Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
|2010-2011 regular season||Chris Duhon|
When Chris Duhon signed with the Orlando Magic as a free agent in the offseason, the expectation was that he was going to be an upgrade over Jason Williams at the back-up point guard position. Although Williams, in some ways, had a career year with the Magic last season, he was 34 turning 35 and general manager Otis Smith wanted to find a younger replacement that could play behind Jameer Nelson for the long-term. Hence the Duhon signing, given that he’s 28 and in the prime of his career.
The irony is that Duhon was a free agent target by Orlando in 2009. However, Duhon opted to sign with the New York Knicks at the time because he was given an opportunity to start, something that wasn’t going to happen with the Magic with the presence of Nelson. But circumstances changed for Duhon last year in free agency, and the opportunity to join a championship contender — despite returning to a reserve role — made it easy for Smith to sign him.
Even though Duhon started at point guard for most of his two-year tenure with the Knicks, it became obvious as time went on that he was better suited coming off the bench and not playing extensive minutes.
That was Duhon’s role for four seasons with the Chicago Bulls, the team that originally drafted him, and that was going to be his role with Orlando.
Or so everyone thought.
Yes, at the start of the year, Duhon was the back-up point guard for the Magic, but he didn’t look the part when he was on the court.
Actually, Duhon didn’t look like anything but a disaster.
Expected to come in and provide a defensive-minded presence while navigating the offense for the second unit, particularly in pick and rolls as well as in spot-up shooting opportunities, Duhon didn’t little as advertised. Duhon’s defense wasn’t necessarily bad, but he was dreadful offensively.
Duhon, for whatever reason, didn’t shoot the basketball enough. When Duhon did shoot the ball, he shot it as poorly as Gilbert Arenas. Duhon’s collateral damage didn’t stop there, though. Whenever Duhon had the basketball in his hands, he turned it over on roughly 30 percent of the possessions he used up when he was on the floor. To put that number in perspective, the league average for turnover rate this season was 13.7 percent.
Duhon was so bad for Orlando that after head coach Stan Van Gundy implored him to shoot more and not pass up shots, Arenas — despite having an equally terrible year — was seen as an upgrade at the back-up point guard position after he arrived from the Washington Wizards in a trade midseason. Duhon, simply put, was a liability on the court for the Magic and when he played, it became routine to see him attempt ridiculous passes in traffic as he executed pick and rolls or get dared by opposing defenders to put up a shot, essentially putting the team in a 4-on-5 scenario offensively on almost every possession.
This next sentence is not an exaggeration.
Orlando could have signed a point guard from the D-League and had been better off without Duhon. Granted, the odds of Duhon replicating his awfulness in his second year with the Magic are low. But did I mention that Smith committed three more years to Duhon when he signed him in free agency?
If there’s a running narrative that’s going to repeat itself in these evaluations, it’s that every single move Smith executed in the last calendar year didn’t pan out. Some of Smith’s transactions were disastrous and unfortunately for Duhon, he became one of the prime examples.
It remains to be seen if Duhon will have a role besides benchwarmer for Orlando next season. As of now, Nelson is the starter, Arenas is the back-up, and Duhon is the third point guard. Yes, things can change between now and then, but it’s worth pointing out that the Magic are allocating a lot of salary to the point guard position and getting very little in return. Paying Duhon at $3.5 million to whither on the bench isn’t an efficient use of resources.
Orlando can only hope that somehow, someway, Duhon can bring more to the table in his second year with the team.
Needless to say, Duhon set the bar low for himself.