Diamond in the Rough?…Semih Erden

August 25th, 2011 by Kevin Hetrick

After four of these the title may be comical, but…

Last year Semih Erden came to the NBA after several years playing for Fenerbahce Ulker in the Euroleague and Turkish leagues. He played only 64 minutes for the Cavs, but logged over 500 minutes with the Celtics. Erden is big (7’ tall, 240 lbs) and athletic, but frequently has not played to his full potential. His performance in the NBA was mixed. Last year as a low usage center, he ranked 11th of 59 big men for true shooting, but was in the bottom quarter in rebounding and had the 9th worst turnover rate. His production last year was somewhat different than his European outputs. In the last three Euroleague seasons, his true shooting never exceeded 54%. He was a more effective rebounder in Europe, although still generally considered as underachieving. Committing fouls was more of a problem in the NBA, as he averaged 7 per 40 minutes. He has always had a reasonably high turnover rate, so at least that was consistent. The most comparable NBA seasons in the last nine years are:

Viewing this table provides a snapshot on how size is valued in the NBA. These six comparable players are not very good, yet they have played a combined 44 NBA seasons. All six have played at least 5 seasons and five were active last year. A more amazing aspect is that these seasons largely represent their best efforts. Based on a reasonably objective screening; the two seasons for Jones and Armstrong were their two best, as was the case for Jarron Collins. Voskuhl’s years on the list represent two of his three best. Those shown for Brown and Hollins rank in their top half of seasons.

Despite not being great defensive forces and being below average rebounders that are turnover prone, each has staked out a reasonable NBA career. Even with the occasional high efficiency shooting season, they are low volume scorers. Only 4 of their 44 seasons featured more than 12 points per 36 minutes and none was above 13 points per 36. Shorter men would not have lasted this long in the NBA. Being center-sized may be the easiest way to have a lengthy NBA career.

If Erden can get playing time next year, play average defense and be a non-disaster offensively; he can probably get another NBA contract. This doesn’t mean anything for his future ability to contribute to the Cavs though. As previously discussed; none of the comparable players ever significantly improved, to the contrary, most were “peaking” during their comparable years. Unless Erden finds serious commitment and effectiveness on defense, he probably won’t be better than a poor back up center.

(In fairness, it is noted that Kwame Brown has developed into a good rebounder. He is still turnover prone and a low volume scorer. The others are still bad at everything.)


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