Fabricio Oberto vs. Darius Songaila

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In talking about the addition of Fabricio Oberto, Mike had this to say about him in regards to the filling the role vacated by Darius Songaila:

The bottom line, though, is that Oberto's a way better investment as a fifth big than Darius Songaila.  That's not to say Oberto is better than Songaila, because he probably isn't, but for less than half the price and (assuming it's only one year) half the years, he's a much better bargain.  If you look at the 07/08 Oberto compared to the 08/09 Songaila, you could legitimately argue that Oberto comes out way ahead.  Oberto can also guard bigger players better than Songaila, though he lacks Songaila's shooting touch. Realistically, after using Songaila to help upgrade our guard rotation, we have now replaced Songaila with someone half as expensive and likely just as good, assuming a clean return of health.

When I read that originally, I was on board with that line of thinking, but I wanted to take a closer look at the differences between Oberto and Songaila to see what changes with Fabricio on the roster.

[Note: For the sake of avoiding redundant and excessive linking, all of the following stats can be found at 82games or at Basketball Reference.  Here are Oberto and Songaila's pages.]

Offense

While in Washington, Songaila's primary role was to stretch the defense by hitting mid-range shots off the pick-and-pop.  Certainly, he did a fine job in that department while in D.C.  Last season, over half of his field goal attempts were jump shots and he had an eFG% of 46% on those shots.  Only two big men (Dirk Nowitzki and Antonio McDyess) were more effective at 2 pt. jump shots than Songaila last season.

Oberto had an eFG% of 36.4 on jump shots last season, which puts him much closer to the likes of Tayshaun Prince, Al Thornton, and Baron Davis in the shooting department.  In fact, he's much closer percentage wise to Andray Blatche on jump shots (35.6%) than Songaila.

Fabricio may not have the range of Songaila, but he realizes this and as a result takes less jumpers.  Instead, he does most of his work on the inside where he's a bit more efficient than Songaila.  He shoots just over 12% better on inside shots than Songaila, but that also comes with the disclaimer that 83% of his inside shots were assisted, which means that while he's good at finishing inside, he's not all that great at creating his own shot down there.  Of course, Songaila wasn't much better in that department, with 74% of his inside shots being assisted.

As far as ball movement, both are solid.  Songaila has better career averages than Oberto, but last year the roles were reversed.  Oberto averaged nearly an assist more per 36 minutes than Songaila, but you have to consider how each team's circumstances affected opportunities for both players to gather assists.  The addition of Roger Mason and the loss of Manu Ginobili for most of the season forced San Antonio to rely more on kick-outs and jump shots to generate offense which leads to more chances for assists.  Likewise, Songaila had a much rougher go of it last year trying to get assists because the team struggled so mightily on offense.  

Overall, they're very similar players who can hit outside shots and score inside when they get a good pass to set them up.  Neither one is going to make a living by creating their own shots, but you shouldn't expect that from players that you're paying to be backups.  I'll give Songaila the edge as a better offensive option because his outside shooting is more reliable than Oberto's, but the gap isn't very wide.

Defense

It's hard to judge these two players effect on their team's defense using +/- because they were in such wildly different circumstances, as we talked about earlier.  Songaila was one of the few players on the team last year who was willing to leave it all out on the court defensively even while getting blown out, while Oberto was just one of many who brought the lunch-pail attitude on every possession in San Antonio.  Plus Songaila was being asked to guard players far bigger than him because of all the injuries that the Wizards went through last season.

Last year, Songaila held opposing power forwards to a PER of 17.1 and centers to a PER of 19.2.  An average PER is 15, so those marks indicate Songaila was a slightly below-average defender, which sounds about right.  He has a low center of gravity, which can be useful at keeping players from getting the ball in spots that they like, but he doesn't have the quickness of some of the other bigs in the NBA, and he's not tall enough or athletic enough to be a shot-blocking threat.

82games only lists Oberto as a center on San Antonio's 5 man units, because Duncan is listed as the power forward every time he's paired with Oberto.  But as we all know, if Duncan is on the court, odds are that he's probably guarding the other team's center, which skews the numbers just a little bit.  Still, he holds opposing "centers" to a PER of 16.6.  Assuming that the opposing PER goes down slightly against opposing power forwards and slightly up against opposing centers (or vice-versa), that's still an improvement over Songaila.  Oberto's style of defense is a little different than what we saw with Songaila, but it was more effective.

Intangibles

I mentioned this on Twitter after Oberto was signed, but his addition now means that we have extensive list of personnel with championship experience.  Let's run through the list again:

  1. Sam Cassell (yeah, he's a coach, but still)
  2. Mike James (remember, he was on the 2004 Pistons squad that won it all)
  3. Fabricio Oberto (he got a SI Cover out of it!)

That's it.  On a team where most of the roster has never gone past the first or second round of the playoffs, adding someone like Oberto is huge.  And remember, he doesn't just have experience winning a championship with the Spurs, he's also won a gold medal with Argentina and played in numerous high-pressure games in Europe.

Losing Darius Songaila's exemplary work ethic and locker room presence will hurt in the short term.  But Oberto is hardly a loafer, and he shouldn't have any problems meshing with a fun-loving locker room.  Once he's become a part of the team, he'll be able to use his extensive experience to help guide players that haven't learned the ropes of deep playoff runs.  While there's no doubt in mind that Songaila would've survived and thrived under the pressure of intense playoff basketball, Oberto will be able to do the same thing and help others excel at the same time.

Conclusion

As one of the most reliable scoring backup bigs in the NBA, the loss of Darius Songaila will hurt.  The addition of Fabricio Oberto will replace some of that, but his real contribution will come in giving the team a more solid defensive presence.  On a team that needs another solid defensive presence much more than it needs a surefire jump shooter, his contributions are much more valuable to the team.  I agree with Mike that In a vacuum, Songaila is still a slightly better player, but Oberto fits what the Wizards need better right now.

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