Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Evaluating the Hawks' Free Agent Center Prospects

Let's have a pleasant little daydream for a moment and assume that the Hawks had their pick of Eddy Curry, Tyson Chandler, and Sam Dalembert, either because they are going to acquire one via a sign-and-trade using Al Harrington as the bait, or they are going to take advantage of the cheapness of the Bulls (never a bad bet when Jerry Reinsdorf is involved; he won't exactly be appearing in the Anti-Defamation League's "Breaking Stereotypes" issue like the Beastie Boys should have been) and 76ers. How do I rank the three prospects? I'm glad you asked:

I eliminate Eddy Curry off the bat as the weakest of the three options. The more digging I do, the less I like him. Forget the irregular heart beat, a condition that stays with you like herpes. Forget the alleged attitude issues that retarded his performance for several years. Forget the weight problem that will surely get worse once he's set for life with a five year, $70M contract. Check this out. In a nutshell, the Bulls were better when Tyson Chandler was on the floor and significantly worse when Curry was huffing and puffing up and down the court. I suspected that this would be the case, given the way they players are described - Chandler as a rebounding fiend and terrific defensive player (both undervalued skills) and Curry as a back-to-the-basket scorer (an overrated skill, especially if the scorer can't pass) and disappointing rebounder and shot-blocker. I lived through three years of Maurice Taylor at Michigan; I don't want his slightly better doppelganger pulling down a ten-digit salary in my first year as a season ticket holder. (Yes, I took the $199 plunge. At $5 per game, I won't exactly be doing a lot to play for Curry's curry.)

That leaves us Chandler vs. Dalembert.

The case for Sam:

1. Players who are freed from Allen Iverson's clutches tend to do well in liberated form. Sam has likely never had a chance to develop a real offensive game because every possession involves watching AI either shoot or dish off if he determines that the five guys in between him and the basket might be a little too formidable. Take Larry Hughes for instance. He's been much, much better in every stop other than his time in Philly. Ditto for Jerry Stackhouse. Dalembert is not a perimeter player like Hughes or Stackhouse and he's a better fit for Iverson in that he simply looks to rebound and play defense, but there may be offensive skills there that will blossom in a new environment. The Sixers are also apparently low-balling him, although that might just be posturing from his agent.

OK< that was all I could come up with. Now, the case for Tyson:

1. He was the #1 high school player in the country, which, more often than not, means something. There's no doubt that he has prodigious talent. Hell, Dalembert never averaged double digit points in college.

2. Much of Dalembert's value is found in his strong performance in the playoffs against the Pistons, but it would be a huge mistake to build too much value into a five-game sample, especially when there is recency involved. And Chandler averaged 12 and 10 with two blocks in the playoffs, so it isn't as if he was chopped liver in the post-season.

3. Chandler had a higher efficiency rating last year. (The NBA's efficiency stat, by the way, was developed in 2002 and is calculated using the following formula: ((pts + reb + stls + asts + blk) - ((fga - fgm) + (fta - ftm) + to))/g. In fact, his efficiency rating "indicates a definite All-Star who is a marginal MVP candidate." He also had the 7th best rebound rate (percentage of rebounds collected while on the floor) in the NBA. Of all of the Hawks' weaknesses last year, rebounding was one of the most prominent.

4. I could play "Straight Outta Compton" on the way to the arena every night in honor of the Hawks' center. You know of any good songs about Haiti? That's what I thought. (On the other hand, think about the arguments these two could have if they were teammates about who came from a rougher place? Compton vs. Haiti could be in the Mays vs. Mantle pantheon.)

In case you couldn't tell, I'm going Chandler, then Dalembert, then Curry. That said, any of the three would be the Hawks's best center since Dikembe and would mean the end of Ja-ja-ja-jason Collier and Obinna "It's too easy for" Ekezie getting schooled on every screen-and-roll run by an opponent.

Is it unhealthy to be so excited for a team that just lost 69 games?


peacedog said...

You'd better invite me up for a game.

I hate curry. He averaged like 5 boards a game. There is no way, no conceivable manner, that I would have averaged less than 7 as a 7 footer in the NBA. And that's at my current level of atheletic ability.

Is it encouraging that he left town without an offer?

Michael said...

Consider the offer extended now (and if you're ever interested in coming up to see our winning team...)

I hope that the Hawks' interest in Curry is part of an elaborate plan to get the Bulls to spend their money keeping him and therefore unable or unwilling to sign Chandler. It'll be interesting to see if both teams reach the stat-head conclusion that Chandler is a more valuable player. According to Chad Ford, Billy Knight likes Chandler more.

peacedog said...

I'd happy to see any of the fine atlanta products if you have tickets. We haven't done a Braves game in a long time. With no more school, and a complete apathy of me towards work, I'm flexible.

I love Chandler. Sometimes, late at night, I think about touching him. That's usually quickly replaced by thinking about touching Buffy, but still.

Anyway we do the Joe Johnson, Tyson Chandler double? Do we really want to? Again, in an ideal world where we get to pick.

Michael said...

I'm intrigued by the Joe Johnson possibility. Do the Hawks view him as a point guard? If they don't and he's going to start at the two, then they will be throwing Childress into the logjam at three and four, although a Harrington trade would take care of that. I suspect that they view him as a Larry Hughes-type who can play the one for half the game and then slide to the two when Stoudemire is in. I'd be very excited if they spent their money on Johnson and Chandler, but that's probably a pipedream.

peacedog said...

I think what I like most about Johnson was what happened when he wasn't there. Yes, when nash wasn't in the lineup during the regular season they were under .500.

Without JJ in the playoffs, they really didn't stand a chance against SA. They were going to lose either way, but it shows how important he was - and probably how unobtainable he really is.

I suspect he'd do some ballhandling but be primarily a 2 who handled it when necessary. The Hughes comparison is apt - he can do lots of things for you.

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