Friday, July 6, 2007

The G(m) Spot: No Love For DeShawn

At this point in his career DeShawn Stevenson is known for two things; that he was drafted out of high school, and that he turned down a 3 year, $9 million contract from the Magic last season and instead played for the minumum with the Wizards. What you may not know about Stevenson is that he has started all 82 games in each of the past two seasons and shot 46% from the floor. In fact, his stat lines from the past two seasons have been nearly identical:

2005-2006: 11.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.0 AST, 10.93 PER
2006-2007: 11.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 2.7 AST, 12.92 PER

Not stellar stats of course, but good enough on a team like Washington that doesn't really need too much more scoring with Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, and Atawn Jamison. As such, the Wizards have offered Stevenson a 4 year, $12 million deal to stay in town. So is this a good deal for DeShawn? To answer that question lets play a little game. Here are the stats for another 26 year old, free agent shooting guard. Let's call him "Player X" for now:

2006-2007: 10.9 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.2 AST, 13.87 PER

Pretty close to Stevenson's numbers right? So you would think he would get about the same money, right?


Player X is Jason Kapono, and he just agreed to a 4 year, $24 million contract with the Raptors earlier this week, an average of $6 million per season. So is Kapono worth TWICE as much as Stevenson, even though they are the same exact age, have nearly the same stats from last season, and Stevenson in fact has a more consistent track record in the league? The answer is of course no. There is no way that Kapono is worth twice as much as Stevenson. The real question then, is whether it is Kapono that is being overpaid or Stevenson that is being low-balled. To answer that question, lets take a look at yet another 26 year old, free agent shooting guard's stats from last season. Let's call him "Player Y" for now:

2006-2007: 12.1 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.3 AST, 14.63 PER

That player is Matt Carroll, who recently agreed to a 6 year, $27 million contract with the Bobcats, which comes out to about $4.5 million a year. So two other players with nearly identical stats to Stevenson, with less starting experience in the league, who are the same exact age as Stevenson, are getting $6 million and $4.5 million a year respectively while Stevenson is being offered $3 million a year from the Wizards. It seems to me that the Wiz probably need to move that deal up to at least the value of Carroll's contract for it not to be an insult to Stevenson.


100% Injury Rate said...

Stevenson has a third thing he's well known for - raping a 14-year old girl.

Hank Worrell said...

Oi, yeah...I'm sure he would prefer the other two...

Pradamaster said...

You make an interesting case, but I think you're looking at the wrong numbers.

Per-game stats are not very good measures for a player's ability, because they fail to take tempo into account. The Wizards played at the fifth-fastest pace in the league last year (and it was higher before all the injuries), while Miami (Kapono's team) played at the fifth-slowest. Of course Stevenson's raw points per game are going to be higher than Kapono's when he gets 4 or 5 extra posessions a game.

Per-game averages also fail to take into account minutes played. Stevenson played nearly 30 minutes a game. Kapono played 26. More minutes=more chances to score.

Raw field goal percentages aren't good either, because they don't take into accout the degree of difficulty of the shot. Kapono was a much better three-point shooter, but raw percentages don't take that into account. True shooting percentage is a better measure, because it weighs threes more heavily, as it should, because they're worth more.

With that in mind, here's another comparison.

Stevenson in 06/07: 15.2 points/40, 3.6 rebounds/40, 3.6 assists/40, 54.2 TS%, 12.9 PER (a career-high)

Kapono in 06/07: 16.5 points/40, 4.1 rebounds/40, 1.5 assists/40, 61.3% TS% (that's a ridiculously high number), 13.8 PER.

Carroll in 06/07: 18.5 points/40, 4.4 rebounds/40, 1.7 assists/40, 58% TS%, 14.6 PER.

The only category Stevenson has a leg up on is assists. Otherwise, Kapono and Carroll crush him in everything. Of the three, Stevenson is last in points, rebounds, true shooting percenage, and PER. When you regulate for pace and minutes, a player's true ability comes out.

Now, Stevenson is known as a better defender than Kapono, granted, but even that is a bit up in the air. According to 82 Games, the Wizards defense was only 2.5 points better per 100 posessions with Stevenson on the court. Opponents' shooting guards averaged a 14.5 PER against the Wizards, which isn't bad, but is really no better than average. Shooting guards averaged a 15.2 PER against the Bobcats, Carroll's position, which is right around the same as Stevenson. On his own team, Stevenson may not have been the best defender. The much-maligned Brendan Haywood had a more dramatic defensive effect, as the Wizards were 6.6 points better per 100 posessions with him on the court. Admittedly, advanced defensive stats have a ways to go, but they all show that Stevenson is more average defensively than great.

