February 5, 2016
2016 Free Agent Profile – 6’6” 195 lbs, Age 29 (2016-17), Unrestricted
Garrett Temple is a veteran guard and small-ball forward currently enjoying the best season of his career with the Wizards. As a rangy perimeter defender, Temple uses his quick feet, quick hands, and long arms to frustrate opposing point guards and shooting guards as well as small forwards lacking the ability to overpower him.
Temple’s defensive versatility and effort have earned him a spot in the Wizards’ rotation since 2012-13, though inefficient shooting and poor shot creation ability have limited his effectiveness. Now in his age-29 season, Temple has improved his offensive awareness and shot selection, bumping up his scoring efficiency near league-average levels each of the past two years.
Physical Tools: Quickness & Length
As a defender, Temple prevents dribble penetration with his exceptional lateral quickness. He smothers ball handlers, including even the league’s quickest point guards, giving them little room to operate while remarkably still staying in front of them just about as well as anyone can. Sometimes I wonder if he’s faster moving side to side than running in a straight line. Temple creates turnovers (1.6 steals per 36 for his career) and bothers shooters with his combination of long arms and quick hands.
Consistently High Effort & Activity Level
Temple is undoubtedly the most active Wizard defensively both on and off the ball. As you can see in the video above, he’s a relentless individual defender who eagerly takes on tough assignments and shadows his man all over the court.
He’s also a very willing and active help defender. If you watch a Wizards game, you’re likely to find Temple on several occasions picking up the slack for his teammates’ missed rotations and closeouts. Watch below as he helps off of Evan Fournier to prevent an open Nik Vucevic jumper and then sprints all the way across the court back to Fournier, in recognition that no one rotated onto him.
Temple’s high effort level also translates into transition offense. He seeks out favorable scoring opportunities by sprinting up the floor after steals and defensive rebounds. As a transition ball handler, Temple aggressively pushes the pace and initiates contact from defenders falling back on their heels. Temple gets to the free throw line on 21.5% of his possessions in transition, and nearly 1/3 of his total usage comes in transition.
Awareness / Decision-Making
Perhaps Temple’s greatest strength on offense is his decision-making. Coaches can count on him to make the right pass and keep the ball moving. Though Temple lacks the playmaking and shot creation ability to be a ball-dominant player, he’s able to take advantage of a scrambling defense by attacking closeouts and finding the open man.
With Bradley Beal sidelined for much of the season thus far, Temple has 73 assists to just 21 turnovers in 28 games as a starter alongside John Wall. That 3.5 AST/TO ratio would place him firmly among the league’s steadiest ball handlers, though without Wall soaking up defensive attention Temple’s AST/TO ratio is roughly cut in half—still good for a wing though not on the level of a typical point guard.
Similarly, Temple recognizes his own limitations offensively and plays to his strengths.
For instance, Temple is not a great jump shooter but he understands spacing and puts himself in efficient scoring positions. He struggles to maintain consistent shooting form, as he has a tendency to bail out, or fade, to the left rather than staying square to the target. Yet because almost every spot up jumper that he takes is a 3, Temple’s overall jump shooting efficiency is above average (0.98 PPP on Spot Ups = 59th percentile; 1.06 PPP on Catch & Shoot = 63rd percentile) despite mediocre percentages at every shot distance.
Temple wisely attacks the rim much more frequently in transition than in the half-court offense. He looks to score when the defense isn’t set and particularly when there are no conventional rim protectors in his path to the basket.
Temple regularly draws praise from teammates, coaches, media, and fans for his strong character & professionalism. See this recent article in the Washington Post for example. His enthusiasm, effort, and support for his teammates remain constant regardless of his individual role.
Throughout his years with the Wizards, Temple has maintained a positive outlook though his playing time varies dramatically. This season he’s been counted on for 30-40 minutes a game at times when Beal is out due to injury, yet with the team at full health his bench role has ranged from 6th man to situational defensive specialist with occasional DNPs.
Physical Tools: Strength & Explosiveness
Temple has a slender frame even for an NBA wing, with little muscle mass in his lower body especially. As such, he’s vulnerable to getting pushed around by big wings and forwards down in the paint. Temple has difficulty maintaining his position while defending the post and while boxing out for rebounds. He’s also not an explosive leaper, particularly in traffic.
Bigger, more physical players are able to establish deep post position against Temple or back him down off the dribble. Though Temple’s role as a perimeter defender limits post touches against him, opponents have been very successful with those opportunities, hitting 10 of 13 field goal attempts and earning free throws 24% of the time. Temple’s 1.33 PPP allowed on Post Ups rates in the bottom 1 percentile.
