BlogABull 5th Anniversary Retro-Post: "Mike Sweetney vs. Eddy Curry"

It's true (and a bit strange, to be honest): BlogABull (including its previous independent blogspot incarnation) is celebrating its 5th anniversary. Rather than merely the usual single self-serving post, this year I've instead decided to extend my self-congratulations through the summer. I'll be picking out some landmark posts through the years for reflection and laughs about the blog and the franchise it's covered in that time. So consider it my thanks to all the readers over the years: needless to say, it's more fun for me with all of you around to share it.

When the writing was on the wall for Eddy Curry's troubled heart and the Bulls, Paxson only had the Knicks as a possible trade partner, yet still managed to squeeze every possible asset remaining out of Isiah Thomas' team. Some expiring deals, an unprotected first-rounder (hello Tyrus Thomas), a swap of future first rounders (you too, Noah), and a young power forward still on his rookie deal after being selected #9 in 2003, Mike Sweetney. Sweetney had long been a hero of the early NBA blogosphere, as he was someone who didn't look like an NBA player, but who always put up great per-minute percentages when he did play. That reputation was continuing in his first month as a Chicago Bull.

This was originally published 11/21/2005. It was titled 'Sweet Returns'. Man I'm good.

As players they're not quite similar, but Michael Sweetney and Eddy Curry will be forever linked in Bulls history. Corey Petryschuk over at Motoring (a daily read) takes an indepth look at their respective performances this season:
Notes: RR is Roland Rating. I wouldn't have included turnover rate normally, but Curry's is quite high.
Sweetney 1.31 19.7 11.8 23.3 +1.7
Curry 1.50 16.2 21.2 17.6 -15.3

Well, I think the last stat listed there speaks for itself. Yes, the Knicks are losing and Frye is owning, but -15.3? For a starter? It's not his scoring, it's not his rebounding, his turnovers wouldnt affect it that much? what could it be?

Stat ON Court OFF Court Net
Offense: Pts per 100 Poss. 94.7 98.4 -3.7
Defense: Pts per 100 Poss. 105.0 92.6 +12.5

Now you're on the trolley! I haven't seen much of the Knicks yet, but the guy's defense must be disgusting. No word on when LB?s magic will turn him into a good defender.

Sweetney appears to be performing quite well and above expectations with stickman Chandler. Like I said, those guys are a blast to watch.

 Sweetney's numbers are not entirely surprising if you've been reading here (or especially at KnickerBlogger) over the past couple years. The guy has always performed, but simply hasn't gotten the minutes.

This all gets to the value of stats as opposed to perception, as Kurt at Forum Blue and Gold pointed out in his preview of Sunday night's game:

You want to know why I think statistics matter? Sweetney doesn't have a classic NBA power forward's body, but Kwame Brown does. Kwame gets fawned over and Sweetney can't crack anybody's starting lineup despite being one of the best front line guys for the Knicks and Bulls. You know which one you want on your team? You know who should be starting and who should be coming off the bench?

Eddy Curry hasn't been as big of a disappointment as Kwame Brown, but the idea is the same: look past the potential and get to the production.

But it's not just stats. As I'm getting my first real look at Sweetney, it's obvious that Sweetney is what Curry never was as a Bull: Active. How many times in the Laker game did you see Sweetney fight for an offensive rebound or loose ball en route to an easy basket? Curry got rebounds that came to him, Sweetney goes and gets his. I enjoy seeing an active 6'9" more than a leadfooted 6'11", and the numbers bear that out.

It was mentioned in the comments that Sweetney is 'Elton Brand redux'. That's a more accurate comparison for Sweetney than Curry. I think while Brand was underappreciated as a Bull that was partly because he was a #1 overall pick and didn't project to become a  game-changer that could lead a championship team. I understood former GM Jerry Krause's reasoning for trading him at the time (this post isn't about that so I won't go any further), and it obviously didn't work out like he expected. But trading Eddy Curry for Mike Sweetney is a welcome return to valuing actual production: undersized, wide-bodied, and all.

Of course, there were reasons beyond bias that kept Sweetney off the court: his size. And it only got worse as his career went on, not better. Sweetney wound up with a 13.9 PER that season, and followed it up with an even less impressive 10.9 PER the season after that. So it wasn't as if he got his chance and was exposed. Even at a per-minute level, he was simply not producing as he was early in his career. Now Sweetney is out of the league, and according to Sam Smith even the players association doesn't know where he is. He didn't turn out to be the "stat community's" proudest example, though it's not as if the work can be given up, as some team still gave Kwame Brown $4m per. Not to mention what Eddy Curry's making.

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