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Jerryd Bayless and Darren Collison

Welcome, Jerryd.
Welcome, Jerryd.

Two and a half months ago, New Orleans moved Darren Collison to Indiana. Opinion on the trade was fairly divided at the time. My initial opinion (which still holds today) was that Trevor Ariza would produce more wins, almost as an absolute certainty, than Collison could produce as Chris Paul's backup. Though Collison's intrinsic "value" was likely higher than an under-performing Trevor Ariza, it doesn't mean the Hornets could have recouped his full value via a trade.

The trade also unloaded the contract of James Posey. I generally hate trades that give away talent to shed salary, but they're an unfortunate reality sometimes. Posey wasn't Dell Demps' bad decision, and New Orleans did slice off ~$15 million in payroll through 2012. 

Following yesterday's trade, I'm really starting to combine the two moves in my head. I think New Orleans came out a little bit ahead in each of (a) Collison for Ariza and Posey dump, and (b) mid-1st rounder in a possibly weak '11 draft for Bayless. Together? It looks like this:

IN: Bayless, Ariza, $$/Cap Space
OUT: Collison, 1st round pick

I hate how "jump" has no good synonyms. Well other than "capriole," I guess. Capriole, people.

I'd further split that original grouping into two parts: the point guard for the (ostensible) new point guard and the rest for the rest. Let's start with the former:

Darren Collison for Jerryd Bayless

Darren Collison had a really good rookie season. He was a decent passer (32.9% of his possessions ended in an assist), and he shot well from the floor. Though he didn't take great care of the ball, there's no question that, had he stayed, he would have backed up a healthy Chris Paul perfectly. 

Jerryd Bayless had a sophomore season comparable to Collison's 2009-2010 (Bayless is almost exactly one year younger than Collison). He posted a 108 ORtg on a 24.9% usage rate versus Collison's 105 ORtg on 23.1% usage. And despite a lower PER, he posted 0.1 win shares per 48 minutes versus Collison's 0.07. As hyped as Collison was heading into the offseason, there's a case that Jerryd Bayless was actually the better overall player. Of course, there's also the argument that Collison was better overall since he posted his slightly worse figures against starter-level competition. Either way, both players' production values were far closer than most people realize.

The main issue goes something like this: Darren Collison is a "point guard." Jerryd Bayless is not a "point guard." And to a lot of analysts, that's that. 

But it's not so black and white. The concept of the "positional revolution" has been floating around for a while now. I highly recommend this recent piece by Noam Schiller at Hardwood Paroxysm. This is a particularly excellent quote:

And yet, despite myriad evidence that it makes no sense, we insist on defining positions by skill set. This league is full of point guards who don’t get points, shooting guards who can’t shoot, small forwards who are big, power forwards who are weak, and centers that consistently stay in the outskirts of the court. Tweeners, exceptions, oddities – call them what you want, but they are a dominant part of this game, at times even the best the game has to offer.

Jerryd Bayless will likely play the point guard position for New Orleans. From that position, he'll shoot the ball often and create ample offense for himself. Those are qualities we'd traditionally associate with a "wing." (If we take a free throw attempt as the conventionally defined 0.44 field goal attempts, Bayless averaged 16 shots per 36 minutes in 2009-2010). Those aren't qualities we necessarily associated with Collison (though Collison, too, comes in at 14.8 shots per 36 minutes).

Just because Jerryd Bayless doesn't play "point guard" doesn't mean he can't play point guard. The minutes distributions from (posted yesterday) indicate that he provided efficient offense from the position. He'll provide efficient offense from the position again in 2010-2011. He may not have the vision of a Darren Collison, but he'll certainly execute a number of set plays from shooters like Marcus Thornton, outside of his own offense.

Those types of plays are most often functions of a team's basic offensive system than anything else. Peja Stojakovic runs off four screens and arrives on the wing. Darren Collison, dribbling at the top of the key for six seconds, hits him. Another Entergy, etc. There's no reason Bayless can't play that same role either. The difference comes in their decision making. Where Collison might drive and kick to an open Songaila, Bayless may fake and go in for the layup. The data suggests that both players were equally as valuable in making those differing decisions last year. 

The issue of Thornton's and Bayless' coexistence is one Monty Williams will need to sort out. But again, the '09-'10 Hornets utilized a ton of "stopped ball" plays for MT, where Collison would basically keep the ball up top until Thornton broke free. There's absolutely no reason those plays can't be carried over.

The final factor for me is Bayless' versatility. Darren Collison plays 15-20 minutes a night, maximum. He never displayed the necessary off-ball skills to warrant time at off guard with Chris Paul on the floor (New Orleans did use the dual guard look effectively, but with Paul at the 2. Any system that moves Chris Paul off a ball dominant position is one I'd like to stay away from). Bayless will play those same 15, with the potential to move off the ball as well. He has the capability to be a Leandro Barbosa-type game breaker- a player that can handle the ball and move into scoring mode at will. Collison won't bring that quality, and Thornton, who relies on screens and passes for his shots, really isn't of that mold either. 

From both a statistical and team construction standpoint, the Collison-Bayless swap is very close to equal.

2011 1st Rounder for Trevor Ariza, $$/Cap Space

Is there anyone that doesn't do this trade every single time? With the lockout looming, 2011 could be one of the weakest classes in years. Basketball-Prospectus's SCHOENE and various other statistical projection systems project the Hornets to finish with around the NBA's 10th to 15th best record (or way better than the "experts" of the national media). Acquiring a defensive swingman, cap space for the summer, and saved money for that mid-round pick is absolutely worth it. 

In Sum

Again, I thought both moves were pretty decent when analyzed individually. Combined, they make even more sense. 

Overall, it's hard not to be excited about this offense (by the way, B-Pro's SCHOENE system projects the Hornets to have the 2nd most efficient offense in the NBA this year. And that's assuming Willie Green and Jannero Pargo had manned the point). A starting unit of Paul-Belinelli-Ariza-West-Okafor with excellent bench offense from Bayless and Thornton and shooting from Stojakovic is going to perform really well.

I've still got major questions about the defense... but man will this be a fun team to watch.