Almost exactly one year ago, we had a conversation about rumors surrounding free agent and former Warriors sixth man Brandon Rush, and the chance that the team might be able to add him to the roster for just the veteran's minimum.
Rush's 2012-13 season with the Warriors was lost, and he was traded to Utah (along with Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson, and a few draft picks) in a cap-clearing move to sign Andre Iguodala in the following summer. The former Kansas standout's recovery from injury would be slow, and he only played 418 minutes in 38 games for a lottery-bound Utah Jazz team. He took 90 shots that season (47 from behind the arc at 34%), and posted a dismal .428 TS%, easily the worst if his career. He also put up career lows (per 36) in rebounds, steals, and USG%.
Most of his woes were attributed to the injury, as well as playing for a team that was aiming for a high draft pick. So over 25 NBA teams sent scouts and general managers to watch him workout, eager to see if he could become the player he had been before the injury, and the consensus was that Rush's athleticism was back.
On July 16th, 2014, the Bob Myers inked the former sixth man to a two-year contract for the veteran's minimum (with a player option on the second year). Golden State of Mind approved, with every comment on the subject being positive. A series of polls taken in the weeks before the season here at GSoM ranked him as the 7th most valuable asset on the team, ahead of David Lee, Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, Leandro Barbosa, Marreese Speights, Ognjen Kuzmic, Nemanja Nedovic, and our 2015 first round pick.
The signing was viewed as a low risk/high reward proposition. His outside shot would assuredly punish the opposition if only he could keep up defensively, and his solid locker room presence would add another high character guy to the huddle. The best case scenario had Rush outperforming his contract and leaving the team to pursue a bigger contract, while the worst case had him proving that he was a minimum-level player on a veteran's minimum contract.
After twelve full months, it appears that we're looking at the worst case scenario. Rush put up an atrocious .255 TS%, only making 11% of his attempts from behind the three point line. RPM shows him at #474 out of 474 players, and he posted an ORtg of just 59. The tenor of the comments in our community has changed to reflect that poor performance, with many of the GSoM faithful calling for Bob Myers to cut the former fan favorite like a mullet, opening a roster spot for a shooter on the wing.
A closer look at Rush's numbers suggests that the team might already have the piece we need in place. He obviously didn't play to the level that anyone hoped for during the Warriors championship campaign, but there were some bright spots worth mentioning.
First of all, his athleticism appears to be back. I haven't superimposed film of Brandon Rush circa 2012 running and jumping over footage of the 2015 version, but to the naked eye he appeared to be moving just fine. For example, after posting career lows in rebounds (3.8/36) in Utah, he bounced back to put up a career high in rebounds (5.4/36) last season, along with a career high in blocks (1.6/36, good for fourth on the team).
Those strong rebounding and block numbers suggest that his legs are feeling better, and that he can run and jump at an NBA level again.
I attended a game in Denver back in March. The Warriors started Shaun Livingston, Justin Holiday, and David Lee that game while Stephen Curry, Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala, and Klay Thompson didn't even play. I had front row seats to that game, and I diligently watched Brandon brick his attempts or pass the ball away time after time. He did, however, move extremely well, and he even blocked three shots! He played his season high for minutes that night.
Second, and bear with me here, his free throw percentage plummeted down to .455. Why would I point out such a horrendous statistic as a potential positive? Well, it screams out that there's just a timing issue for Rush to work through. That's about the same as he shot from three back in 2012 (.452), and significantly worse than his career 71% average from the charity stripe. Keep in mind that he only averages one attempt per game for his career, so the small sample size shouldn't have had a very significant impact last season.
That segues nicely into my third point: the sample size last season was incredibly small. Rush only played 271 minutes all season, taking a grand total of 54 shots. That's slightly less than Lebron James' attempts in 7 quarters of the NBA Finals. Not only that, his USG% was 11.2, good for last on the roster and about 4% less than his career 15.3%. He basically made Andrew Bogut look like a shameless chucker.
It seems to me that Rush's timing is just a little bit off on his shot, and that's effecting his confidence on offense. In his last full season with the Warriors before the ACL tear, he attempted to dunk on 4% of his shot attempts (according to 82games.com), and connected on 84% of those attempts. He generally dunked the ball about once every other game. The last two seasons? He only attempted one dunk for the Jazz, which he missed, and one for the Warriors, which was blocked.
Rush put up a season-high five points twice last season. The first time was on November 28th against the Charlotte Hornets, a win that Rush played about 18 minutes in. The second time was in the season finale, when he shot 40% (2-for-5) against the Denver Nuggets in about 14 minutes. He had a season-high four rebound night back in January, during a 43-point blowout win against the Nuggets where he played about 10 minutes in.
All in all, Rush had a disappointing season by just about every measure. He racked up DNP-CDs more than half of the time, and played the worst offense of any Warriors player last season. Yet he still managed to be a positive locker room presence (an ongoing theme for the team), and stayed pretty healthy (early season back problems and a poke in the eye notwithstanding).
The silver lining is that his leg appears to have fully recovered, and that bodes well for next season. If he can get the timing back on his shot, the team will have an ideal "3 and D" player on the last year of a minimum contract and looking for another paycheck. There are worse things than a player that has something to prove, especially a guy with Rush's character, work ethic, and ceiling.
The poll is for you to grade Brandon Rush's season, but I hope we spend some time in the comment thread addressing what we can reasonably hope for next season.
Click here to read more of our reviews of the Warriors' 2014-15 season.