How Toney Douglas Can Finally Find Home with Golden State Warriors
What do you get when you combine a streaky jump shot, tough perimeter defense, questionable passing, sketchy handles and hustle?
You get a guy who is joining his fifth team in five NBA seasons.
Toney Douglas was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers on June 25, 2009 and traded to the New York Knicks before the day concluded. He spent three years in New York before being shipped off to the Houston Rockets in the summer of 2012.
Douglas didn't last the season in Texas, as he was sent out west to the Sacramento Kings at the trading deadline.
After 22 games in California's capitol, he was not offered a contract by the Kings and hit the free-agent market. He moved two hours to the southwest, signing with the Golden State Warriors on July 9.
Guess the length of the contract.
Inability to Stick
Why is it that Douglas has so much trouble sticking with one organization?
A large part of it is luck—or lack thereof.
The draft-day trade that sent him to New York was certainly out of his control, and the three years he spent with the Knicks are no short stint by today's standards.
He was then one of five pieces given to Houston in exchange for Marcus Camby. His status as one chip in a blockbuster deal makes the move look relatively impersonal.
The Rockets only kept Douglas for half a season, but he was again moved in a six-player trade. Finally, the Kings quickly cutting ties with him had more to do with their July 4 trade for Greivis Vasquez than it did with Douglas' faulty game.
That being said, there's an undeniable quality to Douglas that makes him particularly expendable and valuable at the same time.
The expendable side stems from his point guard body and lack of point guard skills.
Douglas is only 6'2" and weighs 190 pounds, so playing him at the 2 is out of the question. The problem is that he doesn't pass, handle or create his own offense like a point guard.
There are countless players in the league with this problem, but many find more stability than Douglas due to a dynamite outside shot. While the 27-year-old has looked like a three-point assassin at times, his 2011-12 season (his last in New York) disrupts that notion.
In three of his four seasons, Douglas has shot between 37.3 and 38.9 percent from deep. In 2011-12, he shot 23.1 percent.
One may be inclined to call it a statistical anomaly, but a deeper look into his stats reveal a disturbing pattern of shooting inconsistency.
From three to nine feet, Douglas has shot everywhere from 13.3 percent (during his brief stint with the Kings) to 59.1 percent. From 10 to 15 feet, he has shot between 34.5 and 42.9 percent. From 16 to 23, his low is 18.0 percent (during his stint with Houston) with a high of 42.0 percent.
Last year he shot a career-best 90.5 percent from the free-throw line, while he failed to reach 80 percent two years prior.
There's no pattern to Douglas' fluctuations.
Some years his shot is falling at certain ranges and not others, while those numbers might totally flip the following year.
A certain connotation is attached to inconsistent shooters. Mental weakness, poor work ethic, fatigue, apathy and even personality issues are assumed to be connected to those who have obvious shooting talent but uneven results.
This is not Toney Douglas.
In fact, this is anything but Toney Douglas. While the point guard has battled with shooting demons and may continue to do so, his mental commitment to the game and his effort level on and off the court are superb.
He frequently burns defenders in transition and rarely gets burned himself. He is always working to get open. He plays energetic, smart, swarming defense. He crashes the boards, fights for loose balls and puts his body on the line.
His strengths are just as critical to his lengthy trade history as his weaknesses are. His inconsistent offense makes him hard to hold onto, but his reliable defense and strong motor make him an ever-attractive commodity.
At age 27, there is a dwindling likelihood that Douglas will ever become a deadly shooter or a quality floor general.
However, there is still hope for him to find a home. There is also reason to believe that it might be in Oakland.
The Warriors did sign Douglas to a one-year deal, but this doesn't mean that he'll be wearing a sixth jersey come the start of his sixth season next fall.
Through his New York, Houston and Sacramento years, Douglas struggled with his jump shot, but he also struggled with his role and his coaches. Never has he played for a coach like Mark Jackson, who is one of the best confidence instillers and role finders in the NBA.
He's also never played behind elite shooters, which may be the biggest key of all to Douglas finding a home with Golden State.
Finally a Fit
With all three of his previous teams, Douglas was asked to shoot freely and often. This led to him forcing shots, which lowered his percentages due to both the degree of difficulty of those shots and the timing issues that out-of-rhythm shooting can create.
This will not be the case in Mark Jackson's offense, as Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and company can more than adequately spread the floor.
As a result, Douglas will have an opportunity to take fewer shots, and the shots he does take should be of a higher average quality. His percentages may or may not go up, but whatever he does shoot should be—for the first time in his career—a real statistical representation of who he is as a shooter.
Having Curry and Thompson ahead of him won't only decrease his need to shoot and score. Combining those two with the presence of Kent Bazemore, Nemanja Nedovic and Andre Iguodala, Douglas could see less minutes per game than he ever has before.
A reduction in playing time is rarely the key to a player's improvement, but consider Douglas' strongest skill: He is an extremely high-level one-on-one point guard defender—but he only can guard smaller point guards.
Combine that with the possibility that no more than 12-14 minutes may be available to him, and a role seems to pop up with his name on it. Douglas can be matched up against smaller point guards—a sub genre that is healthily represented in the Western Conference (Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Ty Lawson, Mike Conley, Steve Nash)—and do so while other offensive weapons are on the court for Golden State.
The Dubs offense should be fine—they have enough scorers, shooters and playmakers to get by for 14 minutes a night without Curry—and getting Curry his rest when the opposing star point guard is on the floor will both allow him to conserve energy defensively as well as play more against the other team's backup point guard.
On top of that, Douglas should be the perfect option in defensive priority situations.
Jackson loves to put defensive lineups on the court for a play or two throughout the course of a game, be it at the end of a quarter, off a dead ball before a premeditated timeout or alternating offense and defense at the end of a tight game.
Douglas, Bazemore, Iguodala, Jermaine O'Neal and Andrew Bogut should form one of the most daunting "one-stop" units in the league.
This is really all the Warriors need from their backup point guard.
If Douglas has one of his good shooting years, great, but if he does not, no problem. He won't need to make shots to help this team tremendously.
If, in fact, Jackson uses him in this way, there is a high probability that he would be back in Oakland next season. With Curry being so crucial to this team and his ankles being so fragile, having a backup who gives him minutes off would be invaluable—especially since these will be high-stress minutes.
Considering Curry's four-year contract, how much is riding on his health for the duration of it and what Douglas can do to help, it seems as if the vagrant's luck may finally be turning around.
It's now up to him to make his own breaks by thriving in this new role.
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