Regular boxscore metrics don’t paint the picture of any kind of improvement by Bismack Biyombo this past season. His averages and thus his impact look the same to the naked eye. I do, however, think that he took some baby steps towards being a better player.
His eye-hand coordination doesn’t look as bad as in years past. Biyombo’s posted a career-high in offensive rebounding percentage (13.4%) and has almost moved in the top10 in this category. Notable crashers of the offensive glass like Tristan Thompson and Rudy Gobert rank just in front of him.
Whenever Biz hits the floor our second-to-last offensive rebounding team (22.1%) rebounds at a rate which would be equivalent to the 11th best team in the league (25.9%). It’s an area of the game that coach Steve Clifford should ponder about. We make a concerted effort to abandon the glass in favor of transition defense but no offensive rebounding takes away any chance of scoring easy second-chance points for our paltry offense.
An observation that is strictly based on my eye-test is that Biyombo seemingly has fouled much less often when crashing the glass (I’m not sure whether there is a stat page out there that provides such data). He’s limited his distressing fouls around the offensive glass and has become more skilled at drawing them himself by sneaking in to box out the defender in a timely manner.
Some of his tip-in finishes display actually workable and somewhat softer NBA-level hands.
His performance in the pick-n-roll has, in my opinion, proven that he’s not bad enough to submerge every line-up by being out on the court. His offensive rating has surpassed 100 points per 100 possessions for the second season in a row when played alongside a capable shooter in the 4-man spot. This year it was Marvin Williams, last season it was Anthony Tolliver (whom would play small forward minutes as well though).
To the more dedicated readers of my blog I’ll promise that this will be the last time that I mention the Roberts/Neal/Marvin/Biyombo line-ups which scored 107.5 points per 100 possessions (good for the fifth best offense in the league) by placing capable shooters around Biyombo’s screens and dives to the basket.
The fun dynamic of Marvin and Biz, two completely different pick-n-roll options where Biz can suck in the weak-side defender to open up Marv, was able to produce such looks on offense.
Even if it carries the significance of opponents being willing to foul Biyombo to put him on the free throw line, Biz’s energetic cuts to the basket place him second in the league in shooting fouls against him in pick-n-rolls. It’s a testament to his skill as a diver to the basket and opponents fouling him actually hasn’t produced Hack-a-Shaq worthy numbers.
Biz surpassed his old career-high of 3.5 free throw attempts per 36 minutes and recorded a new one of 5.1 attempts. On those attempts Biyombo shot with a percentage of 58.3%, evidence that his shooting form had actually looked quite good all this time and he just needed the time to put it together. There will be an air-ball from time to time but I would expect Biz to be an acceptable career free-throw shooter.
Also an indicator of Biyombo improving his eye-hand coordination is the number of alley-oops he completed his season. It could actually be one of the few positives about the Lance Stephenson experience. Stephenson has been much more trust-worthy in Biyombo and Zeller in the pick-n-roll than anyone beforehand.
These Stephenson – Biyombo alley-oop are real beauties. Lance is really lobbing the ball up there and using Biyombo’s physical attributes to the fullest.
NBA.com data confirmed my pessimistic memories (from accumulating footage of Biyombo for my yearly mixtapes) about the number of alley-oops Biz had had in his career before this season. Biyombo had finished an alley-oop dunk twice the previous three years (once from Kemba and once from Hendo, who also had assisted Biz on his only two alley-oop lay-ups).
This year he already had eight such alley-oop jams, four assisted by Stephenson, two by Brian Roberts, one by Mo Williams and one by Walker. I would say that it’s quite the leap.
His defense was mostly about rim protection, as we’ve come to expect in years past. As already stated in the review of Zeller’s season, per NBA.com, the two-man line-up of Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo were the best in the league in points given up per 100 possessions (91.8) among line-ups which clocked at least 300 minutes (not one hundred percent sure about this since stats.nba.com seemingly is glitching when I’m trying to establish this fact). They are the perfect defensive big men pair, with Zeller being able to hedge and step out to the perimeter, while Biyombo protects the rim.
An interesting wrinkle though is that it did seem to me that the last couple of weeks of the season we had Biyombo hedging a bit more often than usually (which is basically almost never and only along side-lines) as a handful such successful examples could be seen on the court. Until now I had been wary about using Biyombo away from the basket as that’s where his strengths are and due to the fact that Biz can get out of position the farther away from basket you take him.
I won’t get carried away with it since all kinds of random occurrences happen in the dregs of the NBA regular season that is April but you almost have to feel bad for the ball handler who has to face all of Biyombo’s 7-6 wingspan on a blitz like that. The aggressiveness of the hedge which then rather turns into a LeBron-Miami-like blitz of the pick-n-roll (in the middle of the court of all places) is what’s surprising and cool about these two plays.
Such footage might end up being random, but, perhaps, it’s something that I should return to come next season as hedging the pick-n-roll is an attribute I rather expect from Noah Vonleh than Biyombo.
With Biyombo’s rookie contract expiring this summer, we have to look forward to him signing his second NBA deal. According to Zach Lowe, his value around the league is expectedly low. League executives reportedly agree that other teams are unlikely to go over the qualifying offer of $5.2 million which we can extend his way (by the way, I do believe that Frank Berndt from AtTheHive has a point when saying that Biz qualifies only for about $4 million due to the amount of minutes he has played).
Lowe has also shared to me on Twitter (oh, yes, the heights of my amateurish journalism) that no one in the NBA believes Biyombo’s listed age, also a sign of other franchises being wary of stealing him.
And, look, for all the praise I gave Biz throughout the column, his game is still a work in progress. Him throwing down alley-oops is nice and all, however, catching and finishing is still the highest of highs of his offensive game. Once he has caught the ball, his lack of awareness of the court around him could be likened to the one of Hassan Whiteside’s. I’ve always made a point of including his post moves in my season-ending highlight reels of him (the last two can be found here and here, by the way, while the rookie year one is experiencing some copyright issues due to the music used in it) but the truth is that Biyombo is very robotic when executing them.
He can make a hook shot with both of his hands, quite the achievement for a player otherwise known as one with frostbitten fingers, yet when working in the post he’s set his mind on finishing with the move that he has envisioned in his head. You won’t see Biz offering any counter-moves to a defender guessing the right way or at least swinging the ball outside. Matter of fact, he finished this season by going 2/16 in the post and is ranked in the 1.3 percentile in post offense.
Such factors make it seem safe to conclude that he can be signed at a very fair price. Even if it does end up being the more hefty qualifying offer of $5.2 million, that deal should be a bargain once the salary cap rises by about $20 million for the 2016-17 season if Biyombo is signed to a more long-term deal. A contract like that might be the cheapest for which you can get a legitimately good rim protector and pick-n-roll threat, who is still, I mind you, developing. At worst, we’ll have a dynamite third big.
It’s hard for me to tell though whether I wouldn’t grade him lower if he wasn’t the franchise’s long-term project who I badly wish to see succeeding. Should you be that excited for a freaking specimen of a man finally finishing alley-oops in his fourth NBA season?