Factor in that Stevenson actually doesn't have much of a track record(even with his late-season slump, this was clearly his best season as a pro) and that shooting guards tend to have their numbers inflated next to Gilbert Arenas (see Hughes, Larry), and I think a contract in the 3-4 million per year range is very fair for his ability, especially with Juan Carlos Navarro and Nick Young already in place.

Hank Worrell said...

Here are excerpts from John Hollinger's analysis of each player:

"Kapono is a decent ballhandler for his size, but otherwise he brings nothing to the table. He's an extremely poor rebounder and often overmatched at the defensive end because of his lack of quickness and strength."

"Like most of his teammates, Carroll had a high rate of steals, and, as with the others, all the gambling made it hard to make a fair evaluation of his work at that end. However, Carroll looked pretty seriously overmatched. Unlike a lot of bad defenders, it wasn't a question of effort or understanding concepts -- I can't even count how many times last season Carroll rotated to the correct spot and was beaten anyway because of his lack of size, strength and leaping ability."

"It seemed a light bulb went off in Stevenson's head last season and he realized he wasn't going to make his living as an offensive player. He poured much more effort into the defensive side, taking charges and working especially hard in one-one-one defense against the league's top scorers. He's always had decent athletic skills and at 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds has the right body type to play the Kobes and Wades of the world, so this could be the start of his evolution into a top-notch defender."

Point being, yes, Carroll and Kapono have better true shooting percentages and per 40 scoring stats, mainly because they are three point specialists. What else do they bring to the table though? As noted in the analysis above, Stevenson is a much better defender, which is why he is able to stay on the court longer than Kapono or Carroll. In Stevenson's case, although he does play in an offense that is higher paced he also has to defer to three players (Arenas, Butler, and Jamison) that are upper level NBA scoring talents. In Miami this past season Kapono was arguably the third offensive option, and first or second during the stretches when Shaq and Wade were injured. I still think Stevenson deserves closer to 4-4.5 million, and the Wizards have indeed upped their offer to 3.75 million a year.

Pradamaster said...

I guess we're just going to have to agree to disagree, which isn't the end of the world. I might as well clarify my viewpoint though.

If you have one skill that you can do exceptionally, you'll always get paid more. Frankly, when we're talking about role players, if you can do one thing spectacularly, you should get paid more. What's the point of having role players that are merely average across the board when you can find role players that are spectacular in different areas of the game? That's how all of the best teams win. Surround your superstars with specialists (like Bruce Bowen for defense, Brent Barry and Michael Finley for shooting, Fabricio Oberto and Francisco Elson for rebounding) instead of guys who do everything decently, but nothing spectacularly. There's a reason they get paid more.

Stevenson may be a better defender than Kapono or Carroll, but after blogging about this team for an entire season, I can assure you his defense is average, not spectacular. Meanwhile, Kapono and Carroll are spectacular shooters, while Stevenson is merely average.

I also don't agree with a couple claims you make in the final paragraph. I'm not sure where you got the idea that Kapono was a potential second option on that Heat team, especially with guys like Antoine Walker, Gary Payton, Jason Williams, and James Posey around in additon to Kapono. I also disagree that Stevenson's defense kept him on the court. Really, it was the Wizards awful bench that kept Stevenson on the court. Miami has good depth on the wings (Posey, Walker, Dorrell Wright), and Charlotte was basically obliged to play Adam Morrison as much as possible (and they also have Gerald Wallace and Walter Hermann). The Wizards have Antonio Daniels, and he's really a backup point. They never played Jarvis Hayes at the 2, ever, and Roger Mason and Donnell Taylor are two of the worst players in the league. Stevenson basically played most of the minutes by default.

Also, while Stevenson has the Big 3, he struggled mightly without Caron and Gilbert, when many of their shots should have gone to him. Fact is, Stevenson NEEDS the Big 3 to be productive. The end of the season proved that. The argument you seem to be making is that, if Stevenson got more shots, he'd produce better offensive numbers. The end of the season clearly proves the opposite.

The excerpts you took from Hollinger were written before the season. Things have changed since then. They remain pretty solid, but I wouldn't accept them as gospel. Also, the year before Stevenson came to DC, the Magic were a good 7 points per 100 posessions BETTER defensively when Stevenson was OUT of the game. Seems to me like his defensive rep is a bit overstated.

3.75 million is more than fair for Stevenson. I think it speaks volumes that nobody else has been reported to be interested in him. Carroll, before he re-signed, was rumored in a number of places.