It just so happens that the actual mid-way point of the season was yesterday's loss to the Mavericks. The good news, for us, is that we have four off days to take a look back and evaluate this team and its players over the first 41. Today, we'll take a look at the guards, tomorrow the wings, Thursday the bigs and then Friday we'll tackle the team as a whole.
We'll go from most minutes to least. Up first: Andre Miller
Here are the stats, you'll see numbers for the first 41 games of this season, the first half of last season and the second half of last season. Minutes are per game, all other stats are per 36 minutes.
Andre got off to a slow start, as per usual. We can talk 'til we're blue in the face about his offseason workout regiment, or lack thereof, but the fact of the matter is, the guy plays every single game. The slow starts are annoying, but I'll trade them for being able to pencil him in for 82 games.
Let's take a look at these stats. The first thing that jumps out about this season is his three-point shooting, obviously. He's taking more, and he's hitting at the 3rd-highest rate of anyone on the team. I can't really tell you if this is an aberration because he's so rarely shot the three in his career. The increase in 3s, coupled with more free throws, and converting his foul shots at a higher percentage, has buoyed his points/shot to 1.24 (1.17 1st half 08, 1.24 second half). His scoring efficiency is already at the pace of his scorching second half last season.
As far as expectations go, I think there were plenty of people out there who thought he'd take a huge step back this year, after a career year last season. That hasn't happened. In fact, if he sees the same type of uptick in production in the second half of this season as he did last year, he's going to top his career numbers.
The best stat here is the decrease in turnovers. The most-alarming, the decrease in assists. I'm expecting a big second half from Miller.
- Overall: Exceeding expectations.
- Projection: Another big second half from the team's veteran point.
Lou Williams is up next, second highest MPG total, despite being the sixth man.
The first half has been a mixed bag for Williams, just as the first half of last season was. He's getting his shots up at an alarming rate, especially when you factor in his FTA as well. He needs to pick up his FG%, as well as his 3PT%. He's been better from the floor of late, but he had a huge hole to dig his way out of.
Coming into the season, I think the hopes were that Lou would more closely resemble the player he was in the second half last season. I'm not sure how much of these numbers are directly his fault. It's been well-publicized that Mo told him "You're a scorer," which is probably the wrong thing to say to a guy who likes to gun. Still, you can't really be angry about 1.21 points/shot. I like the assists, don't like the turnovers. Overall, I think we expected more out of Lou, and I'm hoping we'll see it in the second half.
- Overall: Not meeting expectations.
- Projection: As Lou spends less and less time at the point, his numbers will continue to improve. He's always going to be a volume shooter, but his FT rate keeps his low FG% from hindering his overall efficiency. Expected a jump in numbers similar to last season in the second half.
Garbage Time Green gets his time under the spotlight now, I'll try to be gentle:
Well, the good news about Willie is that the coaches, and his teammates, have limited the damage he's able to do to this team. His minutes are down, his FGA is down as well. I did a serious double take when I saw that Willie played 30 minutes/game over the first half of last season. How does that happen? Willie's productivity has completely bottomed out, 1.03 points/shot? His peripheral numbers, which were already meager last season, have become even more so.
Willie's time as the starting shooting guard for this team, as well as his minutes/per game, should disappear with the return of Elton Brand. Let's just hope Coach DiLeo feels the same way we do.
- Overall: Has not met expectations, which is really saying something, considering expectations couldn't have possibly been lower.
- Projection: Willie's minutes will be cut further, and his per/36 production will remain at the level of a zombie who likes to shoot too much.
Royal Ivey has been a pleasant surpise thus far, let's see what we can expect going forward:
Ivey's value on the offensive side of the ball is two-fold. One, he's been the team's best three-point shooter. Two, he allows Lou Williams to play the two when Ivey is on the floor. Both extremely valuable qualities for this team. His most-valuable trait, however, has been his defense. He's provided tough on-the-ball defense, he's disrupting the other team's offense, giving Miller a breath when he needs it and his three-point shooting means teams can't completely ignore him.
Ivey saw his numbers drop in the second half last season, especially his three-point percentage, so let's hope that trend doesn't continue.
- Overall: Exceeded expectations.
- Projection: Ivey should see more minutes than Willie Green, but I doubt he will. He'll probably see about the same amount of time on the floor in the second half. If he can continue to hit threes, he'll see more minutes.
Kareem Rush, king of the DNPCD is the final guard on the list:
Of the bench guys, Rush has easily been the most disappointing. Donyell had the Chicago game, Theo has played important minutes for Sammy, but Rush just hasn't had a positive impact at all. When he does see the floor, he seems to jog around and look for an opportunity to launch a three. The biggest problem has been that he isn't even shooting the three well, which was supposed to be the one thing he could do.
Rush thrived under Jim O'Brien in Indy last season. It was an open offensive system, and very little defense was required to earn minutes. He's had a rude awakening in Philly, and I expect him to be the odd man out most nights once Brand comes back. He'll be wearing a suit to the game.
- Overall: Hasn't come close to meeting meager expectations.
- Projection: More of the same.
OK, have at it in the comments. I want to know what you guys think of the job each of these guys has done, what we should expect (be afraid of) from each of them going forward and also who you think the most important guard is for the second half. If _______ has a big second half, we're a lock for the #5 seed.