AP Photo/Charles Cherney
This could finally be J.J. Redick’s year. Which makes it easy to forget that J.J. Redick used to be a horrible bust that proved just how insignificant one’s college career can be.
He could always shoot. His long range acumen carried him at Duke and even when he was manning the Orlando bench for a living, he knocked down threes whenever he took the court. His worst season from behind the arc was in the 2008-2009 season when he shot a very solid 37.4 percent and his career percentage of 40.2 percent is enough to rank him 32nd all-time and 16th among active players. J.J. Redick can stroke it, man, there’s no doubt about that.
But early in his career, it just wasn’t enough. He played 79 games and 919 minutes total in his first two seasons. He got more playing time in his third season, but was fairly atrocious whenever he took the court because he was so bad at everything but those threes. His turnover percentage was nearly 14 percent, way too much for a spot-up shooter, and once he wandered inside the three-point line, his shot was almost certain to be a long two-pointer — and a missed one. It was not a fun time to be J.J. Redick.
As Orlando got deeper and went further into the playoffs in 2009, Redick finally broke through in the Eastern Conference Semfinals against Boston. Reverse-engineering his own experiences running off screens and trying to get open for threes, the unproved Redick played some surprisingly effective defense against Ray Allen, helping the Magic win the series in seven hard-fought games. The vast majority of his playoff minutes came in this series, but it was an important stretch because it proved Redick could be effectively utilized on the defensive end, the sort of valuable skill that upgrades a shooter from a potential asset to a tangible one (think pre-2012 Steve Novak and post-2012 Steve Novak).
As far as career turning points go, Redick’s is unheralded, but the data bears this one out. The following season in 2010, Redick played in all 82 games and saw his minutes uptick to 22 a night. His three-point shooting crossed the 40 percent barrier and stayed there ever since (fine, he was at 39.7 percent in 2011. Jeez), he cut down the turnovers and upped his assist numbers, and posted a 15 Player Efficiency Rating, cementing himself as an NBA contributor.
It was fitting that Redick got an offer at an above-average salary once he became an above-average player. But the Magic were already all-in and instead of becoming a starter in Chicago, Redick came back to the bench. In these days, when Oklahoma City breaks up a title contender because of financial concerns, that sort of decision would be applauded, but it caused Redick to stagnate. Vince Carter first, Jason Richardson second, and Stan Van Gundy’s system all around just didn’t afford Redick the opportunities his play had warranted. Redick’s usage rate would budge, his shot attempts consistently hovering around 11 or 12 per 36 minutes with half of them coming from three.