The smoke from my cigarette billows out gently against my window like a gathering storm wall before melting slowly into the air. It’s overcast, but without rain, so I reach for the spray bottle atop my cluttered desk and lightly splash the window to increase the dramatic effect. I’m getting pretty good at this basketball investigating thing I think to myself.
I hear my newly hired assistant, Sam, yell through the door.
“Your 1 o’clock is here, sir.”
“Let him in,” I respond quickly, unable to mask the giddiness in my voice. I hated admitting it to myself, but I had grown quite fond of my newest client. A sharp basketball mind dressed in clothes reminiscent of a wedding if the dress code was golf attire. Before he can enter, I crack open the damp window and toss my half-smoked cigarette into the street two-stories below. I hear a concerned yelp below that I choose to ignore.
I greet him with a simple, “Mr. President,” and nod as he enters my small office.
“Please Richard, I thought we cleared this up last time. Call me Brad.” His cool demeanor glides into a gentle smirk.
“And I thought I was clear, please call me Rick.”
“Of course, Rick—”
“—Magnum,” I interject quickly.
“Right. How could I forget that you require me to call you your full name?”
I dismiss his sarcastic tone with a cheap grin and get down to business. “I’ve got a full workup on the mark you asked me to look into.”
“That’s great, Rick Magnum, that’s why you’re the best basketball investigator in town. I can’t wait to see what I can expect from Oshae Brissett. Hey, did it rain over this way?” I see his eyes wander over to my damp window and feel the swell of mild embarrassment.
“Ummm, yeah, something like that.” I redirect us back on course. “Anyway, Oshae Brissett, this was a difficult one, Brad. Where do you want me to start?”
“Gee willikers... Hmmm, why don’t you give me the defensive report first, then we can get to the fun stuff.”
“Every time I forget you’re from Indiana, you say something that reminds me. Alright, defense. Come around to my computer and we can look at some tape.”
He slinks next to me, leaning in closer than I anticipated with his chin inches way from nuzzling my shoulder. There’s a part of me that wishes he would clasp my shoulder with his hand like proud dad. He doesn’t. I carry on. “I’m not sure what I expected from a 6’7” wing with a 7’ wingspan and some beef that was signed on a minimum contract, but Brissett is just about exactly it.
“There’s an effort-filled tenacity to his game that especially shows in three places: rebounding, when he’s defending like sized wings that attack you with power, and when he’s contesting at the rim. He does all three at an above average level. He was the best non-center rebounding on Indy last year. I wouldn’t exactly say he’s an above average rim protector, but he really, really tries, and that’s about as much as you can hope for a back-end wing.”
Brissett does a very good job against big wings. Matches physicality and stays in front. Decent help instincts around the rim and not afraid to take a hit to contest with verticality. pic.twitter.com/SMacoTg8RF— Wayne Spooney (@WSpooney) July 6, 2023
“So, he’s like an in-control Aaron Nesmith?” Brad interjects. That wound was still fresh from Aaron’s move to Indiana, despite it being a year previous. I know he meant no harm, but I can’t help feeling a bit betrayed after I admitted my feelings about Aaron last time we met. I nod in agreement trying to hide my pain.
I continue. “There are some problems when he’s switched onto guards though. He moves his feet and does his best, but he’s somewhat limited. Here he is doing a great job against Tyler Herro.”
All things considered, probably about an average wing defender that won't lose minutes because he can't defend. pic.twitter.com/c4t22vpR0P— Wayne Spooney (@WSpooney) July 6, 2023
“Not bad,” Brad interjects quickly.
“Here he is getting beat by RJ Hampton.”
Brissett may have some trouble against quick guards and his off-ball anticipation on the perimeter isn't amazing. pic.twitter.com/X4QK7fXCAz— Wayne Spooney (@WSpooney) July 6, 2023
“Not good.” He sums up the dour feeling in the room.
“All told,” I begin in my best summative voice, “Brissett is far from a bad defender. He’s got solid tools given his size and decent lateral quickness, and his effort really helps. But when he’s switched out on to guards, even when off-ball, he has a tendency to lose them, or get mashed on off-ball screens. Those problems limit his ceiling as a defensive player. I’d grade him out as average. I saw a lot of guys around his level in my time on the force.”
“You were a police officer?,” he asks with, what I hope, is genuine interest.
“What? No. The Sioux City Skyforce. I had a cup of coffee in the G-League in my younger days, Brad. Old Ricky M had some game. Also, I’m a basketball investigator. It wouldn’t make any sense for me to be a cop.”
I see the realization, and slight embarrassment, wash over him. “Makes sense, let’s talk offense.”
“The offense is a weird one, Bradley. I’m assuming that’s your full name.”
“I figured an investigator would know that already, but yes.”
