As the NBA draft approaches and team workouts begin in earnest, we will be taking a more in-depth look at Vander Blue’s positioning. For now though, we wanted to lay a foundation as to what Blue’s current baseline is. He’s an athletic shooting guard who is a tad undersized for that position and doesn’t quite have the handles or vision to play the point.
Don’t take our word for it, though. We were able to speak with an NBA scout who gave us insight as to what some teams may be seeing when looking at the Madison native.
“Honestly, his only chance is to be a poor man’s Tony Allen,” the scout told PaintTouches.com. “They’re the same size, very similar athleticism-wise. Allen has a bigger, filled out frame but maybe Vander can get there, but that’s a huge maybe.”
Tony Allen is a nine-year NBA veteran out of Oklahoma State, currently starting for the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. Allen is known as a defensive specialist, capable of shutting down just about anyone on the perimeter, and a perennial All-NBA Defensive Team candidate.
Here is what Grantland’s Bill Simmons had to say about Allen in a column last year: “The league’s best perimeter defender (it’s true) and contract bargain (two years, $6.3 million), as well as someone who improbably shed “Trick or Treat Tony” status (he’s just Tony now) and made Celtics fans say things like, “I wish we had Tony Allen” (also true).”
Allen, a Chicago native, has a very limited offensive arsenal, averaging only 8.0 points and 1.3 assists to go along with a dismal 26.9 percent average from 3-point land in his NBA career. The key to his longevity has been the realization of his limitations on offense. Allen has shot fewer than 30 treys every season since 2008, averaging 0.5 a game for his career.
Without looking at any numbers, it seems like a very apt comparison. Blue struggled with his jumpshot his first two years, and improved from terrible to below average this past season. Buzz Williams praised Blue’s defensive prowess early on in Blue’s career.
“You can statistically say he has struggled offensively, but he hasn’t struggled defensively, and there’s been some games where he’s really helped us on the glass,” Williams told the Journal-Sentinel in 2011. “I just think that he wants to do so well for our team. He understands the value of what he gives our team.” But as Blue took on a larger share of the offense, his defense hasn’t been quite as constricting as it once was.
But what good is analysis without numbers? Here is how they compare off the floor:
When it comes to their physical similarities, it’s easy to see the comparison between the two players. Like the scout said, Allen was a tad bigger, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Blue around 207 or so when his pre-draft measurements come out. (Blue’s wingspan hasn’t been released yet, so it was left blank.)
The one key positive may be age. Tony Allen came out as a 22 year-old-sophomore, while Blue does so as a 20-year-old junior. Executives will see in Blue a very young prospect who has shown marked improvement each of the past three seasons.
What about on the court? I’m sure we could find a bunch of 6-foot-4 guards who can’t shoot. How similar was their production in college? Here’s a comparison of all available data from their final year in college.
The charts below are a synthesis of what I thought were the most relevant data. The radar chart format allows you to really see similarities and differences in their games as a whole, so be sure to click on each graph to see them in full size.
The graph on the right compares a bunch of different shooting percentages from their final college year. The similarities are jaw-dropping. Allen averaged just over one point more per game (16.0), but shooting wise, they were almost the exact same player, with the orange and blue line nearly melding as one.
The chart on the left deals with the per-game averages in a variety of non-scoring categories. The differences are much more pronounced here. While Blue had fewer turnovers and fouls, Allen had more rebounds, assists and steals per game. In other words, he was a better all-around player. Both players also get stars for leading their teams deep into the NCAA Tournament, with Allen’s OK State squad making it to the Final Four. Both led their teams in scoring and were the focal points of the offense.
When it comes to defense, Allen had better statistical numbers to back him up as well, though it’s tough to compare the two without more metrics. It’s safe to say that Blue is not at Allen’s level on defense quite yet. Overall, it seems like comparing Vander Blue to a potential poor man’s Tony Allen seems right on the money.
As for where Blue might land in the draft, the NBA scout believed a weak draft class might lead a team to take him in the mid-to-late second round.
“Workouts will be huge for him. Being that this draft class is weak, I’d have to say, prior to workouts, he’s mid-to-late second to undrafted,” the scout said. “I know that’s a very broad range, but without any workouts or idea what teams plan on doing just yet, it’s tough to tell. But definitely not a first rounder.”
The biggest knocks he saw on Blue were his lack of point-playing abilities and the simple fact that he wasn’t a good shooter. When asked whether Iman Shumpert would be a good comparison, the scout flatly rejected it, saying it was too optimistic.
Shumpert was much more refined at his own position, point guard, coming out of Georgia Tech and had a much broader skill base, the scout added.
It’s not all negative, though.
“The next few Marquette talents have a lot to be grateful for as Wes (Matthews), (Jimmy) Butler and Jae (Crowder) have all established a brand name in the type of person and player MU produces.”
That reputation may not be enough this time. Blue must find his niche to land and stick with an NBA team. A poor man’s Tony Allen may be as good as it gets.