Why Mark Price?
To: James Pritchett

(A copy of this message has also been posted to the following newsgroups: alt.sports.basketball.nba.wash-bullets)

In article <44rbhl$m04@cronkite.seas.gwu.edu>, 
(James Pritchett) wrote:

> I grow weary of responding ad infinitum to the pro-Price forces, so 
> cool my jets for a bit after this last salvo.  But I think everyone 
> so badly for the Bullets to win that anyone is viewed as a savior.  The 

> NBA is a strange beast.  Where baseball rewards regular season 
> (even with the insipid wild card), basketball's regular season is just 
> entry ticket to the big dance.  Defense becomes more than an 
> when the games really mean something.  All of Mark Price's (alleged) 
> talents are voided in the playoffs.  Suddenly, he's confronted with 
> quick, aggresive guards that don't allow his 3 pointer. Quickly, he 
> discovers he is setting up much higher than usual in the half court 
> Horrifically, he realizes that the opposing guard is making him the 
> recipient of many scores.  His every pass is contested and so, chalk up 

> another playoff loss for Price.  Our team is ready to run and get their 

> share of easy baskets.  We need quickness and speed in the backcourt.
> We need to look toward a future championship, not piecemeal our way to 

> the playoffs.  Trade Cheaney for a really quick point guard, let McLean 

> play some shooting guard and here we go!  Again, I hope I'm very wrong 
> this, but I see big trouble ahead for Les Boulez.  I'll write back 
> halfway into the season.  Maybe I'll be an alligator!?  See y'all and 
> good luck Bullets!
> --
> /               l               l               l               \
> Jp 
> pjaizz@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu
Oh great, let MacLean, who's best defensive play last year was of his date (girlfriend?) on New Year's Eve, play against even quicker SGs (than the currently overmatching SFs)? Yes, MacLean has good offensive skills, and can shoot from the outside (including 3-point range), but you're the one who complains about slow white guys playing guard. And then you want to put MacLean at SG? I thought we learned that lesson with Chapman (and Skiles). Cheaney is a much better defender than either one, especially when he puts his mind to it (my biggest complaint about Cheaney).

But let's get to the crux of your argument, which does have some valid points. Let's look at them point by point:

1. Price is as slow as Skiles. Hardly. Watching the matchups between those two guards last year (the couple of times they actually faced) should convince you that Price has the definite speed advantage on Skiles. Price is not exceptionally quick (like your preferred Strickland), but he plays fundamentally sound basketball. Period. Plus, you ever notice how often Price breaks down opposing PGs off the dribble, even without a pick. He's still got a quick first step, and once into the lane he can create for others (something which I never really saw out of Skiles, though he used to do it in Orlando) or he can take it in and score (and/or draw the foul).

2. Price as a shooter. It's got it's pluses and minuses. He started last season strong, then went down with the wrist injury. When he came back, he was the only real offensive weapon left. Plus, he didn't shoot as well (although his FT% still remained high, meaning his form was still good). Probably attributable (in part) to opposing defenses concentrating on the primary offensive weapon.

I'm a little concerned how well he's going to shoot on the Bullets. He should shoot pretty well, because the Bullets inside game is going to command a lot of attention. And that will open up a lot of outside shooting opportunities. That's what Price should be able to provide for the Bullets.

Even in the playoffs, when the defense is tighter, the opportunities will still be there for Price. Witness the playoffs of the past couple of seasons. The inside-out game is becoming vogue in order to succeed. The opponents will have to choose their poison--get pounded inside by Webber/Howard/Muresan/Wallace (all have solid inside games, and Webber's might actually be the weakest) or risk the outside shots of Price/Cheaney/Legler/MacLean. This is, potentially, a good combination. Even in the playoffs. Just witness how often the outside shooters are left open in the playoffs--sometimes they hit, sometimes they miss.

Plus, Price can shoot on the move. He still does, whether off picks or even when he only gets one step on his defender, he can (and will) get a reasonably accurate shot off.

3. Halfcourt leader. Hmm, this is an interesting one. I've seen many claims recently that Price isn't much of a leader on the court, but he's never struck me as being that passive. They made the EC Finals once (1992). They always made the playoffs. They have been losing in recent years because, quite frankly, they haven't had the team talent to advance far.

More importantly, he can run a half-court offense in the waning seconds. That's the one part of Skiles' game last year that I especially liked. He took control of the offense in the closing minutes of a tight game and tried to get this team in position to win. Offensively and defensively. Overton never seemed to do that (once Skiles went out for the season). Price can take the clutch shots and free throws. But he's not going to be the primary offensive weapon, and I think that's good for his game.

