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2014-2015 Thunder Player Grades: Kyle Singler still gets buckets

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Trick shots, championship games, and spacing the floor. That's what Kyle Singler's all about.

This is the "I'm going to be coaching this team in 10 years" stance.
This is the "I'm going to be coaching this team in 10 years" stance.
Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Full Name: Kyle Edward Singler

Nickname: "The Wig""The Bucket Man", "K-Smooth"

Contract Status: Currently a free agent. Was signed for $1,090,000 in 2014-15.

Notable Factoid: He's really good at trick shots. Check out this million hit video of Singler shooting around Duke's campus. Or this other popular vid of Kyle doing the same thing in London. Or even this vid of Kyle doing it in Detroit!

Player History

Kyle Singler was born in Medford, Oregon. Singler spent his early childhood in Salem before moving back to Medford for the duration of his adolescence. Growing up, Singler played a potpourri of sports, including basketball, baseball, gridiron football, association football, track, and roller hockey.

Singler played for South Medford High School's basketball team, starting on the varsity team as early as his freshman season. Singler would be a featured player during his junior and senior years, and was a highly touted prospect. The other big prospect in Oregon at the time was Kevin Love. As such, the high school teams of Singler and Love met in the Oregon State Championship game in 2006 and 2007.  Singler's South Medford team lost the 2006 championship by two points, but were able to return in 2007 and win the championship by 4. The man whom hit the game-sealing free throws for Singler's team was named Van Dellenback-Ouellette. What a moniker!

Singler had committed to Duke prior to his Junior year of High School. Unusurprigingly, Singler would stay at Duke for all four years of his eligibility, from 2008-2011. Singler was able to start immediately as a Freshman, and would remain a starter or the rest of his Duke career. All four of Singler's years at Duke saw the Blue Devils enter the NCAA tournament as a 1 or 2 seed. Singler's Sophomore and Senior years would feature Sweet 16 appearances from Duke, while Singler's Junior year saw him go all the way to the NCAA Championship. Singler played with many future NBA players at Duke, including Kyrie Irving, Miles Plumlee, Mason Plumlee, Gerald Henderson, Lance Thomas, Ryan Kelly, Nolan Smith, Elliot Williams, and Seth Curry.

At Duke, Singler holds career records for games played, consecutive games played, games started, and minutes played. Kyle was never quite the star of the team, though. He finished second in Points Per Game at Duke every year, losing out to different players every consecutive year (DeMarcus Nelson, Jon Scheyer, Gerald Henderson, and Nolan Smith, to be exact.) Furthermore, Singler didn't seem to progress a lot from year to year. Kyle's usage rate certainly went up, but it was counteracted by decreases in scoring efficiency. Still, Singler managed to shoot over 41% from the floor in every single season, and shot over 38% from three in his junior and senior seasons. Singler's awards during college include a 2010 Most Outstanding Player award from the Final Four, as well as a nomination as a second team All-American in 2011.

The Detroit Pistons selected Kyle Singler with the 33rd pick of the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft. The NBA was in lockout at that time, so Singler opted to sign with CB Lucentum Alicante of Spain's second tier domestic league. Singler was the player of the game in his first appearance for Lucentum Alicante, and stayed with the club until the NBA Lockout ended. At that point, Singler could have opted out of his contract and returned to training camp with the Pistons. Kyle did end up opting out of his contract with Lucentum Alicante. However, instead of returning to the Pistons, Singler chose to sign with Real Madrid, a top-flight Euroleague team.

While with Real Madrid, Singler appeared in 8 Euroleague games enroute to the Euroleague's Top 16. In Euroleague matches, Kyle averaged eight points and four rebounds. Kyle also maintained 49% from the field. Singler also played a pivotal role in Real Madrid's run to the Spanish domestic championship in 2012. During the Spanish league playoffs, Kyle averaged 8.4 PPG and shot 40% from three. Singler was even called upon by Real Madrid to make two key offensive plays during the end of a decisive Game 5.

Here's what Kyle had to say about his experience overseas, via Max Blau of Grantland:

"I knew at the end of the year that I was probably going to come back to the United States," Singler says. "But with the shortened season, I didn’t really know if I was going to play a lot [with the Pistons] just because of the lockout. I felt like staying was the best choice."

....

For these players, there was a drive to to improve their game when the path to the NBA wasn’t a direct one. Instead of starring on a D-League team or riding the bench in the NBA, they got quality playing time against formidable competition. Hummel and Singler both thought the ACB, filled with crafty veterans, offered an ideal intermediary step between college and the pros.

....

"You are playing against guys that have been playing professionally for 10, 12 years," Singler adds. "The skill levels of those guys are higher than those in college, so you’re playing against good competition."

For young Americans, a major part of the learning curve comes with adjusting to a much more physical style of play. Not only that, but Singler cautions players to "lower their ego," as most European players already perceive them to be selfish scorers.

"You’re already stereotyped as an American that wants the ball," Singler says. "You kind of have to play as a team player at first and once the season rolls along, you can start playing your game."

On July 11th, 2012, Singler signed with the Detroit Pistons for three years at about a million dollars each. Kyle played rotation level minutes as soon as the season began, and was a starter by Detroit's 9th game. Singler was able to basically echo the stats and consistency he showed at Duke and in Spain, averaging 9 points and 4 boards on 42% from the field. The Pistons were not as lucky though, as Detroit finished well out of the playoffs at a final record of 29-53. Singler was snubbed from the Rookie-Sophomore game that season, but was vindicated with an All-Rookie second team nomination at the end of the year.

