Bye Bye Bobby

Published: February 21, 2008

So Bobby Jackson is gone.  I liked Bobby.  I liked the way he played in Sacramento, I liked the way he was a gamer.  I liked it when he went after the increasingly soft Tracy McGrady one time for being a buttmunch.  Now, Bobby gets to play with that buttmunch.  Sorry Bobby.

Now it's time to figure out what we have in Bonzi Wells and Mike James.  I'll admit it – I don't watch a ton of Rockets games.  I like Yao, but the team as a whole is still operating under the Van Gundy school of butt-ugly, slow-down, oh-god-my-eyes-are-bleeding style basketball.  Not fun to watch.  So while I know Bonzi and Mike and have watched them in the past, I don't have a lot of first-hand experience from this year or the previous one.  Without that, I did what any stat-geek would do, and turned to the numbers to evaluate them.

Player Evaluation:

My first inclination was to think Mike James would replace Bobby at PG, rotating with Pargo.  Now, I can tell you this much: Mike James is no Bobby Jackson.  Per minute, Bobby shoots better from near, far, the free-throw line, and probably everywhere else too.  Bobby rebounds better and turns the ball over less.  Hollinger's PER – which is a mostly offense-focused stat, rates Mike James at 9.7.  15 is average.  Bobby and Pargo have 13's.  Dave Berri's Wages of Wins – which focuses on overall production, gives him a -0.067 score.  0.1 is average.  Bobby Jackson is a .099, Pargo is a -0.6.  Essentially, Mike rebounds, assists, and steals like Pargo(i.e. not at all), but can't score at all.

Yuck.  Now, maybe something will inspire Mike to play better. Last year, he posted stats similar to Bobby's current season, and his career 3PT% is promising, though he's only hitting at 32% for this season.  At least that's better than Butler. I guess.

So Mike isn't going to help us much. Honestly?  That's fine.  Pargo is already our second string PG, and we just need a third string guy to come out and help a little if Pargo is on one of his ice-cold binges.  Pargo was already stealing Bobby's minutes anyways, and the intent of the trade was to upgrade Butler's and Bobby's minutes at the swing positions(shooting guard and small forward), where they played about 25 minutes.  This is where Bonzi comes in, and I think he can help us.  First – his shooting numbers are lower than usual for him this season(42%), but a lot of that had to do with an abysmal November when he was playing himself back into shape and situating himself with his team.  Since that month, his shooting numbers have been at a respectable 46.5%.  In case you aren't up on the numbers, that's way better than any of our perimeter backups.  And better than Morris Peterson too.

John Hollinger rates him with a 14.23 PER for the season, and Dave Berri gives him a well above average 0.132 – reflecting his excellent rebounding and steals for a swingman.  He is also a slasher that gets to the line a lot – drawing 3.4 free throws a game in only 22 minutes.  That immediately makes him the most effective foul-drawing player on the team.(CP3 gets 4.4 in 37 minutes.  Bonzi projects to 5.9 in 37)

So, Bonzi gives us that one dimension we lacked on our bench – a big, slashing wingman who can help Hilton and Bowen on the boards.(they need it)  His only offensive drawback is a bad ranged shot – but he doesn't shoot it much, so his damage will be limited.(33 tries in 51 games. 8 makes.)  Still, he fits a team need better than Jackson does.

Chemistry Evaluation:
I guess I should address this – though I do think it's a bit overrated as a consideration for a team as well run as the Hornets have been recently. Bobby is a likeable guy, and his teammates loved him.  He's being replaced by Bonzi, who carries a reputation for being a headcase, and Mike James who was a bit of a Malcontent in Minnesota.

Okay.  Who cares?  Does anyone have any doubt that if EITHER of these guys become a distraction that Byron won't shut them down faster than a Chris Paul crossover?  Hell, it might be good for us, Byron may be a little uncomfortable not having someone in his doghouse.  Hello Mike James.

Besides, Bonzi blew up in Portland and Memphis through frustration over his role.  Again – Byron will tell you your damn role.  And Bonzi should have one that will keep him happy.

If Bonzi does become a problem, his contract is up at the end of the year.  Buh-bye.

Team Management Evaluation:

Here's where I feel the trade breaks down a little  at least in terms of future flexibility for the Hornets.  Bobby's contract expires next year.  While Bonzi's contract expires this year, James's expires the year after Bobby's does.   

That means we have to carry a contract the same size as Bobby's for one year longer – but that contract is owned by a much worse player.  If we want to keep the guy we really traded for – Bonzi – we'll probably have to tender him a contract similar in size to the one Mike James already has.  Signing him and Pargo this summer will use up most of the flexibility we have coming in the offseason, because the Hornets will never go over the Luxury Tax limit. 

So this could be it, folks.  Unless we get someone to take Butler or Mike James next year, this is likely to be our team for the near future.  I'll leave it to you to decide if that's a good thing over the next few months.

Despite my initial negative reaction – I think I actually like it.

Oh – one good bit of news is Jeff Bower still has not lost sight of his ultimate goal: having enough money available when it comes time to give Chris Paul an extension.  Mike's contract expires just in time for that.  Go Bower.

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