20 June 2007

Keyon Dooling Picks Up Option, Will Play for Magic

Keyon Dooling may not be built like a tank, but he sure plays like one.
Photo by Gary W. Green, Orlando Sentinel

The headline to this Sentinel article, published today, informs readers that former Magic coach Brian Hill will likely take a coaching position with the New Jersey Nets, rejecting the Magic's offer of a front-office position. Hill apparently has no interest in remaining with the team that's fired him twice over the course of his career. Big whoop.

Buried at the bottom of that item is this lovely news:
Earlier this week, Magic guard Keyon Dooling picked up the option on his original three-year contract, bypassing the chance to become a free agent next month. Dooling will be making an estimated $3.5 million.
"I learned more from one year with Stan [Van Gundy] than I did in my first four years in the league,"' said Dooling, who started his career with the Los Angeles Clippers. "He'll be a great asset to the team. [His hiring] only made me more excited about coming back."
I'm not bashful in proclaiming my love for Keyon. He was one of the six players in my 'Top of the Class' category for last season's evaluations; his intensity and defense make him one of the most valuable players on this team, and his familiarity with Stan Van Gundy only makes him more valuable. Add to that his relatively low salary and you have a great NBA role-player.

When I make the following point, other Magic fans begin to question my sanity:

Keyon Dooling should start for this team.

He'll never be a great shooter, and I know that. I also know that there are few other teams in the league for which he would start. However, the same could be said for the other point guards on our roster: Jameer Nelson, Carlos Arroyo, and Travis Diener. Nelson, the current starter, brings youth, energy, and scoring. However, he's woefully inconsistent and a sieve on defense. By starting Keyon, Van Gundy would give the Magic a chance to set up the offense and get into a rhythm at the start of the game. I don't see the harm in that.

The youth and energy that some fans cite as evidence that Nelson should start is actually evidence to the contrary: why not bring Jameer into the game at about the six-minute mark of the first quarter? The other team's starters will likely be a bit winded, and he can use his speed to blow right by them on his way to the basket for an easy layup.

There are few players in the league who can keep pace with Jameer Nelson.
Photo by Roberto Gonzalez, Orlando Sentinel

I understand that this argument is a slippery slope; after all, Jameer just finished his third season, during which he saw a decline in field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage, points per game, and assists per game. I'm willing to attribute some of that decline to bad coaching, but after such a season, Jameer's viability as a starter must be called into question. The Magic can depend on Keyon to provide nine points and six assists if he's given the chance to start. Jameer would certainly score more frequently, but his assist totals would be lower than Keyon's. Steve Nash, the two-time MVP and the best point guard in the NBA, summarized the job description for point guards in this way:
My goal is to increase the odds of success for each player on the floor, but without negating the odds of success for everyone else in the process.
In other words, point guards should look to pass before he should look to shoot. If Nelson is to start, he's going to have to get his priorities straight.

For a lively debate about Jameer Nelson and his value, read this thread on the MagicMadnees forums. And thanks to Black and Blue for pointing me in the direction of the Sentinel article to which I linked above.

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