If you like John Hollinger’s vaunted PER rating, you might believe that 2007-08 was the best season of Brendan Haywood’s career, his 7th in the NBA. Haywood’s PER rating 0f 18.3 was 1.1 points higher than his previous career best of 17.2, achieved his third season in the league, and 23.6% higher than the average PER (14.8) in his first six seasons.
It’s been my opinion that last season was a “breakout” year for Haywood, not only statistically speaking, but also in terms of maturity level. He and Eddie Jordan, also aided by the diplomacy of Randy Ayers, were able to bury the hatchet of past disputes, and Haywood showed up ready to play.
It’s also been my opinion that in previous seasons, Haywood has been a big ol’ softie. He earned the moniker “Brenda” and many shared the same qualitative observation. Since, I’ve stopped referring to Haywood as “Brenda” and have blogged a letter of apology in my ’07-’08 player evaluation of him.
However, some have contested that Haywood, statistically speaking, was good the whole time, and that his production was seemingly low because he didn’t get enough minutes, and Eddie Jordan was being a big ol’ meanie. Sorry, I can’t help but be facetious here … reason being, I’ve been in a semi-spirited discussion at Bullets Forever with the Pradamaster and Rook6980 over this very subject. I’m of the opinion that a man, and not necessarily the coach, controls his own destiny. I’ve also always thought Eddie Jordan to be a fair individual, and compliant EEOC style.
Part of the issue is with the definition of ‘breakout‘. Statistically speaking, and Prada and Rook have made a good arguments with cited numbers, perhaps the difference between Haywood last year and Haywood before is not huge.
However, taking a holistic approach, I truly believe that Haywood “came to play” in ’07-08 more than he ever had before. His focus escalated, shooting .735 from the free-throw line, (a 23.7% increase over his previous career average), and he displayed better hands. Overall, Haywood conveyed an increased sense of toughness and self-confidence. Of course, I can’t discount the fact that BTH was sans distraction last year, with Etan Thomas being out. But there’s no way of telling how much a role Thomas’ absence played in the improvement.
They say that statistics can be manipulated to prove a point in any direction. So, all things considered, I wanted to chart some of my own statistical observations on Brendan Haywood.
In doing so, I used Haywood’s minutes per game, and the “toughness” stats of block rating, player rebound rating, and ‘hands’ rating from 82games.com. I also included the aforementioned PER. For the time period of the data set, I started with the year of BTH’s prior career high PER (’03-04), averaged the statistics for the three subsequent seasons, and finally used last year’s stats (’07-08).
With increased minutes after ’03-’04, in the next three seasons, both Haywood’s PER and block rating went noticeably down while his hands and rebound ratings stayed relatively level. But last season, with even more minutes, these stats climbed across the board. Now the angle of increase is not the most drastic in the world, but factoring them together indicates a clear difference in Haywood’s play.
It would’ve been nice to see each “toughness” category, along with PER, rise at an even ratio to increased minutes, but they didn’t. I can’t exactly pin-point what kind of funk Haywood was in from ’04-05 to ’06-07. Whether last season’s upgrade was the result of being solidified into the starter’s role, evolving to put prior immature actions in the past, or even the shot improvement assistance from Dave Hopla, Haywood broke out of…..something…..last season.
Whatever the case may be, I hope that Haywood can continue last year’s trend once he returns to health. I have full confidence that he can.
[photo source: flickr/Keith Allison]