While I was at work today, I was thinking about tonightâ€™s game, and how it brings back former Sonic Desmond Mason. More than 4 years ago, Desmond was traded with Gary Payton to Milwaukee for Ray Allen, Kevin Ollie and Flip Murray. I for one was thrilled with the trade at the time. I thought it was a master stroke to get a player of Rayâ€™s ability in his prime for Gary Payton who was essentially starting to slow down, and had become a surly team presence. The downside for me was that we had to include Desmond in the trade. That to me seemed unfortunate. Desmond seemed like a star on the rise. In that season he was averaging 14 points and 6 rebounds and played shooting guard and small forward as a swingman. He was an active defender and a great character guy on the bench. I really thought he was going to be a solid starter for years to come; maybe a borderline all-star if his game continued to improve. I didnâ€™t shed any tears when G.P. went away, but at the time I really thought we had a keeper in Desmond.
I remember reading about how shocked Desmond was when he was traded. He had been assured by Howard Schultz that he was part of the core that would be there for years to come. Rashard was his best friend; I remember hearing from both of them how if Desmond and Gary could be traded, nobody was safe. Reading between the lines it seemed like they were both pretty pissed at the trade.
Desmond thrived in Milwaukee. By the â€™04-â€™05 season Desmond was averaging a career high 17.2 pts. per game. Inexplicably after that season, the Bucks acquired Bobby Simmons as a free agent who essentially has the same game and stature as Desmond. Desmond was told by Larry Harris, the G.M. of Milwaukee that they believed Simmons, Mason and Michael Redd could all three play together. Little more than two months later, Mason was traded to the Hornets along with draft picks for Jamaal Magliore. Desmond was again angry and called Harris a â€œsnake in the grassâ€.
Desmondâ€™s season and a quarter with the Hornets has been curious. He is obviously not the same player that he was in Milwaukee, nor the player I thought he would be at this state of his career. He is averaging around 11 points a game, and shooting career lows from the field and beyond the arc.
Desmond is in the last season of his contract that will pay him over 8 million dollars. In my mind I was juxtaposing that with the fact that Ray is out for at least 7 games, and Damien will match up with Desmond. Damien essentially has the role that Desmond had during his time in Seattle. Statistically and in stature, the two players are very similar. They are both 6â€™5â€-6â€™6â€ swingmen; they both are poor 3pt shooters; and both are known for their defense. Digging a little deeper the numbers are really interesting so far this season.
Damien is averaging 15.35 pts/48; 6.8 rebs/48 while shooting .417 from the field, .000 from the arc and 89% from the free throw line.
Desmond is averaging 15.83 pts/48; 6.3 rebs/48 while shooting .404 from the field, .000 from 3pt and just 65% from the free throw line.
The numbers are very similar. If you throw in that Damien averages more assists, more steals and fewer turnovers per 48 minutes and has a better Roland rating, along with the drastic difference from the line, Damien appears to be having the better season, and perhaps be the better player right now, especially considering the $5 Million more Desmond will make this season.
All in all, if I could trade the current Damien for the old Desmond I would do it in a second. Since thatâ€™s not possible, I guess I need to be satisfied with our backup 2/3. He seems to play much better as a starter both in the Atlanta game, and when he filled in for Rashard in the playoffs two years ago. Maybe this time of starting in Rayâ€™s absence will help his confidence so that when he goes back to the bench his game will continue where it left off as a starter and not the backup that has frustrated me so much this season. I would be curious to hear readerâ€™s thoughts on the Damien/Desmond comparison.