The (Gulp) Minimum Bin
Posted by Zach Lowe on Jul 16, 2010
Rumors of potential signings and trades abound, but the C’s, for now, have nine players on their roster for next season. They need at least 13, and they have only one cap exception left to use for outright free agent signings: the veteran’s minimum exception. And while Boston might tempt a quality ring-chaser to take the minimum, it seems likely they’ll have to look at at least one player who is really, truly worth the veteran’s minimum. That player will either be a big guy or a wing player.
Here are some wings:
• Antoine Wright. I can’t believe I’m saying this about a player who has never cracked double-digits in PER, but I sort of like Wright. He’s only 26, and he seems to be realizing that he can prolong his career by becoming a three-and-D guy capable of guarding both wing positions. He split time between small forward and shooting guard last season, and he hit a career-best 33.5 percent of career-high 173 attempts.
Now, that’s not a good percentage.
It’s a tick below league average. But move that up to 37 percent and continue improving on defense? You can be an effective role player. Wright’s teams have given up fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the floor in three of the last four seasons (with ’09 being the rather ugly outlier), though his head-to-head counterpart stats aren’t as encouraging.
• Damien Wilkins. Another guy the C’s have reportedly discussed. He’s older (30), and his positive plus/minus numbers with the T’Wolves last season ended a nasty streak in which his teams in Seattle and Oklahoma City generally performed better (if not dramatically so) with Wilkins on the bench. The common denominator in most of those seasons: His team’s offense performed significantly worse with Wilkins on the court.
The emergence of Corey Brewer had Wilkins splitting time between the two and the three last season, so he can fill either role in a pinch.
The question I have: Is he a 29.5 percent shooter from deep, as he was last season? Or is the 37.5 percent mark he hit in ’09 a more accurate reflection of his long-range shooting capability?
He can be a bit turnover-prone, and he’ll hoist the occasional long two-pointer that’ll drive you mad. But you could do worse at the vet’s minimum.
• Keith Bogans. There is a perception that Keith Bogans was awful last year in San Antonio, and that perception may drop his price all the way down to the vet’s minimum. But offensively, Keith Bogans did for the Spurs what he always does: Hit 35 to 38 percent of his three-pointers while contributing little else.
And that’s fine, as long as his defense is acceptable. The Spurs hoped he’d be Bowen-esque, and, for whatever reason, he wasn’t. The team’s defense was slightly worse with Bogans on the floor, reversing a trend that saw Bogans generally helping in that regard.
Bogans never fit in San Antonio. His usage rate dropped to Reggie Evans levels (11 percent), and that’s almost like playing with four guys instead of five on offense.
Bogans is 30, and at 6’5”, he can’t play small forward in a normal line-up. Worth a look?
• Devean George. George is about to turn 33 and he hasn’t played a significant role for any team since 2007. The height (6’8”) and the league-average three-point shooting look appealing on paper, but it’s asking a lot to expect George to give you meaningful minutes at this point.
• Stephen Graham (or, Graham The Lesser). This Graham has a resumé that similar to TA’s: In each of the last three seasons, his team’s offense has suffered badly with Graham on the floor while at the same time allowing significantly fewer points per 100 possessions, according to Basketball Value.
He can’t shoot threes. At all. But he did hit 49.6 percent of his shots last season after hovering around ‘Toine territory (the low 40s) for most of his career. The percentage gains came in the mid-range (a place from which Graham rarely shoots) and the long two-point range (from which he shoots often). Are they sustainable?
If they are, he won’t kill your offense, and what little evidence we have suggests he is at least a neutral presence on defense. Neutrality from your bench is a good thing.
At 6’6”, he’s a much better fit at shooting guard than at small forward, but he can play either position.
• Joey Graham (or, Graham the Greater). I love Joey Graham. He’s just so damn fun to watch. He can jump high, he dunks hard, his jump shot is funny (but it goes in a lot!), he uses the glass and when he messes up, it can be spectacular.
He’s a tad bigger than his brother, so he’s a natural fit at the three and not really capable of playing the two—he’s more capable, in fact, of spotting you some minutes at power forward. Like his brother, he cannot shoot three-pointers. Also like his brother: His teams have generally scored less efficiently with him on the floor but played stingier defense, according to Basketball Value.
That said, Graham hits long twos at a league-average rate (about 40 percent) for small forwards and shooting guards, according to Hoopdata. Perfectly Acceptable Basketball.
• Rodney Carney. People freaking love Rodney Carney. He’s long and athletic, and he can do spectacular-looking things. And this: Carney’s teams have given up fewer points per possession on defense in each of the last three seasons, according to Basketball Value. He has the physical tools to be a super defensive player, and he might blossom into one within Boston’s system.
But he has not shown the ability to help on offense. Save the ’09 season, when he hit 35 percent of his threes, Carney has been a bad shooter from all over the floor, and he’s a supremely uncreative passer and ball-handler. For his career, Carney has assisted on just 4.6 percent of the baskets his team has scored while he’s been on the floor. That is, frankly, incredible for someone who is not a power forward or a center. It speaks of a player who hasn’t really learned to play a sophisticated team offense.
Carney is only 26, and he’s spent most of his career on mediocre to bad teams. Could he develop a passable offensive game in Boston? Maybe. Is it worth using up a roster spot on him to find out?
Have you noticed a theme among the Minimums? Most of them can defend at least decently, but none of them, save perhaps Bogans, has proven much help when it comes to putting the ball in the basket. As a C’s fan, I’d almost like to find the opposite sort of player in the minimum pile—a guy who can shoot but has a terrible record on defense. The C’s have shown that they can turn allegedly bad defensive players into average ones, and an average defensive player who can shoot at a better-than-average level is a valuable piece.
Problem: This is a league that pays for shooting. Kyle Korver is getting $5 million per year. J.J. Redick, admittedly more than just a shooter, is about to ink a deal that will pay him nearly $7 million per year. Steve Blake will bank $4 million a year for his ability to toss entry passes and hit open threes. Matt Carroll will earn $8.2 million over the next two seasons for some shots he made in 2008.
If you can shoot, you’ll get paid. (Unless you’re Steve Novak, and his athleticism is just too far behind the rest of the league for him to be hide-able on defense).
Some other possibilities:
• Mario West. Ugh.
• Tracy McGrady. We covered him here. I’m not convinced he’d help much.
• Larry Hughes. I’m not out, but he’ll probably get significantly more than the minimum from the Bobcats.
• Devin Brown. Aging fast.
• Royal Ivey. May not be an NBA player.
• J.R. Giddens. Still unproven.
• Ime Udoka. Appears to lack the speed to defend on the wing.
Am I missing anyone? See anything you like?