Profiles In Profiling: Daniel Gibson

August 6th, 2009 by John Krolik

boobie shirt

I came up with the idea for that shirt a couple of weeks before I got asked to start this blog up, and was pretty much as proud of it as anything I’ve done in my life. I was expecting the Boobie shirt to become a running joke on the site, one of the little mini-traditions that made Cavs: The Blog a fun place to come to. Every time Gibson had one of his scoring explosions off the bench, the game would be blessed with the Boobie shirt, and the type of fulfillment, whimsy, and wonder that can only come from a half-baked web meme would course through the veins of all.

Only one problem: Boobie didn’t have one of those games. I mean, not once. And believe me, I was looking. I was rooting for it. Because I wanted to post that Boobie shirt picture a million times. I think I might’ve put it on there once, but as I remember it was seriously forced and I felt disgusting about it. He just didn’t have those games where he’d come in, pour in 5 threes on 8 shots, and go home.

Before this season, Boobie Gibson held a special place in the hearts of Cavalier fans, and in a lot of ways still does. He was, and always shall be, the man responsible for clinching the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals with a barrage of threes. And it wasn’t just that those threes, from a rookie, sent the team to the finals and kept LeBron’s 48-point game from going in the dustbin of history with his game 2 shot in this year’s ECF. It was that Boobie Gibson was what the Cavs had always coveted-a shooter.

After the harem of 40% three-point threats the Cavs had this season, it’s easy to forget just how bad this team’s perimeter shooting used to suck. LeBron would drive, and have the option of kicking out to, in order of desirability:

1. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who would catch the ball and shoot a 18-foot set shot that went in a fair amount of the time.

2. Drew Gooden, who would face up from 18 feet, down-fake once, and either slingshot a jumper, try an awkward dribble-drive after an up-fake, or just stand there, based on the moods of his various spirit animals. At no point did Drew Gooden ever realize that he could play in the low-post on the Cavaliers. Then again, Drew Gooden was necessary to stretch the floor. That was not a joke.

3. Larry Hughes. Larry would look at a three, realize he wasn’t a good enough three-point shooter, up-fake and put the ball on the floor, realize he didn’t have enough left in his legs to get to the basket, and throw up a leaning pull-up 22-footer. He would do this every time, and miss every time. Larry Hughes is terrible at basketball.

4. Eric Snow. Eric Snow cannot make a wide-open jump shot. You can sag off of him like Rajon Rondo, except he could do none of the good things Rajon Rondo can do. It’s like if you tried to combine Rajon Rondo and Derek Fisher, but the experiment went horribly, horribly wrong. This was the starting point guard.

5. The Cavs did bring in Donyell Marshall and Damon Jones to help stretch the floor. They were nearly immobile and couldn’t pass the ball. But they were three-point shooters, so they would very confidently catch the ball beyond the arc and miss. This represented a significant upgrade.

And all the while, LeBron was creating WIDE-OPEN looks for three as defenses collapsed on him with impunity. So when that little 2nd-round rookie from Texas came on and started draining threes, Cavs fans saw a man bringing water to the desert.

And as crucial as Boobie was in the 2007 playoff run, it was in 2008 when Gibson’s value to the team became even more apparent. When Wally Z, a career 40% three-point shooter, struggled as a shooter playing next to LeBron, it was clear that there was more to being a shooter on the Cavs than just being able to hit wide-open threes.

Gibson is a very good shooter when he gets his feet set-he flings himself forward (he gets fouled on jumpers often) a fair amount, and his release point is low, but once his feet are set his concentration is pretty unflappable, and can knock down threes even if the cl0se-out man is able to get into his space. However, Gibson’s speed gives him added value as a shooter with the Cavs, since many of the open threes on the team come from LeBron; instead of sitting in a corner and being the kick-out option on a set play, shooters with LeBron have to read where he’s going, react, and have the quickness to get to the appropriate spot before the defense collapses. Gibson excelled at this, and was a fixture in crunch-time lineups because of his ability to keep the defense honest when LeBron inevitably drove to the hole.

Gibson was one-dimensional, but when his contract ran out his extension was a no-brainer: he was LeBron’s security blanket.

From there, a number of things happened, most notably that Gibson’s three-point percentage, his only real above-average skill, plummeted from 44% to 38%. Everything else about his game, including how much he went to the rim and how well he converted there, stayed the same-he just became a shooter who couldn’t shoot. There were other factors in Boobie’s fall, including:

1. Obviously, any hope the Cavs had that Gibson might evolve into more than a spot-up shooter was debunked in 2008-09. After training camp, there was some buzz about Daniel Gibson having “expanded” his game, with a mid-range arsenal and more tools driving to the basket. After a very nice game against the Bobcats early in the year, Gibson appeared to be making the turn into a “microwave” scorer off the bench rather than just a shooter.

That was mostly crap. When Gibson was younger, there was hope he could utilize his quickness to become a Jason Terry-esque combo guard and run something resembling the point; however, he’s never, ever passed the ball close to well enough to merit consideration as an actual point guard. And when he puts the ball on the floor, it’s a nightmare-he has an extremely tough time converting around the rim, doesn’t seek out contact, and favors a floater in the 8-10 foot range that he never makes. To summarize, Boobie is a career 41.2% 3-point shooter and a 41.3% shooter overall, so he should stay behind the arc unless absolutely necessary.

2. Boobie became obsolete.

Mo Williams came in and gave everything Boobie brings to the table as a shooter and security blanket, except even better, plus he was better at everything else offensively, so that was the end of Boobie as a crunch-time player. Delonte West flirted with 40% from beyond the arc. Wally Z found his stroke. Even Pavs was over 40% for a while. After desperately searching for anyone to make an open three for years, the Cavs suddenly found themselves with an embarrassment of riches from beyond the arc, making Gibson far less valuable.

3. His toe got hurt.

Just as Gibson was starting to get into a shooting rhythm, he went on the disabled list with a toe injury, and it affected his ability to push off the foot and shoot the way he liked all year; he’d adjust, overcompensate, undercompensate, whatever. With the precision being an outside shooter demands, one little tweak can throw your game off.

4. It’s the nature of the position.

Shooters are like pitchers; it’s an extremely precise action that’s very difficult every time, and can often be more mental than physical. Shooters in a slump can’t just post their man up or crash their way to the line. The easiest thing they do is try to put a ball in a 10-foot high hoop 25 feet away, and that’s never all that easy. This year, Sasha Vujacic’s troubles essentially mirrored Boobie’s. Mike Miller fell from 43% to 38% from deep. Shooters are just not that consistent from year-to-year.

Not only is this because there’s no such thing as an easy shot, but some math comes into play: by definition, an absolutely incredible shooter (45%) is anything but consistent, since even he is actually missing most of the time. Common sense stuff, but it’s amazing how often it gets forgotten. Like the difference between a .275 hitter and a .300 hitter being a hit every two weeks, the difference between Boobie hitting 38% and 44% of his threes this year would have been .2 threes a game, or one three every 5 games. A lot of times, spot-up shooters get 4 chances to shoot a three all night-you can be feeling great, miss 4, and have a terrible game, or you can feel like crap, roll 2 in, and be as good a shooter as there is in the league that night. It’s not surprising that variance is possible with 3-point percentages, even when the shots look the same.

So that’s it on Boobie for now-we’re stuck with him for a while, but he can still be valuable if he finds his shot again and remembers his role. And as he knows from last year, there’s a very good chance someone else will lose the rim for a while and his three-point touch will be needed once again.