Posted by: Kingsguru21 | September 10, 2009

Omri Casspi: Is he the Bear Jew?

If you don’t get the reference, well, you can’t be helped. (It’s from Inglorious Basterds.) Anyway, at this point there are reasonable questions surrounding Omri Casspi that it should be an interesting path from A to whatever point Casspi ends up at.

Casspi is a rookie. He’s the first Israeli drafted in the 1st round. This is what matters most. How well Casspi plays in the NBA is what will matter the most, and nothing else, including the first Israeli to play in the NBA, does.

First things first. I understand Israeli’s are excited; I don’t blame them. I’m not anti-Semitic, I’m not arguing that Casspi doesn’t belong (the Kings were hardly the only team interested in him), nor am I saying the Kings made a mistake taking him. (I would have preferred Derrick Brown on draft day as a few people might remember.)

However, Casspi being the first Israeli to play in the NBA absolutely has nothing to do with basketball. From the Maloof’s point of view, it’s all about the moolah. If it wasn’t about money, they wouldn’t give a shit. He’d be some light skinned Jesus look alike basketball savant or something, and nobody would notice. But, the amount of Israeli attention that will show up, not to mention from the Jewish non-Kings fan rooting sect, will probably increase the Maloof’s bottom line. There is genuine excitement about Casspi being in the NBA.

But I don’t care he’s Israeli, and I imagine many Kings fans don’t. All they will care about, at the end of the day, is how well Casspi fits in with the rest of the team. So why am I making a big deal about this? Because Casspi has made a big deal about it at every turn, and other than his time at IMG Academy recently (and mainly cuz there has been no press around), I haven’t liked the guy as much.

Clearly I know 2 things already. He’s hyper elated to be the first Israeli in the NBA. And, if you believe his quotes, he wants to make the Kings a better team. (I always love those quotes. They sound good and mean shit.)


So, what exactly is Casspi like as a player? Well, I thought TZ did a good profile of him a few days ago at StR, and I think there was useful points brought up.

First, as the first Israeli in the NBA, it means that Casspi may have an useful tool when negotiating his next potential contract in the NBA. That’s a big deal from a business standpoint, but, first, there has to be production on the court that makes it worth it.

That’s what I want to focus on now.


Depending on whom you ask, there are people who believe that Casspi is more of a 2/3 (this was based off Summer League which I did very little observation) than a 3/4 which Draft Express advertised him as.

If he can handle the ball like some believe, that may be the exact counter-balance the Kings are looking for when it comes to Tyreke Evans. If Evans is a player who can score for himself, create some shots for himself, perhaps some of the ball handling duties can be balanced with Casspi as a Point-Forward if you will. It’s not a new idea; it’s just that some teams don’t embrace unique concepts as well as others.

The Sacramento Kings, thankfully, are very out of the box. (Which is partly why I think fans are so restless right now. I’ll address this Chris Webber point as I think some of this should get settled even though I’ve written about it before.)

If you read Draft Express’s post about him, though, Jonathan Givony (the main writer of DX) doesn’t believe Casspi can handle the ball.

What does this mean? Let’s further examine this.

Casspi has made strides with his perimeter jump-shot this season, converting on 17/44 attempts (39%) of his 3-pointers in the Euroleague and Israeli league combined, up from 30% last season. While his mechanics remain unorthodox (with a low release point and his elbow flailing out), he is shooting the ball confidently this season, getting his jumper off quickly and with a consistent release point, as long as his feet are set. Off the dribble, Casspi’s poor mechanics hinder him from being much of a threat, which limits his offensive potential to a certain degree.

An average ball-handler at best, (particularly trying to change directions) Casspi is pretty limited as a pure shot-creator, although his athleticism and aggressiveness allow him to make plays at the rim regardless. He shows excellent scoring instincts, but still has a ways to go in terms of improving his all-around offensive polish. He can beat his man off the dribble with his quick first step, and loves to finish above the rim if given the opportunity to do so. Casspi plays with a great deal of energy, flying up the floor at the first sign of a fast break opportunity, often beating his man down the court and coming away with an easy basket as a result.

