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Say no to playing Michael Ruffin

Before we start, I want to preface this by saying that I respect Michael Ruffin as a person.  I've never met the guy, but he carries himself like a true professional, and he has become an NBA player through hard work and effort.  He's probably the least-skilled player in basketball, but he's still playing after seven years.  This is by no means meant to be a slight against Ruffin the person.

But as professional as Michael Ruffin is, he's simply not an NBA-quality player.  He's hung around the entire decade at the end of the bench, and has never been counted on as a 7th or 8th man until he came to Washington.  Over the last couple years, he played by necessity, because the Wizards had no other options.  But this year, with all the other options (Songaila, Blatche, Booth) around, Ruffin should go back to the bench.  

What exactly does Ruffin do well on the court?  Honestly, nothing.  In his early days, Ruffin was a fantastic rebounder.  In 2001, he averaged nearly 6 rebounds a game in less than 20 minutes.  When he was signed to play here, that was supposed to be his role.  But Ruffin's ability to rebound has declined significantly during his Washington tenure.  In 2004/05, he averaged only 4.2 rebounds despite playing in 16 minutes a game.  Last year, it was down to 3.6.  This year, Ruffin is averaging only 1.5 rebounds per game.  His minutes have declined as well, but so has his rebounding rate.  After peaking at 12 rebounds/40 in 2001, Ruffin was down to 10.5 and 10.7 the last two seasons.  This year, it's fallen way off to around 6.5 rebounds per 40.  Ruffin's just not really a rebounder anymore.

As for the rest of his game, Ruffin's not a good defender, and he's not much of an offensive threat.  He's never averaged more than 3 points per game for his career, and he's a liability on defense unlike any other.  Many argue that he does the little things well; i.e. setting screens and spacing the floor.  There may be some merit to this argument, but you'd think his plus minus stats from the last couple years would be better.  Shane Battier, for example, is another player who many feel can't be measured by pure stats, but his plus/minus stats have always been spectacular.  Ruffin's have never been.

It seems people say Ruffin provides "veteran leadership."  That's true to some degree, but as Kelly Dwyer said in this article when referring to the loss of Antawn Jamison, why does veteran leadership have to happen only when the veteran is on the court?  Ruffin can show leadership from the sidelines.  They don't need him in there to be able to tap into it.  

In the end, the Wizards have better options than Michael Ruffin.  As much of a good guy as Ruffin is, he should barely be playing, and should most certainly not be playing at the end of a close game.