The Whiteboard: J.J. Redick was a lot more than just a spot-up shooter

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J.J. Redick, who announced his retirement Tuesday morning after 15 NBA seasons, will be remembered first and foremost as a shooter. His 41.5 career 3-point percentage is the sixth-best in NBA history among players with at least 2,000 attempts and he retires with the 15th-most made 3-pointers ever.

But the idea of Redick as a standstill shooter, spotting up behind the line and waiting for his teammates to deliver the ball, sells him incredibly short and misses a big part of what made his career so fascinating.

It’s hard to overstate just how devastating Redick as a college scorer. As a senior at Duke, he averaged 26.8 points per game, shooting 47.0 percent from the field and 42.1 percent from beyond the arc. But he wasn’t just an outside scorer in college, he was a heady creator who leveraged the threat of his shooting to make himself into a devastating slasher. He shot 52 percent inside the arc that season and averaged 6.9 free throw attempts per 36 minutes.

But he struggled to translate that ability against NBA athletes at the beginning of his career, which is one of the reasons he had such a hard time getting on the floor during his first three seasons. He played 2009 minutes total across those first three seasons, just a hair more than the 1808 he played during his fourth season when things finally began to click and he appeared in all 82 games for the Orlando Magic. That fourth season was when he finally figured out how to leverage his off-the-dribble tools and make himself into a viable secondary creator.

J.J. Redick made himself into a capable secondary creator

Some of his success that year was physical and skill development, some of it was opportunity and some of it was just doing a better job of knowing when to attack against defenses that had already been bent or broken by Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson. That season, Redick’s 2-point percentage jumped to 47.3 from 43.6 his first three seasons. His free-throw rate jumped by about 22 percent. His assist percentage increased from about 10 percent to 13.9.

We don’t have more granular player tracking and play type statistics available for those Redick seasons but by the time they were fully available, we can see his complete evolution into a capable secondary creator. From 2015 to 2019 (his last two seasons with the Clippers and his two seasons with the 76ers), Redick finished about 1.5 possessions per game as the ball-handler in the pick-and-roll, scoring an average of 1.00 points per possession. For the sake of context, that mark would have ranked in the 82nd percentile last season and was about the same as Zach LaVine‘s mark. For the same period, he averaged 2.9 drives per 36 minutes, making 45 percent of his shots off drives and logging 57 assists to just 40 turnovers.

Those aren’t the numbers of a guy you build an offense around or ask to create something from scratch in the clutch but they elevated him to a high-level role player, someone who added dynamism as well as spacing to an offense and someone who needed more defensive attention that just live legs to chase him around screens. At 6-foot-3 with average athleticism and wingspan, Redick also built himself into a capable enough defender that he couldn’t be targeted off the floor in a playoff matchup.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that historical statistical comparisons for Redick based on 3-point percentage return players like Mike Miller and Kyle Korver. But toggle to an all-in-one metric like DPM and you get an array of more well-rounded players — Mike Bibby, Boris Diaw, Richard Hamilton, Zach Randolph and Hedo Turkoglu — which is a better representation of the player J.J. Redick turned out to be. He wasn’t just a shooter. He was a scorer and a defender, a creator and someone who could fill multiple roles depending on what his team needed. He’s probably not headed for the Hall of Fame, but he’s definitely an interesting player in the history of the NBA and one whose basketball journey deserves recognition and celebration.


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