Hi, My Name Is Arsalan Kazemi, And I’m Really Good at Basketball

First off, I would like to apologize for the fact that it has been almost two months since I have blogged.  It’s not so much that I haven’t had much to write about, or that I’ve been extremely busy; really, I think I sort of burned myself out.  Anyway, I am just really excited to get this thing up and running again.  Here we go:

As much as I love examining the Wins Produced statistics of current NBA players, I am absolutely fascinated by those who have not yet made the NBA, even though it is harder to gauge their future productivity.  I think I see this mystery box as an interesting challenge.  At The Wages of Wins, the many talented analysts have to some degree debunked the rumor that players from small colleges should not be given auditions for the NBA because their strength of schedule pales in comparison to the BCS conferences and high mid-majors.  There are other players who are deemed strictly great college players, but who would not be able to make it in the NBA.  Today, I plan on trying to find a role for a player who has had both of these brands at varying times: senior Oregon power forward Arsalan Kazemi, formerly of Rice University.

Kazemi, who is from Esfahan, Iran, is the type of guy that Wins Produced adores.  Despite standing only 6’8″ and weighing 225 pounds, this guy is a very good rebounder and an efficient player overall.  His pace-adjusted Rebounds Per 40 Minutes numbers for each of his seasons in college are: 13.0, 15.1, 13.4 (at Rice), and 12.9 (at Oregon).  It is noteworthy, both now and later on, that in both of the past two seasons his team played at an above-average pace; his unadjusted numbers cluster more around 14.  He is also shot 59.4% and 59.5% in the last two seasons, respectively and has averaged 2.7 and 2.6 Steals Per 40 minutes pace-adjusted over the past two seasons, respectively.  In the same vein as the steals numbers, he has led his conference in Defensive Rating each of the past two years, and his rating this year of 83.0 was ninth-best in the country.  Of the players ahead of him, three went to Stephen F. Austin-including the interesting Taylor Smith-and two went to Savannah State, which are in truly weak conference; Gorgui Dieng is the only truly legitimiate prospect ahead of him in this category.  According to the numbers available at www.draftexpress.com, Kazemi has Old-Style Wins Score Per 40 Minutes averages of 13.4, 16.7, 17,7 (at Rice), and 17.1 (at Oregon). Over the past three seasons, only Kenneth Faried and Anthony Davis have produced higher averages in this statistic than Kazemi has.  Kazemi is just amazing.

However, that low usage that mentioned earlier really hurts Kazemi in scouts’ eyes.  While his Usage Rates were always at least average at Rice, he only used about 15.2% of Oregon’s possessions this year when he was on the floor.  This year, he also averaged fewer than 2 Turnovers and 2.4 Fouls Per 40 Minutes pace-adjusted, both definite decreases from his time at Rice; however, skeptics will say that this was probably because of his reduced role, and I would not disagree with them.  He is also not much of a shot blocker, never averaging more than 1.3 Per 40 pace-adjusted, and he only recorded 1.8 Assists Per 40 Minutes pace-adjusted this year.  Still, these are not so big of a deal as he plays power forward, and the assist rate was fifth of twenty-one among power forwards in Draft Express’s Top 100 Prospects list, where he ranks No. 86.

His Prospect Ranking implies that Kazemi will not be drafted.  The likelihood is even less when you consider the rate at which teams select “Project Euros” from picks 45 or 50 and beyond.  However, Kazemi is only a year older than the oldest of the “Project Euros”, and unlike many of them, he can obviously rebound the ball.  However, NBA teams will not draft him if they do not think he can fit in the NBA.

Reggie Evans was not a bad player in college, but he was certainly not an elite one.  In his pre-draft year of 2001-02, his old-style Win Score Per 40 Minutes was only 12.2, 24th among power forwards in the NCAA.  This year, that spot is filled by Oklahoma’s Romero Osby, a player who I doubt very many people outside of the state of Oklahoma consider to be draftworthy.  He only averaged 13.1 Rebounds Per 40 Minutes (pace adjustments are not available at Draft Express for 2001-02), while Kazemi averaged 13.8 Rebounds Per 40 Minutes this season.  Evans was twenty-two when he exited college; Kazemi turned twenty-three just last month.  Evans and Kazemi are both listed at 6’8″, although Evans is twenty-five pounds heavier.  In his rookie season, Evans averaged 13 Rebounds Per 40 Minutes for Seattle, and Wins Produced says that he averaged .216 Wins Per 48.   My point here is that Evans’s statistics in college were not indicative of greatness, but look at what he has become-a fan favorite for Wins Produced buffs are everywhere.  I am hoping that the Lakers will at least consider signing him this summer, especially if they lose Dwight Howard and/or Pau Gasol, if they have any desire to remain competitive because Evans would be so effective.  I honestly believe that Kazemi can be a similar player, and his college statistics are better than Evans’s.

Furthermore, one of the major knocks on Evans is that he is not a great basketball player; he just hustles.  Well, Kazemi’s Per 40 Minute statistics for this season are better than Evan’s in his senior year in every statistic except for fouling, and there there is only a difference of one foul every 100 minutes.  His Draft Express scouting report from February 1 also indicates that Kazemi has at least some athleticism, saying

“Kazemi has proven to be a fairly limited offensive player, relegated mostly to scoring off cuts, offensive rebounds and running the floor in transition.”
“Kazemi still moves incredibly well without the ball, showing excellent hands and solid leaping ability reigning in passes and finishing around the basket.At times, he also shows the ability to attack his man off the dribble in a straight line, though his ball-handling skills are fairly raw and he’s not the type of player who can be consistently asked to create offense for himself.  His active and aggressive style of play allows him to get to the free throw line at a pretty solid rate, though.”

“On defense, Kazemi still shows active hands, and solid awareness, which allow him to defend power forwards adequately at this levelHe does a good job of getting into passing lanes, as evidenced by his career high 3.0 steals per 40 minutes pace adjusted, which ranks him #1 amongst all power forwards in our database and is an accurate reflection of the excellent energy-level and anticipation skills he brings to the table. With that said, he still struggles to guard bigger and stronger post players due to his lack of size, but he nonetheless does a solid job of holding his own in the paint considering his physical limitations.”

“Guarding NBA small forwards may be challenging for him as he does not appear to possess great lateral quickness when defending the perimeter, even if he does a solid job of staying in plays even after he is beat.”

Players like Kenneth Faried (measured 6-6 without shoes), Thaddeus Young (6-5 ¾ without shoes), Chuck Hayes (6-5 1/2), DeJuan Blair (6-5 ¼), Jeff Adrien (6-5 ¼) and Jason Maxiell (6-5) see significant minutes in today’s NBA and are more than holding their own on the interior.”
These quotes all imply that while Kazemi may not be the most athletically gifted player ever, he appears a hard worker and a smart player, in addition to his other skills.  I honestly think that Arsalan Kazemi could serve as a more mobile, yet slightly less strong Reggie Evans-type player, especially for a team with a quicker tempo.  The fact that he is only twenty-three means that, while he is definitely old for a draft prospect, he is not too old to improve at least a little bit.  I definitely think that Kazemi is worth a second-round pick.  Thank you for reading, please comment, and please come back.
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One thought on “Hi, My Name Is Arsalan Kazemi, And I’m Really Good at Basketball

  1. Bobby – have missed your articles. Have been busy myself, having taken yet another system implementation project in Atlanta. Hope you are enjoying the NBA playoffs. Give my best to your family. Keep refining your craft. Take care. Best. Matt

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