As the 2007-2008 NBA season wears on I find myself thankful that the Knicks play a lot of games on the Sixers' off nights, because I derive an odd amount of pleasure in witnessing that train wreck of a team sliding further and further into the abyss. Our very own Stop Mike Lupica covers the Knicks for the network, and over the past year or so I'd say he's been quite the Curry supporter, if not full-blown apologist.
I've seen SML and others describe Curry's contract as a bargain, or at least reasonable. The same people have blasted the Sixers again and again for the contract they gave Samuel Dalembert. I thought it might be fun to take a look at the two players, their stats and their contracts side-by-side to see who's really the value and who's the bust.
|* Curry has player options for the 09-10 and 10-11 seasons. Let's assume he'll exercise them. I don't think that's a stretch. (Salaries found at HoopsHype.)|
Pretty comparable contracts. The two player options at the tail end of Curry's deal are pretty much guaranteed at this point. If he keeps playing and eating like this, there's no way he's opting out because no one will pay him close to that value.
Alright, we've got a decent body of work for both guys, and at first blush it becomes pretty clear that we aren't comparing like things. Curry and Dalembert are diametrically opposed as far as centers go. One is primarily a defensive weapon, the other is solely an offensive player. This makes it harder to compare them, obviously, but I think there are enough commonalities to draw some meaningful conclusions. Here goes.
Both players were selected in the 2001 draft (Curry #4 overall by the Bulls, Dalembert #26 overall by the Sixers). Dalembert is about a year and a half older than Curry, he'll turn 27 in May, Curry turns 26 next December. Sammy played in only 34 games his rookie year, and averaged only 5.4 minutes/per in those games. He missed the entire 2002-2003 season with an injury, so he has one less year of service time than Curry.
Both players set career highs in points and rebounds in '06-'07 (19.5/7.0 for Curry, 10.7/8.9 for Sammy), this season, they're headed in different directions. Dalembert has improved in every statistical category through the first 32 games. Curry has backslid considerably across the board, and was even benched for a period of time.
Let's start with Curry.
The Good: When he's actually on the floor, Curry can score with the best of them down in the low blocks. He's a one trick pony, but he's very, very good at that trick. He shoots a high percentage and draws a ton of fouls. He'd be even more effective offensively if he was a decent free throw shooter, but he's dipped below 60% this year, which is a big problem for a guy who averages almost 5 attempts per game. In 2006 he averaged 8.1 attempts and shot them at a 61.5% clip. His field-goal percentage is easily his most impressive stat. Last year he shot 57%, this year it's dipped down 53%, but even that isn't too shabby.
The Bad: His 5 rebounds per game in 27.4 minutes is absolutely pitiful, of course 7.0 rebounds in over 35 minutes last season was equally pitiful. Curry never blocks shots, and I do mean never. He blocks them at a rate of a little less than one every other game. He's slow to get back on D, if he gets back at all. On offense he basically plants himself on the low block and barely moves, unless he's going for a lob, or better post position. He has no jumper, but that doesn't really matter because he never takes them. His assist numbers are absolutely atrocious for a guy who draws a ton of double teams, but at least he manages to turn the ball over with alarming regularity.
Basically, Curry is a guy who can score for you as long as he can avoid foul trouble, escape double teams, manage not to turn the ball over, catch his breath AND you commit to feeding him the ball in the post and watching the offense grind to a halt around him. On defense, you may as well not have a center. Not only does Curry never move his feet and barely put up minor resistance to the other team's center, he never provides weak-side help when the perimeter defenders get beat off the dribble. If his team's opponent has a center with even average offensive skills, he's going to give back a majority of the points he scores on the other side of the floor with his shoddy defensive "work."
And now Sammy:
The Good: Dalembert's number one selling point is his shot-blocking ability. This season, he's averaging 2.8 per game, up nearly a full block from last season. He's an intimidating force under the hoop which forces opponents to change their shots, or avoid driving to the hoop altogether. His rebounding is up there as well, he's 0.5 rebounds away from averaging a double-double, and this season he's upped his production on both the offensive glass (3.2/game) and defensive (6.3/game). Dalembert erases mistakes made by his teammates on the perimeter and effectively shuts down most low-post players he's matched up with on the low blocks.
On offense, plays are rarely run for Sammy, and he almost never plays with his back to the basket. Most of his points come on alley-oops and a sweet 15-foot jumper that he's developed over the last two seasons. He shoots a nice 53% from the floor, which is pretty impressive for a guy who takes his fair share of jumpers. Last season he shot 75% from the line, this year he's at 72%. Both above-average marks for a big man. Sammy typically beats all other big men down the floor on fast breaks, and hustles back on defense. He runs like a deer and his speed separates him from most other centers in the league and gives the Sixers a huge advantage in transition.
The Bad: At times, Sammy gets overzealous in his pursuit of blocked shots, he's typically good for at least one goaltending violation per game. Larger centers, who put their bodies into Dalembert and take away his leaping ability can dominate him, he doesn't have the strength to keep them at bay down low. His lack of a low-post game means the Sixers can't or won't go to him with any regularity. He isn't going to carry the offense for long stretches, he gets his points on the periphery.
Dalembert started playing hoops late in his high school career, and only played two years at Seton Hall before making the jump to the pros so his basketball IQ seems to be lower than it should be. He's learning the game as he goes, and sometimes not quickly enough.
The Rub: When you look at the stats and purely at the stats, Dalembert averages about 5 points less per game than Curry (if you combine last year's stats with this year's), on 3 less attempts from the field and 3 less attempts from the line per game. Dalembert dominates Curry in every other statistical category, and not by a small margin. Are 4 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, and 2 less turnovers per game more valuable than an extra 5 points? We haven't even touched on what type of player each team will have at the end of the contract. Curry is regressing in every imaginable way. Four years down the road he may not even be able to walk to the bathroom on his own, let alone run up and down the floor. Dalembert is in shape, and his game and attitude are evolving each season. He's a building block on a team headed in the right direction, Curry is an anchor on the sinking Knickerbocker ship.
$900,000 more per year for Dalembert seems like a bargain to me. I guess the true litmus test is this. If Ed Stefanski picked up the phone tomorrow and offered Isiah Dalembert for Curry, straight up, Isiah would do it. In a heartbeat. If Isiah made the same offer to Stefanski, he'd get laughter followed by a dial tone.
My visual conclusion: