Tuesday, May 26, 2009
2008-09 Season Review: Mike Bibby
Mike Bibby has improved the Hawks during his season-and-a-half in Atlanta. Considering his defensive limitations and giving further consideration to the team's inability to minimize the damage caused by those limitations one must conclude, even after accounting for the established level of his predecessors, that Mike Bibby is, 11 years into his NBA career, still a skilled and intelligent offensive player.
Mike Bibby at Basketball-Reference.com
Bibby's shooting percentages last season were right in line with his age 24 through age 27 seasons in Sacramento. Likely due to a combination of playing alongside Joe Johnson and the aging process, both his assist and usage rates were down from those years, but, with his ball-handling responsibilities lessened, he posted a career low turnover rate. Now, it's fair to be skeptical about repeating those rates. His age 30 season was an improvement over both his age 28 and 29* seasons and it was a contract year.
*He put up better numbers playing for the Hawks than for the Kings last season though that may have more to do with his health than the relative merits of his skills suiting the respective offenses and teammates.
On the latter point, Atlanta's biggest off-season decision, in terms of cost as well as short- and long-term roster construction is what to do with Mike Bibby? Give him a firm handshake, a hearty clap on the back, thank him for his help, and let him leave in search of the best contract for his immediate and long-term future? Or do you make the effort to find a mutually beneficial contract length and price, cling to Bibby as a security blanket for the offense, and acquire a useful and complementary backup to use on the nights where Bibby's offensive ability can't make up for his defensive limitations?
Like I said, it's a narrow decision either way and probably the deciding factors will be the price and length of the contract that Bibby feels he needs and/or deserves. But, in making the decision, one can't ignore Mike Woodson's prejudice against young point guards*, his prejudice against point guards who aren't best served by hanging around the perimeter shooting long jumpers, Acie Law IV's apparent lack of future with the organization, Flip Murray's unrestricted free agency, the depth of point guards in the draft class, the chance that DeJuan Blair is available at 19, ownership's financial restrictions, and the organization's generally risk-averse** nature. None of those complicating issues are truly absolute and Rick Sund can exercise no control over some of them. but, pressed to answer, I, while acknowledging the impracticality*** of this preference, advocate letting Bibby leave, acquiring one proven yet affordable point guard in free agency, and drafting a point guard whose skill set tends toward defense and three-point shooting (Eric Maynor or Darren Collison being most likely at 19). Acquiring a potential long-term solution at the point before the draft should give the Hawks greater flexibility in the draft either at the 19th spot (especially if Blair or Jrue Holiday are available), trading up (most likely by using Childress's rights), or by trading down and still getting a solid, polished point guard (Collison) while acquiring some additional asset(s).
*Royal Ivey sort of but not really serving as an exception to this rule since he was to real point guards what Mario West is to real defensive specialists.
**Not that I'm automatically agreeing with the organization's risk assessment in this or many other (re-signing Mike Woodson, saving money on extensions for Joshes Childress and Smith, saving money on the end of the bench, burying Acie Law IV and running Joe Johnson into the ground to win a couple more games) cases. I think re-signing Bibby at whatever is arguably more risky than using greater resources to attempt to acquire one of Ramon Sessions, Raymond Felton, Jarrett Jack in free agency or trade for, say, Mike Conley, Jr. or one of Portland's surplus point guards.
***I advocated the Hawks draft a point guard (either at their original slot or after trading down) in the 2005 and 2006 drafts, both of which had multiple useful point guards available at various stages of the first round. Obviously that didn't happen either year as Billy Knight waited for a relatively weak class of point guards to address (though ultimately, it was not addressed at all) the team's long-standing weakness.