Daequan Cook and the qualifying offer

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Daequan Cook has been on my mind lately. Today is the day that NBA teams get to actually, you know, speak to their players. And the only real free agent business we have left is Daequan Cook and the Russell Westbrook extension.

Daequan was tendered a Qualifying Offer by the Thunder on June 27 for about $3.1 Million for the upcoming season. What this means is that Daequan was a first round pick who has completed his fourth season, and received the QO from his existing team thereby rendering him a restricted free agent (if the Thunder wouldn’t have offered the QO Cook would be an unrestricted free agent). This means that the Thunder expect to bring him back for the $3.1 and have the first right of refusal should some other team offer him a higher contract offer that he signs. The $3.1 Million figure is 125% of last year’s salary and is part of the old CBA. It’s certainly possible that Daequan could receive a higher offer from a team, but I really don’t see that happening. It’s also possible that Daequan’s representative could negotiate a different amount or length of a deal independent of the QO, but I also don’t think that’s likely.

So we are likely to see Daequan running to the corner waiting for the pass to hoist up a three quite a few times this season.

I’ve just been wondering if Daequan is worth the money.At $3.1 Million DC will be earning a few pennies less than Thabo, Nick and Nazr Mohammed, and roughly double that of Serge or Eric Maynor, guys still playing on their rookie deals. In context, the money is substantial. Not ridiculous, but enough that it might make you say “for just shooting corner threes”? Therein lies my concern.

Daequan did an excellent job last year. He did exactly what a specialist is paid to do. He is our gunner off the bench, and he excelled. In fact, depending on how you calculate it, Daequan was the 4th best 3-point shooter off the bench in the NBA. He was 11th best overall. Dude made buckets; and he made them in the clutch, falling down, with a defender running at him.Where I am concerned is that he hasn’t really done that with regularity throughout his career. His career could best be describes so far with the term “streak shooter”. He was on in the second half of last season, but he has been off as well.

Perhaps you remember the beginning of last season. DQ was given a shot to be that gunner off the bench out of training camp. His first 7 games he went 5/18 and made only three threes. All five of his makes came in one game-a loss- to the Clippers. He was then relegated to the end of the bench for over two months, not playing again until late January. He was off and couldn’t find his stroke. But later, in January, Brooks called his number and he caught fire. You know the story.

After the early season struggles DQ wound up the season 65/144 from deep which equates to .422%; most excellent. In fact, some interesting context for Daequan:

  • 5th best in the league in Points per play at 1.15
  • 3rd highest 3 point shot attempt ratio in the league at 85% (3pt.A/FGA).
  • 2nd most 3 point shot attempts per 40 minutes at 10.
  • 10th highest league effective field goal percent (eFG%)—only two players of which were wings—at 62%.
  • He was a +4.78 points per 100 on raw +/- during the season and +3.82 raw in the playoffs and a +5.43 on one year adjusted +/-.

Very impressive. Those numbers show that Daequan put the ball in the hole in the most rewarding and efficient way (the extra point received from the three point shot) at a high rate. He shot a lot of them and he made a lot of them. He was also a part of some successful lineups. His lineups almost always have him paired with James Harden as part of the bench mob that played good defense and scored big buckets.

For me, my sort of line in the sand is .350% from three. Players that shoot the three at .350% and above would be considered good three point shooters. Below .350% and I’m less impressed (technically league average is about .355%). To the extent you shoot below .350% is the extent of my disdain for you as a three shooter (hello Jeff Green?). Durant, Harden, Maynor and Daequan are the guys you want shooting threes for the Thunder according to that criteria.

In DQ’s career, he has shot .332, .387, .317 (with Miami) and .422 for the Thunder for a career 3pt% of .369. But if you take out this last season with the Thunder his three year 3pt% would be .345%-below the league average. I’m hesitant to crown DQ as the next coming of Dell Curry and pay him accordingly; especially if he reverts to career norms next season. In fact, there’s a real possibility that DQ’s season with the Thunder was more of an exception than the norm—an outlier; but we just don’t know until the games are played.

The Thunder know what they have in DQ; they see him every day. They know his character and his work ethic; and in fairness, I think he is capable of doing more than just jacking threes. And I think he’s a decent defender who gives effort. If the Thunder see him as both a gunner off the bench and as a player to groom as an injury backup for Harden, I am fine with paying the man. But if they believe that his role is what it is, and his contribution stops at the corner three, then I wouldn’t consider him beyond this season and one year deal. The Thunder have the option to tear up the Qualifying offer and negotiate a longer deal—say three years $6 Million. That’s if the Thunder see him as a player to groom. But if not, there are always guys out there who do what DQ does for less money, guys like Reggie Williams, Gary Neal and Steve Novak. Money and the Salary Cap will become issues for this team soon, and then it will be time to take a closer look at what you want to pay a guy to shoot from the corner.

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