Report Card - Vlad Radmanovic
The good news about Vladimir Radmanovic's 2008? It was better than 2007. Granted, without landing in the slammer, getting injured in a freak bull-riding mishap, or just retiring at 27, last year was almost impossible not to improve upon. But still, Vlad was better, and not just compared against a season lost to a snowboarding accident and playoff inactivity. He established a career-high FG% (45%) and was within a personal top-three for 3-PT%, FT% and assists. But those marks hardly establish this year as a great one for Vlad. Not really even a good one. Much remained missing during Vlad's season, continuing a perpetual cycle of wondering what it'll take for Radmanovic to discover that extra gear and finally bust out at a level that many still feel he's capable of.
Among the coaching staff, Vlad Radmanovic is considered an enigma of sorts. By his own admission, he's never been as consistent as preferred. Phil Jackson has tried (and failed) to arrange chats with a sports psychologist, the middle ground apparently being tweaks through the media. But it's all done with the goal of discovering a pathway towards yet to be unlocked potential. Maybe a formula can be discovered. I'm neither a motivational speaker nor a fortune teller. But unlike Lamar Odom, whom I always knew could bust out when used in a different role, I think the issue with Vlad is much simpler: Dude is who he is. BK and I have a running observation that Radmanovic is the NBA's biggest "all or nothing" player. And while that take is often prompted by this shooting specialist launching one bairballed three per game almost like clockwork, in some ways, I think it sums up the essence of Vlad. When his hand is hot, he can bury an opponent and will sometimes add contributions beyond the expected. When the mitt goes cold, he typically brings little to the table. Thus, if you count on either "big" or "invisible/shaky" with no middle ground, the "Mystery of Radmanovic" is solved.
That may sound harsh, but the numbers pretty much support it. Vlad's per-48 stats place him among the least productive Lakers when it comes to rebounding, assists, shot blocking, or defending without fouling and mostly middle of the road everywhere else unless it involved shooting. Throw in his occasionally solid (most memorably against 'Melo in the first round) but mostly turnstile defense (most memorably against just about everyone else he guarded) and a penchant for odd decisions and it's no mystery why he rode the fourth quarter pine more than any starter. But having said all that, he'll occasionally come through with a huge game. As a player, Radmanovic mirrors himself off the court. He's got a quirky personality (I mean that in a good way) and things quirky are often tough to pin down. Or very easy, depending on how you view his particular situation.
In any event, I'm counting on more of the same from Vlad next season, although that could lead to one possible difference. As I predicted with Luke Walton, unless Vlad steps up his game, I picture him losing a fair amount of PT to Trevor Ariza. Throw in the amount of time Kobe (and perhaps now Odom) spends at the 3, those minutes drop even further. Obviously, bigger chunks of play will come when the Lakers need him at PF or some outside shooting. But all in all, without a sea change, I think Vlad may end up somewhere between 10-12th in the rotation. Ball's in his court, so to speak.
Final Grade: C-