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Is it time to start worrying about Boris Diaw?

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Boris Diaw has had a rocky start to his fourth year with the Spurs, in particular with his shot. Is his poor shooting a cause for concern?

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Boris Diaw had arguably the best game of his career in Game 6 of the 2014 Western Conference Finals. He finished the night with a gaudy 26 points on 8-14 from the floor, including 3-6 from deep.

Diaw is at his best when the passing lanes are open and he has carte blanche to post up on a mismatch generated out of the offense or hit an open three if available. In this game, Diaw took advantage of his matchups with Derek Fisher and Reggie Jackson in the post, and knocked down his open threes when Ibaka was hesitant to stretch too far away from the paint.

By the eye-test, Boris looks to have experienced a significant drop-off between this game a mere half year ago and present day. However, from almost all efficiency categories, he is the same player he's always been. His total rebound, assist, steal, block, turnover, and usage rates from this season are all nearly identical to his numbers throughout the rest of his tenure with the Spurs.

Season

G

PER

TS%

3PAr

TRB%

AST%

STL%

BLK%

TOV%

USG%

2011-12

20

12.1

0.65

0.191

12

16.1

1.8

1.1

28.1

11.2

2012-13

75

11.9

0.603

0.235

8.6

15

1.6

1.1

18.9

12

2013-14

79

14.1

0.578

0.193

9.3

16.3

1.1

1.2

16.3

17

2014-15

30

13.1

0.538

0.31

10.4

19.6

1.1

0.9

16.4

16.9

The one major difference? The shots he's taking and making.

Boris is currently shooting 30.6% from three, a rate so mediocre that you have to go all the way back to the 05-06 season to find a worse percentage from him. It doesn't help that Diaw's coupling this poor shooting with the highest three-point attempt rate of his career, by a large margin - 31% of his field goal attempts this season have been threes. We're now edging toward the point of the season where small sample sizes aren't quite so small, so is it time to worry about our Medium Ball Frenchman?

Has he lost his ability to make threes? It's a possibility, but a near 10% drop-off from 40.2% to 30.6% seems unprecedented for a player in the same system with the same shooting stroke. So could last season have been a fluke for Boris from deep? Again, it's a possibility; 40.2% is well above his career average of 34.1%. However, those career numbers include some shot-chucking years in Charlotte, and Diaw's career three-point percentage with the Spurs of 40.9% is an up-to-date stat that gives us a good indication of the type of prolific long-range shooting Boris provides.

So to answer the initial question, no, we shouldn't worry about Diaw, yet. With so much lineup discontinuity this season, and so many great shooters missing so many games, Boris has been relegated to the three point line to camp out for open threes. Diaw has actually taken a higher percentage of wide-open (nearest defender 6+ feet away) threes this season than last (27.6% vs. 17.1%), but that's not what makes him a dominant offensive force and a vital cog in the system.

Look at his shooting charts between this year and last year:

2013-14: 2014-15:

diaw 2013-14

diaw 2014-15


Missing one or two of Patty Mills, Kawhi Leonard, Marco Belinelli, Tony Parker, and Danny Green creates some disparity in the number of threes taken and the number Pop would like taken. Missing three or four of that group, as the Spurs have for extended stretches this season, means that San Antonio needs to find some other means of generating threes. With few consistently healthy shooters, the Spurs have used Diaw as a crutch to carry the offensive load from deep for a good chunk of this season. This means fewer shots in the paint and restricted area, where Diaw truly shines offensively, and more from deep, where Diaw is great, but only when used in moderation.

It's not yet time to start worrying about Diaw. If anything, Diaw's mediocre shooting only underscores the importance of the Spurs' shooters. Pop needs Patty, Kawhi, Marco, and, heck, even Tony to get healthy so that Boris can expand his game back inside the three-point arch. If his poor shooting doesn't improve when everyone is eventually back on the court, then we can be concerned.

Stats courtesy of NBA Stats and Basketball-Reference