Player Evals: David West Disappointing

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Published: November 12, 2008

The Hornets are six games in, which isn’t even 1/10th of the season, and Byron Scott is clearly evaluating his players to see what he’ll be able to get the rest of the way.  Already several of our players (Mike James) have been the target of vitriol by the fans, some have been seen as progressing (Hilton Armstrong), and some have been adopted whole-heartedly. (James Posey)

Though I agree with most of the sentiment, it’s always a good idea to dig into the numbers, and see just how valid our observations are.  Yes, six games isn’t much of a sample, but let’s give it a go.

Disappointments

David West, PF
So far this season, Fluffy has had problems finding his inner-superman and hasn’t been producing as well as he did last year.  However, his issues are not what most of us seem to be assuming them to be.  It’s not that the pick-and-pop hasn’t been there, because it has:  West is actually shooting 80% of his shots from mid-range this season, up from 65% last season. West is also shooting slightly better from there, hitting 44% of his shots compared with 43% last season.  The true problem with West’s offense is that only 20% of his shots are coming from close or point blank range this season, and he’s converting those shots only 47% of the time.  Last season he got 35% of his offense in close – and he completed converted at a rate of 57%.  West has also managed to not record a single dunk yet this season – and no tip-ins on the offensive boards at all.  It’s not surprising then that his scoring has suffered, but sadly it’s not the only thing to decline.  Last season West grabbed almost 14% of all available rebounds while on the floor.  This season, he’s only managed 10%.  That’s very bad for a power forward.  The net result of his problems so far?  He’s posting only a barely above average PER of 16.04(15.0 is average).  Last season he produced a 19.98.  If West can return to his form of a year ago, our offense should become deadly dangerous.

Mike James, PG
So far Mike has been a disappointment, but there is some good mixed in with the bad.  The reason James has played so poorly is purely based on his shooting percentage, which currently stands at an abysmal 32%.  However, if he cleans that up – something his career numbers suggest he can do – and manages to shoot around 40% for the season, he can actually morph into a serviceable back up point guard, because he’s been decent at everything else.  So far, his turnover rate has been an excellent 3.2%, and he’s dishing assists 23% of the times he uses a posession.  His rebounding has also been solid for a point guard. 

Based on what I’ve seen of him, he only has to do two things to get it rolling and be able to contribute: stop trying to score on the pick and roll – where he’s too slow to round the corner, and to learn where his teammates like their passes and hit that spot.  Too often his passes off to the side, or too low, leaving the target  having to reach and recover before trying to launch a shot.  If he can start hitting the shooters he’s surrounded by with dead-on passes, the offense may start clicking better for that second unit.

Melvin Ely, PF
I’m a bit surprised at this.  Sure, when Ely’s been playing there have been some bad breakdowns defensively, but I had thought his contributions had been fairly solid off the bench, particularly on the offensive end.  I was wrong.  Despite playing from only a few feet away from the basket, Ely’s shooting percentage is barely passable for even a ranged jumpshooter, sitting at 44%.  He is yet to record an assist,(not surprising) but has still managed to turn the ball over 30% of the time he touches the ball.  I’ll say that again.  For every three times Ely touches the ball, he turns it over once.  Last year Hilton led the league in turnovers at a mere 22%.  Egads!  That’s also not all of the bad news. So far this season, Ely has been allergic to rebounds, managing to grab only 7% of available caroms.  That’s so bad, if he was left on the floor for 40 minutes a game, he’d only average 4 rebounds – from the power forward position.  Chris Paul, all 6-feet of him, is managing to grab more than 8% of the available rebounds.  Crash the boards, Ely.  Please!

Hilton Armstrong, C
I’ve been as happy as the next guy watching Hilton play with confidence.  On the offensive end of the floor, he’s been aggressive, taking open shots, and actively trying to put pressure on the defense through the pick and roll.  He’s also taking more shots than ever before, and that has increased his scoring slightly.  That all said, I’m sorry to report that Hilton has still been abysmal.  In fact, he’s actually producing less than he did last year.  Already the proud owner of the worst turnover rate in the league last year, he’s actually turning the ball over more this year, losing it 24.8% of the time he tries to do something with it.  His rebounding last year was bad, and this year, it’s gotten worse.  His PER last year was an awful 7.76, but it’s now fallen even further to only 4.75.  I’m done talking about this.  It makes me depressed.

