Current records aside, these teams have a lot similarities other than the obvious Williams and Paul comparisons. They are two young teams that have the talent to be contenders and are maturing at similar rates. They both gained valuable playoff experience last year and set the foundation for future expectations. Both teams are lead by young point guards drafted 3d and 4th in 2005. Both teams have all star power forwards as the second half of their lead duos. Jerry Sloan and Byron Scott both have gone to the NBA finals twice and lost both times.
I will compare Paul and Williams but before we get to that, lets compare the rest of the rosters.
Carlos Boozer vs David West - Both average similar numbers, Boozer being 21, 11, and 3 assists with very efficient shooting numbers. David West gets 20, 7 and 1 block a game. He shoots nearly .500 and is almost 90% from the free throw line. Boozer gets his points on post ups, mid range jumpers and pick and roll lay ups. He is more of your typical power forward that bangs with guys down low. West can go down low but prefers the 10-15 foot jumper and can go out to the three point line. Boozer is a much better rebounder and can get tough rebound in traffic which West cannot. He is also an underrated passer. West is pretty much a black hole but West is a better defender. Boozer has a history of strange injuries but West has had tough time with injuries as well. The bottom line is that salaries aside, If the Jazz offered Boozer for West straight up, the Hornets would do the deal in a heartbeat. Boozer is an Olympian, West is a fringe all star. Advantage Jazz
Mehmet Okur vs Tyson Chandler - very different players that play the same position. Chandler can't shoot at all and has no offensive game other than to catch alley oops. He is lean, long and athletic and you wish that he could harness his skills to be a dominant center. He had a break out year last year but he still hasn't justified being the 2d overall pick. He makes his money on the defensive end and by rebounding but is too foul prone. He is also a bit of a head case. Okur is practically the opposite player. He makes his money by shooting long jumpers and has added a little dribble drive to his game. He needs to lose a couple of pounds, can't jump at all and looks more like a writer than an athlete. His defense consists of waving people by and yelling "toro" and then hacking them so they don't get a lay up. Would the Jazz trade Okur for Chandler? I think they would. The Hornets might like that trade too. Very small edge Jazz.
Ronnie Brewer and CJ Miles vs Rasul Butler and Morris Peterson - Good thing Morris Peterson went to the Hornets so Brewer got minutes to develop the way that he did over the past year. Brewer is getting better but still has some holes that he needs to plug. His jumper is still unreliable. He gets steals but his on ball defense is lackluster. He can't dribble or create his own shot which is essential in a league of 2 guards that score at will. Butler and Peterson are good shooters that stretch defenses but don't do much otherwise. Butler and Miles are similar but on different ends of their careers. Miles is young enough that potential is his biggest asset. Butler is a solid pro that is happy being on a winner. Advantage Jazz
Kyle Korver vs Peja Stojakovic - Peja is a shell of his old self, now surviving in the league purely on his shot. When his shot is off, he is useless. He is a poor defender, doesn't rebound or pass well and is getting worse each year. If Korver played the same minutes as Stojakovic, they would have the exact same stats. 12 points, 40% from three and not so great from 2, good FT shooter. Stojakovic has playoff experience, Korver is younger and not getting worse each year. Small edge Hornets this year, next year advantage Jazz.
Andrei Kirilenko vs James Posey - Posey was a nice pick up but I think they overpaid for him. Posey is the kind of pick up you make when you are one piece away - like the Celtics were last year - but the Hornets are not one piece away. They are one piece away now that they have Posey. He is tough defender and good 3pt shooter that provides a toughness that you cant measure by numbers, but more by championships. Kirilenko is overpaid but has been playing pretty well off the bench. He does a lot of things that is difficult to measure by traditional numbers. His true value can be seen by stats like PER and +/- numbers. Posey is on the downside of his career and has one or two good years left. Kirilenko is getting worse but is only 27 and capable of still being a starter. Advantage Jazz
Rest of the Bench
Devin Brown, Hilton Armstrong, Melvin Ely and Antonio Daniels - Daniels was a great pick up. He can back up both guard positions, he has experience and he plays good defense. Devin Brown is a Jazz cast off that is inconsistent. Hilton Armstrong and Melvin Ely are first round busts that take up space. Julian Wright is supposed to be talented but he hardly plays. This team misses Pargo for instant offense off the bench. The Hornets really only go seven deep.
Paul Milsap, Kosta Koufos, Ronnie Price and Brevin Knight.
Milsap is already having a break out year and might be better than West in a couple of years. It makes me sick that he didn't get these minutes last year. Koufos is already better than Armstrong or Ely. Price is really undersized shooting guard. Knight does a good job in limited minutes. Advantage Jazz
Coach Sloan vs. Scott.
