burst of speed along with that bulldog strength he possesses, he is able to run the floor at breakneck speeds which make getting to the rim easy for him. His ability to get out in transition also fits in well with the young core of guys that Boston has on its second unit, allowing them to play to their raw talents rather than be forced to break down opponents more methodically in the half court.

Defensively, Wanamaker is an excellent foil to have along side Marcus Smart in the back court. His strength allows him to guard multiple positions and both Smart and Wanamaker are excellent post defenders.

Unfortunately, as with any rotation player, there are flaws in his game. No one is perfect.For Wanamaker, it starts with his lack of explosiveness. His inability to turn the jets on at a moment’s notice hinders his ability to isolate his man and get to work. That sort of play requires the ability to change pace multiple times in succession and that’s just not in his bag. This allows his man to push up on him and close driving lanes when the game is in the half court, forcing the ball out of his hands while forcing a relocation, affecting team shape in the process.

That same lack of explosion means the Wanamaker is ineffective in the dribble hand off scheme that Stevens likes to employ throughout games. Not an end of the world issue, but it does remove an option when running the DHO with the second unit. This adds more pressure on the two-guard or wing who then becomes tasked with running the point during those plays.

All of this leads into his biggest weakness on offense: beating his man in one-to-one coverage. Wanamaker is scoring just 0.83 points per possession when being guarded straight up, turning the ball over 42 times over 265 possessions in the process. It’s this weakness that will ultimately cement his position as the second or third string guard on an NBA roster for his career. A point guard simply needs to be able to beat their man in direct coverage. Doing that is the key to unlocking defenses when they are in their set rotations.

Defensively, there isn’t much he does wrong. He is reliable in both man and zone coverage on a nightly basis. His only weakness again falls back to the explosiveness and athleticism, as he is liable to get smoked by quicker or more skilled players when he is on an island guarding them.

There is also the issue that if he is sagging off his man, he lacks the lateral quickness to get a hand in the shooter’s face. Wanamaker has respectable speed, but it’s based off of a run up. His ability to go from zero to one hundred leaves a lot to be desired, costing him on both ends of the floor at times.

For a second string point guard, you could do far worse than Wanamaker. He is a seasoned veteran who has played at a high level across two continents in his career. The reliability and experience he brings to the team coupled with the work ethic that got him to the NBA in the first place makes him an ideal guy to have off the bench among some of Boston’s rookies.