Sasha Vujacic: Well, At Least He Tried

Sasha Vujacic New Jersey Nets

Final Stats: 56 G, 17 GS, 28.5 MPG, 11.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 40.4 FG%, 36.9 3P%, 85.1 FT%, 105 ORtg, 12.6 PER

In December, after the Nets decided they had finally had enough of Terrence Williams, they went on a mission searching for someone, anyone to trade for him. They ended up swinging a three-team deal that netted them some draft picks and a Slovenian guard who had fallen out of Phil Jackson’s favor. Since that day, my emotions on Sasha have varied wildly: from pure, molten-hot rage at the deal (this is all we could get for Terrence Williams!?!?) to unadulterated respect (Yeah, let’s use the word “respect”) to confusion about his role, and climbing all the way through this wild rabbit hole to land on a spectacularly unspectacular conclusion: Sasha Vujacic was an average bench player.

He had his moments of good and bad. You could say he shot too much – over 10 attempts per game – but since most of those were of the catch-and-shoot variety, he rarely drew fouls or turned the ball over. Since almost half of his attempts were from beyond the arc, his effective field goal percentage was a respectable 48.6% – a huge boon from his “standard” 40.4% mark. He also ended the year with a usage rate (the amount of possessions used by a player relative to his team) of a below-average 19.6, so he wasn’t hogging the ball or anything. His defense was pesky if unspectacular, and while he has the ability to catch opponents napping he doesn’t really have the athletic ability to play consistently solid defense.

He was the pinnacle of mediocrity, which I swear is a compliment. I appreciated everything he brought to the team, how much he seemed to care about the fans, how he was the first guy off the bench high-fiving everyone. He fit well into the system here. That being said, it was a system that won 24 games.

The Pink Shirt: There are a couple of moments one could point to as Sasha’s apex – he had a huge impact on that Hawks game I mentioned earlier, one of those beyond-the-box-score games. However, I’d have to go with one game that Sasha made a difference in both in and out of the box score – February 9th against New Orleans. With Chris Paul having an off night, Sasha took full advantage, scoring a season-high 25 points on 9-14 shooting, including 5 shots from deep. He also grabbed four boards, dished out four assists, and knocked down shots throughout the game.

The Paper Bag: You would usually give a paper bag to a poor performance on the court, but for Sasha, it was perhaps the most infamous quote of the year:

“I know I can score 20 or 30 points anytime I want, but I’m not that kind of a guy. I want to win. I want to play the right way. Some games I’m going to get 10 shots, some games 15 shots; sometimes, especially coming off the bench, you’re going to feel cold, and you need time to get in the rhythm. But right now, what I care the most is for us to become a better team. And we are really capable of doing that.”

While in context, it’s not a particularly damaging statement, Sasha should have known better than to drop that line casually, and smart writers took full advantage.

Final Thoughts: I like Sasha. I know that’s silly, but I think in the right role, he could help the right team. He certainly did in Los Angeles. At a reasonable price, I can see the Nets re-signing him, but I honestly don’t see them giving him more money than some other team starved for outside shooting might. The Nets would probably welcome him back with open arms at that right price, but I doubt the two sides will end up meeting at that price. Still, the energy he brought to the team every single night was appreciated.

Final Grade: B