Rick Bonnell needs to step his game up. And apparently I’m not alone in that conclusion: the second posting following Bonnell’s recent player-by-player review leads with the damning words “very soft analysis.” Indeed, I’ve seen more in-depth sports analysis in TV Guide’s NFL Preview issue. If you’re a paid commentator for the city’s largest newspaper, you’ve gotta deliver more than that, RB—especially in the off-season, unless you’re also the Observer’s horticultural expert or something else I don’t know about. And this was on the heels of his spectacularly milquetoast assessment of Charlotte’s off-season agenda, wherein he makes the following non-committal banalities:
1. “Do you cut the cord now or hope Vincent improves? I’d say the odds are 50-50.”
2. “If the Bobcats have the chance to draft Memphis’ Derrick Rose in June, it wouldn’t be bad to develop an alternative.”
3. “Kansas State’s Michael Beasley is more a scorer than a defender, but he’d be a nice upgrade if the Bobcats luck out in the draft lottery.”
“50-50”? What kind of prediction is that? And as for taking Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley in the lottery? Gee, no kidding, Rick—you really think we should pick one of them over, say, Italy’s Danilo Gallinari? Way to put it out on the line like that. Hey, I think I realized what Bonnell’s other job is: advising the President on deadlines for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Anyway, because we clearly can’t rely on Bonnell for anything that would inspire critical thought, let’s keep it in-house by posing this question: who would you say was the Bobcats MVP this year? This is almost certainly a silly question. It’s a little like asking, “What was the best Gerardo song?” But if you had to pick someone, who would it be?
First, I’ll go out on a Bonnell-like limb here and assume it’s either Richardson, Okafor, Felton, or Wallace. Second, I don’t have any sort of set criteria that I’m looking for in an MVP; however, whenever I’m choosing an MVP—whether it’s from the NBA, the NFL, or the cast of Battlestar Galactica (gotta be President Laura Roslin: strong but vulnerable, with the added bonus of looking like a former 80s metal video groupie)—I prefer that the decision be based on some sort of rational analysis. In other words, don’t do what ESPN’s J.A. Adande and Chris Broussard seem to always do, which is make a snap decision based on whatever they just saw two minutes ago. These lead to skewed perceptions, and this country is already overwhelmed with those. They’re why Citigroup posts a $5 billion loss and sees its share price rise while Bank of America’s stock plummets even though it was technically still profitable last quarter; they’re why Barack Obama rises out of a poor, single-parent household only to get branded an “elitist” (and also a “whiner” and “not tough enough” by someone whose most memorable televised moment in the past 6 months was crying after a loss in a primary).
So anyway, let’s take a look at the numbers. As an admitted worshipper at the Temple of Hollinger, my first stop is the PER category, which measures a player’s overall efficiency through the use of complex statistical analyses, calculus, the cosine, pi, and the blood of a freshly slaughtered calf. After mixing it all together, ESPN stat guru/witchdoctor John Hollinger tells us that Richardson led the way with an 18.48 in this category (15 is average), compared to the 17.57, 17.45, and 13.85 scores of Wallace, Okafor, and Felton, respectively.
A quick surf over to 82games.com, which is great for +/- measurements (which are regarded in hockey about as highly as RBI’s are in baseball, yet inexplicably ignored in basketball), and we see that Wallace was the category leader, with a Net48 of -2.3. This means that the Cats were outscored by 2.3 points per 48 minutes of playing time for Wallace. You’re probably saying to yourself that “-2.3” doesn’t seem like a very good score—let alone the best—and you’re right, it isn’t. This is why we were a bad team. But in this case the -2.3 bested Felton’s -3.3, Richardson’s -3.5, and Okafor’s -4.3. (It’s also worth noting that Matt Carroll tied Wallace’s mark of -2.3, and also that anytime Carroll was on the court, he and the rest of his 5-man unit outscored the opposition 51.3% of the time (none of the other “big 4” tops Okafor’s 44.3%). But this is where we get into the murky area of first-unit vs. second unit, which I imagine explains most of this discrepancy.)
Let’s quickly move on from there—because, frankly, the +/- scores are depressing—and look at the more traditional stats. This is where Richardson really achieves some separation. J-Rich led the team in scoring—21.8 to Wallace’s 19.4, and Richardson played in 20 more games. He was efficient about his scoring, too. His adjusted field-goal percentage (all points less FT’s, divided by FGA), .524, trailed only Okafor’s .535. He wasn’t shabby at all on the boards either (5.4 rebounds-per). Plus he was good for 3.1 assists and nearly one-and-a-half steals a game. There’s also that aforementioned durability: J-Rich played in all 82 games (tied with Okafor) and tied Wallace for 38.4 mpg.
Thus my vote Team MVP would be (in order) Richardson, Okafor, Wallace, and Felton (the order of the last two depends on how much stock you put in durability). Congratulations, J-Rich! Your prize is an autographed player review by Rick Bonnell, in which he describes you as “the best move on Michael Jordan’s watch” (Really? Sure it wasn’t the decision to draft Adam Morrison third overall, Rick?).