Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Season Review: Josh Childress
Josh Childress appears to be someone on whom the entire population of Hawks fans can agree. As far as I'm aware, there is no argument as to whether the Hawks should re-sign Childress, just whether or not the organization recognizes how much this excellent complementary player would be missed were they not to match the offer sheet(s) this restricted free agent is sure to receive.
It's a fair question and (another) one that pushes the question of who will be the next head coach to the fore. Marvin Williams played almost 500 more minutes than Childress last season. Williams did play four more games than Childress so the difference in playing time isn't as vast as my cheap shock tactic above implied. Still, Childress is the better interior scorer, three-point shooter, offensive rebounder, ball-handler, and defender of the two. There would be few things better for this franchise (now that hiring Mike D'Antoni is impractical) than Marvin Williams deserving to play more minutes than Josh Childress but that time has not yet come to pass. Giving Williams more playing time probably didn't cost the Hawks more than a win over the course of the season but even in a best-case, non-damaging scenario it still strikes me as perverse.
I am sympathetic to the notion that Childress is more valuable coming off the bench--that his ability to create scoring chances for himself out of nothing more than offensive rebounding and moving without the ball helps shore up an especially weak bench. It's the sort of idea that seems like it should make sense. Maybe it does, I haven't formulated a good way to judge this and I would guess that over the course of an NBA season (especially on a team with more significant and persistent weaknesses) it doesn't make much difference anyway.
On the other hand, wouldn't a good offensive rebounder who moves well without the ball and can hit the corner three-pointer complement Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Mike Bibby awfully nicely? Even if the Hawks choose to continue to start Marvin Williams every half Childress must play the majority of the minutes that call for Atlanta to put its best five players on the floor.
Williams is too important to the future of the franchise to give up on yet. (However, he should be trying to develop and diversify his game in practice rather than a competitive setting.) Childress is unlikely to become much better than he is now and Williams, should he live up to the promise he engendered coming out of North Carolina, would do things Childress can't. Williams' development (or the addition of a better player to the roster) shouldn't diminish Childress's usefulness. There will always be playing time for a guy who doesn't waste possessions offensively and can adequately defend two positions.
My confidence in Childress's decision-making is such that I'm even reluctant to criticize his sharp drop in defensive rebounding. Childress's defensive rebound percentage has fallen each of his four years in the league but in 2007-08 it dropped a further 28% from his previous career low. Anyone else and I'd lay a significant portion of the blame for the team's horrible defensive rebounding at his feet. Instead, with Childress I wonder if he's forgoing defensive rebounding opportunities for the chance to run out and get a rare easy bucket for the Hawks and whether this decision could be break-even or a net positive. Again, I haven't figured out how to complement this curiosity with some evidence that might provide an educated conclusion one way or the other, but I'll lean toward giving the benefit of the doubt to the guy who takes 75% of his field goal attempts from the inside (making 65%), makes a decent percentage of the few three-pointers he takes, rarely turns the ball over, and mitigates his relative lack of a mid-range game by making more free throws per field goal attempt than anyone else on the team.
I contend that Josh Childress could make any team better. It's incumbent upon the Atlanta Hawks not to allow another team to prove me right.
Up next: Marvin Williams