Yesterday the Bobcats submitted the winning $2M bid for Brendan Haywood, whom you may have heard has North Carolina roots. For days the Charlotte Observer has been extensively detailing his North Carolina-related history with articles that sound like Hans Gruber reciting Mr. Takagi’s biography in Die Hard: “Born, New York City, 1979; Family moved to Greensboro, North Carolina, 1991; Scholarship student, University of North Carolina, 1997; Sponsor of the Greater Greensboro Community Foundation; Resident of Charlotte…And father of five.”
Okay, so besides being a resident, what are his other skills? GM Rod Higgins complimented him as a “quality center”, and as a “defender, a rebounder, a runner and a shot-blocker.” Sorry, I’m not going to give him any points for being a “runner”—doesn’t that apply to everybody in the NBA? (Insert Gana Diop joke here) If you’re going there, you might as well give him props for being a “breather, a burper, a farter, and a nose-picker.” As far as his defense goes, that’s definitely his reputation…Actually, no, his reputation is probably being the one guy who could manage to get into multiple brawls with retired player-turned-poet Etan Thomas. But yes, when not provoking brawls with a man who just edited a book on the importance of fatherhood, Haywood can play defense. Higgins himself put it best, with the age-old cliché: Haywood has the “ability to take up space in the paint.” But this has always been a backhanded compliment, essentially just praise for being large (maybe Higgins also should have labeled him a “grower”). And as the Mavericks themselves proved last year when they limited the useless Haywood to 15 MPG against the Thunder, having a big immobile center often doesn’t help.
Statistically, I’m actually not even seeing that much evidence of his defense. He’s only averaged a block a game for the past two years, and according to basketball-reference.com, his percentage of blocked shots last year was a career-worst 3.8%. Assuming he stays at that level, the team is actually losing shot-blocking ability whenever he replaces Bismack Biyombo, whose 5.9% was 5th best in the league. Dallas’s defense also allowed 3.4 fewer points per 100 possessions last year without Haywood’s North Carolina-affiliated presence on the court (this according to 82games.com, whom I can always count on to put a number on how bad I feel about the Bobcats). Dallas was the 8th-most efficient team on defense last year, which Haywood presumably had something to do with, but then again Haywood only averaged 21 MPG and missed 12 games. So I guess I’m hoping he brings a lot of intangibles to the defense, because I’m not seeing many tangibles.
It’s the same story with his rebounding. I’d like to think that Haywood’s rebounding ability will be an asset, but I’m probably just going to have to settle for liking to thinking about it. His rebound rate has been declining for two straight years; last year he ranked 28th among centers in rebounding. He’s still an upgrade on Biyombo in this category (who ranked just 35th last year—I just thought I’d include that dreary stat in there for those of you who are a) scoring at home, b) enjoy stapling your testicles together), but no one’s going to confuse him with Wilt.
But I suppose it’s all good. At $2M per year, I just don’t want to confuse him with Primoz Brezec, who took more years off of my life than cigarettes. Heywood’s cheap, his PER (12.95 last year) isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, and don’t forget about that running. As long as he doesn’t get into a brawl with Tyrus Thomas, he’s worth the money. And if he does get into a brawl with Thomas, then he deserves a raise.