Friday, March 30

Player A and Player B

I haven’t read a Rob Neyer column at in at least two years, simply because I’m too cheap to shell out a monthly fee for ESPN Insider. But regardless, his Player A and Player B technique is one of the best methods of analysis I’ve seen on the internet or elsewhere. So, being a total fraud of a researcher, and with apologies to Mr. Neyer, here’s a Player A and Player B comparison for the Sonics.

Player A: 15.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 12.4 FGA, 4.9 FTA, 50% FG, 65% FT

Player B: 12.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 9.1 FGA, 4.0 FTA, 54% FG, 68% FT

Here’s the rub: It’s the same guy.

Player A is Chris Wilcox when Ray Allen is out, Player B is Chris Wilcox when Ray Allen suits up.

It’s a significant difference. On one hand, you’ve got a guy who’s underpaid at $6.5 million a year, pulling down close to 16 points and 9 boards. On the other, you have Vlade Radmanovic without the 3’s or funky accent.

The crazy part is the rebounds. It makes sense Wilcox gets more touches when Allen’s out (see Lewis, Rashard). What doesn’t make sense is why Wilcox turns into Mailman-lite when Sugar Ray is in streetclothes. Even if you throw out his crazy 22-rebound game a week ago, he’s still averaging close to 8 boards a game, which is light years ahead of his pace when Allen’s in the lineup.

Some of it can be traced to Nick Collison. The more minutes Collison plays, the fewer boards Wilcox gets, and recently, Collison has been occasionally seeing fewer minutes. This isn’t always true, but in the four most recent games where Nick played fewer than 30 minutes, Wilcox nabbed 22, 12, 9, and 9 boards.

Some of it is minutes. Wilcox is averaging an extra 3 minutes a game when Allen’s out, which helps.

But that doesn’t explain all of it. In spite of all the numbers, I think it boils down to the same reason why the Sonics have run off three wins in four games despite not having their best player in the lineup:

The Sonics are a different team when Ray Allen is out of the lineup. First and foremost, Allen is a jump-shooter, and because he is so good at what he does, the rest of the team has a tendency to stand and wait for Ray to bail them out. It’s not a criticism; it’s a logical way to approach things.

We all do the same thing in our daily lives. My wife’s family is huge; it seems that they have weddings on a monthly basis each summer. With a big family, that means tons of preparation for each wedding. I’ve noticed, though, that it’s the same four or five people who always wind up doing the work, while the rest of the family stands around asking, “How can I help?”

I think the same disease has infected the Sonics. Rather than being assertive, the rest of the roster has become passive, asking Ray, “How can we help?”

Well, with Allen no longer around, they’re forced to do it themselves and, so far, it looks like they’re doing just fine without him. Perhaps I’m treading in sacrilegious territory here, but maybe the Sonics ought to consider parting ways with their superstar shooting guard. Considering he’s on the downside of his career and needs to win immediately, is it possible the needs of Ray Allen (go for broke in the next two years) are opposite to the needs of the Seattle Supersonics (build around a nucleus of Swift/Petro and Lewis)? Isn’t it just a tiny bit curious that everyone on the team seems to play better when he’s not around?

It’s a bit sad, because Allen has been nothing but a pro in his time in Seattle, someone who has given his all on the court, and who has given his time in the community. But I hope whoever inherits Rick Sund’s chair this summer gives serious consideration to moving Jesus Shuttlesworth somewhere else this offseason.


Anonymous said...

" Isn’t it just a tiny bit curious that everyone on the team seems to play better when he’s not around?"

I can sort of see where you're coming from, but it begs the question:

How much "better" did they play against the only quality team they've faced since Allen shut it down for the year? I'd hardly call a 41-point embarrassment "playing better."

It's easy to look good when you're playing with no pressure to win and against opposition with even bigger problems. Even Watson admitted as much after the second Minny win saying something like "It's easy to play when you got nothing to lose."

How much better did they look in December when Ray was out for a stretch of games, except that those games mattered? Didn't they lose to the likes of Milwaukee and Memphis along the way?

Again, it's fun to see the team win and play with so much energy, but let's not lose perspective here. The team as a whole played a lot better at the end of last year too once it was eliminated from playoff contention.

Anonymous said...

the article talked about parting with ray. sure they have won 4 out of 5 w/o him, but how long will that last until teams realize that if they double rashard they will win.
it happened earlier this season when ray was gone. we won the first 3 games he was gone then the teams figured us out and we lost 6 straight.

Anonymous said...

If Wilcox wasn't so narrow (by PF standards) he'd be much better defensively and rebound better. The T-Wolves Rookie Craig Smith and guys like him had an easy time up against Wilcox this year. Of course his quickness would suffer - remember what happened to Kemp in Cleveland?

As exciting as Wilcox can be sometimes, I would trade him and Ray if the right package came along for a proven PF.