Big Numbers On
Playing for a bad
team has a way of turning Average Joe into Career-High-Average Joe. Consider:
In 1989-90 the expansion Timberwolves signed forward Tony Campbell as a free
agent. Minnesota struggled to a 22-60 finish, but Campbell--a career
6.4-points-per-game scorer entering that season--had a monster year, averaging
A more recent
example of the bad-team boost is point guard Brevin Knight. Before signing with
the Bobcats in August 2004, the 5'10" Knight had shuttled between six teams
in seven years, bottoming out in 2003-04, when he averaged 4.7 points and 3.6
assists with three clubs. While Charlotte had gone 34-108 with Knight through
Sunday, he had averaged 11.1 points and 8.8 assists--second best in the league
over that span.
Yet at the trade
deadline there wasn't much interest in Knight, despite his cap-friendly, $4.6
million salary. "Brevin is one of the top five true point guards in the
NBA," says one Eastern Conference scout. "But he has two major holes:
His size makes him a defensive liability, and he's a horrendous perimeter jump
shooter. Because of that, I don't consider him anything more than a solid
backup [on a good team]."
Knight isn't the
only player with lofty stats that are potentially misleading because he suits
up for a sorry squad. SI identified three more and asked a scout and a veteran
assistant coach to assess their value.
? Al Harrington,
PF, Hawks. A runner-up for the Sixth Man Award with the Pacers in 2003-04,
Harrington pined for a bigger role. He got it with woeful Atlanta; over the
past two seasons his averages of 18.1 points and 6.9 rebounds have positioned
him as one of the top three free agents in a weak class. However, potential
suitors, beware. "He's a decent low-post scorer, but he can't guard threes
or fours," the scout says. "Put him on a good playoff team and he's
probably your fifth-best starter."
? Mike James, PG,
Raptors. At week's end James, 30, was averaging 18.3 points on 47.2% shooting
and 5.4 assists, all career highs, for the 20-38 Raptors. "He's a diamond
in the rough," says the assistant. "Who cares if he's not a true point
guard? He's a tenacious defender who has an uncanny ability to make shots. I'd
take him on my team any day."
? Gerald Wallace,
SF, Bobcats. In three seasons with the Kings he put up 3.4 points a game. In
two seasons with Charlotte his average has spiked to 12.4. But there was a
reason he received little attention as a free agent last summer. "He wreaks
havoc as a defender," says the scout, "but if teams decide to focus on
him, they can shut him down completely." -- Chris Mannix
? NBA Insider Jack
McCallum every Thursday at SI.com/NBA.