This past offseason, the Sonics had a decision to make with Chris Wilcox: sign him to a deal, or let him walk and pick up somebody else.
The most obvious choice was Cleveland’s Drew Gooden, who, like Wilcox, was a free agent. And to me, Gooden made more sense. I argued that Wilcox’ nice run in March and April of 2006 was a fluke, that he was more likely to be the guy he had been for the first 3 ½ years than he was to be the guy who threw up a 20-20 game against Houston and averaged close to a double-double while in the Sonic uni. Gooden, on the other hand, while not an all-star by any stretch, had proven capable of posting decent numbers on more than a two-month basis. Throw in Mike Dunleavy’s eagerness to shed Wilcox from the Clippers’ roster, and, well, it seemed to me that going for Gooden was the smartest move, and I said so here on this website.
Watching Gooden during the playoffs, though, and I’m beginning to see why the Sonics picked up Wilcox. Maybe it’s me, but it seems as though Gooden makes more bad plays per 40 minutes than anybody in the league, with the possible exception of Nene, who, in fairness, is from another solar system.
An example: In game 2, Gooden blocked a Tony Parker fast break runner in the lane, then stood and watched as Parker scrambled for the loose ball and put it back in. It seems like Gooden does this sort of thing all the time, not to mention getting left out of position on pick and rolls, failing to box out his man, well, I could on but you get the drift.
That’s the trouble with most statistics, they don’t tell you what you see from watching the games. You look at Gooden’s raw numbers, and you see a guy who averaged 11 points and 8.5 boards this year, right alongside his career numbers. You look at Wilcox and you see 13.5 points and 7.7 boards. Both seem to reflect more than adequate play for $6 million a year, right?
But then you look more closely, and you see that Gooden’s +/- numbers are atrocious. On a team that is competing for the NBA title right now, Gooden’s team was better off with him on the bench. And it’s not by a hair, either. When Drew sat this season, the Cavs allowed 6.5 fewer points per 48 minutes, and they scored more points (1.5) per 48 with him on the bench as well.
To put it another way, if the Cavs played 48 minutes with Drew Gooden, they won 106 to 105.6. If they played 48 minutes with him sitting at the barber shop getting his neck patch adjusted, they won 107.6 to 99. That’s huge, especially for a guy who is nominally their best power forward.
Wilcox, on the other hand, helped the Sonics on offense more than he hurt them on defense, netting them a positive result on-court (although his defense, as any Sonic fan will tell you, definitely needs a dose of improvement).
Where am I going with all of this? I guess I’m angling to admit that I was totally wrong about the Gooden v. Wilcox decision. Not Bowie v. Jordan wrong, but wrong nonetheless. Were the Sonics really ever in the position to take either of these two? I don’t know for sure, but if they were, it’s good they didn’t listen to me.