I acknowledge the minor jab with a gentle, but genuine, smirk.
“Everything starts and ends with his shooting. Have you ever experienced something that starts out amazing and then slowly fades into mediocrity or worse?”
He responds shockingly quick to a question I thought was rhetorical. “Like the opposite of the How to Train Your Dragon series, which started amazing and continues to be so. Yes, I think I have, like M. Night Shyamalan’s career. He went from Signs to The Village to whatever you want to call Lady in the Water. I hesitate to use the word ‘movie’ to describe it.”
“Exactly! Also, can you believe he got freaking Paul Giamatti for Lady in the Water? Can’t believe he starred in that pile. Anyway, Brissett’s shooting is just like that. In his first real year of NBA action for Indy, he played 21 games and shot a Signs-esque 42.3% from 3 on 78 attempts. Really great. Small sample size, but not miniscule. Unlike the review scores for Lady in the Water, am I right?”
There’s no acknowledgement of my brilliant joke, so I soldier on. “The year after, he netted himself a sizeable role on a bad Indiana team. He averaged 23.3 minutes a game and appeared in 67 games. His shooting was a very solid 35%, and he knocked down 39% of his wide-open 3s. Not elite but you need to guard him out there.
Then comes this past season. His minutes dropped to 16.7 per game with additions on the wing in Indy, and his shooting fell off a cliff. It went all the way down to 31% from three and 34.4% on wide-open ones. He’s not a playmaker or a rim roller, he’s the quintessential 3-and-D guy offensively, so when the shooting went, it affected every part of his game.”
“How do you mean?”
“There’s something you need to know about Brissett. He’s not just below average around the rim, he’s very below average. He shot under 50% from 0-5 feet last year. He’s a two-foot leaper, which betrays some of what he’s good at. Let me demonstrate. He actually makes pretty quick decisions with the ball on the catch and can drive hard against close-outs. He’s got a crafty Eurostep game and decent burst, but his finishing often lets him down even when he makes the right read and snakes around the rim protection.
Brissett does a decent job of getting himself to the rim driving closeouts (nice Eurostep game), and seemingly makes quick-ish decisions, but man his finishing lets him down a lot. pic.twitter.com/i67eKsgcbr— Wayne Spooney (@WSpooney) July 6, 2023
“Often the reason he can’t finish is because he gets almost no lift once he Euros by the defense. He turns easy finishes into more difficult ones or allows the defense to get back to him and contest.”
“Which means, if he can’t shoot then...” Brad interjects.
I stop him. “We will get there. Mr. President. We will get there. Allow me to continue. Like I said, a big positive is how quick he makes decisions on the catch, even if it isn’t always the right decision, but he’s got another wrinkle. Brissett is a solid cutter. He didn’t do it often in Indy, but nobody did. They were 24th in cut possessions per game last year. Brissett averaged .6 cut possessions per game, which is not a lot, but he was in the 52nd percentile of efficiency on them. Cutting is one of the most efficient plays in basketball so even that level is great offense. When he decides to do it, or Indy’s offense allowed him to, he had solid timing and patience. But again, his finishing often betrayed him.”
Something there with Brissett's cutting. Didn't do it a ton, and his finishing let him down some (52nd percentile in points per possession on cuts), but he's got good feel and timing when he decides to do so. pic.twitter.com/8s4qGiOsxM— Wayne Spooney (@WSpooney) July 5, 2023
Brad stands up. I can see the mechanics of his brain working in real time. “I see where you are going here. If he doesn’t shoot, then it limits him doubly. Not only would it make driving close-outs much harder because his defender is sitting back, but there’s no space to cut in behind. His defender is essentially standing in the space he would cut into already.”
“Exactly. What it all adds up to is an inconsistent offensive player that has some tools, but ultimately, you are left wanting more. One minute he will Eurostep past two defenders and kiss if off the glass. The next minute, he’s clogging up the spacing or flinging a floater off the front rim. He’s, unfortunately, a below average offensive player right now.”
I push my chair away from my desk and stand-up to meet Brad at eye level assuming we had wrapped up. There’s a beat of silence as we both ponder what we’ve watched and discussed. Then two beats. Slowly our eyes meet, and I see a smile creep over his face just as I feel the familiar stretch of one come across mine.
We simultaneously exclaim, “UNLESS HE SHOOTS!”
Brad expediently continues from there. “I mean, if he shoots, the problems vanish, right? It will allow him to drive closeouts and helps his finishing. It will give him areas to cut in behind, especially if we are playing 5-out, and we will be playing a lot of 5-out. If he shoots, then this guy could really play some good minutes for us.”
“That’s exactly right, Mr. President. Exactly right.”
“Rick, you’ve done it again!—”
He repeats himself without missing a beat. “Rick Magnum, you’ve done it again!”