Devin Brown, G
I had high hopes for Devin.  The Hornets were treated to his best career year two years ago in Oklahoma, and I had thought he’d be able to come in and provide some solid slashing and ball handling.  Instead, he’s looked heavy and slow, and Byron has had a hard time playing him.  So far, Devin is only shooting 27% from the floor, is turning the ball over 18%(beyond awful) of the time he touches it, and is yet to record a single assist.  His PER is only 5.97, which is about half of what he offered last year.  Sigh.

Pleasant Surprises

Morris Peterson, SG
James Posey gets the crunch time minutes, and Morris is getting only 21 minutes a game, which is less than he got last year, but in his time on the floor he’s been much more prolific.  Last season he had a PER of 11.27 and only managed 13.5 points per 40 minutes.  He also suffered through a career low in rebound rate, snaring only 6.7% of available rebounds.  This season, Morris has been crashing the boards hard, grabbing more than 9% of available rebounds and he’s firing away more freely, producing 18.3 points per 40 minutes.  These numbers jive with my own observations – as it seems that Peterson has been running the floor more freely, and often he and Tyson are the two players tasked with crashing the offensive boards, while the rest of the team gets back on defense.  Peterson has also benefited from having James Posey and a resurgent Rasual Butler available.  Both of those players shoot well from the wing, but throughout Peterson’s career, his wing three-point shooting has been bad.  Because they are playing, he’s been able to set up more in the corner – where he is deadly.  His improved averages have Morris now sporting a 17.24 PER.  Nice.

Rasual Buter, SG/SF
I’ll admit it.  I had left Butler for dead.  I’ve always been a fan of his – particularly his defensive ability – but last year he hit rock bottom.  His shooting percentages got so bad that Byron could no longer justify having him on the floor for his defense.  Suddenly, however, the 29-year old Butler is having a resurgence.  Producing his usual brand of great on-the-ball defense, Butler has also managed to hit 47% of his shots from deep and serve at times as a secondary ball handler to get the rock into the attack zone.  In every game but in Atlanta, he’s also nailed at least one key three-pointer in the fourth.  In the end, he’s producing a 17.26 PER, up from a career low 8.88 last year.   Keep at it, Sual.

Chris Paul, PG
Yes, CP3’s PER has improved yet again, rising from 28.39 to an insane 32.44.  Paul’s shooting percentage has climbed once more, to over 50% so far this season.  His rebound rate is up from a year ago.  The only thing he’s gotten worse at is turning the ball over, though his turnover rate is still extremely low for a point guard, sitting at 10.4%.  The sick part about Paul is that he’s managed to increase his PER by 4 – which is a HUGE jump, but it seems like it’s par for the course for him and I almost put him in the “Doing Their Thing” category.  Paul is spoiling me.

Doing Their Thing

Tyson Chandler, C
Tyson’s been out a couple games with a bum ankle, and as is expected, his production has suffered slightly.  Despite that, his numbers are pretty close to what he did last year, and they should continue to rise as he gets that ankle back into shape.

James Posey, PF/SF/SG
Posey was expected to come in playing hard-nosed defense and firing away for devastating effect from deep.  That’s exactly what he’s been doing.  His shooting percentage is way above what it has been in the past, and part of that may be due to the open looks Paul is generating for him, but part of that, admittedly, is probably due to the few number of games so far.  Altogether, All of Posey’s numbers except his shooting percentages are pretty similar to what they were last season.  He’s turning the ball over less, but rebounding less – which again, are due probably to his open looks on the perimeter.(hard to turn the ball over when you don’t drive, and hard to rebound from the three point line)  Still – he’s been very nice.

Peja Stojakovic, SF
Peja’s been fighting a bum ankle too, but his numbers aren’t far from what he did last year.  Shooting percentage slightly down, assists up(swing that ball to the corner, Peja!).  Turnovers slightly down, rebounding slightly up.  It all nets out to a PER of 15.91.  Last year it was 15.76.

Incomplete

I’m not going to rate Julian Wright and Sean Marks yet, since between them they’ve managed to play 13 total minutes this season.  Here’s to Juju returning strong.

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