Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Marvin Williams v. Caron Butler

Mark Bradley:
Marvin Williams is the least essential Hawks starter. He scores points and takes rebounds but seems to leave no imprint on games, and one of the reasons Joe Johnson gets the ball with three seconds on the shot clock — or, worse, Josh Smith gets it 25 feet from the hoop — is that Marvin, four years a pro, still won’t assert himself.

I want to see Marvin not assert himself elsewhere next season. I want the Hawks to re-sign him — he’s a restricted free agent — and ship him and Acie Law to Washington for Caron Butler and Javaris Crittenton. The Wizards are looking to cut salary, so that part would work for them, and they’re also looking to get younger. Williams turns 23 on Friday; Butler is 29.

Butler is a small forward with deep range and — key point — a ton of self-assurance. He wants the ball when the clock’s ticking low. He averaged 20.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists last season to Marvin’s 13.9, 6.3 and 1.3.
Now, Mr. Bradley has access to the team and the players that I do not share so I acknowledge the possibility that he knows things I do not about the internal workings of the team. Marvin Williams may well ask Mike Woodson not to run any plays for him if Joe Johnson is healthy*.

*Completing this thought, Marvin was clearly comfortable asserting himself in Johnson's absence on two occasions last season to beneficial effect for the club.

Thus, the difference between Butler and Williams is largely one of opportunity. Their career efficiency stats:


Outside of Butler's far superior assist rate, there's little differentiating these two per opportunity. Considering the possibility that, at 22, Marvin Williams 2008-09 three-point shooting (35.5% in 155 attempts) represents a new level of true talent where Butler, who has made less than 32% of his threes in five of seven NBA seasons (including two of his four in Washington) through the age of 28, is unlikely to improve to a similar degree in that respect and that Williams' FT Rate is significantly better than Butler's (34.6 v. 27.7) despite Butler's excellent free throw percentage (85.2% for his career) it's fair, I contend, to assume that Williams is more likely to score efficiently going forward even before accounting the circumstances* in which they compiled their numbers to date.

*Butler as a key component of Eddie Jordan's motion offense; Williams as an afterthought in Mike Woodson's motionless offense.

The difference between the two is opportunity. Again, career stats for both:


Personally, I'd prefer the younger guy who gets to the free throw line more often, is a better rebounder, and has greater range better to complement the two young frontcourt players (Al Horford and Josh Smith*) who need more touches in the post. Which isn't to say that it's vital the Hawks keep Marvin Williams just that he still possesses enough potential that exchanging him for a slight upgrade at the small forward position (which is likely the easiest position at which to find a relatively cheap complementary player) rather than acquiring a young point guard or a big man who can defend and rebound is unlikely to make enough difference in the short term to outweigh the risk that Marvin Williams' value (both on-court and trade value) may be on the cusp of increasing.

*Bradley, yesterday afternoon: "If the Hawks trade Josh, they lose me. (Unless it’s for Kobe.)" I think he's on board with my premise in that regard.


Unknown said...

I think there's one angle to this that leans this trade in Caron Butler's favor...Mike Woodson! We both know that Mike isn't coaching to the talents of the team, so I do believe this would be in the best interests of a Mike Woodson led Hawks team while not being in the interests of the collective talent for the Hawks organization.

So, if Mike's my coach - I want Caron Butler - a veteran that he's going to trust implicitly and who he's going to spend more time trying to design something for (or not) vs. what we've seen him do with the young players on the team to date. So, I'm all for the deal - even the Acie for Javaris swap as long as he plays Javaris every night. If he trusts Javaris as much as he trusts Acie, then ...oh nevermind.

Bret LaGree said...

I like to think that if Rick Sund were planning to make personnel decisions regarding a 23-year-old based on Mike Woodson's predilections he would have extended Woody. I think the Tyson Chandler trade (from Chicago to New Orleans) demonstrates the downside of trading a young player whose talents a certain coach fails to maximize. Less than a year-and-a-half later, Chicago didn't have Skiles and were paying more for a guy eight years older than Chandler to play less effective basketball.

I may also be placing undue importance on those two games Joe Johnson missed where Marvin got to the line 38 times but those two games represented 12.5% of Atlanta's road wins on the year and Marvin didn't even shoot well over the two games.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget defense. Butler doesn't play it, while Williams is arguably our best guy.

rbubp said...

I don't think Bradley knows what defense is.

Marvin is the Hawks' version of Lamar Odom, a guy who can do many things and willingly does things that do not show up in the stat sheet because he's a team player. I too would like to see him get more plays, because he frankly developed into the Hawks' most consistent low-post option last year --at least until Horford's game gets a bit more consistent.

But Bradley seems to think that hogging the ball is asserting oneself. Marvin Williams did leave an imprint on games; it was just not the one Bradley was looking for. What can you say for a guy who mentions "Flip Murray" and "point guard" in the same sentence without using "not"?

Caron Butler. Pshaw. The coach and JJ have to want to share the ball more, not some other second-tier player who takes it away.

Trade away your youth at your peril in the NBA..

Jack Bender said...

Great article and analysis. Bradley's Hawks writing this week has been way off base. My only worry about Marvin is that the fire and defensive intensity only showed up this year, because it was a contract year.

jrauch said...

I think part of Marvin's problem, as a young player, is that he has no real vocal veterans on the team to emulate.
With the exception of Al and Josh (for drastically different reasons), everybody's a shrinking violet.
Not that we need Kevin Garnett causing Glen Davis to cry on the sidelines, but we need someone to call guys out and keep guys motivated.
Marvin's clearly never going to be "the guy" on a team, but he could be an excellent second or third option, a la Odom.
He's just a follower without a leader right now.

rbubp said...

Excellent point, jrauch.

Bronnt said...

Those numbers are surprisingly similar. And the funny thing is that it took nearly two full seasons of playing without Gilbert Arenas for people to start recognizing just how good Caron Butler really is.

I have a feeling that Marvin may not be appreciated while he's on the same team as Joe Johnson

jrauch said...

I've got a soft spot for ol' Duck Butt. I'd like to see him succeed, but that won't happen as long as Woody's content to let JJ heave up 20 footers with 5 seconds left on the shot clock.
As Bret's mentioned in several posts, those two games where Joe was out and Marvin became a primary scoring option, he was an absolute monster at driving to the rack. I remember watching those games thinking "Where the hell is this guy the other 80 games this year?"
His injuries are a concern, but he's got undeniable talent. Like I tell folks, Carolina doesn't win that 2005 national title without him being there for that tip-in on the missed Felton (McCants?) free throw at the end of the game. He's amazing natural ability.
Somebody just needs to unlock it.