BENO PUJIT— Frank Madden (@brewhoop) Feb 29, 2012
That tweet, from almost a year ago (posted on a day that doesn't exist this year, incidentally), perfectly captures the essence of Milwaukee's all-purpose guard. There are other standout skills represented on the Bucks' roster: Larry Sanders' shot blocking, Mike Dunleavy's 3-point shooting, and Luc Mbah a Moute's lockdown defense all rank at or near the top of their respective categories. But the Beno Udrih Pull Up Jumper In Transition is such a striking departure from traditional basketball skills that it stands out among the rest.
There's an element of surprise every time Udrih rises up in the middle of a fastbreak stampede, because it's such a counter-intuitive play. Coaches and players relish transition opportunities because they allow easy access to the immediate basket area, allowing that most high-percentage of shots, the one that remains in hand until the moment it passes through the rim. So when Udrih halts all momentum, seemingly falling out of time as teammates and defenders fly by, it feels for a second like something has gone wrong. Until you realize it's all part of the plan, and swish.
According to MySynergySports.com, Beno Udrih has finished 41 possessions in transition this season. 10 of those could reasonably be described as "pull-up jumpers" in the purest sense: the player bringing the ball up the court stops some distance from the basket and shoots a routine jumper. Beno Udrih has hit 8 of his 10 PUJITs. 80 percent. Compare that to the 65.7% he shoots in transition overall, or his 46.6% shooting on all jumpers, and it's clear there's no place Beno is more comfortable than hovering in midair amidst the chaos.
It's not just the shot that's pretty. It's how Beno maneuvers into place to get it off. Never known as an overly quick player, Beno still has ample speed to beat retreating defenders to his preferred spot on the floor. All the while he keeps defenses off-balance by scanning the floor with his eyes. One could make the case Brandon Jennings has overtaken him as the Bucks best passer in transition (he's certainly the flashiest), but the balance in Udrih's game makes him formidable on the break because there are so many options to account for. He clears space with uncertainty, pulling up in a flash when a generous bubble of bare floor forms spontaneously around him. That slight lean just feels like part of the plan, pointing the way as the ball glides through the net.
Unorthodox but effective. And it's rubbing off, most obviously in the swag-fueled PU3ITs Brandon Jennings had suddenly taken to dropping in before February sapped him of his spirit. Jennings' deep pull-ups on the break might be a joy to watch, but they're far from things of legend. If we tweet about them, it's with a feeling of exhilarated relief rather than the smug confirmation that accompanies a successful Beno PUJIT.
Long live the Master. Long live the King.