When the Atlanta Hawks inked Jannero Pargo to a 10-day contract on January 21st, it was out of pure desperation. Lou Williams had just been ruled out for the season with a torn ACL, Devin Harris was out of the lineup (yet again), and the Atlanta roster was void of anyone who could play the point guard position in the event that Jeff Teague had to sit down and breathe for a few minutes. On cue, Pargo responded with a fantastic game in his debut against Minnesota, playing 25 minutes in his debut and scoring 16 points despite basically zero preparation time. Now, his 10-day contract is set to expire (on Jan. 31), and there’s a debate about whether he’s an asset worth holding on to, so I’ve come here to examine that decision.
I firmly believe that the decision is simple, and it comes down to pure numbers. When Lou Williams went down, not only did the Hawks lose their 3rd-best player, they lost his positional flexibility, and in turn, lost their best Jeff Teague “back-up”. Before you hit the floor in agony, I do realize that Devin Harris is a solid NBA point guard, but he a) has missed 15 games already, and b) is being forced to play shooting guard because of the Williams injury and a pre-made decision to deploy him there alongside Jeff Teague in lieu of other options. That leaves a gaping hole in the event of any injury to Harris or Teague because John Jenkins hasn’t shown the capability to play point guard in the league, and the other options are out. It would be flat-out irresponsible to attempt to play the rest of the season without another PG option on the roster, and that certainly leans in Pargo’s favor.
The other piece of this decision is simply whether Pargo’s on-court quality is high enough to justify signing him for the league minimum. I’m not in the business of telling you that Jannero Pargo is a tremendous NBA player, because he simply isn’t. He has never posted a PER above 13.69 (below league-average), he has a 39% field goal percentage for his career, and I wouldn’t call him a good defender. With all of that said, however, what are the other options? Pargo has played in the league for a decade, he’s coming off of best and most efficient statistical season (in Atlanta with this same system, no less), and there’s no learning curve. If he can shoot 40%, provide the occasional scoring punch (like he did on MLK Day against Minnesota) and not be an outright liability on defense, Pargo will provide value just by insurance at the point guard spot.
In the end, I think the decision is actually an easy one for Danny Ferry and the Hawks. Pargo’s contract should be extended for the remainder of the season, and while expectations should be low, there’s no reason to expect he won’t provide professional-level play. As for how he is deployed, I would encourage Larry Drew to use less of the Teague/Harris back-court in favor of insuring that Harris can play the point on the second-unit, and that would result in spikes in the playing time of John Jenkins, Anthony Morrow, and Deshawn Stevenson. Using Pargo as the pure back-up point guard isn’t desirable, but if Drew elects to go that way (and I think he might), he’ll need Pargo to return to his 2011-12 form.