Four Players That Need More Time

In today’s article, I’ll identify 4 guys who were productive last year, but didn’t see enough minutes from their team. All of them are big men, and two have been playing well for two or more seasons now.

Dan Gadzuric

By definition, the league average for John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is 15. Last year despite only playing 22 minutes per game, Gadzuric managed a PER of 18.5. The next person on the list was Michael Redd. Ironically Redd just received a 6 year $90M+ contract from the Bucks, while Gadzuric will play for the same 6 years, but for $54M less. Doesn’t seem fair does it? Just the other day, the APBRmetric board was discussing this very topic. That is that teams tend to overpay for guys with good pts/g, and that if a Moneyball type executive wanted to exploit the NBA, this would be good place to start.

If given a fair chance, he could easily step in & start for 20 teams in the NBA. Maybe even 25 teams. While I have no delusions that Gadzuric would be an All Star, it seems a waste in a league where centers are at a premium. Just looking back over the last few years of free agency, mediocre 7 footers like Foyle, Dampier, and Olowokandi have received big deals for little production. Meanwhile, Dan has posted a PER above 17 for two straight years. An athletic player, he can hit the glass at both ends of the court, block shots, and come up with a steal. Gadzuric shoots at or above 50%, and has cut back on his fouls to a level where he could easily play 30-35 minutes a game. With the arrival of #1 overall pick Bogut, the Bucks may not need Dan more than the 22 minutes a game that they gave him last year. It’s a shame, because given quality minutes, this guy could really shine.

Al Jefferson

Just go to a Celtics forum, and mention the words “trade” and “Jefferson” in the same sentence. You might see some replies like:

heff: “blasphemy!”
Big Al: “Jefferson is basically the only untouchable player on the team right now”
Jahwei: “Another reminder. Kids, don’t do drugs.”

Well you get the picture. Despite 2005 being Jefferson’s first year in the league, and receiving only 15 minutes a game, he still put up a PER of 16.6. Oh and remember this kid can’t kick back with a beer after the game until January, unless David Stern decides to play the Celtics home opener in Tijuana. As most youngling that enter the league, Jefferson was prone to turnovers and fouls. Considering that he can work on those numbers, he’ll be an asset for the Celtics next year. Jefferson is a fine rebounder, and ranked 19th in John Hollinger’s rebounding rate last year (with the above mentioned Gadzuric being 2nd). Doc Rivers was critical of Jefferson’s defense last year, which limited his minutes. If Al can hustle during preseason and get on his coach’s good side, Rivers might loosen the apron strings and be pleasantly surprised with the results he gets.

Mike Sweetney

How much longer will Mike be on these lists? Do I have to show up in the Garden with a “Free Mike Sweetney” sign? The guy had a 17.2 PER in his first year, despite spending the first few weeks on the IR behind such NBA luminaries like Clarence Weatherspoon and Othella Harrington. Still the Knicks only played him in 11 minutes per game. The year after Sweetney posts a 16.4 PER, despite playing against taller opponents at the five. Still the Knicks limit his minutes to under 20, whether or not he’s performing well.

Even this summer, with the Knicks trading Kurt Thomas, Sweetney’s hold on the PF position is tenuous. He’s been rumored to be traded for everyone from Antoine Walker to Kwame Brown. In last year’s Basketball Forecast, John Hollinger wrote “a good way to judge if the Knicks know what they’re doing is to see how long it takes for Sweetney to take Kurt Thomas’ job.” For this year’s book, Hollinger would be smart to copy & paste the same quote in, because a year later the Knicks still might not have figured out what they have. New York still has a glut of PFs, and it’s possible that Herb trots out Malik Rose, Jerome Williams, and Maurice Taylor often enough to limit Sweetney’s minutes again. However if given the chance to play 30 minutes a night, Big Mike will be a nice sleeper for those in fantasy basketball leagues that are looking for a double-double power forward.

Nick Collison

In 2003, just three picks after New York nabbed Mike Sweetney, the SuperSonics drafted Collison. Unfortunately the pick didn’t pay immediate dividends for Seattle, as Collison missed the season with surgery on both shoulders. Last year he rebounded back from his injuries, and had a PER of 15.0.

