Our player evaluations for the 2012-13 season continue today with a look at A.J. Price
Basic stats: 7.7 points, 3.9 assists, 39 percent shooting from the field, 35 percent from three-point range, 12.4 PER, 50.1 true shooting percentage.
Contract status: Price is an unrestricted free agent. The Wizards have Non-Bird Rights on him and can only sign him for 120 percent of the veteran's minimum unless they use an exception.
Preseason expectations: Price was brought in to spell John Wall for 10-15 minutes a night at an affordable price. The Wizards felt Price was undervalued in Indiana and thought he could reasonably play a backup point guard role for the cost of a third-stringer. Unfortunately, Price was forced into starting duty in the early part of the season and failed miserably before settling in line with the Wizards' expectations once Wall returned from injury.
Offense: Price is a player that functions in only a few dimensions. He can run pick and roll, but only sees the initial two plays (drive or pass to the roll man) well. He can hit a three occasionally, but only after missing a bunch and only if he has time to complete his crouch and shooting motion. He can drive every once in a while, but only to catch the defense off guard. Mostly, he just searches for his mid-range jumper that isn't even that effective. There's a reason 317 of his 413 shot attempts were classified as jumpers by NBA.com.
A starting point guard has to see the full geometry of the floor, and this was never Price's strength. Price was good at setting people up for those 17-foot jumpers off the high pick and roll, but rarely manipulated the defense enough to get someone an open layup or three Seventy-six of his 182 assists (42 percent) led to jumpers from 10-23 feet, according to HoopData. By contrast, only 35 percent of Wall's assists led to those kinds of plays.
On the bright side, Price did a nice job taking care of the ball, posting a 3.2 assist/turnover rate and coughing it up on only nine percent of available possessions.
Defense: This is the subject of much debate. Several note how Price can be victimized by blow-bys, but the numbers stack up pretty well in his favor. The Wizards were a point better defensively per 100 possessions with Price in the game, even though he often played with offensively-challenged units that yielded long rebounds and early opportunities for the opposition. One point isn't conclusive, and on/off numbers are far from the be-all, end-all, but the idea that Price hurt the team defensively is somewhat murky.
Price's strength is his ability to hawk the ball away from the hoop, a skill many coaches value in backup point guards. His pick and roll defense is usually decent, though he's prone to running into the screener too easily. Whether Price's ability to do these things is unique or can be duplicated by any hungry minimum-salary fringe player remains to be seen.
Overall, though, I'd say Price is a solid defender.
Did he meet, exceed or fall short of expectations? He met mine as soon as he was given the role he was paid to handle. His stint as the starter was a disaster as expected, but for a veteran's minimum backup point guard, he did OK.
Overall: It's hard to complain too much considering how much Price cost. If he's playing 10 minutes a game or so as a backup point guard, he can be useful to a team. Anything more, though, and his role has been stretched too thin. Those limitations show and he ends up being exposed.
The Wizards need to decide if they can live with Price as the primary backup or if they need an upgrade that can play alongside Wall or Bradley Beal easily. With so many teams going to situational dual point guard lineups, an upgrade on Price would be nice, but is it nicer than filling other holes? The Wizards need to make that decision. (And, of course, if they don't sign another point/combo guard, the reason should be to plug another hole on the roster).
Either way, bringing Price back for another veteran's minimum contract is OK by me.