We miss Jannero Pargo.
Never thought I'd say it. Never, ever in a million years. This is a guy that finished dead last in true shooting percentage, out of every single player in the NBA. Last. Think about that for a second. It's quite a feat in and of itself. By PER, he was in the bottom 10% of all players who got as many minutes as him. And he was asking for as many guaranteed years as James Posey. So why exactly do we miss a guy whose career FG% is under 40%, who attempted an outrageous 84% of his shots on jumpers, and who pretty much chucked up shots at will?
//Pauses as reader spits out Coke all over computer screen
Yup, his passing.
I think most of you would agree with the following claim: as bad as our bench has been, we're only an average to slightly above average passer away from having a decent second unit. The bench's defense has been really, really good. All five guys have enough length to pester shooters and clog passing lanes. Posey's one of the best defenders in the league- both help and ball, Wright's an up and coming version of Pose, Devin is great in the passing lanes, and even Hilton is a good shot contester. The offense is where the trouble lies. Yet, even on the offensive side, we've got two excellent slashers (Wright, Brown), and two excellent shooters (Butler, Posey). We just need someone to get them the ball. We've got a good bit of dynamite, but nothing to ignite it. In fact, we waste some of that scoring ability by pretending that Wright/Brown/Posey can be point guards.
The bench's big problem is a lack of meaningful ball movement. We can track this semi-well with a stat called assist rate (AST%). It's a good estimate of how many shots were created by a specific player. So an 100% assist rate would mean that every shot taken was assisted by that player. A 0% assist rate would imply that the player probably never passed the ball. For some reference, CP3 led the league in AST% last year with an amazing 52.2% rate. Most elite passing PG's fall in the 35% to 40% range. Most backups fall in the 20% to 30% range. The Hornets' assist rates this year:
Devin Brown's 8.6 rate is especially appalling when you consider that he's supposed to be the point guard. His assist rate has dropped 5 points below his career job despite his supposed new job. James Posey: not a point guard (in case you were wondering. Not that you were. Okay fine, I was. I thought the man could do anything, okay?) Julian Wright actually seems like a decent option from an assist rate standpoint. He finds open teammates with ease. My problem with JuJu is his ball handling. He has far and away the worst turnover rate among these four players. Jumping to Pargo's assist stats from a year ago:
Despite his reputation as a chucker, Pargo found teammates twice as often as Devin Brown has found them this year. Huge difference. In fact, Pargo may have been far closer to a "pure" point guard than we ever imagined. Some quick research indicates that only 6 backup point guards registered a higher AST% last season than Pargo. The conclusion? While we were all caught up in watching him make some tough shots and miss a lot more horrible ones, we failed to register what else he was doing on the floor. Turns out that on possessions where he wasn't chucking, he was making plays with his passing (and a low turnover rate, to boot). I never would have dreamed it. But we miss Jannero Pargo for his passing. Imagine that.
Back to that first table real quick. Going by assist rate, Mike James is still the most viable option as a passing point guard. I'll be surprised if he doesn't get another shot at the backup role in the next couple weeks. And I was kidding about wanting Marbury last night.