You say he's going to be forced higher out on his passes. Fine. The much tighter illegal defense and hand-checking rules of last year (which are still in effect) negate much of the defensive advantage. Think about it: defenses can't sag for 2.9 seconds on a post player without the ball any more (allowing balls to be looped in), and close defense (to cut passing lanes) now run a greater risk of a foul being called because the PG can now dribble around the defender. It's an interesting concern, with some validity, but it's true for ALL PGs. Go back to 1 for Price--he's not as slow (and can break down opposing PGs on the dribble) as Skiles. The problem which the Bullets need to overcome is proper spacing on the floor to allow passes to be looped into the post.

4. Your up-tempo game concern has some validity. However, you need to realize a few things. One, Mark Price used to run a controlled break with the Cavs (before their recent slow down tempo of last year). He probably still can (he hasn't lost that much speed, and still has the great court vision). Two, the PG doesn't always have to lead the break. In fact, Webber LOVES leading the break and is reasonably competent at it. Although it does result in its share of problems (bad passes, etc.).

Third, in the playoffs, the up-tempo game rarely works over the long haul. Ask Seattle, Phoenix, etc. Talented teams that have problems in a half court set (either offensively and/or defensively). As you said, the defenses become tighter and better. Opportunities to break occur less frequently. Teams have to choose their break opportunities well. But they must function in a half court game.

5. The injury thing. Only 2 seasons have been marred by serious injury: 1990-91, and 1994-95. He does get nicked up, which is why the Bullets will probably limit him to less than 30 mpg. And why they want 3 PGs on the roster (M. Price, B. Price, Overton). But, other than his rookie season and the two injury seasons, he's played at least 72 games per year. He's durable enough (provided he doesn't get bitten by the Bullets injury bug *knock, knock*).

6. Lastly, I don't understand where you get the point of your line, "Horrifically, he realizes that the opposing guard is making him the recipient of many scores." Unless this ties back into your contention that Price is a slow white guard and doesn't belong on the court. He does give up his share of points, which every player does (even His Airness), but I don't think he's worse than any other PG out there. Unfortunately, there aren't statistics kept like these.

There are reasons for piecemealing to the playoffs.

1. Nash's (and Lynam's) jobs depend on it. No playoffs (or a minimum of 35+ wins, which should make the playoffs) and they're out of a job. They need help now. This doesn't necessarily point to Price, but does point to a veteran PG.

2. This team needs to learn how to win, otherwise they will be no better than the T-wolves or any other team that can be loaded with talent but not succeed at the pro level. If they don't start winning this year, the free agents won't come here, the players become complacent and just start playing out to collect on their contracts, and that's it. Winning in college rarely completely transfers to automatically winning at the pro level.

3. The East continues to look weak at the bottom of the playoff bracket. The Bullets have a shot at making it. And it's a big marketing ploy if they get close. To be honest, that's what this whole game is about. Winning and making money.

4. The Bullets feel that they have a core of talent that will last them for seasons to come. There were 5 players that, in Nash's words, were virtually untouchable: Webber, Howard, Cheaney, Muresan, Wallace. Cheaney is the oldest (at 24), and each player has no more than 2 years of pro experience. That's young, and that's talent. But now they need to learn to play together, and, more importantly, learn.

5. That draft choice next year isn't going to be worth much. Further, next year's draft may be one of the weakest in recent memories. This year didn't have many (if any) superstars, but it was deep with "solid" talent. I'm not so sure about next year. A few stars, but that's it.

6. The free agent crop next year could be superb. Mutombo, more than likely, will not be returning to Denver. Payton and Anderson are FA (and both are "unhappy" in their current situations--Payton with the coach, Anderson with the Nets organization and talent). And there are other talents as well (which I can't name off the top of my head).

Trading for Price is a definite risk. But he was obtained extremely cheaply (IMO), and the upside could be great. Even if he only stays for one year. But it really comes down to reasons #1 and #4, above, as to why the Bullets chose to piecemeal into the playoffs. Yes, they could have had Strickland (who I think is a talented PG). But he's only 3 years younger than Price. He wants to renegotiate his contract into the $5M range (and the Bullets have no cap room for that, though I'm not sure they'd have it for Payton or Anderson either). And if you want a really quick PG, then just go out and sign Keith Jennings. He's a RFA, and still available. And he's good friends with Webber.

I know this won't change your mind, but there are (IMO) a lot of good reasons to make this trade. And there are many risks. But there is no way, in my mind, that I would say Price=Skiles. No way at all.


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