Photo: Otto Kitsinger/NBAE/Getty Images
is an NBA player: he has NBA size (6'3" without shoes), NBA explosiveness, excellent scoring ability, a floor general's attitude and is even showing that he can play NBA-type defense on a consistent basis this season. Unfortunately, he doesn't have an NBA team ... yet.
With the Tulsa 66ers this season, he's averaging 20.6 points, 6.9 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.2 steals while shooting 50% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. To put those numbers into perspective, he ranks second among D-League guards in efficiency, third in points+rebounds+assists and steals, fourth in assists and fifth in scoring, meaning he's pretty much at the top of the D-League in everything you'd like a point guard to be leading.
Last night, in particular, was impressive. Shakur's 66ers played the Dakota Wizards, a team with some NBA talent in its point guard rotation: Lester Hudson, on assignment from the Memphis Grizzlies, former NBA call-up Maurice Baker and Cheyne Gadson, who was in training camp with the Dallas Mavericks last season. That said, Shakur had a rather dominating performance.
What do I mean by dominating? Shakur had 34 points while making 10-of-15 from the field to go along with seven assists, six rebounds and six steals in just under 48 minutes of action. The best part about is that 15 of those points came either in the fourth quarter or overtime, when the game was on the line. For what it's worth, he also played very well on defense, as if the the six steals didn't tip you off. Hudson, whose greatest skill right now is scoring, was held to just 3-of-14 from the field while turning the ball over six times.
Offensively, Shakur has been anywhere from good to great this season. The good comes in the pick-and-roll, while the great stems from everywhere else on the offensive end. According to his Synergy report that I was handily forwarded (thanks, forwarder!), he's a very good offensive player, most effective in isolation. While I'm not particularly adept at breaking down these reports, the stat that seems to relate most to a point guard (points per possession plus assists) comes in 1.31, good for ranking in the 89th percentile in the league.
The best thing about Shakur on offense, however, is his willingness, along with his ability, to get to the rim. Since he's not very good in the mid-range (shooting just 31.4% from 17 feet out to the arc), he needs to rely more on either having an effective 3-point shot (the 40% tells me it's effective enough) or finishing in the paint. As of the end of February, Shakur had made 91-of-147 shots 'around the basket', something that's very encouraging know what I've said above.
Defensively, he also ranks as "very good." I'd concur with this. I'm terrible at telling somebody why I think a certain player is great at defense (he either is or he isn't, in my eyes), but I can tell you that he's quick enough to stay in front of almost every guard in the league and he plays the passing lanes very well in the halfcourt set. The only real number I can give you is that opponents are shooting just 37.7% while being defended by Shakur, which is actually pretty impressive.
As far as an NBA outlook goes for Shakur, I think, at least, that there is one. As he told the Daily Thunder crew in this interview, Minnesota played him at both the point and shooting guard while he was with them in the preseason - while this is easy to overlook, I'm sure there are quite a few teams that wouldn't mind picking up a player that can be an emergency point guard as well as a solid scorer off the bench.