July 24, 2012 Pick and Pop: A.J. Price Edition
By: Bohlin and Willis
The Washington Wizards made a move for a backup point guard today in signing free agent A.J. Price to a contract. This is a move that surely will appease the fan base as they have been voicing their opinion for an upgrade at that position. As always, The DC Dime is here to offer our opinions in a section we call the Pick and Pop.
1) Feelings on A.J. Price signing?
Bohlin: As I noted here I have been sold on signing A.J. Price to fill this backup point guard role well before the news broke this morning.
Price has an unbelievable story which helps me feel as strongly about this signing as I do. There has been an immense amount of adversity in his life and the fact he overcame said odds and has thrived says a lot about him as a person. A life-threatening bout with AVM (Arteriovenous malformation) that caused bleeding in his brain forced Price to miss his entire freshman season at UConn. Price underwent radio-surgery treatment in 2005 and spent a total of 14 months recovering before finally being cleared by his doctors.
Despite beating the disease, things got ugly for Price. In August of 2005 Price, and former UConn Huskie Marcus Williams, were arrested for attempting to sell stolen laptops. As a result of this arrest, Price was barred from attending classes during the Fall 2005 semester. Instead of falling off into oblivion Price worked to get back into school and ended up being a three-year starter for Jim Calhoun.
During 2008-2009, Price’s senior season at UConn, he was the Huskies leading scorer averaging a shade under 15 PPG. He also was an intricate part of UConn’s Final Four run, being named Most Outstanding Player in the West Regional.
A second round pick (#52) by the Indiana Pacers in 2009, Price has had trouble finding solid minutes during his professional career. In Indiana there seemed to be a revolving door of point guards that would be brought in over him (Earl Watson, Darren Collison, George Hill, Leandro Barbosa and most recently D.J. Augustin).
Despite being constantly passed over for his opportunity Price continued to work and proved to be a reliable option as a backup PG for the Pacers. The Indiana Pacers blog on the SB Nation network referred to Price as “their security blanket point guard and a locker room favorite.” For a team in desperate need of a reliable option at backup PG, this description is more than fine for me to be happy with this acquisition.
Willis: While I do love me some back story, especially when it involves one of my favorite college players of all time in Marcus Williams, I am pretty ho-hum about this signing. While Price obviously has the intangibles that would suggest he is wise beyond his years, I’m not sure he was the man for the job of backup point guard. I would have liked the Wizards to pick up someone who has been in the league longer than three years (or one year longer than John Wall). He is a veteran with playoff experience, sure, but he played scant minutes and didn’t perform admirably during the times he was on the court.
Worse still, I’m not sure he solves any of those Wizards issues on the court. His stats suggest that he is inept at stretching the floor with a long range shot, which is really something that Washington still needs. The Wizards basically just put a body in place by not being active earlier in the offseason. I’m not convinced that Price is going to provide a tangible benefit with his playing ability. I don’t even know if he can play alongside John Wall considering neither of them can shoot very well, which means that he is not going to be able to play solid minutes and add versatility to Washington.
2) Is Price an upgrade…Or lateral move?
Bohlin: Absolutely an upgrade. Despite being a great college PG at Butler University I just haven’t seen what I’d hoped out of Shelvin Mack to feel comfortable with him being the one to spell John Wall going forward. To make matters worse for Mack he was far from inspiring while a part of the Wizards Vegas Summer League team. His performance in Sin City certainly helped in the decision to bring Price to the district.
Price, to this point in his career, has more than proven he is a reliable backup PG who can come in and run the offense effectively with the second unit. When given the opportunity to get rotation
minutes, Price is a more than capable point guard for a competitive NBA team. He averaged 6 PPG and a shade under 3 APG during a 16 game stretch last season where he earned 18 minutes per game for the Pacers.
Willis: He’s an upgrade, but barely. Even of that I’m not entirely sure, but it’s hard to believe that any player can be a whole lot worse than Shelvin Mack. In Price, the Wizards get a guy who knows how to distribute the ball well despite being inept at shooting. I think his ability to get around defenders is going to be a major upgrade over the cement footed Mack, and he should be able to set up Beal or Crawford for a potentially explosive second unit. That is going to be much needed, because I think Beal, at least, needs to play alongside a guy who can create some space for him to get that slow release shot off. If we throw in a few lobs or open jumpers by a now improved Vesely, the Wizards may in fact be upgraded.
Interesting to note about Price: He has over a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio even in diluted playing time. That’s a good thing for the Wizards, because it means even though he wasn’t playing a lot, he still wasn’t trying to “get his” while he was on the court. I think, at the very least, Washington made an upgrade in the fluidity of their second unit. Hopefully this means that if Mack does get minutes, he can play at a position better suited for him as a severely undersized two. Of course, if Washington blows it on this signing, then it means there are literally no jump shooters outside of Beal on the entire team. The end result could be just as disastrous as last year, and that is not what the Wizards want.
So can this potentially work? Yes. Can this potentially be a disaster? You bet. I would have rather Washington added a much better shooter than Price (even if he isn’t a point guard) because I think Crawford or Beal could be the primary ball handler on those teams. But, whatever. You take what you can get, and this is who we got.
3) Biggest remaining need for the Wizards?
Bohlin: This may sound like a cop out answer to this question but in my opinion the biggest remaining need for the Wizards would simply be cohesion.
In one and three quarters of a season this roster has been completely flipped. Our longest tenured players are John Wall, Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker…also known as the 2010 draft class. Ernie Grunfeld brought in some veterans to help John Wall continue to grow into the star many believe he can ultimately be. However, the fact remains he will have played a total of 11 games with the rest of the Wizards projected starting lineup of Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor and, of course, Nene. The more comfortable Wall can become playing alongside this group the better the Wizards will be next season.
Bringing in a veteran, albeit still young at only 25, backup PG will do nothing but help the second unit that presumably will be led by Kevin Seraphin as well. Price has been patiently waiting for his opportunity to receive steady minutes and that is what he will receive in D.C. If Price can come in and be the floor general for the second unit, mostly made up of last seasons starting lineup, like I think he is capable of the Wizards will be a vastly improved team going into the 2012-2013 campaign.
Willis: Ernie, come on man, the Wizards still cannot shoot! Just because you drafted one guy who can hit shots in Beal (and I’m still not sure he can do it at an incredibly high rate) does not mean Washington is that much improved from last year. Sure, everything is revamped now and players are going to get better, but who in the world stretches the floor for us? Chris Singleton? Yeah, have fun with that. Nene is not a stretch four and neither is Seraphin. That means the Wizards now have the following players who have to score from inside the paint: Nene, Seraphin, Wall, Crawford, Okafor, Booker, Ariza (if he can score at all), Vesely, Mack, and Singleton. From the perimeter? Cartier Martin and Beal (we hope). Yeah, safe to say this team is one dimensional.
I’m not sure where we have room for it, but a stretch three or four would be the next biggest need now. Or a stretch two, or a stretch one, or a stretch five. Any able bodied individual who can hit a jump shot consistently. Anything! I’d be okay with signing the most one dimensional player ever who can only hit shots. Unfortunately I think in order to get someone like this on our team to play solid minutes, someone else has to be shipped out. I don’t think Ernie is going to want to do that, though.
So yeah, we need more shooters but we don’t have room for them. A year to grow is going to help, too. I think with this much roster turnover the Wizards also need one thing: time. Who knows how effective this unit can be and who could become a breakout player (or shooter); It’s mostly a wait and see deal. Until then, I think Washington has to stay put.