Byron Scott is a good coach and did anice job before he got run out of town in NJ. He took a team that had no history of success to two NBA finals. Granted, those were two of the weakest eastern conferences in history and two of the worst NBA finals ever, but the NBA finals are the NBA finals. Sloan is already a legend. I don't agree with a lot of his player management decisions but he is a proven winner. Advantage Jazz
Looking at the comparisons, the Jazz have an edge at almost every position but their record last year do not bear that out. Last year at full strength, the Hornets ended up with two more wins than the Jazz. This year is hard to compare as the Jazz have had so many injuries. Still, with the Jazz being younger, deeper, with more playoff experience and a better coach, are the Jazz underachievers or the Hornets overachievers? The answer lies in Paul vs. Williams.
Paul vs Williams.
Let me start by saying that I am a big fan of Williams and feel that he hasn't yet reached his full potential. Bill Simmons wrote an article at the beginning of the year that was recently cited by the Salt Lake Tribune that said that Williams and Paul really isn't an argument, Paul clearly being the better player. That angered a lot of Utah fans but he is on the money with a lot of what he wrote. An argument can be made that Williams is the better player but most numbers say otherwise.
Williams has a few advantages over Paul. He is bigger and stronger which lets him guard the bigger point guards and can post up smaller guards like Paul. In head to head match ups, Paul has had trouble guarding him in the post and has had foul trouble. Williams is a very good mid range and 3 point shooter. Paul has improved his shooting this year but still would prefer to go to the basket than take a 15 footer.
Paul is a much better penetrator and can get to the basket almost at will. He creates so many problems, drawing defenders and scoring when he a second defender isn't quick enough to get to him. Even then, Paul is athletic enough to finish and is the better finisher of the two. He also gets a slight edge in passing with more assists and less turnovers.
Just comparing statistics, the two are very similar. Since Williams has been injured this year we will use their 07-08 per game averages.
Williams 37 min 18.8pts 3.0 rbs 10.5 ast 1.1 stl 3.4 to .507 fg .395 3fg .803 ft
Paul 37 min 21.1pts 4.0 rbs 11.6 ast 2.7 stl 2.5 to .488 fg .369 3fg .851 ft
The scoring difference of 2.3 pts is explained by Paul taking 2.4 more shots per game. The biggest disparity is in steals. Paul currently leads the league in steals while Williams is probably a little below average for point guards. While these statistics don't show much of gap between the two, using other statistics it becomes more obvious.
In the age of "Moneyball" in baseball, basketball has its own equivalents of advanced statistics which help analyze players better than traditional stats. These can be found on http://www.basketball-reference.com/ and http://www.82games.com/
|Season||Age||Tm|| Lg || G ||M||PER||TS%||eFG%||ORB%||DRB%||TRB%|
|Williams 2007-08||23||UTA||NBA ||82 ||3059||20.8||.595 ||.544|| 1.4 ||8.3||4.9|
|Paul 2007-08||22||NOH||NBA ||80||3006||28.3||.576|| .524 ||2.4|| 10.3 ||6.2 |
|43.6||1.5||0.6||17.7||23.1|| 118 ||110||9.0||2.3|| 11.4|
Williams PER of 20.8 is a very good PER. PER is curved to have an average of 15 so Williams is well above the average and is 20th overall for the year. Paul's PER of 28.3 was 2d to Lebron James and is 38th overall ALLTIME.
Another number that stands out is Win Shares. This is a stat that basically measures the number of wins a player is responsible for by himself for the year. Williams WS of 11.4 is excellent and his best year to date. Paul's WS of 17.3 lead the league last year and was 18th ALLTIME. Offensive rating, defensive rating, assist percentage, steal percentage all bear out the disparity between the two stars. These stats do not say that Williams is bad and that Paul is good. These statistics say that William is good and Paul is great. It also says that Paul's 07-08 season wasn't just great, but historic. The amazing thing is that Paul is even better this year with his PER over 30!
Finally if the statistics don't convince you, then the team comparison should. The Jazz are even or have an edge at every position outside of point guard. So how did the Hornets win 2 more games last year than the Jazz? The Hornets only have an advantage at point guard and as Jazz fans we would like to believe that advantage isn't that great. The truth is that Paul is worth about six more wins a year than Williams. Paul is the great difference maker on that team and if the Hornets were to offer Paul for Williams straight up, it would be a clear no brainer. Am I happy that the Jazz have Williams? Of course. I love Williams and I think his best years are yet to come as point guards don't peak till their late 20's. He might end up a top 20 point guard of all time. I am certainly glad that they didn't take the 5th pick Raymond Felton that same year. Do I wish that they took Chris Paul with the 3d pick instead of Williams? Only a fool would say no. Paul might end up being a top 5 point guard of all time. In fact, it might be the difference between being yearly contenders for the title, and the Jazz winning their first championship.