How'd He Do?: Bonzi Wells

It's here: the Bonzi Wells post. I've been looking forward to doing the Bonzi Wells post because I really want to see what you guys thought of his contributions this year. Keeping Bonzi or letting him walk will be one of our key moves this offseason. In some ways, the decision will be a referendum on how good the B-Jax trade was in the first place.

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Since the Bonzi situation is probably more important than any other player on the roster, I'll deviate from the standard 'How'd He Do?' course and offer some extended analysis instead of just positives and negatives.

I'll start with this: I advocate bringing Bonzi back. I realize I'm probably in the minority in saying this. But I really think he should continue to don the teal.

My rationale:

  1. I contend that he's over his off-court issues. Yeah, I know, it's 100% stupid to assert this with 100% confidence. But even in his final days with Houston, he had already begun to exhibit signs of new-found maturity (for example, he didn't play with the team in April '07 because he felt he was "disrupting team chemistry." That's a sign he understood that he couldn't let his own personal feelings get in the way of team success, regardless of his current situation). He was often seen explaining defensive roles and the like to younger guys like Julian Wright and Hilton Armstrong, something visibly different from his Portland years. To me, the clincher is Tyson Chandler's account of Bonzi Wells stepping out in front of the team, explaining that his opportunities to win a title were slowly dwindling, and that he would take on any necessary role to help win a title. I consider Tyson one of the best character guys in the NBA, so when I hear words like that from him, it really means something. The possibility of a title will keep Bonzi in check.
  2. He's better than any FA we could get. This free agent class is one of the deepest and best in a while, but it's extremely top heavy. Take a look at the names: L. Deng, G. Arenas, J. Smith, M. Ellis B. Gordon, C. Maggette, A. Iguodala. There's no way we get one of those players without potentially endangering the futures of CP3, Tyson, or DX and potentially messing up the offensive dynamic. That leaves us with the following: R. Davis, T. Allen, M. Pietrus,  M. Barnes. Sure, they're all okay. But I take Bonzi over them in a heartbeat. (See Point #4 for more detail).
  3. He's also better than any rookie we could get, for this next year. Will a player like Billy Walker eventually become a better fit for this team? Oh, hell yes. Of course. But for 2008-2009 (and even 2009-2010), there's no way a 27th pick could have the impact Bonzi can have on a second unit. His post game meshes well with Julian Wright. Plus, we can both take the pick and keep Wells. Why throw away a case of "have your cake and eat it too"?
  4. He's affordable. Way more than affordable. In fact, he'd be a steal given the current market. Let's play a comparison game: M. Pietrus is 27 and reportedly on the up. This last year, he made 3.5 Million. For his next deal, he'll command even more. Bonzi is 31 and certainly on the way down. This last year, he made 2.3 Million, and we could get him for something similar (read: a part of our Mid-Level Exception) and probably a 2 year deal. Bottom line: we can't let him walk for financial reasons unless Mark Cuban or someone offers him 5 Million plus.
  5. The guy is flat-out talented. He just needs to be better incorporated into the offense. His forgettable playoffs will make people forget this, but go back and look at his last few full, healthy seasons where he played for one team: '06 Sacramento (16.6 PER), '05 Memphis (15.9 PER), '03 Portland (15.7 PER), '02 Portland (18.4 PER). Dude can ball. For comparison purposes, the rookie of the year Kevin Durant posted a PER of 15.8. Unless you're getting LeBron, a player simply can't have that big of an impact in his first year, especially on a deep and talented team like the Hornets. And with the 27th pick, suffice it to say, we're not getting a LeBron.

In the end my argument boils down to this: there's no immediate big-impact FA or rookie we can get this offseason. We can definitely acquire a wingman who will develop into a great player (Courtney Lee, etc.) But having a player who can help transition this rookie into PT is essential. Bonzi fits the bill. Also, keep this in mind: re-signing Bonzi does not imply that we don't get anyone else. This bench still needs help, Wells or no Wells. We need another backup big. We need a smooth shooting wing to complement JuJu.

I feel the Hornets just have to try Bonzi out for a full-season and let him become fully acclimated to the team. It's low-risk (financially and strategically) and potentially very high-reward (Bonzi plays at '05 or earlier form). And by the way, my grade for his performance this year is a 4. Vote, and let me know if you think Bonzi should be back via the comments.

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