Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Jeremy Pargo made his 76ers debut Saturday night, giving the team a lift with his 12 points, 4 rebounds and 6 assists as the 76ers overcame a sluggish start to beat the Bobcats 87-76. After struggling to find a legitimate backup point guard, could Pargo fit the bill?
The 76ers have gone through their share of backup point guards so far this season.
They signed the undrafted Maalik Wayns in the offseason, who peaked as a 76er in the preseason before shooting 26% from the floor in 21 games during the regular season.
Royal Ivey was signed before the season as an insurance policy to the unproven Wayns, and he's played like, well, Royal Ivey. With averages of 7.9 points and 1.5 assists per 40 minutes, the offense absolutely bogs down when he's on the court. According to 82games.com, the 76ers average 104.2 points per 100 possessions when Ivey is off the court compared with 94 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court. Ouch. By most metrics Ivey has been an okay defender this year (14.8 opponent PER, 0.874 points per possession against), but a league average defender isn't quite enough when you're talking about the offensive incompetence Ivey provides.
They brought in Shelvin Mack to a pair of 10 day contracts, but Mack struggled to get on the court under Doug Collins, and when he did, didn't do anything to earn more playing time. Mack played a total of 7 minutes with the 76ers, shooting 1-2 from the field for 2 points to go along with 1 assist.
Enter Jeremy Pargo.
To be clear, Pargo doesn't have to be Ramon Sessions in order to provide the 76ers value -- he just has to be better than Wayns or Mack. Pargo was not playing stellar for the Cavaliers, particularly after Kyrie Irving came back, with only an 11.9 PER and 0.011 WS/48, but that is a great iprovement over Wayns (2.0 PER, -0.142 WS/48) and Mack (-6.3 PER, -0.342 WS/48)
Per 36 minutes
Now, to be fair, Mack's performance at Washington greatly eclipsed what he provided in his brief stint with the 76ers, but he was never able to provide an impact in Philadelphia.
With the bar set so low, can Pargo provide any help?
Playing Jrue off the ball
One of the things Doug Collins talked about before the Bobcats game was playing Jrue Holiday off the ball a little bit, both in order to try to keep Holiday fresh for the heavy minutes he has been asked to log this season and also to make it a little bit more difficult for defenses to load up on Holiday and force him to give the ball up early.
"What I'd like to be able to do is take some of the ball handling responsibility off of Jrue a little bit," Collins said befor the game. "Maybe run [Jrue] off screens where he can catch the ball and now be in the atack mode without defenses being able to load up on him."
"They're just trying to wall him in and build a wall on everything he's doing, so if we get him a little more freedom [off the ball] hopefully it will help him a little bit."
"I think it takes a lot [of pressure] off of me," Holiday said after the game about playing off the ball. "Sometimes it is nice to be the second guy...It felt really good."
What to like about Pargo's game?
Looking over some of Pargo's tape in Cleveland, there are some things to like.
Namely, Pargo has the athletic ability to get into the paint, something he did quite a bit of Saturday night.
"He gets into the paint and makes people collapse, he gets people open shots, and he gets to the basket," Holiday said after the game. "Getting into the paint I think is probably one of the most crucial things, and he got there a million times tonight."
While in Cleveland, Pargo took 31.3% of his shots around the basket, mostly by using his speed turning the corner coming off of pick and rolls, which should help our big men get even more open 20 footers. 31.3% of his shots around the basket would be the highest figure among guards on the 76ers -- Jrue Holiday has the highest mark at 25.9%. The ability to get into the paint -- even if Pargo is not a particularly good finisher -- puts pressure on the defense and causes defenders to rotate, as we saw on Saturday.
On the negative side, without consistent 3 point range (although, as we saw earlier this year, he has the ability to get hot) and not being a great finisher at the basket, Pargo takes a very high percentage of his jump shots off the dribble and from mid-range. Even though Pargo is fairly good at these shots, with an underwhelming free throw rate of 0.22 free throw attempts per field goal attempt, Pargo adds to an already huge problem on the team.
Still, I don't think anybody expected a 10 day contract would fix the 76ers free throw rows. We obviously need to keep everything in context, as there is a reason Jeremy Pargo went undrafted out of Gonzaga and was available in mid-February.
We also need to keep in mind that what we saw on Saturday was likely about the best you can expect from Pargo. There will be nights where his shot isn't falling, where Holdiay and Pargo won't work on the defensive end, and where he pulls up for way too many pull-up jump shots.
I'm just hoping he can stick around long enough to fill a roster spot the rest of the season and fill 10-15 minutes per game with a slightly bigger offensive threat than Royal Ivey. If that happens, I'll be absolutely thrilled.
76ers vs Bobcats Post-game interviews