Sebastian Telfair never lived up to expectations.
Through seven NBA seasons, the Abraham Lincoln High School star and cousin of Stephon Marbury has yet to play like a lottery pick.
He failed to justify the making of his Through The Fire documentary. And in addition to his underwhelming play, Telfair had his fair share of off the court issues.
After signing on with the Suns on Friday, however, Telfair will now get his chance to change that in Phoenix.
He’s still only 26 years old and fell into a situation where, if he proves himself, he could have the opportunity to become Steve Nash’s successor.
But realistically, Telfair is worth nothing more than a cheap flier who can give Nash a breather when he needs it. He may even have to battle with Zabian Dowdell for backup duties.
With that said, there’s a reason Telfair was so touted coming out of high school. Here’s a look at Telfair’s game:
Experience: 7 years (Portland, Boston, Minnesota, Cleveland and LA Clippers)
College: Abraham Lincoln High School
2010-11 Stats: 7.2 PPG, 3.0 APG, 1.7 TO, 40.0 FG%, 35.9 3P%, 37 games, 19.2 minutes.
On The Ball Defense
Telfair’s a pesky on the ball defender that should give Western Conference guards fits. He’s at a disadvantage due to his size but his lateral quickness makes up for that more often than not.
He allowed an average of 0.93 points per possession in isolation situations last season but forced turnovers 17.9 percent of the time. Although his on the ball defense is solid, Telfair does get burned in the pick and roll from time to time as he struggles with knowing when to go under screens and when to fight over screens. As a result opponents drilled 6-of-11 three-pointers against Telfair in pick and roll situations.
Overall, however, Telfair will give the Suns an upgrade on the defensive end when Nash heads to the bench, and with Dowdell in the mix as well, Phoenix has two solid defenders at point guard.
Telfair’s as quick as they come in the league with the ball in his hands. He scored only 0.71 points per possession in transition last season, but that came in only 33 attempts. Plus, he’ll most likely be a facilitator on the break, especially with great transition players like Shannon Brown and Grant Hill running with him. His vision and ability to get up and down makes him a great fit in Phoenix’s fast-paced offense.
The 6-foot speedster may make a few questionable decisions from time to time, but he has above-average vision, passing ability and playmaking skills. Telfair will be able to break down defenders off the dribble and kick to the Suns’ many shooters.
He shot only 34.8 percent in isolation situations last season, but Telfair won’t necessarily be creating for himself. Alvin Gentry needs him to get other guys open, and Telfair’s proven throughout his career he can do exactly that.
Telfair’s jump shot is probably the weakest part of his game. It has developed throughout the years but his range is certainly limited. He’s a career 31.4 percent three-point shooter and finished shooting the deep ball at a 35.9 percent clip last season.
He gets barely any lift on his shot and has a slow release. Telfair also lacks a mid-range game. He shot only 41.0 percent from 16-23 feet last season and only 36.4 percent from 10-15 feet. Luckily for Telfair, the Suns have enough shooters surrounding him so he can focus on what he does best.
Although he’s a flashy passer, Telfair does make his fair share of bad decisions. He averaged 1.7 turnovers in less than 20 minutes a game last season and has proven he’s inconsistent delivering the ball out of the pick and roll.
Telfair has good vision, but his inability to find his own shot in the lane coupled with his size (there’s no way he’s actually 6-foot) limits him in the pick and roll. He turned the ball over 18.1 percent of the time out of pick and rolls last season, and 18.6 percent of the time overall.
He did shoot a respectable 44.2 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three out of the pick and roll, but his inability to deliver the ball in opportune positions could hurt him.
Lastly, Telfair struggles with efficiency. He shot only 40.2 percent from the field last season and is a 39.1 percent career shooter. He’s only gone over 45.0 percent shooting once in his seven-year career, a trend that could land him on the bench in Phoenix.
Telfair is also a poor finisher around the rim, where he shot only 53.1 percent last season. The speedy floor general will need to increase his efficiency if he hopes to stick in Phoenix and stay Nash’s backup for all 66 games.
Telfair is worth a cheap, one-year flier. Worst-case scenario he gives the Suns a backup who can push the ball, defend opposing point guards and make plays in the halfcourt.
Best-case scenario Telfair finds a home in Phoenix, lives up to his potential and becomes the player Portland drafted him to be back in 2004. I wouldn’t count on the latter, but given Telfair’s price tag and Phoenix’s needs, Telfair should more than get the job done.