The 2013-14 season saw Kyle lose his starting spot to Josh Smith. The Pistons couldn't produce a lot of wins, though, and the team struggled with spacing. So on February 5th, Kyle Singler took the starting spot of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. This left Detroit with a lineup of Jennings-Singler-Smith-Drummond-Monroe, which went 12-16. Singler managed to appear in all 82 games, and became a slightly more efficient scorer. Still, Kyle's numbers in 2013-2014 are very similar to his numbers in 2012-2013.

At the start of this season, the Pistons initially went with that same lineup. But after three straight losses, Singler was pulled back out of the starting lineup for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The change was only temporarily successful, and the Pistons were 3-13 on November 28th. At that point, Singler was re-inserted into the starting lineup at his more natural position, small forward. Greg Monroe was out of the lineup at center, while Josh Smith and Andre Drummond moved up a position. The change still had little effect, and the Pistons were 5-23 by December 21st. On December 23rd, Josh Smith was waived from the Pistons. Detroit responded by going 16-10 over their next 26 games, with Singler as a starter. Kyle's stats for Detroit this season were pretty much the same as his stats the two years previously. However, it is notable that Singler saw a 6% decrease in field goal percentage without Josh Smith. Kyle also saw an increase of 0.8 assists per game without Smith, indicating that he was required to do slightly more with the ball.

Mid-Season Expectations

The Thunder traded for Enes Kanter, D.J. Augustin, Steve Novak, and Kyle Singler at the same time. Kanter had a huge hype train behind him in the media, while Augustin was able to generate a bit of noise as well. Some people were even excited for Steve Novak, renowned for his ability to shoot clutch threes. But no one seemed to know what to do with Kyle Singler. At small forward, Kyle played the same position as KD. The Thunder haven't consistently given KD a backup since Daequan Cook left in 2012. Instead, OKC preferred to go with lineups that used shooting guards at the small forward position, whatever the case may have been. But with KD facing a mysterious injury, it seemed that the Thunder needed an emergency replacement at that position. Singler was the chosen man. As fans, we all breathed a huge sigh of relief upon learning that Singler could actually shoot threes. It was well known that Singler didn't have the athleticism to be much of a shot creator. Thus, I mostly just hoped that Singler could know where to be on offense and knock down open shots.

Regular Season Grade: C-

Singler managed to earn a role as a starter by virtue of being the roster's only small forward, but he wasn't a very major player in the offense. With Russell Westbrook, Enes Kanter, and Dion Waiters taking the lion's share of the shots, Singler was left to take simply what came to him. I honestly can't ever remember Singler taking a bad shot, or committing a key tactical error. Sure, Singler's size might be a problem on defense, but his high basketball IQ ensured that he didn't hurt the team in other areas.

The only real problems arose when the Thunder didn't have enough ballhandlers on the floor. It's hard for Singler to play in lineups next to Andre Roberson or Anthony Morrow because none of the them can dribble very well on an NBA level. This can lead to the offense stalling out, which was never good on such an offensively oriented team. Singler also became much more perimeter oriented offensively. Kyle shot 37% from beyond the arc, which is respectable. But from inside the arc, Singler shot 28%. That's deplorable, but at only 1.6 attempts per game, Kyle rarely hurt the team.

Most Memorable Game: Two Threes, an assist at the Hornets in Thunder debut

I am hampered by the fact that there's very little footage of Singler's Thunder career on YouTube. Still, Kyle's debut performance against the Hornets was big. Singler only hit two threes, but they were absolutely key in a seven point victory. They were even more key when you consider that OKC was 28% from beyond the arc that game.

I'd also like to mention Kyle's April 3rd performance at the Memphis Grizzlies. That time, Singler shot 3 of 4 from beyond the arc while the rest of the Thunder shot 1 of 13. OKC lost the game by eight, but it's just testament to Singler's style.

Future Expectations

On whether he'll be back next year, and whether the Thunder want him back:

"Oh yeah. I wanna be back for sure. This is the type of environment I think I thrive in. A winning team, winning organization, talented players. This is where I want to be. I think they want me here. I think I bring winning qualities, qualities that they value. You never know though."

Kyle certainly does present a compelling case, but the numbers may be against him. Assuming Kevin Durant is healthy, Singler would be entirely redundant in the Thunder's rotation. It's hard to see Singler getting consideration above Waiters, Roberson, or Morrow. Even if the Thunder did want Singler in case of injury, he has to fight against the contracts of Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III, which are guaranteed next season. Still, Brooks certainly preferred Singler over Lamb and Jones. Futhermore, new coach Billy Donovan was notorious for preferring longer-termed players in college. Kyle Singler certainly fits that bill. Singler is also a good floor spacer, which always helps when neither of OKC's point guards can consistently hit a three.

At the end of the day, it would seem that Singler's attitude and work ethic fits in perfectly with the Thunder as an organization. But with an unguaranteed contract and few inspiring performances to hang his hat on, Singler's future is certainly in question.

What did you think of Kyle Singler last season? Drop a comment and let us know!