Finishing around the rim
Garrett Temple’s lack of strength and explosiveness hurts him most when he tries to score around the rim. Rather than absorbing incidental contact and finishing through it, he’s easily thrown off-balance, resulting in some awkward attempts that miss badly. He’s also routinely blocked by big men patrolling the paint. As a result, Temple shoots just 38.6% around the basket in the half-court offense.
Though Temple makes good decisions with the ball, he is not a smooth ball handler. He relies on a herky-jerky dribble and long strides that make it tough to gather and shoot off the bounce. This is particularly evident in his poor shooting efficiency as a pick-and-roll ball handler (30% eFG; 0.58 PPP = 16th percentile) and on dribble jumpers (0.7 PPP = 27th percentile).
Value / Recommendation
With his versatile defense, strong decision-making, high effort level, and positive attitude, Temple can fit just about any system or roster. Temple’s quickness and length enable him to defend either backcourt position in addition to small forwards who don’t operate out of the post or play a particularly bullying style. He’ll struggle if tasked with leading the offense as a primary ball handler and shot creator, but in a more limited role alongside a point guard, point forward, or high-usage wing, he can be an asset on that end as well.
Temple is very well suited for a role similar to that of late career Ron Harper: keep the ball moving, feed the post, and spot up in the half court; defend the perimeter tenaciously; capitalize on transition opportunities; and provide positive veteran leadership in the locker room. He is not equipped to play the point in a pick-and-roll style offense, though he can play off the ball in such a system as he does now.
The amount of playing time Temple deserves ultimately is contingent on his outside shooting, which is inconsistent. While he managed to hit 37.5% of his 3s in 2014-15, he’s hovered around 30% beyond the arc through much of his career. If he can keep that number up in the 35%-40% range, he’s a worthy low-end starter or 6th man in the 3&D mold. If he falls back around 30% or lower, however, he’s barely worth guarding in the half court, and smart defenders can sag off of him as a result, daring him to shoot.
He still merits playing time when his shot isn’t falling based on his defense and decision-making, but he’s more of a situational player in that case, with his minutes dictated by match ups and offense/defense considerations.
Temple actually does not rate well defensively according to Synergy stats (0.99 PPP allowed = 12th percentile), though this is entirely a function of his role and teammates. Temple takes on the toughest assignments and offers much more help than he receives. With Temple on the court the Wizards are 7 points per 100 possessions better defensively and have the equivalent of a top-10 defense. When Temple is on the bench they rank as the worst defense in the league. No other player on the team has a similar split.
I would say that his nearest comp for salary purposes is Thabo Sefolosha, another rangy wing defender who plays intelligently but whose jumper fails him at times. Sefolosha is a bit bigger and stronger than Temple, making him a better finisher around the rim and more suited to defend forwards, though he’s not quite as capable a ball handler or defender of point guards. Sefolosha also entered free agency after his age-29 season, securing a 3-year, $12 million deal in 2014.
PJ Tucker, another veteran wing valued for his defense and character, is also a useful comp. Like Sefolosha, Tucker is stronger than Temple and therefore fares better as a rebounder and interior defender while lacking Temple’s ball handling ability (see Appendix for detailed production comparisons). Tucker signed for 3/$16.5M after his age-28 season in 2014, though his 3rd year is only partially guaranteed.
Using these contracts as a guide and based on my estimated 50%-80% jump in contract values from summer 2014 to summer 2016, Temple’s expected deal is in the range of $6M-$8M per year over 3 years. However, a couple factors lead me to believe that his actual contract could be lower than the roughly 3-year, $20M estimate. First, Sefolosha and Tucker received more playing time prior to becoming free agents, and playing time is a decent proxy for perceived value at this stage in a career. They were both full-time starters playing 25-30 mpg over multiple seasons whereas Temple is a part-time / injury-replacement starter who’s played 15-30 mpg depending on the health of the roster. Second, Temple has signed several minimum-salary deals as a free agent, so teams may be anchored to past perception of him as a minimum-salary player and thus hesitant to offer him a substantially larger contract.
If these factors keep Temple’s salary demand down in the range of Sefolosha and Tucker’s free agent contracts, I think he’d be a solid free agent pickup for most teams. Temple essentially would serve as an extension of the coach both on and off the court, and his positive attitude and veteran savvy should especially benefit any young players on the roster.
Thabo Sefolosha 2013-14 v. Garrett Temple 2015-16 v. PJ Tucker 2013-14
Click here to view the full video edit on Synergy.