Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Revisiting Marvin Williams vs. Chris Paul

In all of my wailing about the fact that the Hawks are still without a functional point guard and one was waiting for them in the Draft last year, it's nice to read some reassuring thoughts from John Hollinger on Williams. Namely, Williams is very young and has been improving as the season has progressed. There is some support for this proposition at 82games.com, which notes that some of the Hawks' most successful line-ups have been with Williams on the floor. Naturally, though, their most successful lineup is Ivey-Childress-Stoudamire-Williams-Batista, the garbage-time line-up after an opponent has thrashed the Hawks and emptied its bench. That said, the Johnson-Stoudamire-Williams-Harrington-Pachulia line-up had been fairly productive in 60 minutes of action and I'd be interested to see how they would do as a starting lineup against the best units that opponents have to offer. The success of that lineup also jibes with my subjective observation (backed up with a few stats) that Tyronne Lue is a major weak point on the team, that Josh Smith has been a significant disappointment this year, regressing in just about every category, and that Josh Childress does not bring much to the table, other than defense against similarly-sized players. Not surprisingly, Lue, Smith, and Childress have the worst plus-minus numbers of the members of Mike Woodson's nine-man rotation and the Hawks have been badly beaten by their opponents at the point guard and small forward positions.

This creates an interesting question for the Hawks regarding Al Harrington's future. I've been advocating that they trade him for whatever they can get and then give plenty of minutes to their young swing men. (That Harrington for Nene and Earl Watson trade would have been outstanding for the Hawks, but with George Karl having finally realized that Watson is a very good point guard, it's very unlikely now.) However, while Josh Smith's struggles could be the result of the fact that he should be a sophomore at Indiana this year, Josh Childress played three years at Stanford and one-and-a-half years into his pro career, doesn't look like he'll ever be much of an offensive threat. Would it make more sense for the Hawks to trade Childress, who should retain some value because he's fewer than two years removed from being the 6th pick in the Draft (and might experience a renaissance with a better point guard, just like Boris Diaw)? Harrington is only three years older than Childress, so it isn't as if the Hawks would be getting Al on the downside of his career while unloading Childress as he was heading up. Thus, the four guys at the three swing spots would be Johnson, Harrington, Williams, and Smith and the team could continue with its never-ending search for a point guard and a center to go with Zaza.

Two other Chris Paul notes: Chad Ford thinks that the Hawks passing on Paul was a huge mistake because they would have had one of the best backcourts in the NBA with Paul and Johnson. I tend to agree with that assessment over John Hollinger's more positive outlook, especially since by Hollinger's PER measure of evaluating players, Paul is already the 20th best player (and 5th best point guard in the league.) On the other hand, 82games.com's plus/minus stat reveals that the Hornets are better when Paul is not on the floor. That stat, though, possibly shows the limitations of the plus/minus stat, most likely because Paul is only off the floor when the opponents' worst lineups are in and that allows back-up Speedy Claxton to run rampant.


Matt said...
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Matt said...

According to Hollinger's PER stat, Williams scores a NET -10 and Paul scores a NET +5.5. That factors out accumulative stats, doesn't it? So minutes shouldn't matter, only quality of play. Doesn't seem close from that angle. Not to mention the whole "Hawks really need a point guard" thing.

Michael said...

Oy, Williams has the worst Roland rating of any of the players on the Hawks. In his defense, as Hollinger himself points out, Williams has played better and better as the season has progressed, which is why he needs to get more minutes. Still, I think we're saying in a hundred different ways that the Hawks screwed up last June.