(Photo via 15minutenews.com)
The Los Angeles Lakers completed a small transaction this week, picking up recently waived center from the Houston Rockets Tarik Black off waivers. In order to make room for Black the Lakers waived injured guard Xavier Henry who was not expected to recover and play this season.
Black went undrafted in the past NBA Draft after his lackluster final college basketball season playing for the Kansas Jayhawks. Black averaged 5.5 points and 3.9 rebounds in 13.5 minutes per game his lone season with Kansas.
Black’s minutes were limited due to having to play behind phenom center Joel Embiid, but when he got his chance to start following Embiid’s injury, his play was significantly improved. In the 6 starts to close out the season Black averaged 10.7 points, 7.2 rebounds. 1 block per game and shot an eye-popping 75 percent from the field. In the NCAA tournament and still without Embiid, Black averaged 15 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2 blocks and shot 86 percent from the field.
Black played 3 season with Memphis prior to transferring to Kansas and averaged 9.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Black graduated from Memphis with a degree and with 1 year of eligibility left he opted to transfer to Kansas.
Not being one of the top prospects coming out of the draft Black was not invited to the NBA combine, but his measurements were taken at his workout with the Los Angeles Clippers. Black has very impressive size, measuring a 7 foot, 2.75 inch wingspan and 8 foot, 11 inch standing reach to go with an athletic and stout 253 pound frame. Black’s wingspan and standing reach would have ranked 6th and 7th respectively at this year’s NBA draft combine.
The Houston Rockets signed Black to their summer league team in Las Vegas. In 8 games, Black averaged 4.5 points, 5 rebounds and shot 48.4 percent in 16 minutes per game in Summer League. Black showed enough in Summer League to earn an invite to the Houston Rockets training camp.
Black met the next stage of his pursuit of an NBA career by performing well in preseason which led to him cracking the Rockets regular season roster. Black averaged 6 rebounds and 5.8 points while shooting 51.5 percent from the field in 18.4 minutes per game in preseason.
Black has received playing time for the Rockets from the outset and been in the rotation for the majority of the season which is impressive for an undrafted rookie playing on a championship contending team. Black has modest numbers this season, averaging 4.2 points and 5.1 rebounds in 15.7 minutes per game.
Black played well filling in for injured center Dwight Howard this season. In his 12 starts for the Rockets, Black averaged 5.8 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 55.4 percent from the field. In the 7 games that Black has played 20 or more minutes he’s averaged 7.1 points, 7 rebounds and shot 60.5 percent from the field.
Playing time was waning since Howard returned on 12/13 leading to Black eventually being waived by the Rockets in order to pick up Josh Smith.
In the little bit that we have seen from Black in college and 25 games this NBA season his game is pretty straight forward: power game that is all within 5 feet of the basket. Black uses his bulky 253 pound frame to get space for rebounds and put backs around the basket; 73.5 percent of Black’s baskets this season are within 0-3 feet from the basket and is shooting 62.3 percent from this range. Once he starts stepping out of his range Black struggles, shooting 35 percent from the 3 to 10 foot range. Out of Black’s 83 shots he’s taken this season only 10 shots have been outside of the 5 foot radius from the basket which tells just how limited his range is on the court.
Black does not have skills to play outside of the paint such as a face up game where he can drive after beating his man off the dribble or any semblance of an outside shot.
The area where Black’s game is most advanced at this point of his development as an NBA big man is rebounding. Black is aided by this great all-around size for a big man; Black is short for a center at almost 6’9 with shoes but offsets that with great length, strength and girth.
On a per 36 minute basis Black is averaging 11.6 rebounds per game. Black’s effectiveness on the boards is best demonstrated in his contested rebound percentage which is 49.6 and uncontested rebound percentage is 50.4 percent which are both well above league average. For perspective, the current NBA rebounding leader is DeAndre Jordan who has a contested rebounding percentage of 44.2 and uncontested percentage of 55.8.
Defensively Black is still below average for an NBA big man. Where his physical tools help him in scoring around the basket and rebounding, he still hasn’t learned how to use them effectively on the defense end. Black holds his position well but has just 2 blocks in 25 games and even projecting those numbers over 36 minutes per game it only equals 0.2 blocks per game. Defenders are shooting 58.9 percent at the rim against Black which is poor and ranks 7th from the the bottom of the NBA with players averaging a minimum of 15 minutes per game.
In the end…
the pick-up was a good one for the Lakers since they essentially traded a player that was out for the season due to injury in Xavier Henry and picked up a young, healthy player that possess the always valuable potential that’s packaged in cap friendly minimum contract. Black has been good enough this season to receive some notoriety for his play, currently ranking 6th in the NBA rookie rankings. While Black has demonstrated in his short NBA career to warrant an NBA roster spot and for there to be hope of more, he hasn’t done enough to expect that he’ll have any significant impact on the Lakers fortunes this season. At this point any young player with smidgen of potential is beneficial for the Lakers rebuilding project and Tarik Black is at least that.