Juan Dixon is not Roger Mason

Juan Dixon works, I guess.  He's played here before, he knows the system, he's a local guy and he'll get everyone waxing about his "heart" and his "intangibles."  And hey, he once scored 35 points in a playoff game in a series we actually won.

But I'm still not feeling all the love about the news.  Not that Ernie shouldn't have signed the guy; we needed backcourt help, it's a partially-guaranteed deal and there aren't exactly a zilllion better option out there.  At the very least, it provides insurance in case Dee Brown sucks or in case there's another injury to the backcourt.

The problem is that I'm still struggling to find exactly what Dixon adds to the club.  He essentially replaces Roger Mason, but the only things the two have in common are that they're shortish combo guards from local colleges.  Otherwise, they aren't anywhere near the same player.  Mason scores incredibly efficiently, doesn't turn it over and only sometimes takes ill-advised pull-up jumers; Dixon scores incredibly inefficiently, turns it over a lot more and never found a shot he didn't like.  When Dixon is "on," he'll score 35 points in a playoff game.  When he's "off," the rest of the team doesn't get enough shots and Dixon will shoot himself out of the game.  There's a reason his college teammate Steve Blake has stuck in the NBA more effectively than Dixon.

Table and more analysis after the jump.

Dixon 04/05 Mason 07/08 Young 07/08
Pts/36 17.3 15.3 17.4
eFG% 47 55.2 48.1
TS% 51.8 57.3 52.7
AstR 18.4 13.2 9.6
TOR 12.2 9.9 15
UsgR 23.1 18.9 24.9

2004/05 was clearly the best year of his career, and Mason and Young still provide more in many of the areas we need.  Mason clearly has Dixon smashed -- Dixon scored more, but only by using many more possessions -- but even a 22-year old Young compares to the best Dixon has to offer.  The key stat on here is usage rate, which only speaks to Dixon's poor shot selection and over-dribbling.  Dixon scored a lot, but used so many possessions to do it, which is really bad on a team that'll likely be a slow-paced club without Gilbert Arenas.  Fewer possessions=fewer possessions that can afford to be wasted.

Think about it this way: we complain all the time that Nick Young needs to stop breaking the offense, improve his passing and cutting and stop taking so many damn fadeaways.  In signing Dixon, we're getting basically the exact same type of player, except one who's older, smaller and four years removed from his best season.  Dixon may push Young, sure, but the idea is to sign someone who plays differently from Young so that Young can learn what he needs to do to play.  If Dixon gets minutes over Young, Young's going to think that the key to playing more is to shoot a lot and break the offense.  (Or he'll try to change his alma mater, either one).

The one advantage Dixon gives compared to Young is his ability to play the one position in the Princeton.  Dixon's a much better passer and doesn't turn it over as much as Young does.  This is true, but the skills Dixon provides by playing the point guard -- energy, pushing the ball, full-court defense -- are the exact same skills Dee Brown provides.  If Dixon beats out Brown, that's nice, but we still have the same situation on our hands. 

And God help me if Eddie tries to play Dixon and Young at the same time.  Seriously, this should never happen.  Nobody else will ever see the ball.  

So really, this signing reaks of sentimentality.  I'm not upset it happened, because it's nice to just have another body in the backcourt after Arenas' injury, but I wish we could have found somebody else.  Someone like Quinton Ross, who's a dreadful offensive player, but at least plays strong defense, uses almost no possessions and can provide Young a nice example.  He could have even played small forward, which would have been a better idea than signing somebody who has played exactly one halfway-decent season in his career (and a shady character to boot).  But questioning DerMarr Johnson is a post for another time.

Either way, don't expect too much from this signing.  It'd be best if Dixon barely played and instead functioned as an aggressive practice player to push the regulars.  Knowing how Eddie Jordan works, though, I wouldn't be holding my breath about that.  I fully expect to write at least four "Play Nick Young, goddammit" posts this season.

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