I haven’t read a Rob Neyer column at espn.com 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.