Somebody’s lying, or somebody is seeing something that may or may not exist. Since TZ is the guy who purports that Casspi has ball handling potential, maybe that’s what the Kings do see. Casspi is a work in progress whom I suspect will get the Kings 2-4 points a night with simple activity.

Whether that means anything, or not, I do not know. You’re asking me to balance the observations of Givony vs Ziller, and while I trust Givony a good deal to accurately read players, I also trust Ziller’s observation’s more.

That being said, something stinks in Denmark.

The rest of the write-up is encouraging. Let’s say for a moment Givony is right, and Casspi has less ability to facilitate. That means that the Kings do still have Jason Thompson (who is a tremendous ball handler–maybe better than Anthony Randolph) who can handle the ball.

I’ll argue that one reason Casspi was taken, over someone like Derrick Brown, is that the Kings do believe that Casspi can develop his ball handling skills. Say whatever you want about Tyreke Evans (and I’ll have my fill), but right now part of the success of Evans adapting to the NBA could be part of the success that Casspi has adapting to the NBA.

This is what ultimately, in my view, makes building around young players so hard for fans. They have a hard time recognizing that a player’s ability to do a little thing like grab a rebound, run up the court for 20 feet, make an up-court pass to a streaking player is not exactly a little thing. Those types of things are what make LeBron James LeBron James.

If Casspi can rebound at a higher clip than he did in the EuroLeague (which is a big if), than perhaps he will be a slam dunk pick. His potential is high (he wasn’t picked cuz he was Israeli), and his ability to improve is not beyond reason. Kevin Martin managed to make a huge leap after a season of mostly watching in 2004-05. (When you’re playing behind Cuttino Mobley and Doug Christie, that’s yet another reason.) Francisco Garcia has been a valuable player in some respects, but one could argue he’s never been properly utilized. (More on this later.)

What do I know that Casspi can do that will make him beloved? He can run around like a maniac, be a pain in the ass to the opponent by being physical, emotional, and aggressive. The Kings absolutely need that. (I don’t care what people say about Reggie Theus in his aftermath of his coaching; he’s not a dumb or tacticianless–he surrounded himself with a staff who didn’t complement what he needed to be successful. That was his biggest, and most stunning, flaw. That, and his ego led him to do unusual things like set practice schedules that didn’t make sense in the practice-light-during-the-season NBA. But Reggie did get one thing right: The Kings absolutely needed to be more aggressive.)

Now I don’t think it’s terribly complicated the stuff I’ve been talking about here. Part of the name of the game is finding ways to utilize talent that other teams can’t, or won’t, see. The Kings have no problem having their main ball handler being a PF, SF, SG, PG, or C. They don’t care. What Geoff Petrie wants, and generally strives for, is a team that complements each other.

Think about what takes place during a game. Rebounding. Defense. Shot Blocking. Steals and Deflections. Running up the court to beat players down the court. Moving the ball from each side of the court to keep the defense off balance. Finding a high quality shot as quickly as possible. Balancing the need of inside play with outside play. Trying to get players shots at where they are not only comfortable, but also where they are most likely to be successful given their physical attributes and skill-set. (Since I’m too cynical for my own good, you will also see a ton of iso plays. Nature of the beast.)

This is not an easy task, and no NBA coach is a slouch. (Hence why i feel somewhat compelled to defend Reggie Theus’ coaching tenure, even though he’s a mouthy me-first asshole.) How you balance your negatives with your positives is the biggest difference between successful coaches in the NBA. (That, and knowing your talent is what wins you games. That, and having talent.)

So what does this mean for Omri Casspi? Get to it Bear Jew. (Aldo Raine: We’ah natt in the takin prisonah bidnezz. We in the Nazee killin bidnezz. And, cuzin, bidnezz is ah boomin…) So can Casspi provide that level the Kings need? Only the Bear Jew knows. (And one request Bear Jew: No beating people to death with Teddy Ballgame’s bat, okay? Unless it’s Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, or Rush Limbaugh. But, you might wanna check with your head coach on the last one. Oh, and dumping Karl Rove with the fishes is not a bad idea while you’re at it.)

Bear Jew! Bear Jew! Bear Jew! Bear Jew!


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