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Swapping Jax for Maggs

In swapping Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston, and the 19th pick (Tobias Harris) for Corey Maggette and the 7th pick (Bismack Biyombo), the Bobcats did something more than just continuing their trade happy ways: They sent away the player who helped guide them to their first playoff appearance, a team captain, and a leader in Stephen Jackson. In surrendering Shaun Livingston, the Bobcats gave up on a former lottery pick with a reasonable contract who was beginning to show promise again, after a long recovery from his well-documented knee injury. The value of the move up in the draft will be determined in the years to come, as Bismack “The Business” Biyombo either makes good on the comparisons to Ben Wallace or goes the way of (insert the name of high athleticism, low skill level lottery pick here).

However, in the short term, the trade can be viewed as a swap of Stephen Jackson for Corey Maggette, with the remainder being Shaun and 19 for 7. Oversimplification? Yes. Interesting to delve deeper into? Yes, as well (at least to me, so you’ll have to feign interest or move along to something else for the day).

While Stephen Jackson is known for his temper, technical fouls, passion and high-volume, low efficiency scoring, Corey Maggette is generally regarded as a low basketball iq, athletic wing who gets to the basket and plays no defense. 7 of the 10 results that show up in a google search for “Corey Maggette basketball iq” are suggestions that he’d be a great player if he had the basketball iq of Shane Battier or Luke Walton, among others. The 3 others are links to general player pages. While this is slightly distressing, basketball iq and leadership are still difficult to quantify, so I’ll stick to the numbers I can provide, and note that there have been plenty of players who could post good stats on bad teams.

Why the qualifier? Because the swap tool loves this move and I know a good many people are discouraged to see Jackson’s passion for winning replaced by Maggette’s seemingly single purposed goal of scoring quickly and defending in a way to resume that first goal with as little delay as necessary.

On the 26th ranked offense in the NBA last year (by offensive efficiency), this potential efficiency increase is a welcome theoretical outcome. While Stephen and Corey used a comparable number of possessions last year (on a per 100 team possessions basis), Maggette had a much better rate of return on that investment, scoring 2.7 more points on the approximately 30.5 possessions used. The increased output can be largely traced to Maggette’s reliance on one of the most efficient attempts in basketball – the free throw. Maggette posted a free throw rate (fta/fga) of 0.581, to just 0.286 for Jax. Maggette made good use of the additional trips to the line, posting a TS% of 57.3% to Stephen’s 52.2%. It may not be riveting television to see a player continually draw whistles and head to the line, but it is certainly efficient basketball when a player shoots them as well as Maggette does – 83.4% last season on fta’s.

The Bobcats are projected to take a dip in defensive efficiency with Maggette taking Jackson’s position, allowing 0.3 more points per 100 possessions. Again, I can provide some reason to take comfort in that number: On an individual basis, Maggette’s defense was comparable to Jackson’s last year. Relative to their expected opponent, neither player was great, but Maggette actually bested Jackson in a couple of important areas:

Net Stats – Allowed Minus Expected
Points Allowed PER Allowed TS% Allowed Turnover Rate Forced
Stephen Jackson -0.8 -0.6 -1.8% +0.7
Corey Maggette +0.8 +0.48 -1.7% +0.2

Reminder: Negative means more than expected and is hence bad, except for in Turnover Rate, where a negative indicates increased turnovers (which neither managed).

One last note. Corey is a year and a half younger than Jackson with a comparable contract. There: Three areas covered, three reasons for optimism. A good start to the week (and the rest of indeterminately lengthy off-season).