Establishing Market Value: The Bigs

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Published: May 19, 2009

Before I get to what the Hornets need, I’m going to spend a little time on what they have – and what they are worth.  There are 10 players under guaranteed contracts for next year, and one player, Devin Brown, who(I believe, I’m struggling finding confirmation about this) has a player option to return next year at the league minimum salary.  Ryan Bowen, Sean Marks and Melvin Ely will be free agents, so I won’t be assessing them.

I’ve split the team into three categories: Bigs, Wings and Ballhandlers, and will spend a bit of time on each player.  I prefer these three categories because the five standard positions have a lot of overlapping duties, but when you boil down a team, those are the three primary types of players you need – Big Interior Scorers/Rebounders, Wing Scorers/Shooters, and Ballhandlers to bring up the ball safely and initiate the offense.(I leave off defense because all of those guys should defend)

Today, I’ll do the big men: Hilton Armstrong, Tyson Chandler, and Fluffy.

Hilton Armstrong

Contract: 1 Year, $2.8 Mil

Armstrong completed his third year as an NBA player, playing in 70 games and receiving 15.6 minutes per game, the most playing time he’d received since he’d entered the league.  Most NBA players make their biggest leap in their third season, particularly onces that entered the NBA after having stayed in college longer than most.  Statistically, Hilton made his leap – but unfortunately he leapt from Awful to simply very, very bad.
Offense:  Hilton’s offense – and confidence – did improved over last yeasr.  His shooting percentage rose to 56%, a major improvement over last years 46%, and slightly better than the 54% he posted as a rookie.  He also took more shots during his time on the floor, posting his highest usage rate since he entered the league.  While all of that is good, he still had one major problem that typically precluded the Hornets from getting him the ball: He turned the ball over on 20% of his posessions.  Happily, that number is an improvement over last year.  Unhappily it moved him from being the most turnover-prone player in the NBA to the second most turnover-prone player in the NBA.  Let that sink in.  Only one player in the NBA was more likely to turn the ball over than Hilton Armstrong.  Yeesh.
Rebounding:  Last season, Hilton grabbed 13.1% of all available rebounds, putting him in the bottom 10 among centers.  This season, he got worse, grabbing 10% of all available rebounds, putting him 3rd to last.  It’s a shocking number.  Hilton is 6’10” and a pretty good athelete, but only 1 out of every 10 rebounds lands in his hands.  That means the other 9 players, 8 of which are likely much shorter than him – and standing further from the basket – are rebounding at the same rate.
Defense:  Last year, this was Hilton’s claim on minutes.  He was the anchor of a solid defensive second unit, and though his personal numbers were only so-so, the second unit was crushing defensively.  This season, the second unit was not only bad defensively, but Hilton’s numbers got even worse.  Opposing centers averaged an All-Star PER of 21.6 against Armstrong, and a lot of that was due to Armstrong’s inability to rebound – and sudden interest in fouling everyone he encountered.  Per 48 minutes, Armstrong delivered 8.0 fouls, good for the 6th worst number in the league.
Summary & Trade Value:  Hilton posted a PER of 10.7 for the season, which is what is known as “replacement level”.  That means that almost any center or power forward you can pull out of the draft or minor league will be able to duplicate his production.  He’s 24 years old – which means he might have a little improvement in him over the next three years, but since his leap was so small in his third season, it’s not likely the improvement will make him much more than a 12th man on an NBA team.  Armstrong’s value on the trade market is likely to be as an expiring contract added to a larger trade to make it more attractive.

