Kicking the Tires: Josh Childress
Posted by Zach Lowe on May 29, 2009
There is one major stumbling block with Brendan Jackson’s idea to sign Josh Childress, even if Childress does decide to come back to the NBA: money. The Celtics are way over the salary cap, so they can’t just sign Childress unless he’s willing to accept the mid-level exception (expected to come in around $5.5 million) and the Celtics are willing to give Childress their full mid-level. And beyond that, the Hawks have the right to match any offer another team makes for Childress.
Keep in mind, Childress rejected a five-year, $33 million offer from the Hawks after last season, so he thought he was worth more than $6 million per year. I checked with Bret LaGree of the fantastic Hawks blog Hoopinion, and he believes Hawks GM Rick Sund is likely to match almost any reasonable offer for Childress.
So this means the Celtics would have to work out a sign-and-trade with the Hawks to get him. Assuming Childress signs for about $6 million per season, there is really only one reasonable deal that works under the NBA’s trade rules:
Brian Scalabrine ($3.4 million, expires after 2010)
Tony Allen ($2.5 million, expires after 2010)
***After writing this, I realized that Childress (I think) becomes a Base-Year Compensation player if he gets a raise of more than 20 percent. If true, his salary, for trade purposes, would likely be his previous NBA salary of $3.6 million, meaning the C’s could do the trade without putting in so much salary. I’m checking with the experts.
I ran this by Bret, and he said he’d strongly consider that offer. Childress has made it clear in the past that he would prefer not to play for Atlanta and Mike Woodson, and acquiring Scal and TA would give Atlanta about $26 million in deals expiring after 2010. (Speedy Claxton and Joe Johnson also come off the books, meaning Atlanta has some serious thinking to do). Plus, the Hawks bench was so awful this season that TA and Scal could be useful rotation players for them.
So that’s the boring stuff. Let’s good to the basketball stuff: How good is Josh Childress?
The appeal of Childress is that he is capable of playing both forward positions. Getting a player who can add front line depth and spell Paul Pierce is crucial for the Celtics.
Most of the evidence we have suggests that Childress is a good offensive player who lacks a reliable jump shot.
In each of his four seasons with the Hawks, the team played better offensively with Childress on the floor than without. The difference was larger when the Hawks were a crummy team (+4.9 points per 100 possessions in ’04-05 and +6.3 the next season, compared with +3.2 and +2.1 in the next two, respectively), but he never hurt the team. (One possible quibble: The Hawks was the 10th most efficient in the league this season, higher than they ever ranked with Childress. Were full seasons from Mike Bibby and Flip Murray really this important?)
His other offensive stats are also strong. He shot 50 percent or better in his last three seasons, including a tidy 57 percent before leaving for Greece. His offensive ratings (a measure points produced for 100 possessions) were outstanding: 121 in ’05-06, 119 in ’06-07 and 127 in ’07-08).
That last number would have led all forwards in ’07-08, according to Basketball Reference. (Childress is listed as a guard for that season, and his offensive rating ranked third among all NBA guards, behind only Jose Calderon and Chauncey Billups, according to BR).
He ranks so highly mostly because he finishes very well around the rim. He put in 60 percent or more of in-close shots in each of his four seasons, including a huge 65 percent in his most recent NBA season, according to 82 games.
The bad news: Childress cannot shoot jumpers very well. A chart with numbers from 82games.
% of FG attempts that were Jumpers eFG%
’04-05 37 percent 29.9%
’05-06 37 percent 50.8%
’06-07 37 percent 38.0%
’07-08 25 percent 39.7%
What happened in ’05-06? Childress hit a random blip of hot three-point shooting, knocking down 32-of-65. He’s never done anything like that, before or since.
Glen Davis showed us how helpful a forward with a reliable jumper can be. Childress is not that kind of player.
One thing he is, though: A decent offensive rebounder for his size/weight. His offensive rebounding rate in ’07-08 (when he grabbed 9 percent of available offensive boards) would have ranked 26th among 66 forwards who qualified for the scoring title, according to BR. His 7.2 mark in ORB rate the year before would have put him closer to the middle of the pack.
Conclusion: There’s no question Children would be very helpful on offense as a dynamic slasher who could spend time at both the three and the four. Just don’t expect him to hit jumpers like KG.
After the jump, we take a look at defense, where the news is less happy.
You have to take all defensive stats with caution, and Childress spent his NBA career playing for a Hawks team that was below average to awful defensively, but there’s nothing in the stats to suggest Childress is anything but an average (or slightly worse) defensive player. The major plus he brings is the ability to defend shooting guards, small forwards and the occasional power forward and point guard when the match-ups are right. And there is at least one power forward in the Eastern Conference where the match-up would be right (Rashard Lewis).
Unfortunately, the numbers aren’t kind to Childress on the defensive end. The Hawks defense was slightly worse with Childress on the floor in three of his four seasons with the team, including in ’07-08, when the Hawks gave up about 4.2 more points per 100 possessions with Josh in the line-up, according to 82games.
His defensive ratings–points yielded per 100 possessions–hovered between 109 and 111 in all four seasons, numbers that ranked near the bottom for forwards in 2006-07 and 2007-08 (when he would have ranked about 80th out of 96 forwards had BR listed him as a forward that season). Guards generally had worse defensive ratings in ’07-08; Childress ranked 51st among 81 eligible guards that season, according to BR).
Childress is also not a very good defensive rebounder. In his most recent NBA season, he grabbed 10.2 percent of available DRBs, a figure that tied him for 93rd among 97 forwards eligible for the scoring title, according to BR. (The four behind him? Bruce Bowen, Stephen Jackson, Jason Kapono and Richard Jefferson). In his better seasons, he recorded DRB ratings of about 13, which would typically rank in the bottom 10 percent of forwards.
He scores much better in defensive rebounding (middle of the pack and above) if you consider him a guard, and, like the “forwards” below him on the DRB list, Childress spends a lot of time guarding perimeter players because of his quickness. So perhaps these poor rebounding numbers are a bit misleading. And the C’s were an elite rebounding team this season even with a poor defensive rebounder (Glen Davis) manning the four spot for long stretches.
So that’s Josh Childress. Is he worth the mid-level? A bit more than the mid-level? Remember, if the C’s sign Childress–or any other forward–for the mid-level or more, it may mean Glen Davis has to go somewhere else, and that the C’s likely have to scour the Veteran’s Minimum Scrap Heap to fill out their roster.
My opinion? It’s worth kicking the tires.