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Jonny Flynn running out of chances

At only 23, Jonny Flynn is already on his fourth team. The Pistons haven’t been able to solidify the point guard position since November 3, 2008 and remain with no natural point guards in their rotation. Shouldn’t this be a match made in basketball heaven?

Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

The story

2010 must seem like a lifetime ago for Jonny Flynn. He started every game except one for a lousy Minnesota team and had some mild personal success as a rookie – think scoring along Brandon Knight lines with solid point guardy stuff.

Nothing too inspiring but enough to beat out Ramon Sessions, who struggled in Kurt Rambis triangle offense. With Ricky Rubio’s status uncertain, Flynn looked to be the team’s point guard of the future. Heading into 2010-11 Kahn parted ways with Sessions and brought in Luke Ridnour to fill the veteran backup role.

But about that one game Flynn didn’t start as a rookie, he missed it due to an injured hip from the second to last game of the season. It’d require surgery, which would cost him a few months to start the following season - but it actually turned out to possibly cost him his career. Ridnour happened to be a great fit for the triangle and ran away with the starting spot. Flynn struggled when he made it back in December, was even worse in January, the team continued to be terrible, and Rubio’s impending arrival for the following season spelled the end of Flynn’s time in Minnesota.

From there, it’s a short story. After getting traded to Houston for peanuts last year, he lost the backup job to Goran Dragic in Houston, got flipped to the salary dumping Trailblazers where he again failed to make an impression. Now he comes to us as a bust just hoping sneak on to the roster of a lottery team.

The player

For his style of play, he’s basically a scoring point guard. Relies on a quick first step to get to the bucket, where he finishes pretty well. He’s a capable three point shooter, but has no midrange game. Essentially, when he’s not able to get to the rim and turned into a perimeter player is when his game really abandons him. During his rookie year, 30% of his shots came at the rim. His last two years have been 13% and 19% respectively. The results are about what you’d expect - plummeting shooting percentages, fewer trips to the line, significant drop in scoring (16.8 points/36 down to 10.6 points/36).

He’s shown to be a solid distributor, especially last year with the lone bright spot of his season being a 35.7% assist percentage that went for 8.3 assists per 36. He gets turnover prone, which was especially a problem as he played his way out of Minnesota, but made some improvements last year.

He’s a short point guard, barely 6’0, but has long arms and a pretty strong build. Before his hip injury he was an explosive athlete, one of the fastest guys on the floor, a great first step, and showed a 40 inch vertical at the combine. However, it’s hard to tell how much of this athleticism survived the injury.

The terrifying fact

Remember how Flynn’s rookie year was similar to Knight’s in scoring numbers? It was actually a bit better. And how he had solid point guardy numbers? And we all know how Knight didn’t have those, right? They came into the league at about the same age, neither is a defensive standout, both solid athletes. Yeah, so right now Knight is not as good of a point guard prospect as Flynn was at this point in his career.

So. Annointing Knight as point guard of the future would be a massive mistake, he can’t play point and Stuckey is better at the two. The life of a combo guard. Flynn’s still 23, younger than three rookies we’ve had the past couple of seasons. He provides exactly what this team needs, a legitimate point guard that provides some measure of insurance in case Knight is...well, the next Jonny Flynn.

The expectation

Overall, he’s going to have to be able to get back to scoring with some measure of efficiency if he’s ever going to carve a place with a team - he’s decent at the point guardy stuff and on the defensive end, but just doesn’t bring enough to the table to stand out.

Looking at his numbers the past two years it’s obvious that he’s transitioned poorly to a backup in this regard, but his splits highlight this even further. Even just looking at his last two lousy seasons shows a stark contrast:

In games over 20 minutes: 43%/40%/82%, for 13.3 points/36 and 2.4 a/to in 590 minutes

In games under 20 minutes: 31%/26%/67%, for 8.5 points/36 and 1.6 a/to in 809 minutes

The same trend holds his rookie year, that he plays a whole lot better with more minutes.

I’m not sure what that means, but can see it playing out two ways. He inspires enough to take the position from Bynum, stands out to the staff as the only legitimate point guard on the roster, and solidifies the backcourt as the FGOTB (YHIHF!). Or he splits minutes with Bynum, both feel like they’re playing for their career every time on the court, toss out erratic, unimpressive minutes, and both need to be brushing up on foreign languages by the spring. Well, or he just gets cut.

He looks healthy and athletic in the few minutes he’s gotten so far this spring. With such a wide range of possibilities for Flynn, I’m going to go with one that I think will happen if logic prevails:

20 minutes, 11 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 turnovers, 1 steal, 41% fg, 34% from three