There’s a hipster alternative to everything.
Whether it’s listening to Thundercat over Post Malone, or going to a local coffee shop over a Starbucks, or watching Booksmart over reruns of Friends, some people prefer the less mainstream option.
In the NBA world, Alex Caruso is the wily underdog everyone roots for. The former two-way player made his waves as everyone’s favorite 15th man, when he took over in the 2017 Summer League during the Lonzo Ball hype. Now, he’s found a role off the bench for an elite Lakers team while even starting a handful of games and he’s become a familiar face for highlight machines and All-Star voting — much either to the pleasure or dismay of NBA fans.
If the Alex Caruso hype isn’t your cup of team, I found a hipster underdog for you.
His name is John Konchar.
Prior to the season’s suspension, Konchar became a cool under-the-radar storyline for this Memphis Grizzlies team. In the midst of injuries, the two-way player made a steady impact on this team, carving a path to become the team’s underdog folk legend.
There are fan accounts named after him. You can sense pure joy from his teammates when Konchar makes something happen. He had good buzz coming into the draft. Because of his brilliant rebounding efforts, he got a cool nickname:
Everybody loves the guy at the end of the bench. Back in the old Grizzlies days, it was Hamed Haddadi, Jake Tsakalidis, and Brian Cardinal. In the past, we’ve seen everyone adore the “White Mamba” Brian Scalabrine, and now Alex Caruso has carried the torch as the new gassed-up 12th man.
John Konchar is that for the Memphis Grizzlies, and he could be more than that as well.
John Konchar’s style of play symbolizes a dad in Lifetime pickup games. He’s not going to do anything flashy, but he’s going to rebound, move the basketball, and make the hustle plays defensively.
How can you not root for someone so relatable?
Konchar does most of his damage within the 3-point arc, as 72.7% of his shots are two-point attempts, where he converts on them 73.9% of the time. Most of his buckets come off cuts or putbacks, displaying his ability to find angles and his patience on attacking them.
His nose for the ball is just uncanny. Of those to play double digit games in a season, he posted the 9th-best Offensive Rebound Percentage (11.5%) of any guard in NBA history. He has a knack for locating where the ball is coming off the rim — whether it’s crashing from the perimeter on a 3, or trailing a fast-break finisher.
He also makes timely reads dishing the rock, but there’s no real pizzazz with it. He makes the simple pass, and although it may lead to him passing up on a shot, he doesn’t force anything as a passer or scorer.
Defensively, he has deceptively quick hands, which comes in handy in help defense situations. It’s nothing Grindfather-esque, but his defensive effort and intelligence must put a smile on Tony Allen’s face.
And every once in a while, he’ll do something sweet like block Dwight Howard:
JOHN KONCHAR REJECTS DWIGHT HOWARD pic.twitter.com/hO8jSPN0qq— Fastbreak Breakfast (@fastbreakbreak) March 1, 2020
There’s no element of flash to John Konchar’s game, and that’s totally fine. He’s an old-school player that does his part by chipping in with different non-scoring facets of the game, something that’s kind of becoming uncommon in today’s NBA.
A key staple to being a hipster NBA fan is embracing advanced statistics. In that department, John Konchar is a damn demigod.
- 4.8 BPM — 2.5 OBPM, 2.4 DBPM
- 19.0 PER
- 71.1 True Shooting Percentage
- On/Off difference of +7.1 — 3rd on the team.
- 98th percentile in Points per Shot Attempt (PSA) - 140.7.
When you factor in his per-36 minutes, you can’t help but bask in his glory. Per 36 minutes, Konchar is averaging 11 points, 9.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.5 steals. When you expand it out to per 100 possessions, he’s averaging 14.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 2.0 steals.
The bonkers stats replicate Konchar’s do-everything production. He hauls in rebounds like a mad man, crashing the glass with a distinct precision I haven’t seen from a guard. He makes the right reads on both ends of the court, displaying perfect timing on steals, blocks, and assists. It’s no coincidence that he’s a positive when he receives regular minutes — amassing a +/- of +12.1 when he receives 10-19 minutes.
Needless to say, if you’re a savant for the analytics and advanced stats, John Konchar is the underdog for you.
The content behind the underdogs is fun. The cheers when they do something great or enter the game, the memes, and the sheer appreciation for the underdog is great.
What makes John Konchar stand out here is, like Caruso, he can play his way into transforming himself from a two-way player to a role player on a playoff team. His versatility and his willingness to do the gritty things to help his team win should keep him around in this league. Who knows, an increase in 3-point volume could make him a nice NBA journeyman, similar to Garrett Temple.
John Konchar is a good basketball player, and it’s only a matter of time where the conversation of converting his two-way deal in to a full-time roster spot is a “when” and “where” instead of an “if.”
Hopefully the where is Memphis.
Stats and clips found on basketball-reference and NBA.com.