Stop me if you’ve heard this before: At 35, Reggie Miller averaged 18.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. At 35, Ray Allen is an All-Star.
Many Pistons fans love those measures, because they see similarities between Richard Hamilton and Miller and, to a lesser degree, Allen. All three are in-shape shooters who move well without the ball. If Miller and Allen remained successful until 35, so can Hamilton.
But there’s a major flaw in that logic: at their peaks Miller and Allen were way better than Hamilton was at his peak. Just because Hamilton would do well to duplicate Miller’s and Allen’s later years doesn’t mean those two didn’t decline. And when Hamilton declines, his later years won’t be nearly as fruitful, because he’s declining from a lower peak.
Let’s compare how each player has evolved by age. PER isn’t a perfect stat, but it should give us a rough idea of each player’s ability. A major complaint about PER is that it overvalues and undervalues certain aspects of the game, but comparing similarly styled players alleviates that concern.
I set each player’s career PER to 100, so all values are relative to that.
The blue line represents Hamilton. The yellow line represents Miller. The green line represents Allen.
Miller’s decline began at 32, Allen’s at 31 and Hamilton’s at 30. It’s unfortunate Hamilton’s decline began at a slightly younger age, but it’s not unreasonably young when looking at Miller and Allen. Plus, Hamilton will turn 33 next Monday. Even if there were other reasons for Hamilton’s decline, that ship has sailed. He’s well into the declining range now.
Effect of age on shooting
I want to isolate a single factor of PER – effective field-goal percentage, which for players like these three, describes the bulk of their game.
Again I set each player’s career effective field-goal percentage to 100, so all values are relative to that. The blue line represents Hamilton. The yellow line represents Miller. The green line represents Allen.
Miller’s effective field-goal percentage fell in his later years, and Hamilton’s looks to be heading that direction, too. But Allen’s has shot up. Why?
His field-goal attempts per game have shot down.
Once again I set each player’s career field-goal attempts per game to 100, so all values are relative to that. The blue line represents Hamilton. The yellow line represents Miller. The green line represents Allen.
By joining the Celtics, who have several other capable scorers, Allen can become more choosy with his shots. With the luxury of taking mostly good shots, his effective field-goal percentage has risen.
Richard Hamilton’s career isn’t over, but he’s likely well past his peak. To maximize his value, he should play around better scorers and take fewer shots, perhaps as a backup. He could be effective in that role, but whether he accepts it is a different story.
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