Player Evaluation: Darius Songaila



Previously:

Stats: Per-game: 19.4 minutes, 6.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists

Per-36: 11.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists

Percentages: 45.8 FG%, 91.8 FT%, 45.8 eFG%, 49.6 TS%

Advanced (explanations): 11.8 PER, 10.2 REB%, 14.2 AST%, 17.3 Usg%, 14.7 TOV%, 102 ORtg, 11 DRtg, -3.5 WSAA (Win Shares Above Average).

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Pradamaster: Darius Songaila's numbers make it seem like he had an awful year, but I think this is one instance where the numbers cannot tell the whole story.  Whereas someone like Andray Blatche sees his production vary from game to game, Songaila is very consistent, and for someone counted on as a frontcourt reserve, that's important.  He's also the team's best cutter, its best passer for a big man, and while he's not much of a defender, he usually gives a lot of effort on that end.  While in the end the production may have been disappointing, Songaila did have value this season.

We should all hope that the Darius Songaila we see next season is the one we saw in the last two months of this season.  Songaila slogged through November and December, then bottomed out in January, averaging  3.7 points and 2.5 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of play.  He even got a DNP-CD in a game against Detroit in December, which shocked me because Songaila always seemed like one of Eddie's boys.  In the last two months of the season, though, Songaila really turned things around.  He averaged 8.6 points on 49.6% shooting in 22.4 minutes in March, then upped his point average to 8.8 in April while increasing his rebound average to 5.6.  Against Cleveland, he was effective until "the slap" against LeBron.  Interestingly, Songaila's improvement coincided with Blatche's decline, and whether that's a coincidence can be debated forever.

Songaila's problems are things that cannot be fixed, but they're concerning anyway.  He remains a terrible rebounder for his position, even though he picked it up in the last part of the season.  He hangs on the perimeter too much, and his best shot, the mid-range jumper, is the lowest percentage shot in the game.  He's too slow defensively to keep up with quick forwards, though he improved his foul rate significantly this season.  Unless he magically grows two inches, those are things we have to live with.  For an 8th or 9th man on a team with strong rebounders, that's okay, but he's the 7th man on a team that, save for the undersized Antawn Jamison and the injured Etan Thomas, doesn't have any bruisers. 

The problem with dumping him, however, is that Songaila's game doesn't work well unless he's in the Princeton.  He's excellent at cutting, a key part of the offense, and he sets good screens and makes solid passes.  On a team that doesn't have a motion-type offense, those skills can go to waste, but not on the Wizards.  That means, essentially, that we'll never be able to trade him.  He loses value once he goes to another team, and his contract, which runs for the next three seasons, doesn't make things any easier.

All this means that we'll probably see Songaila for the duration of his contract.  That's not such a bad thing, but it underscores why we need Blatche to step forward and become the player he can be.

JakeTheSnake: For the first half of the season, Darius Songaila was easily the worst player that was getting regular minutes.  His passing was still rock solid, but that was about it.  He couldn't knock down that open 15-footer that he loves to shoot, his rebounding was abysmal and he couldn't guard anyone with a hint of athleticism.  Right before the All-Star break he started to come around and he became a valuable part of the rotation.  His shot started falling again, the defense got a little better, and he was even able to take some guys off the dribble from time to time.  The rebounding still wasn't great, but I can live with that I suppose.

In hindsight, playing with Lithuania this summer probably hurt him more at the start of the season than any of us originally anticipated.  Once he got his legs back in the second half of the season, his play returned to normal.  This is where some people might get on their soapbox and talk about how Darius needs to focus his efforts to the team that paying him millions of dollars, but I'm not going to fault a player for trying to represent his country.  I'd rather have him playing extra basketball than sitting on his couch getting out of shape, not that Darius is that kind of guy.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that we'll probably see the pattern next year, but I'm OK with that.

Let's just do everyone a favor and keep Darius from playing center next year.  I think that's a win-win scenario for everyone.

Truthaboutit: More than anyone else on the team, Darius Songaila had a full share of detractors this past season. Sure he took an occasional ill-advised shot. And perhaps his 6'9" (or 8") frame wasn't enough to deal with the sizable tasks asked of him. But Darius was always up to the challenge, and in my opinion, the type of key role player that winners need.

The main issue with Songaila, more than shot selection, is rebounding. His rebound rate was below that of both Dominic McGuire (11.7) and Oleksiy Pecherov (12.1). Darius still out-rebounded Caron Butler per 36 minutes (6.3, good enough for 6th on the team), but that's not saying anything at all. Even without athleticism, you'd expect Songaila would have the tactic to do better than a couple rookies. When you think about the needs from a power forward, and the woes on the glass for the Wizards, D-Song's board effort comes up as a disappointment. When factoring Songaila's on-ball defense, or lack thereof, I can certainly sympathize with those who are emphatic about limiting his presence on the court.

Now consider the offense that Eddie Jordan runs, a pro-style Princeton. When operating at a higher pace, which we all know occurred less in 07-08 than in years before, Songaila has the veteran savvy to move with a purpose....whether it be posting up, or setting high ball screens in transition.

Songaila's true bread and butter within the offense comes with his pick-and-pop-ability. He shoots with confidence, has a fairly quick release for a big man, and seems to have range that extends slightly beyond the college 3-point line. Not only can D-Song knock down the J when called upon by an opposing defense focusing on a driver, but he has the ability to see and make the next pass, perhaps adjusting to the shifting D giving someone else a better look. Songaila's Ast-% and 'Assists Per 36' were both good enough for 5th on the team in 07-08.

Hopefully in the future, we will be seeing more Andray Blatche as the first big off the bench as opposed to Darius Songaila. I think Darius is an ideal guy to have fighting with Etan Thomas or Dominic McGuire, depending on the situation, for the next big to get minutes. Some may question Songaila's contract amount for playing such a role. To me, it's not terrible (3-years, $13.578 million left). I'd certainly rather have that instead of the amount owed to Etan (2-years, $14.219 million).

Next season, this year's 19.4 minutes per game could dip to below 14 per for D-Song....but that's okay. Darius Songaila is the type of player who will give his all no matter how long he plays, and that's why I'm cool with him being a Wizard. Besides, it would be nice if D-Song had a future chance to give LeBron James his Crocodile Dundee moment with a real chop to the face instead of an inadvertently caused side fist.

Continue the Songaila discussion in the comments.

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