Friday, December 03, 2010

Atlanta Hawks Sign Damien Wilkins

The Atlanta Hawks signed Damien Wilkins to provide nominal depth on the wing in Joe Johnson's absence. Wilkins will get the pro-rated veteran's minimum contract, which will put the Hawks within approximately $760,000 of the luxury tax line.

Why did the Hawks add Damien Wilkins?

Larry Drew:
"I think we’ll get a hard-nosed player, a guy who plays hard. A good defensive player who gives us a guy with size that can defend the [shooting guard] and the [small forward] spot. I’m more focused on his energy and the toughness that he brings and he’s a solid defensive player. That’s something you can never have enough of. We are very pleased to have him on board."
So, is there any evidence that Wilkins is a good defensive player? According to, Wilkins has never posted a Defensive Rating better than 110 and that came in limited minutes in 2004-05. As a point of reference, last season Joe Johnson had a defensive rating of 110. Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford both had defensive ratings of 111, the same as Wilkins each of the last four seasons.

A player's defensive rating is highly dependent on the quality of a team's defense. Wilkins was part of the league's third-worst (or 28th-best, if you're a glass half full type) defense in Minnesota last season, the 20th-best defense in Oklahoma city in 2008-09, and four Seattle teams that never ranked higher than 22nd in the league in defense.

Perhaps Wilkins kept those bad defenses from being even worse. has on/off data for Wilkins from the past three seasons (this is defense so a negative differential is good):

2009-10111.1111.8-0.7 has on/off data going further back:


The only time Damien Wilkins has had a measurable, positive impact on his team's defense he played for a legendarily bad defensive team. Still, one can find references to Wilkins's defensive aptitude. Kevin Pelton and Bradford Doolittle have, respectively, referred to Wilkins as an "above-average" and a "solid" defender in the past two editions of Pro Basketball Prospectus despite Wilkins grading out at -3 (on a scale that runs from +5 (good) to -5 (bad)) according to Doolittle's NBAPET skill ratings in both books.

As for the rest of his game, Wilkins is a poor shooter from everywhere except the free throw line, an average-at-best rebounder compared to shooting guards, a significantly below average rebounder compared to small forwards, and has been more likely to turn the ball over than earn an assist over his six-year career.

But hey, he's 30 years old, and is a recognizable name in at least two cities, one of which still has an NBA team.

In short, the addition of Wilkins is unlikely to help anyone other than the guy who sells Pape Sy his suits.


Unknown said...

So no positives??? None?

Who would you have liked the Hawks to sign with Joe's injury?

Bret LaGree said...

Andrew --

I don't know that they needed to sign anyone. At various times, I've advocated for Kyle Weaver, Diamon Simpson, or Trey Gilder as cheap backups for Marvin.

If Wilkins plays, he'll take minutes away from Marvin Williams, Jordan Crawford, or Mo Evans. Only Wilkins playing at the 3 ahead of Evans could be a clear positive.

It's possible that Wilkins is no worse than Jordan Crawford at this point in time, but surely it would benefit the franchise's future were Crawford shown some trust and belief and given playing time rather than hand those minutes to Wilkins.

Adam Malka said...

"It's possible that Wilkins is no worse than Jordan Crawford at this point in time, but surely it would benefit the franchise's future were Crawford shown some trust and belief and given playing time rather than hand those minutes to Wilkins."

Most definitely, but therein lies the answer to some of our confusion about the guards' general handling thus far: management actually believes this team is a contender, or at least believes that maintaining a 50-win team will, in some way, keep revenues above where they cannot fall. The frustrating thing for fans like myself is that we know this team has a ceiling below a title contender, and so developing the young guards is a greater priority than winning games this season.

None of this speaks to the problems endemic in management's belief that Josh Powell is a viable backup big, or that Joe Johnson is the team's best offensive player, or that defense is more about effort than talent, etc. But it does suggest, at least, why the rotation so clearly favors vets over kids.

Unknown said...


I think strip-mining their talents in order to keep the team at around 45-50 wins IS profitable. That's the basic problem. In order to build something capable of contending for a championship and sustainably so, they're going to have to suck for a little bit. Sucking means losing money for ASG. It's not a hard business decision to accept a 45-50 win team--even though it prevents them from building something elite--if you're staring the profits in the face and don't think about it too much, which I suspect is the case. ::Enter Joe Johnson..........................::

The problem isn't just that the team doesn't realize the kids are more talented and capable than the shit sandwich vets they signed to eat up developmental minutes, it's also that they're content to not develop anyone in favor of stagnating. Stagnation at 45 wins is profitable.

It's like they're smart but electing to be actively moronic at the same time, which is what's so damn frustrating.

BTW, how long before, despite the fact that I dig his offensive scheme, we acknowledge the fact that Larry Drew is probably a dummy?

Mr. Sanchez said...

So I take it you'd have rather resigned Mario West instead, considering he's been the franchise's choice the last couple years? Comparing the two, I'll take Wilkins every time.

Bret LaGree said...

Is that the argument for Damien Wilkins? That he's better than Mario West?

20 hours since publication and that's the best you could come up with?