A Daily Babble Production
"Rafer Alston - I want him gone. But I also do not see a viable market for "'point guards that can't pass or shoot and tend to drink and drive.'" - David Clark, The Dream Shake, February 16, 2009
Three days after writing the most entertaining basketball comment I've read in the past week, Dave got his wish. The Rockets made a three-team trade with Memphis and Orlando on Thursday that sent Rafer Alston to the Magic, an Orlando first-round pick along with Adonal Foyle, Mike Wilks and cash considerations to Memphis, and Brian Cook and Kyle Lowry to the Rockets.
The most relevant part of this to Celtics Nation is the Magic's acquisition of Alston, another point guard brought in to help fill the void left by Jameer Nelson's season-ending shoulder injury. The Magic likely needed to make a move to supplement Anthony Johnson and Tyronn Lue. But the arrival of Alston doesn't strike much fear in my heart so far as Orlando's ability to compete in the East with the Cavaliers and Celtics is concerned.
There is little doubt that Alston provides an upgrade for the Magic over 34-year-old Anthony Johnson. Johnson has been better shooting threes over the last couple of seasons (though their career figures are almost identical), but beyond that, he doesn't offer a whole lot. He isn't a great creator and doesn't do a ton as far as getting to the basket is concerned. He is an older player who won't lose his team games but also by his own admission can't be counted on for 35 to 40 minutes on a regular basis. The younger Alston (he's 32) figures to provide more speed and at least a bit more aggressiveness in the offense.
The problem is even with that said, Alston just isn't that good. The biggest issue is his shooting. He is a bit trigger-happy and doesn't have the best shot selection, especially for a guy who doesn't shoot the ball all that well. Alston's 34.8 percent mark from three-point land this season (and 35.6 for his career) isn't awful, but it isn't good enough to make up for the fact that he shoots just 37 percent from the field overall, a major part of his atrocious 48.4 percent true shooting. This isn't new for Alston. In 10 seasons in the Association, he has only put up three campaigns in which he even managed 50 percent true shooting, the most recent of which came in 2004-05. Calling him inefficient would be an understatement. He is capable of killing his team from the field on any night.
The rest of his game isn't all that special by any means. Credit Alston for being a capable defender and for avoiding turnovers (he is down below two per game this season). But he also isn't a particularly gifted passer, and he isn't a threat to create open perimeter looks for his teammates by penetrating. While the Rockets star swingmen deserve much of the blame for the constant stagnation of the offense in Houston, Alston was part of the problem rather than the solution as well. Plenty of either isolation or flinging the ball around the perimeter, and Alston didn't do much to solve those problems.
Alston has a questionable personal history that includes multiple run-ins with the law. HIs presence in Houston led to the creation of a blog whose primary mission was to see him out of town. Toward the end of his Houston tenure, he also developed his own annoying concept of "leadership," a truly liberal use of the term. As my colleague Tom Martin articulated over at The Dream Shake, the style was based primarily on ripping his teammates:
Rafer opened his mouth, which is never a good thing. I don't care if what he is saying is true (it probably is) - my issue is that of all the players on this team, Rafer is talking. He's not even defending himself; he's attacking. Since when does a point guard with a terrible shooting percentage call out his teammates? Ask Stephon Marbury. If Rafer isn't bad enough on the court, the last thing we need from him is to act as a cancer to our locker room. Just because he plays a good game doesn't mean he can pour his heart out to the media that night.
On top of that, his team's offense was one point better per 100 possessions with him off the floor than on it this season. Alston doesn't excel in any aspect of the game. His inefficacy shooting the basketball is especially problematic when one considers that what made Jameer Nelson so much more dangerous this season than in the past was the improvement he made to his jump shooting all over the floor. Nelson posted a 61.2 percent true shooting prior to his injury. Alston offers nowhere close to such a threat.
Rafer Alston makes the Magic better than they were four days ago at the point guard spot. But here's guessing he won't improve them enough to help the Magic remain on the top tier in the East by season's end.