Latrell Sprewell was one of the most memorable and entertaining players the Warriors have ever had, even before he had to put his hands on PJ Carlesimo to finally get that awful, whiny, gravelly voice to stop, just stop. He was a player the Warriors stole late in the draft, a skinny Southern kid who was as awkward with the press as he was comfortable on the court. He could seemingly play every minute of every game. He wasn’t a perfect player but he was uniquely fun to watch.
He’s also lucky he didn’t play today. He wouldn’t have fared well with the increasingly stat-oriented analysis of the game.
Let’s use his ‘93/‘94 all-NBA season as an example. First of all, he shouldn’t have been on the all-NBA team. He had a pretty pedestrian PER of 15.9, which on the Warriors put him just ahead of the immortal Keith Mister Jennings’ 15.5 and far behind Chris Gatling’s 18.7, and in the NBA put him well behind the other guards on the 2nd and 3rd all-NBA teams. When you adjust for pace his overall numbers aren‘t that impressive, either. The Warriors shot and scored a lot. So did he. He took almost 40% more shots than anyone else on the team even though his TS% was tied for 8th on the team and his eFG% was the worst on the team for anyone who played decent minutes. He wasn’t so much of a creator for others as he was a guy who had the ball a lot and passed it occasionally. He averaged less than 5 assists and almost 3 turnovers a game. And for all the talk of his defensive prowess the Warriors gave up just one fewer basket per 100 possessions with him on the floor than they did when his primary backups, Jeff Grayer and Jud Buechler, played.
He should probably get credit for playing the most minutes in the NBA. His numbers started to suffer as the season went on, but still, the numbers are underwhelming, especially when you consider you don’t really get credit for entertainment today. He was a good player to watch and to have on your team, all scowl and scrap, but the numbers don’t add up so he shouldn’t be appreciated like he was then.
Memories aren’t what they used to be. Basketball isn’t either.