It was a given that the Warriors were in for an exciting off-season once Baron Davis decided to return home to the Clippers. But given the expectation of a youth movement, the recent Corey Maggette signing is understandably perplexing to many Warriors fans and columnists alike.
What makes this latest Warriors’ move especially difficult to decipher is that while it fits well with the current Don Nelson style of play, it does not necessarily fit with the Warriors future plans—financially or basketball-wise.
Maggette and Nellie It might seem like an apples-to-oranges comparison, but in a free-flowing offense like Nelson’s, where shooting is more highly valued than a “traditional” distributing point guard, it’s reasonable to compare Baron Davis to Maggette.
With Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson just sliding over to the lead guard and off guard spots, respectively, Maggette is essentially replacing Davis’ production in the lineup. Following that reasoning, one of my biggest complaints about Davis is his poor shot selection. Maggette is a much more efficient scorer overall, with a true shooting percentage of 59 percent vs. Davis’ 52 percent.
While Davis ranks No. 33 among point guards in true shooting percentage, Maggette ranks fourth among small forwards (where he will play for the Warriors). Since they both had the ball in their hands for about the same amount of time last season, it’s safe to say that Maggette is the more efficient player.
An added benefit is that Maggette knows how to get himself to the free throw line for easy points. Whereas Baron got 5.2 free throws a game, Maggette had 9.7, good for the third in the league. As a solid 81 percent shooter—Davis shot 75 percent—that adds an extremely consistent scoring threat to the Warriors' offense. People on forums around the web have taken to calling Maggette “the bowling ball” at times and that pretty much describes his game. Once he gets rolling down the lane, he’s looking to score and make contact with as many opponents as possible in the process. In that sense, he’s a pure scorer, but he’s much more efficient than Davis.
Maggette after Nellie...? The problem is that Nelson won’t be the Warriors coach forever, as he has already considered retiring after the past two regular seasons. In a future without Nelson, the team might shift to an offense predicated on efficiency, using Andris Biedrins more. In that situation, Maggette may not be a good fit.
First of all, Maggette is a ball stopper. But really, so is Baron…and at least Maggette is a rather efficient ball stopper. Plus, he’s a scorer, not a point guard anyway, so it shouldn’t be a problem, right? Well, that’s not quite the full story. Maggette also has an assist-to-turnover rate of .97, which means he makes more turnovers (3.0) than assists (2.7) per game. For a guy who spends the majority of his time with the ball scoring, a turnover is just a wasted opportunity rather than an excusable attempt to get the ball to someone else.
Second, to reinforce the point that Maggette is a pure scorer, while he averages 5.6 rebounds per game, which is among the top small forwards, his rebound rate is much lower. Rebound rate is the percentage of missed shots that a player rebounds. Maggette ranked 37th among small forwards, whereas Davis ranked 11th among point guards. Other players on the roster may make up for this, but Maggette’s rebounding might be overrated.
Third, he’s also injury-prone, having missed 19 games over the last two years. That might not seem like a big deal until you consider that the Warriors have either squeaked in or been squeezed out of the playoffs right at the end of the last two seasons. Losing a starter for 19 games is much more significant on a team that thinks they can make the playoffs.
The Verdict: A good role player on a contender In the end, the fact that the Warriors won 48 games last year and missed the playoffs looms large in the case of Maggette. A contender can use a “bowling ball” to get some quick points every now and then. However, a lottery team looking toward the future could possibly invest more wisely. In the short-term, this could be a reasonable move. The Warriors add a much more efficient scorer who likes to shoot, and Nelson will undoubtedly give him that. He also provides another player who can penetrate and put pressure on the defense.
However, part of the reason Baron’s departure excited me is that it gave the Warriors’ young players an opportunity to be more involved in the offense without a ball stopper.They would have had an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and develop into a cohesive unit as they continue developing individually. Inserting another ball stopper who wants to be a starter into the lineup is therefore questionable.
One way to put this perspective is by way of comparison: Maggette’s stats are somewhat similar to Jason Richardson’s. There are a few small differences—Richardson is a much more efficient ball handler and Maggette better at getting himself to the free throw line. Richardson is a better three point shooter, Maggette is a better overall shooter.Maggette is a better rebounder, Richardson puts up better defensive numbers (but really, if you’re looking to either of these guys for defense, you’re in trouble).
Maggette and Richardson are reasonably similar players in terms of output. They just play different positions. So if we accept that comparison, I’m sure Warriors fans haven’t yet forgotten where Richardson led the team without Davis: right to the lottery. So unless Monta Ellis is able to fill the void that Davis left at point, this seems like a lateral move at best and a poor use of cap room at its worst.
For a team looking to the future, we can only hope there are more moves coming or that contract is worth less than initially reported.