May 4, 2010
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—Five-and-a-half years into his NBA career, even Kris Humphries wasn’t quite sure what kind of NBA player he could become. Drafted by the Jazz in 2004 after averaging a double-double during his only season at Minnesota, earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors, Humphries found himself behind Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur on the depth chart before the free-agent signing period was complete.
Shuffled to Toronto after two seasons and 129 games averaging just 11.6 minutes per game with Utah, Humphries found himself again stuck behind star players: All-Star forward Chris Bosh and 2006 No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani. A three-year stint with the Raptors peaked with 13.2 MPG in 70 games during the 2007-08 season, and Toronto sent Humphries to Dallas as part of a four-team deal prominently involving Hedo Turkoglu and Shawn Marion.
There, early-season injuries allowed Humphries the chance to contribute, and he produced 7.1 points and 4.6 rebounds in 15.5 minutes per game in November. But when the Mavericks’ frontcourt became healthy, Humphries was again left scrounging for leftover minutes, this time behind Dirk Nowitzki, Erick Dampier and Drew Gooden.
But on January 11, the window finally flew open: Humphries had been traded to the Nets, along with
By season’s end, those numbers leveled off to 44-game averages of 8.0 PPG and 6.4 RPG in 20.0 MPG with the Nets. Humphries had firmly – finally – established himself as a rotation-quality NBA big man, providing energy and rebounding off the bench while backing up Brook Lopez and Yi Jianlian.
“I can come hard every night and contribute,” Humphries says. “(My career has) been a lot about persevering and staying focused and not taking wins for granted. That’s about it. I can contribute and I have since I got minutes.”
The 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward ultimately set single-game career-highs in points (25), field goals made (10) and attempted (14), as well as blocks (5). His season averages in points, rebounds, blocks, steals and minutes also represented career bests. Humphries proved interim head coach and general manager Kiki Vandeweghe right when he assessed Humphries to be a strong rebounder and potentially underrated scorer.
According to the Web site hoopdata.com, in 44 games as a Net, Humphries rebounded at a rate commiserate with those of the league’s best forwards. His 18.0 total rebounding rate (TRR) ranked seventh among players to play at least half of their team’s games, and was 51-percent better than the league average for power forwards (11.9).
“Kris is a very effective player, very strong,” Vandeweghe said. “I think he’s one of those guys who doesn’t even know his own strength. Even though he’s been in the league 5, 6 years now, I don’t think he’s hit his potential yet. I think he doesn’t quite realize how good he can be.”
Offensively, Humphries showed solid shooting ability – matching the league average for forwards (39%) from 16-23 feet – but too often settled for jumpers, shooting them 58 percent of the time with an eFG% of .368, according to the Web site 82games.com. Increasing his attempts at the rim (.535 eFG%) could help to offset games in which his shot isn’t as sharp.
That in mind, Humphries plans to prioritize his low-post game while splitting this summer between his home state of Minnesota and his offseason home in Miami. After finishing up a post-season month of relaxation, he’ll assess his situation and game-plan the rest of his time.
This year, that will include deciding whether to pick up the one-year, $3.2 million option he holds with the Nets. Still only 25 years old, Humphries must weigh the guarantee against his potential earnings on the free agent market, which will feature a slew of teams flush with cash.
“It’s going to be a huge summer for a lot of teams, and their priority is getting a big-name guy and I think everyone falls in line after that,” Humphries says.
“I’ll see where everything’s at (then). I’ve never really been in a situation like this, so I don’t know what’s out there.”
Humphries will weigh the direction of the Nets’ franchise before he makes his decision, and he’s buoyed by the thought that it’s easier to facilitate a quick turnaround in the Eastern Conference than it would be out West. The draft lottery could play a role, as does the lure of Newark and eventually Brooklyn, which Humphries says should be a great change for the team.
Knowing that he’s proved himself to the Nets’ current staff, Humphries now faces a new challenge: showing he can build on his first sustained stretch of individual success.
“He has all the qualities you’d need,” Vandeweghe says. “He can shoot the ball, he can rebound and he’s tough – not afraid of anybody. (And) besides being a big, strong kid, he’s a good kid and he works hard. I think Kris is going to get better and better from here and what he needed was a chance to get out and play.”