Tyson Chandler

Contract: 1 Year, $11.85 Mil, Includes Player Option for one more year at $12.75 Mil
Tyson Chandler suffered through a down year, playing about half of the minutes he had played last season after injuring his ankle in January.  There were also rumors that he was struggling personally early in the season since his wife was pregnant and was living away from home with her family in California until the baby was born.  Regardless, his season was bad – his worst season since the one that saw him get traded from Chicago to New Orleans in the first place.  I will be using his full season numbers in this evaluation, and though that may seem unrealistic or unfair due to his injuries, I’ll point out that his best stretch of play actually occurred post-injury, when he tried to come back too early and re-aggravated the ankle.
Offense: Chandler’s offense was down quite a bit this year, though no one thing could be attributed to its decline.  His turnovers were up 2%, his shooting down 6%, his usage rate down 1%, his free throw shooting down 2%, his assists down 3%.  Any one of those things wouldn’t have been too bad, but they all combined to reduce his offensive production by about 20%.  The biggest difference for Chandler was he seemed to have lost his touch around the net.  The number of dunks he got remained high, but his close shots – layups and short hooks – found the net at a much lower rate, dropping from 63% last year to 43% this year.  His abilit to tip the ball into the hoop also declined, dropping from 43% to 23%.  Those numbers make me wonder about Tyson’s conditioning and lower body strength when he came into the season.
Rebounding: Typically his strength, Chandler also took a huge hit in rebounding this year.  After six seasons amongst the top ten in the league at rebound rate, Chandler fell all the way to 38th this season, grabbing only 16.4% of available rebounds, down from 19.5% the year before.  Most of the decline came on the defensive end, as Tyson grabbed the 12th highest rate of offensive rebounds, but fell all the way to 70th in defensive rebound rate, falling two spots behind teammate David West.
Defense: Despite Chandler’s decline offensively, his efforts on the defensive end of the court did not regress.  As usual, Tyson used length and positioning to allow centers playing against him to post a very poor PER of 14.6, but he was much more effective at it this season(something he was mastering by the end of last season) Last season, he allowed opposing centers to shoot 53% for 18 points per 48 minutes – this season they only managed 45% shooting from the field for 15 points per 48 minutes.
Summary & Trade Value:  Despite Oklahoma City’s rejection of him at the mid-season for his turf toe, the interest in Chandler has only cooled slightly.  Regardless of his offensive limitations – there are two facts that remain:  Rebounding is typically the most consistent statistic in basketball – he may have had a down year, but he’s very likely to return to his previous numbers – and he’s just entering his prime at 26 years old – he’ll be able to play fairly well for the next four years.  Tyson’s contract is also fairly palatable, being pretty fairly priced – and only lasting for another two years at most if for some reason he doesn’t recover from his ankle (or toe) problems.

David West

Contract: 2 Years, 18.9 Mil, Includes Player Option for one more year at $7.5 Mil
Over the last four years, David West has been about as consistent as any player in the league.  His True Shooting Percentage has only varied by 2%.  His Turnover Rate has varied by 1.2%.  His Rebound Rate has varied by .8%.  West is 28 years old – in his prime, and what The Hornets got from him this year will probably be what they get from him the next – and the next – and the next. 
Offense:  West continues to produce a steady stream of offense.  Though his shooting percentage was slightly down this year, his free throw percentage was up, enabling him to produce about the same number of points per shot that had last year.  Though he is pigeon-holed as a mid-range shooter, West’s offense is quite a bit more versatile, and he can score in the post, from the elbow, and off the pick and pop with Chris Paul.  42% of his offense, in fact, was unassisted, a top ten number amongst all scoring big men in the NBA.  In almost every category of offense – other than three point shooting – West registers as a good player.  Not great – but typically about 10th to 15th.
Rebounding: West is an indifferent rebounder.  His Rebound Rate were just a tiny bit lower this season than last, but he was 45th amongst power forwards last year, and is 45th amongst power forwards this year.  It’s really the only part of his game that he’s below average.
Defense: Despite sometimes slow feet as a help defender, David West ranks as a good player defensively, and again, he’s consistently that way.  Last season, West allowed Power Forwards to post a PER of 15.7 against him.  This season, they posted a PER of 15.4.  Mostly, he does this by denying them a good shot.  Over the course of the season, opposing Power Forwards shot about the same percentage as David West – but got off five less field goal attempts than he did per 48 minutes.  He also rarely fouled, keeping opposing players off the line.
Summary & Trade Value:  Outside of Chris Paul, David West clearly has the highest value of anyone on the team.  West’s versatility and skillset makes him capable of fitting into almost any team – and the biggest knock on him is he can’t carry a team by himself.  Among power forwards, due to age, there is probably only one player I’d be willing to trade him for.(maybe two, we’ll get to that later)  His trade value may have been a little depressed because of his struggles against Kenyon Martin in the playoffs – but the fact remains that he’s a 2-time All-Star, a 20 & 9 guy who scores well – and has a contract that is well below market rate for someone of his ability that makes him even more attractive.

Next Up:  Wing men Butler, Peterson, Posey, Stojakovic, and Wright

Feel free to lambast me if you disagree about any of these items. :)

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