Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Making a Livingston

The OKC Thunder have just signed former Clipper lottery pick Sean Livingston to a multi-year deal. Great pickup in my opinion. Livingston has been playing in the NBA Developmental League for the Tulsa 66ers. Though not eye-popping, his numbers are pretty good: 9.5 points, 6.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds in 11 games.

Why I like this move, despite the tremendous play of Kyle Weaver and Thabo Sefalosha of late, is that in spite of creating a sort of potential logjam at the guard spots, it is a low risk, high reward situation. Livingston, a former #4 pick in the draft, was touted as a baby Magic coming out of high school. While those lofty expectations will most assuredly never be met, the kid's got plenty of potential. He's also a 6-7 point guard who can play and defend all three positions. Nobody really talks about his importance to that Clippers team that won 47 games and made it to the second round of the playoffs in 2005-06. But after coming back from an early season back injury, Livingston was second on the team in assists and filled the backup point guard role as well as filled in for the injured Corey Maggette. In the postseason, he was even better averaging 7.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists on 47 percent shooting in 27 minutes over 12 games.

Of course, there are two major knocks on the kid. One, he's injury prone: lower back stress reaction, torn cartilage in his right shoulder, dislocated right knee cap, and of course this horrific accident where he tore the ACL, PCL, MCL and lateral meniscus in his left knee. The most games he's ever played 61.

The other, is one he shares with Russell Westbrook. Neither can shoot a lick. Still, Westbrook is 20 years old and has the rest of his career to improve his shot. With a healthy Livingston, Westbrook can play like a shooting guard, but guard the oppositions point guard and Livingston has the versatility and length to cover 1-3. Livingston also brings a much needed asset on this team, the ability to pass. With a career 2.35 assist-to-turnover ratio, he would rank number two on the team by a mile (After Ear Watson, who, if it wasn't blatantly clear before, the writing is most definitely on the wall with this acquisition, ditto for Atkins). And his A/To ratio has trended upward all three seasons he's played, from 2 to 2.5 to finally 2.55 in his final season with the Clippers. That would put him in the top 20 in the league, whereas, right now, outside of Watson, the team doesn't have a top 50 A/To player.

And then there's that potential. Before his season-ending, nearly career-ending injury, Livingston was shooting 47 percent and averaging 9.3 points, 5.1 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 1.09 steals and 29.8 minutes while garnering that very nice 2.54 assist-to-turnover ratio. And, right now, today, the kid is only 24 years old.

Again, nice potential pick up by the Thunder.

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