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Myth: Reggie Miller and Ray Allen excelling late in their careers proves Richard Hamilton can, too

Myth Week is slated to return this summer, but today will offer a special Richard Hamilton style two-part return to the myth series. Here’s the first installment.

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.

Age-by-age comparison

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.

Conclusion

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.

19 Comments

  • I agree with your points, but I think it’s worse than that.
    Reggie Miller lived above the 60% TS threshold. Allen was there before and after his stint in Seattle where he was asked to do much more than the off-ball-shooter thing. Hamilton’s never gone significantly above 55%.
    A very much related fact: While we’re in the process of watching Allen surpass Miller’s record for shooting 3′s at 2560, Hamilton’s made less than 500 in his career.
    So no, there’s no reason to think Hamilton will have a coda like Miller & Allen, because he didn’t have a career like Miller & Allen.

    • Feb 8, 201111:08 am
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      Exactly, MJ. Great players playing well when they’re older doesn’t mean a good player will play well when he’s older.

  • Feb 7, 20114:22 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    golly, i wonder if this will turn off most people as much as it’s turned me off. were ray allen or reggie miller ever forced to split minutes and shots with two (2) other shooting guards, one playing all his minutes at the point?
     
    rip’s been in a unique situation, and there are a lot of factors to look at. it’s not as simple as you insist on making it seem. it’s not like i’m saying rip’s certainly as good as he ever was, but i’d like to see him in his traditional role (starting with a PG, playing 33ish minutes, taking his customary number of shots as a primary/secondary option) before jumping to the conclusion that he’s finished.
     
    meanwhile, you won’t stop trying to bury the guy. sure, he’s no ray allen; he’s no reggie miller. but he’s one of the few players in the game today who require a specific type of system to flourish. we knew this when we signed him to a rich long-term contract, and we haven’t accommodated him in years.

    • Feb 7, 20114:46 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      That’s silly, as usual, on this topic. Hamilton behaves like he’s a franchise player. In fact, he’s behaved that way for a long time. And in reality, he was never any better than the fourth best player on the Pistons during their run. That’s why he flourished.
      Yes, it’s a mistake for the Pistons to have extended him, and it was a mistake to think he’d be productive with a less talented cast around him. He doesn’t require a specific system to flourish, he just requires better players around him that make it so he’s not a focal point of the defense. When he’s the best offensive player on the court, he’s very easy to take out of the game. This is how you do it: contest his shots. Yes, his motion is great, but he was getting more open looks out of it in the past not because Billups was such a fantastic passer, but because other teams were more worried about stopping Billups and, to a lesser extent, Rasheed Wallace when he would actually go down in the post.
      Hamilton is a nice complimentary player. But he’s spent his entire career in Detroit acting like he’s more than that. It’s partially the team’s fault — they gave him a contract that suggested he’s more than a complimentary player. But sorry man, you don’t build systems to accomodate players like Hamilton. He’s a role player, one who was pretty dynamic in that role for six or seven years, but one whose game has noticeably regressed. I’m not saying the Pistons have shooting guards on the team who are markedly better than him, because they might not. But when you factor in his declining production, his diva attitude and his over-valuing of his importance to the offense, he’s just not really worth accomodating.

      • Feb 7, 20117:35 pm
        by Laser

        Reply

        er, he’s sure paid like a franchise player. and he did lead the team in scoring for eight straight seasons. and “fourth best” player or not (and, hell, maybe you’re right on that one), that Goin’ to Work team was never about who’s the best, second best, worst, etc. it was just a hell of a unit. i had many debates about who was the most expendable, but even though i was never terribly high on rip (more of a chauncey/tay guy myself), it’s hard to discount the top scorer on any team. except that’s what everyone likes to do nowadays.
         
        and i’ll keep fighting you on the issue of rip’s regression. the stretches this season where they’ve run plays for him and let him be rip, however few and far between they’ve been, he’s generally delivered. yes, ideally you shouldn’t want to bend over backwards to accommodate a veteran player in such a specific system that the rest of your team isn’t especially built for, but you did extend him to that ridiculous contract. and he’s not significantly worse (if at all) than the other shooting guards you’ve committed to who ARE actually movable.
         
        my bottom line is this: you’re cutting a shooting guard out of the rotation no matter what. if you can’t trade rip, you may as well get the most out of him. give him a CHANCE to flourish and see what happens. start him for a handful of games with whichever shooting guard you decide to keep coming off the bench (does t-mac, rip, tayshaun, monroe and wallace sound like a TERRIBLE starting five?? doesn’t sound any better to me in the slightest if you subbed in stuckey or gordon). if that doesn’t work out, move him to the bench and just be happy with whatever production you can get out of him until he’s expiring and movable. your alternative seems to be paying him $12.65 million dollars to be your mascot, while stuckey and gordon collect similar paychecks for being COMPLETELY UNSPECTACULAR.

