Thursday, July 17, 2008

Regarding Mr. James Posey

This post is in response to a question posed in the comments to a recent post:

Mr. McFruity-

I have a question for you. why would the Celtics let James Posey sign with the Hornets? He seemed like such a integral part of their defense in the finals last year. is this a signal that they know they fucking suck and have no chance of beating the Lakers next year?

Thank you for being you and writing what you do.

James Posey was a free agent and signed a 4-year, $25 million deal with the Hornets. Here are some links regarding the signing:
  • Ryan from Hornets 24/7 is a fan of the signing: "Posey is a solid pickup. He'll slot nicely into the intense defense the second unit plays, and will be able to let both West and Peja get some nice minutes of rest."
  • Jeff from CelticsBlog sees the financial benefit for the Celtics, pointing out that not signing Posey should allow them a chance to re-sign players such as Eddie House and Tony Allen. However, he is certain that it is a big loss: ". . . we just lost our top bench player, an elite defensive specialist, and an emotional leader on and off the court. He will be very difficult to replace. In fact, I don't think you can replace all that he gave us with just one player."
  • John Hollinger at ESPN does not agree with the Hornets' decision to sign Posey, and thinks the excessive length and amount of the contract is just carrying on a long tradition of overpaying role players on title teams. He compares Posey's game to that of Byron Russell, Dan Majerle, Jaren Jackson, Rick Fox, and Raja Bell, and points out that given his age (31) and those comparisons, Posey is due for a steep decline.
(To the list of comparisons, I'd add Robert Horry, who seems to have a lifetime of goodwill built up from a few big shots in the playoffs).

As for the statistics, here's what they tell us: Offesnively, Posey was an efficient but limited scorer last year -- he mostly shot spot-up 3 pointers and he hit them at a solid 38% clip. A whopping 84% of his made shots were assisted, which isn't surprising but gives an idea of his role in the offense. He used under 13% of the team's posessions when he was on the court, meaning he had about as much of a role offensively as Kendrick Perkins did. I'll repeat, though, that Posey was efficient -- on the handful of plays when he did touch the ball on offense, he created about as efficiently as Kevin Garnett did (please don't take this as an offensive comparison -- Garnett used twice as many possessions as Posey did and his role in the offense was much greater -- I only want to point out how efficient Posey was).

A random sidenote:

Here are two players' per-game statistics from last year:

Player1: 24.6 minutes per game, 7.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1 steal, .3 blocks, 41.8% FG%, 38% 3P%, 80.9% FT%, .9 TO

Player2: 28.1 minutes, 12.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, .7 steals, .4 blocks, 45.5% FG%, 41.8% 3P%, 79.7% FT%, 1.3 TO

Player 1 is James Posey. Player 2 is Troy Murphy. If Troy Murphy was a free agent and your team just signed him to a 4 year deal, would you feel like he put your team over the top?

Obviously, though, it's not Posey's offense that people are excited about -- it's easy to remember him in the playoffs not only hitting clutch shots but, importantly, playing excellent defense. So, how good was he defensively? Well, surprisingly, last year Boston's defense was almost 4 points worse per 100 possessions when Posey was playing compared to when he was on the bench -- the defense was better when Posey did not play. Adjusted defensive plus-minus makes him look a little bit better, as it shows Posey helped the defense to the tune of about .1 points per 100 possessions. That still puts him well behind noted defenders such as Tayshaun Prince, Bruce Bowen, Ron Artest, and Shane Battier, more in the neighborhood of Jarvis Hayes and Luke Walton (note: adjusted plus-minus is similar to a plus-minus or on/off court rating, but controls for the quality of teammates on the court with a player and for the quality of the opposition). In terms of man-to-man defense, Posey held his opponent to a PER of 16.8 (15 is average) -- and considering that he was often asked to guard good offensive players, this is pretty good. Also, Posey was an excellent defensive rebounder, grabbing 18.1% of available defensive rebounds, 3rd best among all small forwards in the league, and ahead of Lebron James.

Overall, though, the Celtics were worse off with Posey on the floor, compared to when he was off the floor.

Still, something these statistics don't exactly catch is the feeling that in the biggest moments, Posey would hit the big shot, grab a big rebound, or make a hard foul to help his team win the game. And who knows, maybe that is exactly what the Hornets need, although one wonders why Posey is getting paid so much more than Eduardo Najera (who just signed with the Nets for 4 years, $12 million), who is about the same age and fulfills a similar role.

In the short-term, I think the signing will work for the Hornets. The Hornets 2nd unit is already pretty strong defensively, and Posey's experience should help them become more consistent. Plus, if Peja Stojakovic decides to fold in the playoffs, as he is wont to do, they have a proven performer to take his place. Also, take a look at Posey's shot chart from last year:

Unlike other perimeter defender/3-point specialist types such as Bruce Bowen or Raja Bell, Posey actually shoots better from the wings than he does from the corners. It did seem like most of his big shots in the playoffs also came from that right wing as well. While this would make him less of a good fit with a team like the Spurs who rely on the corner 3-pointers, it actually fits in quite well with the Hornets. While Morris Peterson camped out in the corners last year, Stojakovic actually made quite a few shots from the wings in transition (which Posey can do), and even occasionally by receiving passes out of the Chris Paul/Tyson Chandler pick and roll from the opposite wing.

While I do think the Hornets are helped in the short-term, it's the long-term that I think might hurt -- Posey's contract lasts through his 35th birthday, and the decline in the effectiveness of Spurs role players like Bruce Bowen and Robert Horry during the last couple of years sort of serves as a warning. At the end of the contract, New Orleans might be paying Posey over $6 million for virtually no production.

This, I would guess, is the main reason that the Celtics let him go. Even without him, they will be favored to win the Eastern Conference again, and because of that they should have their pick of veteran free agents this summer and during the season who want to sign with a winner. They are probably thinking that they can replace some of what Posey did for much less than what Posey signed for. In fact, Posey himself signed last year with the Celtics for less than half of what he'll be making for the Hornets. Sadly, I don't think the Celtics decision not to re-sign Posey is a signal that they know they fucking suck and have no chance of beating the Lakers next year, I think it's more that they think they can use that money more effectively.

(Then again, maybe it's just hubris? We'll find out next year whether or not indeed Posey was really integral to the Celtics defense. I would guess that the only irreplaceable parts of that defense are Kevin Garnett and assistant coach Tom Thibodeau. Still, it's valid to point out that Posey was an important piece, whatever the numbers might say).

In the end, I think I agree with Kevin Pelton's assessment:

As for Posey, guys who can shoot the three and who are terrific defenders at multiple positions can fit in just about anywhere. Posey's newfound ability to play an undersized power forward has really added to his value. The issue with Posey is years. The mid-level isn't a bad deal for Posey at the moment; in fact, given the key role he played in winning Boston the championship, you could argue it's a bargain. The length of the contract is a different issue. A five-year deal would end when Posey is 36, and even if his shooting ability is likely to hold up, his athleticism won't. Whether a team is willing to make that tradeoff depends on how much they think Posey might help their chances of legitimately contending for the next couple of years.

The Hornets are definitely a good enough team to benefit greatly from Posey's presence for the next couple of years. I think it will have been the right decision for them as long as they are still able to extend the contracts of Tyson Chandler and David West during that time. They might suffer from Posey's large contract a few years from now, but their short-term success will determine whether that is worth it.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for answering my question hella. I will start a convo that gets to this question in a bar near a beautiful woman and having memorized your answer wow her with my intelligence.

    Fuck ESPN, Ole fruithoopz!