Establishing Market Value: The Ball Handlers

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Published: May 27, 2009

In my last installment of Valuations of Hornet’s players under contract for 2009-2010, I’ll focus on the team’s ballhandlers.  One of the oddities(and weaknesses perhaps) about last year’s Hornets was just how easily the players fit into my three favorite categories of Bigs, Wings and Ballhandlers.  They just weren’t a really versatile bunch, with only two players who could be considered cross-over players:  Julian Wright, who was a wing sometimes used as a big, and Devin Brown, who was a ballhandler sometimes used as a wing . . . or the other way around . . . it’s hard to tell when a guy is not particularly good at either role.

Anyways, after this, we’ll get to a post elaborating what I feel the Hornets need.  If I think the team can(or should) try to get back to contender status in a single season, and then begin talking about potential trades, free agent signings, and draft stuff.  Away we go:

Devin Brown

Contract: 1 Year, $1.0 Mil(Minimum Contract, 80% of value paid by NBA)
Three seasons ago, Devin Brown was signed by the Hornets for half the season, and provided them with a pretty athletic, solid combo guard off the bench.  Some of my favorite moments from that season was when Brown went head down, raised the ball above his head and launched himself at the basket for a dunk.  Unfortunately, the Devin Brown who arrived in New Orleans this season was a lot heaver, a lot slower, and though he still liked to raise the ball above his head on drives, he had a worse chance of dunking the ball than my seven year old.  It was a bit disheartening, but really, the guy is making the League Minimum.  What did I expect?
Offense:  Let’s get this out of the way.  Devin Brown was bad.  Really bad.  His true shooting % was 45.9%, which was the 7th worst percentage amongst Shooting Guards and Point Guards.  He coupled that bad shooting with his highest usage in his career, firing up the ball on 20.6% of the Hornet’s posessions while he was on the floor.  As you can guess, that’s a pretty bad combination.  Combine the poor shooting with ranking dead last in assist rate and 47th in turnovers among point guards, and in the bottom 10 in both categories amongst shooting guards, and you end up fielding an offensive disaster.
Defense: According to 82games.com, Devin Brown played 2/3rds of his time at shooting guard, and 1/3rd at point guard.  He was solid against point guards, holding them to a PER of 14.2, but was poor against shooting guards, allowing them a 17.3 PER.  This is in line with what I saw too.  Brown wasn’t bad defensively – unless he was trying to guard an explosive shooting guard.
Rebounding: Devin Brown can rebound pretty well.  His rate ranks him 12th amongst shooting guards, and 6th among point guards.
Summary & Trade Value:  He makes a minimum contract, and is worth no more than that.  The only way he’ll be in a trade is if he’s needed to make salaries matchup appropriately for approval by the league office.

Antonio Daniels

Contract: 1 Year, $6.6 Mil
I’ve always been a fan of Antonio Daniels.  For years, he’s been one of the most efficient point guards in the league, despite never putting up eye-popping numbers.  When Jeff Bower somehow turned Mike James into Daniels, I was an extremely happy man.  There is no way you’ll ever convince me that wasn’t a tremendously lopsided trade.  That said, Daniels’ game was predicated on a pretty quick first step – a step that at age 34, has started to fail him – and he has been in decline the last couple years.
Offense: Daniels ranked 28th amongst point guards with a true shooting % of 53.6.   He ranked 12th amongst point guards with an assist rate of 34.1%.  He ranked 44th with a turnover rate of 11.9%.  In short, he’s pretty much what you’d expect in a back up point guard – not quite good enough to be an effective starter, but with some strengths and weaknesess.  One interesting thing to note – I remember consistenly wishing Daniels would look for his own shot a little more often at times – but believe it or not, he posted the second highest usage rate of his career, using 17.8% of his teams posessions when on the floor. (ranks in the bottom third for point guards)  He’s efficient, but just not that much of an offensive threat – and unfortunately, the Hornets second unit was built around the expectation an aggressive point guard.
Defense: Defense, combined with Daniels reluctance to shoot, is the reason why Byron never developed a lot of reliance on Daniels.  Daniels allowed PERs of 16.9, which isn’t absolutely awful until you realize it was usually second unit players doing it to him.   
Rebounding: Daniels was the worst rebounder on the Hornets, posting a 4.5% rebound rate, good for 59th amongst point guards and 315th out of the 327 NBA players who averaged more than 6 minutes a game.  Yeah, boardwork isn’t his thing.
Summary & Trade Value:  Daniels is still a decent backup point guard, and could hold value for a team wanting a veteran point guard.  On a team where the vast majority of the offense doesn’t flow from the point, he could be a very nice piece.  To add to his value, his contract is moderately sized and expiring.  Oh, and he’s not Mike James.

Chris Paul

Contract: 3 Years, $45.6 Mil, Includes Player Option for One more year at $18 Mil
Yeah.  Paul is pretty good.  While playing heavy minutes over the last month of the season, he wore down visibly, but still produced a crazy season.  Hopefully next year, having an off-season of rest and a better backup will allow him to carry his strong game into the post-season.
Offense: Paul finished 4th among point guards in True Shooting percentage, with a 59.9%.  He finished 14th with an assist rate of 33.4%.  He finished 11th in turnover rate at 9.0%, and was second in usage, consuming 27.9% of his teams posessions.  Only Deron Williams approached that level of usage with the same efficient shooting, and only Tony Parker had a better level of posession with so low a turnover rate.  One of a kind.
Defense:  I’ve already mentioned this, but the Hornets were the 4th best team at stopping point guards, generally by having Paul force a better than average number of misses, refusing to foul, and playing the passing lanes, keeping opposing point guards to a very low assist rate.
Rebounding:  Paul was the 3rd best rebounding point guard, pulling down 8.7% of rebounds.  Among all guards, he’d rank 11th.  Crazy little dude.
Summary & Trade Value:  Paul’s youth and production gives him the same value LeBron and Dwight Howard have on the open market, and if the Hornets trade him, my soul would be crushed.

And please, someone has to make a joke about the word “ball handlers”.  I’ve been dying to.

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