Collison took advantage of the Sonics open offense, and shot nearly 54%. Add to that an ability to draw contact, where he had a true shooting percentage of 57%, the same as Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard. Another reason to like Collison is that he upped his game during the playoffs. During the season he scored at a rate of 15.9 pts/48 minutes, but during the playoffs that average went up to 20.3. Getting more playing time next year shouldn’t be an issue for Nick. Seattle lost center Jerome James, and you never know what’s going to happen with volatile Danny Fortson.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

23 thoughts to “Four Players That Need More Time”

  1. While I am curious to see how all these players progress this season, I think focusing purely on statistical effectiveness in the recent past might be leading to a slight overrating of Gadzuric, for example. I mean, wasn’t Hollinger not a huge fan of this guy just a year ago? I too noticed he put together great per minute stats last year, but I still am not convinced (I know, the world is flat, too!) that he would be able to translate that into a consistent 35+ basis for the next five years, either.

    As for Sweetney, now with Thomas gone, of course I think he deserves to prove that it’s his job to lose (although with two new rookies on the squad, they should get a crack at taking his minutes)…but while you point out that the Knicks seem to be trying to trade him to everybody (and I’ve already said on your site dumping him for K. Brown would be a real drag in my book), the curious thing is that No one seems to want him! The same stories you mention also generally mention that the Wizards, for example, WOULDN’T take Sweetney for Brown. Now, it’s one thing for the Knicks to be idiotic. But if Sweetney is so damn good, why are multiple teams non-plussed by this young, studly dangling carrot? I like him too, I’m just finding both the Knicks lack of faith and other teams lack of faith a little puzzling…

    I haven’t really seen Jefferson enough, but Collinson is good. Still, intangibles are intangibles; Fortson is a case in point. No matter what Fortson does with his minutes, it seems pretty obvious why he can’t get more minutes, whatever the team, whatever the circumstance. Sometimes pure stats don’t tell the story…

  2. – Gadzuric is coming into his own now and he’ll be a Top 10 center next season.

    – Not too many non-Celtics fans know how good Jefferson is. He’ll be an 18 and 10 guy by his third season.

    – Sweetney’s an enigma. He’s immensely skilled but he’s also just plain IMMENSE. Dude needs to cut back on the Krispy Kremes. High PER or not, he won’t play starter minutes on the regular until he improves his conditioning. Right now, he’s Tractor Traylor 2.0

    – Collison’s been flying under the radar but he’s a potential late-round steal in fantasy leagues. He shoots for a high percentage and can board with the best of them.

    If I can suggest an addition to your list, keep an eye on Andris Biedrins. Once he learns to reduce the fouls, he’s got a bright future.

  3. …’Marbury for Artest’?
    besides the salries not matching why wouldn’t this work for both sides…anyone?

  4. Those are some good candidates, but the number one guy who I think deserves more minutes in Chris “Birdman” Andersen of the Hornets.

    He only got 21 minutes a game last year despite putting up great numbers all the way around. PER of 18.89. High percentage shooter, very good rebounder and shot blocker. +8.1 Roland Rating (which is hard to do on a lousy team), -6.1 defensive plus/minus.

    The Hornets were smart to lock him up (probably for cheap) on the first day of free agency.

  5. Mike Monroe, who is usually a badass, talked about how “overpaid” Gadzuric is at 6-million per in his Sunday column. Ugh. First off, considering the lack of quality big men out there, anything short of Mark Blount is not “overpaid” at 6-yr/36-mil.

    Secondly, 22 reb-r, 15 rebounds per 40 … is there a better center combo in the NBA right now? Too bad he can’t play the 4.

  6. My comment is only partially related to today’s post, but relevant to the excess of power forwards.

    The Knicks are at least 3 years away from being highly competitive. Given that, it makes more sense to use the amnesty clause on Malik Rose than Houston. As much as I’ve resented H20’s contract since its fateful inception, the timing makes more sense to get rid of Malik. His $29.4mm remaining isn’t miles away from the potential savings of cutting Houston ($39.8) and it helps change the face of the team we’re fielding in 2007-08, the earliest we could be poised for a deep playoff run. If Isiah were truly intent on rebuilding he’d let Timmy T, Penny, Houston, Jerome Williams and Shandon Anderson’s ghost play out the respective 1 or 2 years left on their contracts. Then don’t exercise the option on Jerome Williams for 07-08.

