Chris Wilcox is Like Drew Gooden?

Posted on August 20, 2006 by


Last week Drew Gooden and Chris Wilcox each signed three year contracts for quite similar amounts.  Gooden will receive a reported $23 million over the next three seasons while Wilcox will earn a reported $24 million.  So the market has spoken and apparently these two players are considered nearly equivalent players.

There are certainly similarities.  Each player is a 6’10” frontcourt performer with four years of NBA experience. But Gooden has spent most of his career as a starter, while Wilcox has been commonly used off the bench.  So why was Wilcox given a similar deal for slightly more money?

Wilcox signed with the Seattle Supersonics. The Sonics were able to get to know Wilcox, having acquired him in February in a mid-season deal with the LA Clippers.  With the Clippers, Wilcox had hardly stood out as a top prospect.  Prior to the 2005-06 campaign Wilcox posted career averages of 7.0 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.  His career Win Score per-minute was only 0.173, a below average mark for a power forward or center.  

When we look at his Wins Production a similar story is told.  In his first three seasons Wilcox had produced less than one win for his entire career.

This past season Wilcox appeared to improve.  The first half of the season was with the Clippers.  If we look at his per-game performance we see very little to be excited about.   He only played 13.7 minutes per contest, and in this time, scored just 4.5 points while capturing 3.6 rebounds.  His shooting percentage of 53.6%, though, marked a career best.  And his per-minute Win Score rose to 0.220, a mark quite similar to what an average front-court performer offers.  

Although Wilcox had improved, the Clippers still dealt him to Seattle.  With the Sonics he played 29 games.  In these games he played 30 minutes per contest and posted some very respectable numbers.  Per game he averaged 14.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, and shot 59.2% from the floor.  His Win Score per minute was 0.318, which is well above average for a power forward or center. 

Again it is the same story when we look at wins.  Wilcox produced 1.2 wins for the Clippers last season, a mark that eclipsed his total from the previous three seasons.  With the Sonics, though, he produced 4.1 victories in just 29 contests.  

So with the Clippers, Wilcox was average last season.  With Seattle, he was well above average.  Prior to the 2005-06 campaign, though, Wilcox had always been below average. 

Given all this, which Wilcox is Seattle hiring?  The one Seattle saw for 29 games last season?  Or the one the Clippers saw for 213 games before the trade? 

It does seem unlikely that Wilcox will continue to hit 59% of his shots.  Over the past five seasons only Shaquille O’Neal has shot this well over an entire season.  And had Wilcox shot 51.8% for the Sonics – the mark he posted with the Clippers prior to 2005-06 — his Win Score per-minute would have only been 0.270.  This is quite respectable, but not exactly as stellar as 0.318.

In sum, Wilcox seemed to have improved at just the right time.  But going forward, it is not clear that Wilcox will continue to be the player Seattle saw this last spring.

Okay, now let’s look at Gooden.  Remember, Gooden received a bit less than Wilcox.  When we look at the numbers, this seems a bit odd.  Gooden has played two seasons for the Cleveland Cavaliers.  So when the Cavs re-signed Gooden this summer, they had some idea who they were signing.

In 2004-05 Gooden played every single game and posted a per-minute Win Score of 0.305.  His production of 12.3 wins ranked 22nd in the NBA.  In other words, Gooden was a pretty good player.  This last season his per-minute Win Score was 0.291.  His production of wins fell to 9.7, primarily due to a decline in minutes played.  Still, Gooden was pretty good in 2005-06 also.

Although his overall numbers were quite similar, a different story is told when we look at Gooden’s scoring.   Gooden averaged 14.4 points per game in 2004-05, scoring 0.469 points per minute played.  This last season he only averaged 10.7 per contest, with a per-minute mark of 0.388. 

So although his overall productivity was quite similar, Gooden’s decline in points production likely reduced the dollars he will earn from his new contract. 

After all these numbers, what do we know?  Apparently increasing your scoring totals right before signing a new contract is a good idea. And seeing your scoring numbers decline right before a new contract is not very helpful. 

So what lesson do NBA players learn from the Wilcox-Gooden story?  Scoring pays in the NBA. 

Wait, I think I told that story before.

Okay, for the next post I will tell a new story.  I will also try and think of a new title. 

— DJ