Why did the Hawks add Damien Wilkins?
"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 Basketball-Reference.com, 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. BasketballValue.com has on/off data for Wilkins from the past three seasons (this is defense so a negative differential is good):
82games.com 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.