Kyle Singler is a nice role player, but he doesn't have the talent to be a starter on a contender. Let's be real. You're not going to get all that far with Kyle Singler as your starting small forward.
At least, that's the standard talking point.
But here we are again. Another year where Kyle Singler found himself on the outside looking in from the rotation in October and another season he's poised to surpass 2,000 minutes as one of the most effective players on the team.
It was abundantly clear four months ago that Josh Smith was absolutely not the answer at small forward, yet these days when talking about potential solutions it seems that most want to look externally. Yet objectively, there's no clear reason this should be the case.
A few often mentioned candidates for the ideal replacement small forwards are Kyle Korver, Martell Webster, and Trevor Ariza. All are older, more expensive. And are they even long-term upgrades?
Take a peek at a side-by-side comparison of the four players at the same point in their respective careers from Basketball Reference. Korver is the only that has a claim of being the superior player at the time, and even his advantage is not by a significant margin.
Now, Ariza is coming off a career year in his tenth season. That's a risky proposition for a player looking for a long-term deal. Korver just turned 33, which is a poor fit for The Drummond Contender. As a key player for a playoff team on a modest salary, Webster's days as a buy-low candidate may be over.
It's very likely that the best option is already on the team.
After a four-year college career and a year in Europe's top league the ACB, Singler was regarded as a finished product as a rookie, for better and for worse. When he grabbed the starting job in his ninth game as a pro yet never really showed tremendous potential in his rookie year, that presumption seemed verified.
Yet this sophomore year has been a demonstration of legitimate upside. Singler has only shown an assortment of moderately above-average skills with nothing venturing into the territory of elite. Yet when it all adds up, you're left with a player who excels at being efficient.
Singler's true shooting percentage of 57 percent dwarfs the league average of 53 percent, and represents a nice leap from last year's 51.7 percent. He started his rookie year strong, leading the team with a true shooting percentage over 60 percent after the first month of play. But his efficiency was at the mercy of his three point shooting, which was inconsistent.
Although Singler is shooting threes at an even higher rate this season, he has still remained an efficient scorer even when the long shot isn't falling thanks to getting to the line more and finding better looks from inside the arch. In other words, he's showing great improvement at generating the most efficient shots.
He's been a feast-or-famine three point shooter, which is one area of his game that he could certainly stand to improve. But the feasts are a nice cause for hope. If he could just iron out his splits, he could jump among the elite three point threats in the league. But, one nice distinction between most prospects with "ifs," he's still a strong player even if that if never materializes.
In addition to his efficiency as a scorer, Singler also showed improvement in his turnover percentage and is with the leaderboard in the category. His win shares per 48 has jumped from .048 to .091 and his wins produced had a similar increase.
Let's keep in mind that Singler is only in his second season and trending upward all around - all the while spending most of his career playing out of position. After a nice step forward this season, there's no reason to think that he doesn't have another step or two left before he's done.
All this is not to say that Singler is the epitome of what you want in a small forward. It means that he can handle the job. If an upgrade comes along, great. If you've got a youngster developing behind him who might take the job in a few years, also great. But many options for an immediate upgrade will just wind up being a lateral move.
An unfortunate outcome of last season was the missed opportunity of getting extended minutes with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe playing alongside each other. The missed opportunity of starting Kyle Singler at small forward has been detrimental in many of the same ways.
The team may have a core of the future in place with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Singler, Monroe, and Drummond. However, it's impossible to tell, as the quartet has only played together for a total of 68 minutes on the season. They're +14 in those minutes, by the way.
Additionally, there's a clear need for a floor-spacing small forward to complement Monroe and Drummond long term. Adding one will likely be a priority, but how big of a priority is a question that can't be answered with certainty.