        • Feb 7, 201111:27 pm
          by Patrick Hayes

          Reply

          Maybe they are completely unspectacular. But when you combine the fact that all three are pretty much average production-wise among shooting guards, a coach is always going to play the guys who are less of a pain in the ass in that scenario. Hamilton has clearly, clearly been a pain in the ass for two years.

          • Feb 8, 201111:27 am
            by Laser

            hayes, there’s no reason for us to be combative here. it’s especially weird, since you should be moderating these comments, not picking fights. but that’s beside the point.
             
            we both agree that the pistons have three more-or-less average shooting guards. i won’t deny that stuckey and gordon are younger, cheaper (slightly, in gordon’s case; temporarily, in stuckey’s) and better fits. but if we’re going to play fantasy coach/GM, isn’t the best and only stance that the pistons need to move one of the other guys? that’s really all i’m saying. if you can’t move rip, you’re better off going forward with him for now and using the flexibility a gordon trade provides and/or the assets a stuckey trade provides to improve in other areas. then, after next season, you can continue to improve the roster by trading rip when his contract is expiring and, thus, has value.
             
            it’s not like stuckey and gordon are irreplaceable talents or something, but that’s how the organization is (stubbornly) treating them (stubborn because: stuckey’s been groomed to be our franchise player since he was drafted, and ben gordon was the “gem” of our post-chauncey spending spree; not because either one is indispensable, or even particularly good or special players). it’s not like these guys are kobe bryant and dwyane wade, but that’s how they’re being treated. i’ll give you that it’s a no-brainer to say stuckey and gordon are the guys you’d prefer to hold onto in a perfect world, but it looks like that just isn’t a practical solution.

        • Feb 8, 201111:13 am
          by Dan Feldman

          Reply

          Laser, in each of his prime years with Detroit, Hamilton averaged about 15 shots per game. In a typical season, he made 46 percent of them. In Hamilton’s 12 games this season between Nov. 28 and Dec. 22, he averaged 14 shots per game. He made 43 percent of them. He’s declined.

          That’s the stretch you’re talking about, when he had a role similar to his previous one. And his shooting percentage was way worse. He’s not the same player he once was, and the Pistons don’t need to treat him like he is.

          • Feb 8, 201111:39 am
            by Laser

            no, whatever he did this season bears almost no resemblance to his role i’m talking about. he was splitting time with two other shooting guards in an isolation-exclusive offense, and he had nobody to deliver him the ball. it’s just not the same. for a guy like rip, not even close. yeah, he took a lot of bad shots, he missed from spots he’d been pretty reliable from… but he was forced to create off the dribble far more often than not. it’s a catch 22. he’s a shooter, so he’s got to shoot; if he’s not shooting he’s basically useless. so he forced the issue too much. but he went from being the team’s sure-fire leading scorer to being an afterthought in the offense. nobody with a clue would guess that rip was likely to excel in an isolation offense. i just think the guy was more-or-less doomed. but he’s had a role similar to his old one on just a handful of occasions this season, and of the three or four times i remember seeing it this season, he was downright spectacular in two of them (dropping 35 on toronto, carrying the offense in that one overtime win).
             
            the “role” i’m talking about is one where he’s not splitting time with two shooting guards, being forced to create his own shot off the dribble if he’s to get any shots at all, having rodney “shoot it again” stuckey as a lead guard. i get accused of being a broken record, but i think i’ve stated this clearly about ten times already. you’re a smart guy. you may not agree, but you have to understand my stance. he hasn’t had his customary role for any extended period of time since chauncey left town.

    • Feb 8, 201112:04 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      Laser, you don’t just get a team built around you when there are signs you’re in decline. I’ve never said Rip is finished. But he’s not nearly as good as he once was, and the Pistons don’t need to treat him like that by building around him.

  • Feb 7, 201110:08 pm
    by danny

    Reply

    First, as great as Hamilton was for a stretch there, he doesnt compare career-wise to those two. And second, as long as hes with the joke that is the Pistons, hes not gonna do anything.

  • Feb 7, 201110:56 pm
    by ignarus

    Reply

    Hamilton shoots midrange J’s. Miller and Allen shot/shoot 3′s. No reasonable comparison can be made to either of these great shooters when your signature shot is the least efficient shot in the game. Rip simply doesn’t shoot the 3 well enough to justify a high volume of shots, especially if he’s not making up for it by getting to the FT line.

