Monday, April 10

Luke and Earl

There was considerable talk around the time of the Earl Watson trade that this move was going to spur Luke Ridnour to greater heights; that the reason he wasn’t playing to the level people expected this season was because he lacked adequate motivation, unlike the past two seasons when Antonio Daniels was there to spur him on.

Well, has adding Watson made a difference? Let’s take a look.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ve marked the cutoff point as March 1st, even though Watson’s first game in a Sonic jersey came on February 28th. Actually, I did this because I’m too lazy to add up all of Ridnour’s stats from the beginning of the year through February 20th; it’s just too darn hard. It’s a lot easier just to take his numbers on a monthly basis.

Anyway, it’s a relatively small sample size (18 games) to look at, but the numbers do show some intriguing insights.

1. Luke Ridnour is having a terrible April. If you include the March 31 game against the Lakers when he went 0-for-8, Frodo has shot 15-for-43 in his last five games, which isn’t great even for 3-point range, let alone inside the arc. While his assist figures are still admirable, he’s been turning the ball over way more often this month than normal.
2. Overall, Watson’s arrival has put of an offensive push into Luke’s game, specifically the passing game. After averaging between 8.9 and 9.7 assist per 48 minutes for the first four months, Ridnour jumped out to 11.3 assists per 48 in March, without a corresponding increase in turnovers. That’s a great sign.
3. His three-point shooting is as inconsistent as ever. Here are Luke’s numbers per month from 3-point land, percentage-wise: 23, 31, 33, 16, 41, 14. That’s borderline Jason Kidd circa 1995. As a reference, here’s Earl Watson’s numbers this season: 33, 43, 39, 40, 39, 53. Much better, obviously.
4. Luke’s steals and points per 48 minutes are essentially unchanged.

But back to the point of the story: Has Watson’s presence made any difference in Ridnour’s game? The honest answer: No, at least beyond a decrease in minutes. Obviously, it will take more than 18 games to tell us the impact the one point guard has on the other, but from this vantage point it is clear that Watson is outperforming Ridnour, and that Watson’s arrival has not coincided with an improvement in Frodo’s game.

Whether Ridnour will continue to improve on his own just from maturity is unknown, and of that his detractors should take heed. However, it seems to be clear that adding Watson to the equation is not making difference.


Anonymous said...

I can't decide on Luke. Sometimes I think he's a great fit for this offensive team, like Steve Nash or even Doc Rivers back in the day, but then other times I think he's never going to be moer than what he is right now.

The best thing I can say is that Nash never got it going until his 5th year in the league, although he was always a good shooter - something Luke hasn't been in the league so far. In the end, I agree that Watson's the better choice right now.

Anonymous said...

Forgto to mention this: Chris Wilcox was named Western Conference Player of the Week. I'll say that again:


Can we say that the Sonics did okay on that deal with the Clips?

Anonymous said...

Radnaovic watch:
Radman's line; 40 min, 5pts, 5 reb

Yeah, I'd say we got the better of the deal...

As far as Frodo is concerned, I think he will have a much better 2006-07 season than he is having this year. Remember, he played the entire first half of the season essentailly without a backup. I think he has hit the proverbial wall this year and is just playing on fumes this last quater of the season. I don't think it is Earl or anything else that is affecting his play more than just general fatigue. This would explain Luke's piss-poor shooting percentage (being fatigued affects your shooting more than anything else)

I still like him as our point guard, although the point about his potential is a fair one. I don't see him giving you more game than he is now. He's not going to develop any post game (a la Gary) and he isn't going to magically gain any more speed and quickness (unless he gives BALCO a call) so he will not make major leaps in his one-on-one defense. I think it's just mental for him: getting to know what he can and can't do, and getting a feel for the game.

I think his shooting percentage will improve a lot next season. If it does, we will have a nice little player play 25 min. per night. Now, whether you want him around after that...


Anonymous said...

I'd agree with Q on the fatigue factor to a degree, but then that doesn't explain why he'd shoot less than 20% from 3-points in February followed by 40% in March, unless he was in a hyperbaric chamber on February 28th and didn't tell anyone about it.

If you look at his career, he's been a pretty lousy shooter (career 41% entering this season; 36% from 3 points).

Anonymous said...

Considering that Radmanovic is averaging 12 & 6 on a playoff-bound team, while Wilcox' 15 & 8 are merely helping the green & gold to an even more mediocre lottery pick, who's really the clear winner?

Anonymous said...

Seattle's record since the trade: 13-11
Clippers' record since the trade: 14-13
Clippers' record before the trade: 28-19

I don't know how you can look at that and say that Radman has been helping the Clippers. If that's not enough evidence as to who got the better end of the trade, then take a look at how much money Radman gets this offseason (mid-level exception, $5 mil.) as a free agent compared to what Wilcox will get (3-5 year deal, min. of $7 mil. a season).

I know Wilcox has been doing this in the wasteland of playoff basketball, but there's no way you can say the Sonics didn't pull a fast one on the Clippers. Seattle was extremely fortunate they found a team with a great player sitting on the bench who would never get any time because of who was in front of him (i.e., Brand). I'm not saying one month of Wilcox' performance is a guarantee of future success (see James, Jerome), but I think it indicates he's got the talent to be a stud in this league. Considering the only two guys to grab more boards than him in a single game in the past 25 years in Seattle are Jack Sikma and Shawn Kemp, I'd say he's doing pretty well.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, anonymous, I can see your point re Radman/Wilcox, inasmuch as it's easy to wonder why Wilcox wasn't able to play this way when he wasn't within 3 months of free agency. Still, the numbers he's putting up are so huge it's making even pessimists like me think he's for real.

Still, we should temper our enthusiasm a bit, lest we forget what Flip Murray was able to do for a few months 3 years ago. After all, anyone in this league can dominate for a couple of months, but only a select few are able to do it when other teams are keying on them. The next fall will be a true test for Wilcox, when he has to play with expectations, a big salary, and defense that will focus upon him. Unfortunately for the Sonics, they don't have the luxury of previewing the Fall '06 Edition of Chris Wilcox before buying it.

Anonymous said...

I'm a huge fan of Luke Ridnour. He still has a few years to go to live up to the expectations of being "the next Nash" as well as shoot with the consistency Nash does. He can handle the point like few guards in the league, but just does not keep defenders honest with his jump shot. At times throughout the year, Rid has looked amazing, especially after the coaching switch, when he caught fire.

Earl Watson is a smaller Antonio Daniels. His backup job resembles Daniels as well as his ability to defend. Watson has shown flashes of brilliance as a backup and I believe the Sonics should keep him for a number of years.

Until Ridnour dominates the point position consistently, the Sonics rotation is right. Share minutes and continue to push Ridnour to greatness.