NBA's Fool's Gold: An Examination of True Value in the NBA
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The value of an NBA player is a topic that is often discussed, but assessing true value goes beyond statistics.
In considering the value of a player, it is important to keep in mind three major factors.
The first is money. A bad player who doesn’t have a high salary is much easier to accept than an OK player who is making way more than what they should for a significant period of time (think Mike Bibby’s last contract).
Second is what they produce in the time they play. There are some players who simply don’t make the most of the time they are on the floor.
Third is the circumstances in which they were acquired or retained. A bad draft pick, signing or trade can set a franchise back years.
Marvin Williams: The adoration in Atlanta for Williams is baffling. The second pick of the 2005 draft, chosen ahead of Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Raymond Felton, Williams has done very little to validate his draft status.
Averaging a pedestrian 11 ppg and 4.8 rpg, the 6’9” forward has yet to find a true position in the NBA. A classic “tweener,” Williams lacks the post game to take advantage of mismatches on the block, the ball-handling skills to consistently beat defenders off the dribble and the range to space the floor for the Hawks, who have a desperate need for outside shooting.
Couple his flawed game with the five-year $40 million contract he signed in 2009, the fact that Paul and Deron Williams have become the best point guards in the league and the huge hole Atlanta has at the point, it’s surprising that Williams isn’t in consideration for one of the all-time worst draft decisions in NBA history.
Jeff Green: While Green’s 15.5 ppg and 5.7 rpg may seem impressive, other factors have to be examined. Touted as a “do-it-all” forward coming out of Georgetown University, Green is not without talent. Smart and athletic, Green has been a fixture in the Oklahoma City Thunder lineup since being selected 5th overall in the 2007 draft.
But consider this: As of Jan. 8th, Green is shooting .417% from the floor.
It gets much worse: His three-point accuracy is .263% on four attempts per game. Add that to his 38 minutes per game (ranking ninth in the league), fewer than six rebounds and .3 blocks as the starting power forward spot while Serge Ibaka (covered later) continues to receive limited minutes.
Green’s weaknesses were exploited in 2010’s playoffs by the Lakers’ frontline. He shot 33% during the series. Still possessing substantial upside, Green has much work to do to give Oklahoma City the true “Big Three” they would need to be a real contender in the Western Conference.
OKC will have a big decision to make this summer on whether to re-sign him.
Rodney Stuckey: To think Joe Dumars jettisoned Chauncey Billups to Denver so Stuckey could play.
The Pistons lineup seems to always be in flux, but the one constant (other than losing) is that Stuckey starts when healthy.
Stuckey’s averages of 15.1 ppg and 5 apg are nice and his knack for drawing fouls is uncanny, but his anemic shooting (43% overall, 21% from downtown) coupled with poor court vision make him a perfect candidate for any overrated list.
The guy simply can’t shoot or pass. Much of the fault should go to Dumars for miscasting him as Billups’ successor and the coaching staff for not being able to settle on a lineup 35 games into the season.
The one good move Pistons fans can applaud: The refusal to extend Stuckey’s contract in November. Maybe they, too, have come to accept that if Stuckey is your starting point guard, you can’t be good.
Tyrus Thomas: AKA the Anti-Jeff Green.
While he may never live up to being the fourth selection in the 2006 draft, Thomas has become a highly productive player since being traded to the Bobcats last season.
Averaging 11.6 ppg and 5.6 rpg and 1.6 blocks per game, it’s a wonder that he only plays 21 minutes per contest. Highly efficient from the floor and the line (50% and 82% respectively), Thomas is one of the most productive players on a per-minute basis in the league (John Hollinger of ESPN rates Thomas 28th, sandwiched between Chris Bosh and David West).
Throw the law of diminishing returns out the window: In Thomas’ three games this season in which he played 30 minutes or more this season, he has average 22 ppg on 59% shooting, 10.6 rpg and three blocks.
At one point, some questioned the decision to re-sign him to a five-year, $40 million deal. But with his level of production, that could end up being the Bobcats most cost-efficient signing to date.
Francisco Garcia: While not as egregious an injustice as the Thomas situation is in Charlotte, Garcia’s skills have clearly been undervalued in Sacramento.
While his five-year, $30 million deal seems steep for a player who hasn’t been a regular starter this season, it could prove to be a bargain at some point.
Yes, his 8.9 ppg look rather mundane, but understand this comes in under 22 minutes per game.
Look closer: In seven games as a starter, Garcia is averaging 14.1 ppg on 51% from the field (including 50% from three on more than four attempts per contest). The 6’7” swingman can get it done defensively, as well. Routinely guarding point guards to power forwards, Garcia holds his own while averaging more than a block and steal per start.
Most telling, of those seven starts, the Kings have a record of 4-3. That’s half of the Kings victories for the entire season.
With Sacramento’s obvious need for a veteran presence on the floor, why not just start the guy?
Serge Ibaka: While the aforementioned Green is regularly lauded for his contributions, Serge Ibaka may be the most-important factor behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to the success of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Providing energy and toughness, the 6’10” 21-year-old does the dirty work for the smallish Thunder frontline. Equally adept starting and providing a spark off the bench, Ibaka’s averages of 9.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg and 2.2 bpg are much more impressive when you consider they are coming in only 26 minutes per game.
On a 48-minute basis, Ibaka ranks third in the league in blocked shots, behind only JaVale McGee and Darko Milicic. And much like Garcia, Ibaka’s presence is felt in the standings: The Thunder are 13-5 when Ibaka jumps center, compared with 11-8 when he comes off the pine.
Ibaka is still being paid under his rookie contract and is probably the main reason the Thunder are comfortable letting Green test the market this summer.
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