  • Feb 8, 20115:15 am
    by JoshB

    Reply

    I’m not exactly sure how a mid range shot is less efficient than a three pointer but ok……..Anyways, as far as being a pain in the ass goes that kinda seems like a chicken and the egg question. Rip has been more of a pain in the ass, but wasn’t it in response to some of the interesting coaching decisions that have been made at his expense? I know that Rip is a hothead, but I haven’t heard any stories of him just randomly causing trouble on the team. As a sidenote though, I agree with laser on the fact that I find it interesting how much a leading scorer’s contributions seem to get discounted. He was the only guys who raised all his stats come playoff time, and I remember teams trying to take him out of the game but couldn’t.

    • Feb 8, 201111:23 am
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      JoshB, an average players has an effective field-goal percentage of about 39 on two-point jumpers outside of 10 feet. That numbers jumps to about 54 percent on 3-pointers.

      http://hoopdata.com/shotstats.aspx

      I agree that some undervalue a team’s leading scorer. I still think he was, at most, the third best player on the title team behind Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups. I could debate Rasheed Wallace and Hamilton, but I lean toward Sheed.

    • Feb 8, 201111:59 am
      by Laser

      Reply

      yeah, josh makes another point that seems to fall by the wayside. yes, rip’s a hothead. yes, if not for sheed he would have been our tech king by a wide margin. but he’s a passionate player. on a team that always seemed to flip the switch on and off, he was the one guy who always seemed to have a chip on his shoulder. and that edge was a big part of what made this team so successful last decade.
       
      but the thing is, i have a very hard time holding it against him too much that he’s got a bad attitude. his point guard was replaced by a shooting guard, he’s been forced to split time with his replacement, the offense has been geared completely away from what made him flourish… and the team keeps losing! he’s got an ego. all athletes do. he genuinely thinks the team is better with him on the floor with plays being run for him, and until they start putting together a significant string of winning basketball, how can you blame the guy?? maybe he’s right, maybe he’s wrong, but we just don’t know. we haven’t given him the chance to be the guy he was in the oughts.
       
      so rip’s got a bad attitude. tayshaun does too. stuckey too. hell, i’ve got a bad attitude about this garbage team. most of the fans i talk to, as well. what’s to have a GOOD attitude about?? the team’s terrible, has almost finished squandered EVERY LAST ONE of its assets from when they elite team (that task will be completed once the trade deadline passes without capitalizing on tayshaun’s trade value). they’ve been in a completely avoidable free fall, and they continue down that path. three completely wasted seasons and counting…

  • Feb 8, 20113:25 pm
    by jgk281

    Reply

    I was thinking, could the Pistons get an expiring contract for Rip if they were willing to throw in this years 1st round pick, and would anyone here do it?

    At this point I think I would because, imo, it looks like they could end up somewhere around the 10th pick, and as low as 15th if they sneak into the playoffs. There’s always great players scattered through every draft, but in a weak draft like this one, the odds of getting one of those greats players at 10-15 are not that great.

    Instead, we could use the cap space immediately this summer to sign what we really need – an established elite big man, and this FA is loaded with them.

    So I say we give up our pick in order to dump Rip’s contract. Go all in for the playoffs this year, so losing the pick wont be as bad, and then go shopping this summer for a big to pair with Monroe.

    Agree/Disagree?

    • Feb 8, 20118:02 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      JGK, I wouldn’t do it. That makes the Pistons slightly better in the short term, but that’s it. I’d rather chance the Pistons drafting an impact player who can help them win a title in 3-4 years.

  • Feb 8, 20113:33 pm
    by jgk281

    Reply

    To follow up, I was thinking maybe the Pistons could get involved in the rumored Lakers/Carmelo deal. Sources say they are looking for a 3rd team to facilitate a 1st round pick to Denver.

    So what about Rip, Maxiell, and our 1st round pick to Denver for K-Marts EXP contract?

    Theres also reports that Billups could go to the Lakers with Carmelo, as the Lakers are looking for an upgrade at PG.

    So that would open up a guard spot on Denver for Rip. I know they already have JR and Afflalo, but both are EXP contracts, and I doubt JR would be back. So they could just re-sign Afflalo, and use Rip as a veteran back-up for a year, then hold a valuable EXP contract then next year when Rip is in the last year of his contract.

    idk about this exact scenario, but if the Pistons become willing to give up that 1st pick, I think their options for trading Rip become much greater.

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