    3 Years from now, the Knicks could be under $60mm in guranteed payroll, starting Frye/ Sweetney/ Ariza/ Richardson/ Marbury. They’d have Jerome James, Crawford, Robinson David Lee and some future draft (lottery?) picks coming off the bench.

    As part of my 3 year plan, anyone who’s not part of my vision for the future gets the bench. I don’t need to see scrubs like Tim Thomas eating up minutes that could be used to develop Ariza. Ditto for Malik Rose/Sweetney.

    There’s no reason why this plan couldn’t work if Isiah showed patience and a little self control in free agency.

    Anyone who is tired of watching the Knicks repeatedly bid against themselves for average to mediocre players, can contact me for more bright ideas at:

  7. Gadzuric could not start for 20 teams in the NBA right now. I just did a count, and it’s more like 15, and that’s being pretty generous. There are certain teams where you could argue that if they had Gadzuric, then other players would switch positions (the most notable being Amare in PHX) but those situtation are offset by times were it’s a real toss up as to who would be a starter. 20 is pretty much out of the question, let alone 25

  8. I’m trying to determine whether Kelly means it as a compliment or an insult when he calls Mike Monroe a “badass.”

  9. Compliment. I like Mike a lot (used to share’s bandwidth with him), and I’m glad he’s back in print and off Murdoch’s dime.

    He was just the latest to question the Gadz contract, and I’ve had enough!

  10. Dwyer, the best center combo in the league right now is either Yao/Deke or Shaq/Anyone.

  11. Another nominee: Zaza Pachulia. He just turned 21 in Feb, he put up a 14.9 PER w/ 13 pts/11 boards/1.5 assists/2.0 TOs per 40. He’s definitely a guy I would feel comfortable throwing a chunk of the MLE to, hoping Milwaukee is tired of writing checks this summer.

  12. At this moment, I would rather have Deke than Hunter. Deke still plays like the Deke of old, the only thing is he can only do it for 20 minutes tops. I would give the advantage to Yao/Deke if only because Yao is a true center and can guard true centers better than Amare. Opponents PER at center for these guys:

    Amare – 18.0
    Yao – 14.6
    Deke – 12.3
    Hunter – 16.8

  13. the guy who deserves the most minutes and is not getting then is reggie evans of the sonics…the guy is like a second coming of rodman, complete with the near-0 offensive skills, and a passion for rebounding…but as hollinger pointed out in one of his articles in, he’s a better rebounder than rodman ever was….

  14. In terms of judging Yao/Deke vs. Amare/Hunter on opponent’s PER, you have to think that you’re going to play better D for Van Gundy than you are for D’Antoni. Yao and Deke(at this point) both have physical limitations, imagine Amare or Hunter under a great defensive coach.

  15. rodman vs. evans is no contest. as a sonics fan, I can attest that evans is a very good rebounder, but he’s no rodman. Rodman wasn’t quite the rebounder evans is, but was a much better shut-down defender and shotblocker than the reg. if you were to match the two of them up during their primes, I’m pretty sure rodman would put up a 10/15/6 blocks (as he can provide plenty of help D due to Reg’s lacking offensive game), while reg would be more of a 5/12/6(fouls as he tried to give help d, and does use his fouls well, unlike, jerome james for example who seems intent on fouling out in under 15 min of play).

  16. This is first good draft year for Knicks in a years. Why they always do something wrong, they should ask me I am from Europe, I know whats good or what sucks there. If they need a shooter sign Macijauskas.
    Gadzuric is overpaid, Nick will be a good backup pf in this league, or even starting pf, Sweetney need to spend more time in gym, and forget about fried chicken, burgers and stuff, he got some skills thats for sure. Al from what I know will be a starter, and a good one, for some team, maybe not for Celts.

  17. Evans’ Rebound Rate this year (23.9) was only slightly higher than Rodman’s RR career -average-. As I recall, Hollinger’s article stated that Evans was a better rebounder than Kevin Garnett, not Rodman.

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