Warning: this post will contain stats.
I've had several lengthy debates centering around Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva since the moment we signed them. I think they're both good, useful players. I don't think they're worth what we are paying them. But rather than just complain about them, I'll try to illustrate why I think signing them for a combined $90m+ was a mistake.
The best way I can think of to do this is create a comparison of somewhat similar players, who were also free agents and signed for less money and to shorter contracts, and show their career stats through last season; which was obviously all the information Jod had at the time he made the signings. Then compare their current seasons and see how they are playing (all of this is with the caveat that Gordon/CV have been dinged up).
There were several players who I thought could provide similar production to CV, and were available for significantly less money.
CV is the youngest (24) and the highest scorer by PPG's and points per/36 minutes- we signed him for roughly $35m over five years. Gooden is the oldest (27) and best rebounder- he signed a one year deal with Dallas for $4.5m. Warrick is the second oldest (26) and the most efficient scorer- he signed a one year deal with the Bucks for $3.5m. Frye is below the other three in most categories, but he came with the cheapest price tag- just $2m/year for two years.
Now click here for their stats from this season. The results:
Pretty consistent from what we saw through their careers: CV is still the highest scorer both by PPG's and points per/36. Gooden is still the best rebounder. The biggest shift is Frye has seen an abnormally huge jump in his efficiency and currently has a far better TS% and eFG% than the other three.
Comparing advanced metrics: CV has the highest PER at 16.7, the other three each have about a 14.7 PER. Frye has the highest WinShare, CV the second highest; though considering how WinShares works, and the fact that CV has played more minutes than Gooden and Warrick, I'd guess the three are about equal by that metric. By ORtg and DRtg, Frye again looks the best with O: 120 and D: 109, Warrick is at O: 106 and D: 106, Gooden is at O: 101, D: 101, and CV is at O: 107, D: 108. A pretty negligible difference between the three guys not named Frye.
First of all, in fairness to Gordon, this was a particularly horrible free agent class of SG's. Though, that does beg the question of why Jod went after the only highly regarded SG on the market when we already had Rip and Afflalo.
Anyway, here are Gordon's career stats through last season, along with the career stats of two other small scorer/shooters, and a third decent SG, who were all free agents: Nate Robinson (he was restricted, but IMO a multi-year offer would not have been matched), Von Wafer, and Rodney Carney.
Gordon scored the most points per game and per/36, was the most efficient scorer, and had the second highest assist rate, but he had the lowest rebound rate of the four and highest turnover rate (somewhat excusable because he also had the highest usage %), and he was the oldest player at 25- we signed him for around $55m over five years.
Robinson scored the second most points per game and per/36, he also dished the highest rate of assists, and was the second best rebounder- he re-signed with the Knicks for a single year at $4m and will be unrestricted this offseason. Wafer and Carney are below the other two in most categories, though they both had very low turnover rates- Carney signed for the minimum (about 800K), and Wafer signed overseas, but quickly tried to come back to the Rockets for about $1m, but failed his physical and is now in limbo.
Here are Gordon, Nate, and Carney's stats from this season, and Wafer's stats from just last season (I'm including Wafer because he increased his efficiency when given a larger role with Houston, and fits the "player-type" of "bench scorer").
Gordon still scores the most per game, but despite being benched for a few weeks, Nate now has a slightly higher pts per/36 minutes than Gordon, and has been more efficient. Carney hasn't played a ton of minutes, but has improved his 3 pt%. Wafer obviously hasn't done anything this year, but last season, when given the role of "designated bench scorer" he showed himself to be fairly effective and efficient (about equal to Gordon's current efficiency this season).
Gordon is without a doubt the best player among them (though IMO Nate is very underrated). The question is, how much better is he?
Or, what about a three year contract at $4-5m/year for Nate Robinson and a two year deal at 4m/year for Gooden, leaving us with $11m still left to spend? And don't say, "we already had MFWB." I've watched Houston play Brooks and Lowry together plenty of times this season, and seen them cause havoc with their dribble penetration. IMO, Nate also would have been an amazing combo with Stuckey.
Wrapping it up:
Ultimately my problem with Jod signing Gordon and CV isn't that I think they are bad players, it's that IMO they are somewhat common "player-types." While Gordon is very, very, very good at his specialty: deep shooting, there are always limited players, like Von Wafer, available who can perform a reasonable approximation of Gordon's strengths, but have a much lower price tag.
IMO, the same is true of CV. Yes, he was the most versatile scorer of the available PF's. But we signed him to a much longer and more expensive contract than the other available PF's received, and IMO it is not clear that he is much of an upgrade over players like Drew Gooden or Hakim Warrick (I don't think Frye's improvement was foreseeable, but IMO his low price tag should have been a draw for us).
I see both CV and Gordon as "floor spacing" role-players. There is clearly value in that, but they are being paid as more than just role-players. With the number of holes we had to fill on our roster this past offseason, I would have really, really preferred a more "bargain basement" approach.
Jod could have signed at least two, possibly three of: Gooden, Warrick, Frye, Robinson, and Carney, while still having enough money left to make a run at someone like David Lee.
We'll see how Jod's next few moves work out, and how he continues to rebuild the roster. Even though I'm admittedly not crazy about the steps Jod's taken so far, I'm hoping for the best along with everyone else.