(“The Gallery” is an end-of-season series featuring one uniquely titled picture or video installation for every player that best summarizes or encapsulates that player’s season in a single snapshot. These aren’t highlights, they’re seminal moments expressed through the medium of art placards. Enjoy your tour!)
Guard, Age 23
Bankers Life Fieldhouse
For better or worse, Edmond Sumner rarely gives his game room to breathe. It’s what makes his cuts away from the ball so dynamic and his ball-hawking defense at the point of attack so suffocating. And it’s also what can make his off-ball rotations appear spastic and his finishes at the rim, from time to time, as graceful as a meteor hurling towards earth. Like a raw ball of energy, he leans into his explosiveness, sometimes at the expense of the skilled finesse he worked tirelessly at the G League-level to pair to his unbridled athleticism.
And yet, although he faces a constant battle to gain dominion over his sprawling limbs, the subject of And..Breathe speaks to what happened to another area of his game immediately after he put down his sword and allowed his instincts to takeover.
With 2.4 seconds left in the first quarter of his team’s eventual blowout over the Lakers, Sumner inbounded the ball to Domantas Sabonis and quickly got it back with just enough time to get off a three from beyond 30-feet. Without an opportunity to second-guess himself, he drained it. The expiring clock turned out to be a blessing in disguise; and the made shot, a confidence booster, as the 6-foot-6 slasher captured some of the improved accuracy he had demonstrated with the Mad Ants (35.8 percent on 5.8 attempts per game). From there on out, after making just two of his first 15 tries from three, he confidently knocked down five of his last 12.
Here’s why it matters if that make turns out to be a cleared mental hurdle, though: Over 90 percent of his three-point attempts were wide-open, and he shot below 40 percent in the restricted area (down from 64 percent with the Mad Ants). Turning his jump shot around at the NBA-level, particularly in transition or when opponents go under screens, not only will make penetrating the lane even easier for a player who already appears as though he’s been shot out of a cannon, it has the potential to tame his finishing touch by thinning out some of the crowds that await him at the rim.
Depending on how free agency shakes out, if Sumner continues to show promise and can cutback on the turnovers, his physical attributes as a slasher and lanky defender could end up making him a bargain fifth guard on the depth chart, but putting it all together will require finding spots to breathe in the in-between.