Monday, January 16, 2006






Lets take a look at Robert Swifts career as a Sonic center and try to judge wether or not he has what it takes to become a good to great player in the NBA.
During his first few games as a Sonic, Swift looked impressive grabbing almost 10 rebounds, 2 blocks and a career high 10 points. Despite achieving his 10 rebound/10 point career high during the 2004-2005 season Swift only played in 16 games, took 11 shots and played 72 total minutes. With that being said, lets focus primarily on his second season, his true rookie season and try to answer the question: "Does he have what it takes to become an effective NBA center?"
Its tough because even during this season Swift really never got a chance until recently to show what he can do. He often didn't play, DNS coaches decision, and when he did play he was given irregular slop minutes. A few high rebounding games, averaging six points, 1 block, which are for the most part irrelevant slop stats. Since slop statistics, garbage time, playing against inferior bench warmers, odd defensive substitution during hail marry plays... do not offer a good representation of his potential; we need to take his numbers from the Miami game to his most recent game wherein Swift has averaged 20 or more minutes. During those 9 games Swift was matched up against Shaq, Marion, Bosh, Nowitzki, and Zach Randolph... Good measuring sticks. In 9 games Swift averaged 10 points, 9 rebounds and 1 block. To average it out to 48 min. Swift would be averaging 15-20 pts, 10-13 reb. a game. Is it possible? I realize that 20 pts and 13 reb are inflated statistics and more than likely he will average 10-12 pts 9-11 reb. but we need all the center support we can get. Going back in recent Sonic history the best center, not a modified forward that has to play the position, was... Michael Cage during the 89'-90' season! (Averaged 10 points, 10 reb.) That was 16 years ago! Can Swift fill that void? I've covered the statistical analysis so lets try to examine his physical pros and cons to determine if he can fill those per 48 min stats.
The most glaring glaring physical con is his weight and bulk. In the few minutes against Shaq he looked completely useless and overmatched, but so does everyone. Against Bosh, who is the most similar player to Swift in size and style of play, he was murdered. Bosh went off for 29 points, 13 rebounds and single handedly beat down the Sonics despite anyone who was in front of him. Possibly a good learning lesson or an esteem killer, Swift made his first start the next game and scored 15 points 7 rebounds, not bad. What Swift lacks in weight he more than makes up for it in speed and for the Sonics, whom are #2 in offensive scoring, speed is more important than bulk. True, he does get over powered in defensive rebounding battles, but when he learns how to use his speed and wingspan to gain advantage on players that are bigger, he definitely could work that average up to 10- 13 rebounds a game, easy. If it were true that bulk always wins the rebounding battles, then Shaq would lead the league in rebounding yearly. The rebounding champ consistantly goes to mobile big men with the one acception of Dennis Rodman, probably the best, pound for pound, rebounder ever. He was a freak!
Swift defensively, has good instincts, quick feet, extremely large wingspan and always seems to be around the ball, blocking and changing shots. Sikma says the same about Swift: "He seems to be in the right position all of the time. When you watch him play he seems to have good feet and he works hard." Although the Sonics knew that he was a defensive player- he broke his high school record for block shots for a season and 4 year high school record, they also knew that his biggest issue is his offense.
Swift offensively is shy, plays small and is unable to establish deep physical position. He is easily knocked off his preferred block and scores primarily on tip ins, put backs and his semi consistent 10-15 foot jumper. He runs the floor well and routinely is the first of the bigs down the floor. Swift uses his speed well during half court offensive sets allowing him to be in position for put backs. Swift has better than average hands and doesn't try to be more than what is asked of him. Most of his one on one scores come from back to the basket, one dribble left or right and finishing with a turn around hook or set shot, thats about it. No facing up, no strong drop steps or quick spins, for now he is a two shot center. Hook and set shot with a left or right set up dribble. Swift is as rookie as they get, raw unrefined offensive game with a respectful defensive game. Swift has shown flashes of brilliance during games and then responds with head scratchers. 14 points 12 rebounds then next game 6 points 6 rebounds, hardly consistent. Somewhere between 14 points and 12 rebounds and 6 points and 6 rebounds is what Swift is going to average. His offensive game can go nowhere but up, hopefully matching his defensive game abilities. If Swift continues to play 20-30 minutes a game, he should average 9/9 respectively by the end of the year.
Enough numbers, Swifts assessment breaks down like this. The best possible scenario is Swift turns into a mix of Robert Parish and Chris Bosh, averaging 17/12 and Swift has the numbers to back this up. During his 9 game span of playing 20 or more minutes he has scored 8 or more points a game with highs of 15 and 14 and rebounding highs of 12 (2x) Worst case scenario, disregarding being released from the league, he turns into a pathetic version of Jim Mclvaine or Darko Milicik- a complete waste of height. Unfortunately, he also has the numbers to support this outcome as well. But neither Jim or Darko in their first and second seasons have had scoring games near Swifts numbers. Of course, they both played for winning clubs with limited minutes. Extremely limited in Darko's case.
Regardless, Swift has more pros than cons. He has good teachers around him and like I said before, he doesn't do more than what is asked of him. So everything is there for him to reach the positive projected numbers and I believe that he can. So here is my prediction, by the end of this year Swift will average 8 points 8 rebounds possibly 10/10, but definitely no less than 8/8.
So I want to hear what you have to say! Am I crazy? Is Swift a major waste? You see something different? Is Swift better than that? Let me know!!!!

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