Taking a break from J.J. and the Dwight-influenced fascination with centers for a reminder that perimeter D was more of a problem for the Hawks last season (and during that series) than post D.
L.D. can preach defense all he wants but he needs more guards and wings who can take the proverbial “individual challenge” of guarding their man; the lack of those guys last season hurt Atlanta more than anything else on defense. The good news for the Hawks is it’s easier to find a free agent who can fill that role relatively cheaply, like perhaps for part of their bi-annual exception of up to two years and $4.3 million.
Let me start by saying that, despite the development of advanced statistics, it still can be a subjective exercise to measure good defense. Synergy’s numbers, the counterpart production at 82games and the defensive ratings at Hoopdata, Basketball Reference and Basketball Prospectus all are invaluable for helping to create a statistical picture of a guy’s defensive impact. But it’s difficult to isolate individual defensive performance because it’s influenced so much by s teammates, role, position, and the quality of opponents. Even blocks and steals can be misleading because those things can be sought out at the expense of team defensive concepts.
(Thanks to super commenter niremetal for reminding me of all of this in an email he sent me defending Marvin’s defensive performance after I criticized it way back when.)
With those caveats in mind, here are some unrestricted free agents who could come at a bargain and who might be able to keep their man in front of them better than any perimeter guys on Atlanta’s roster save for maybe Teague and Mo. Listed in descending order of 2009-10 salary with statistics from last season.
Raja Bell , 6-5, G
2009-10 salary: $5.2 million
Synergy opponent points per possession: Lack of data
Opponent points per production: Lack of data
Team defensive efficiency: Lack of data
Notes: Injuries cost Bell most of the last two seasons so his price will come down. But he’s a good defender and 3-point shooter and also known as a good locker-room guy, so there should be a pretty good market for Bell. He says he likes Dallas, Orlando and Miami.
Dorell Wright, 6-9, F
2009-10 salary: $2.9 million
Synergy opponent points per possession: .95 overall, 1.04 isolation, .98 spot-up.
Opponent production per 48 minutes (at small forward): .461 eFG%, 18.2 points, 15.4 PER.
Team defensive efficiency: 104.7 on court, 105.6 off court.
Notes: Wright is a plus athlete, can defend three positions and and comes from a program where defense is the focus. Wright came on for the Heat in the latter part of last season. He’s a definite injury risk due to a problematic knee. The flip side of that is he’s only played 211 career games at 24-years old.
Tony Allen, 6-4, G
2009-10 salary: $2.5 million
Synergy opponent points per possession: .85 overall, .89 isolation, .89 pick-and-roll balhhandley
Opponent production per 48 minutes (at shooting guard): .455 eFG%, 15.4 points, 13.2 PER.
Team defensive efficiency: 105.3 on court, 105.4 off court.
Notes: Allen’s stature got a boost when Kobe credited him for being a tough defender in the Finals. His offense pretty much is limited to what he can get around the basket.
Jordan Farmar, G, 6-2
2009-10 salary: $1.9 million
Synergy opponent points per possession: .81 overall, .82 isolation, .76 pick-and-roll ballhandler.
Opponent production per 48 minutes: .436 eFG% , 19.2 points, 15.6 PER.
Team defensive efficiency: 104.5 on court, 104.8 off court.
Note: The Lakers declined to extend a qualifying offer to Farmar and then signed Steve Blake for four years and $20 million. Farmar says he wants to start at point guard but the Lakers decided he couldn’t run their team. He’s still only 23-years old.
Antoine Wright, 6-7, F/G
2009-10 salary: $1.8 million
Synergy opponent points per production: .90 overall, .70 isolation, .90 spot-up.
Opponent production per 48 minutes (at small forward): .497 eFG%, 20.4 points, 17.7 PER.
Team defensive efficiency: 111.8 on court, 115.7 off court.
Notes: Wright fell out of favor in Toronto even though he’s what passed for a tough defender on that team. He’s another guy who’s limited offensively. The Celtics are said to be interested.
Matt Barnes, F, 6-7
2009-10 salary: $1.6 million
Synergy opponent points per possession: .86 overall, .85 isolation, .95 spot-up
Opponent production per 48 minutes (at small forward): .446 eFG%, 18.2 points, 13.3 PER.
Team defensive efficiency: 103.9 on court, 105.3 off court.
Notes: Barnes wants a significant raise. He may not get it from Orlando, which is using at least parts of its mid-level to sign Chris Duhon. His best asset might be his desire to mix it up on defense against the bets opponents.
Rodney Carney, F, 6-7
2009-10 salary: $825,500
Synergy opponent points per possession: 1.02 overall, .76 isolation, 1.26 spot-up.
Opponent production per 48 minutes (at shooting guard): .447 eFG%, 17.4 points, 13.8 PER.
Team defensive efficiency: 111.0 on court, 111.8 off court.
Notes: Carney is a good athlete who runs the floor well and wants to play D. Philly isn’t interested in re-signing Carney and there doesn’t seem to be much buzz about him going elsewhere.
Ime Udoka, 6-5, G/F
2009-10 salary: $787,000
Synergy opponent points per possession: .96 overall, .85 isolation, 1.15 spot-up.
Opponent production per 48 minutes (at shooting guard): .477 eFG%, 22.8 points, 15.4 PER.
Team defensive efficiency: 108.0 on court, 112.0 off court.
Notes: Udoka might be available for the minimum. Once a good 3-point shooter for Portland, Udoka mysteriously has seemed to lose his touch since then.
2009-10 salary: $495, 298
Synergy opponent points per possession: .91 overall, .83 isolation, ,91 pick-and-roll ballhandler
Opponent production per 48 minutes: .442 eFG%, 17.5 points, 14.1 PER.
Team defensive efficiency: 106.2 on court, 105.1 off court.
Notes: Alston wants another shot in the NBA after going AWOL from the Heat to attend to personal family business. He says he’s willing to fill any role. Alston still can provide some spot minutes running a team.