Kyle Korver is clearly a valuable player for Mike Budenholzer and the Atlanta Hawks. But how valuable is he really? And is he so good offensively that he can be talked about right alongside de facto stars in the game? I’d say probably not, but either way according to Zach Lowe of Grantland, Korver is “one of the most uniquely valuable players in the NBA.”
In an extremely detailed and well-written piece, Lowe takes us through Korver’s NBA transformation and breaks down how he uses a limited skill set to punish and distract opposing teams as much as possible:
The fear is real. The gurus at Stats LLC, the company behind the SportVU cameras, have developed two previously unreleased metrics designed to measure the amount of attention an offensive player gets from defenders when he doesn’t have the ball.
The first, dubbed “gravity score,” measures how often defenders are really guarding a particular player away from the ball. Korver had the fourth-highest score, behind only Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George. The second — “distraction score” — is a related attempt to measure how often a player’s defender strays away from him to patrol the on-ball action. Korver had the lowest such score in the league.1
“I underestimated how much attention he gets from defenses,” Budenholzer says. Korver is almost an offense unto himself. “You don’t appreciate it until you see it every day.”
Most hard-core Atlanta Hawks fans know that Korver is essential to Budenholzer’s offensive game plan, but Lowe also makes some claims about his defense–which most fans and writers would argue is lackluster at best.
According to Lowe, Korver’s knack to constantly move around on the floor means his perimeter and help defense is better than most give him credit for. Even if he sometimes tries to help out too much:
Korver will try to keep still when Budenholzer wants and grow more comfortable with Atlanta’s defensive principles. Korver is a solid defender despite a reputation as a liability. His teams have generally defended at about the same level regardless of whether he’s on the floor, and the league’s emphasis on ball movement and shooting plays to his strengths on defense too.
Whatever you think about Korver’s defense, it’s hard to argue against his precision from behind the 3-point line. He’s been considered one of the elite sharpshooters in the NBA for several years now and after last season (47.2 percent from 3), that moniker shouldn’t be going anywhere.
But there’s definitely room to debate his “star” status. Lowe doesn’t necessarily claim that he is in the article–I don’t want to put words into his mouth–but in the modern, 3-point-centric NBA it might be time to start talking about it.