Chris Quinn wasn't supposed to make it in the NBA. He wasn't drafted. He doesn't fit the mold. But here he is, in his fourth year, making a million dollars doing something he loves. We should all be so miscast.
There are some misconceptions about him that have helped him pull off this surprising feat. He certainly doesn't look that athletic. But coming out of Notre Dame in 2006, his numbers at the Pre-Draft Camp weren't bad. His maximum vertical measured out at 32"--the same as new teammate Shawne Williams. He was also slightly quicker in the three quarter court sprint and considerably quicker in the agility drill. Overall, he finished 35th, Williams 57th. At 6'1.5" (in sneakers0, his 6'5" wingspan isn't bad...helps on defense.
So with some luck (and pluck), Quinn got a job with the Heat and lasted four years until he was traded to the Nets. He became a favorite of Pat Riley. "There has never been a better person that has played for the Miami Heat than Chris Quinn," said Riley the day of the trade. "He is one of the hardest working, most dedicated people that we've ever experienced."
Now 26, Quinn has another chance to fill the third point guard role with a new team. After a preseason injury slowed him, he lost his job as the Heat backup and didn't play a minute in Miami, inactive for 30 games. If he hadn't been traded, he might have played a minute all season.
Both Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus and Matt Kamalsky of DraftExpress think the same thing Riley does, pointing out his positives. (John Hollinger didn't rank Quinn, limiting his rankings to those he believed would play more than 500 minutes this season.)
Kevin Pelton, Basketball Prospectus:
If you were to pick the likelihood of each Heat player to maintain his position on the depth chart, Chris Quinn would have ranked at the lower end of the scale. Yet, Shaq's whipping boy is back again, expected to be Mario Chalmers' primary backup at point guard. Quinn is fine in a limited role. He's a very accurate three-point shooter but not much inside the arc. With his limited athleticism, Quinn is in trouble every time he ventures into the lane. He shot just 37 percent at the rim last season. That his three-point percentage was better than his two-point percentage reminds one of the Ryan Freels of the baseball world, who have better on-base percentage than slugging percentages. Quinn is a terrific ballhandler and can run an offense. Defensively, he gets the most out of what he has to work with and can pick your pocket if you're not careful. However, he's just too limited an athlete to defend the Chris Pauls of the world in a regular role.
Overview: Steady, but unspectacular back-up point guard who sees minutes due to his ability to play low-mistake basketball. Posseses average size and questionable athleticism for an NBA point guard. Lacks great physical tools, but proves to be a very heady, fundamentally sound player, with a microscopic turnover rate. Plays like a veteran, and has since the middle of his rookie year. Very capable outside shooter who doubles as an efficient distributor. Lacks ideal defensive tools. Developed into quite a player during his time at Notre Dame. Really showed off his point guard skills as a senior. Picture perfect shooting mechanics have always been an asset for him. Didn’t wow anyone with what he brought to the table and ultimately went undrafted. Found himself in a perfect situation in Miami. Saw minutes as a rookie and was a key backup in his second year pro. Fits the third point guard mold perfectly with his smart play.
Offense: A consistent playmaker who is smart with the ball, can hit the three, but lacks the versatility and athleticism to be a high level offensive player, particularly inside the arc. Gets about a quarter of his touches as the ball handler in pick and roll situations and roughly forty-percent of his touches in spot-up situations. Very capable jump shooter with excellent form, nice elevation, and great range. Shoots nearly half of his shots from beyond the arc. Doesn’t force too many contested jumpers, and doesn’t change his form at all when he does. Capable of hitting shots moving in either direction coming off of screens. Great catch and shoot threat who isn’t too bad off the dribble either. Doesn’t create enough separation to do much damage around the basket or with his pull up game. Limited by his size, strength, and leaping ability. Won’t go one-on-one unless he knows he’s not at a disadvantage. Improving his floater. An extremely capable point guard who has improved subtly since entering the League. Had a tendency to hold the ball for too long before giving it up in half court sets, but is considerably more decisive now. Has played with the poise of a much older player since his rookie year. Won’t make the tough pass very often, but will almost always make a smart one. Not a flashy ball handler, or one who will dribble himself into trouble. Plays the point guard spot in a low-risk, low reward manner that makes him a nice fit for teams with firepower at other positions. Catch and shoot ability is a nice bonus, since it compensates for what he lacks as a shot-creator.
Defense: Smart defender who whose lack of lateral quickness and size makes him a liability at times. Gets beaten off the dribble frequently, putting pressure on his teammates to help him. Doesn’t get in a great stance, but will give himself a cushion if he knows he’s at a disadvantage. Not going to tip many passes with his length, but will come up with an occasional loose ball due to his ability to anticipate. Shows more effort when his man catches the ball in the midrange, but lacks the length to effectively contest shots and the recovery speed to prevent his man from getting an open lane by running off of screens. Rebounds the ball at a decent rate for a player his size, but doesn’t do any one thing well enough defensively to compensate for the penetration he concedes.
Quinn, like Williams and others the Nets are trying to bring in, is auditioning for 2010-11. He has proven he can play in the NBA. His best year was the Heat's worst, in 2007-08, when he averaged 7.8 ppg along with 3.0 assists, shooting 40.3% from deep. He started 25 games that season as the Heat won only 15 games.
Last season, in a more limited role, he was one of the NBA's worst finishers at 37%. But out on the perimeter, as his NBA Hotzone data show, he could be deadly from the wings and corners, shooting better than 40%. He was not as effective, hitting less than 30%, from straight on. That may be a function of range.
But if Quinn continues his improbable journey, it won't be his shooting that keeps him employed. It'll will be his leadership and work ethic.