Why Stephen Jackson > Bob Sura > Jason Terry

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

Before the regular season, Jason Terry almost became a Jazzman, but the Hawks matched Utah's offer to their restricted free agent. At the time, Terry was one of the marquee summertime players available in various rumors, and was considered to be an excellent pickup for any team that could land him. Well, Atlanta shelled out for him, and what happened? The Hawks had two other combo guards - Bob Sura and Stephen Jackson - making less money and producing about as much as Terry. Did Terry's game go down after signing a three-year contract? Or did the other players step up their games in a contract year? Or is head coach Terry Stotts a genius at bringing out backcourt talent?

Here are the stats for all three players for last season. Sura's stats are restricted to when he was on the Hawks.

Jason Terry: 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds,5.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 2.8 turnovers, 2.4 fouls per game; salary $6,825,000. Contract expires after two more seasons.
Bob Sura: 14.7 points,8.3 rebounds,5.3 assists, 0.9 steaks, 2.4 turnovers, 2.7 fouls per game; salary $6,167,000. Contract expired this year.
Stephen Jackson:18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists,1.8 steals, 2.8 turnovers, 2.7 fouls per game; salary $1,000,000. Contract expires next year; he has option this year.

By far the best value per dollar was Jackson, without question. Sura and Terry are approximately equal, with a slight edge to Sura. Terry has slightly more points and steals, but far fewer rebounds. Plus, Sura has a slightly lower salary. In terms of value per dollar, Jackson is better than Sura and Sura is better than Terry.


Sura is a free agent this summer. Jackson has an option to become a free agent, which he will likely exercise. Were these two playing simply for a better contract? Undoubtedly that would be in their best interests. However, we can actually test this hypothesis on Sura, since he was a Piston in the early part of the year before being traded. He played less than half the minutes in Detroit that he later averaged in Atlanta, but his per-minute statistics were about the same. In fact, the last time in his career he played as many as 30 minutes per game was back in 1999-2001 in Cleveland and Golden State. In those years, he averaged more than 12 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. The biggest difference this season has been his phenomenal rebounding. Otherwise, Sura has always played this way.

Has Terry's game declined since he signed a three-year contract last summer? That's not it either. Terry's statistics have never been spectacular throughout his career: this year is quite representative of what he has been putting out year after year. His assists numbers are down slightly from the preceding season but right around his career average.

Perhaps the most likely scenario is that Terry tried to share the ball more with his free-agents-to-be teammates. He didn't hog the ball or demand it on every possession. Terry is a class act all the way and he has had nothing but nice things to say about both Jackson and Sura.

The final possibility is that Terry Stotts is able to bring out the best of his combo players. That's a much harder hypothesis to test, but it looks like a viable alternative. We'll likely never know unless the Hawks do three things: 1) re-sign Sura, 2) re-sign Jackson, and 3) keep Stotts.

Then we could see how they play next year. If Sura and Jackson and Terry continue to play with the same production, despite no longer being in contract years, then we would have to credit Stotts.

The Hawks will have 104 chances out of 1000 to win the rights to the first, second, or third pick in the draft lottery to be held on May 26. The Hawks also receive the 17th pick from Milwaukee.

You have voted and here are the results. Atlanta's Performance of the Year was Bob Sura two consecutive and nearly three consecutive triple-doubles. Atlanta's Brightest Future is Boris Diaw. Now you can votefor another award: Atlanta's Game of the Year.

The 2004 Hawks Summer Basketball Camp will be held July 19-23 for children of ages 8-17. Instructors include current and former Hawks players and coaches. More info.


Ian O'Connor ofThe Journal Newswrites: The last playoff team to look this hopeless in the Garden was Wilkens' Atlanta Hawks, swept away by the Knicks in that wild and crazy run to the '99 Finals. Marbury is now the face of these dire straits. He was off last night, way off, and the Knicks followed their point guard's lead.

Buck Harvey ofThe San Antonio Express-News writes: The contrasts of Hubie the coach are as dramatic. Two different writers in Atlanta, for example, used the word "vile" in print to describe Brown when he coached the Hawks.One told how Brown ridiculed his point guard, a Princeton product named Armond Hill, for his membership on the board of the Atlanta Ballet. According to the newspaper, Hill would sometimes sit "frozen" in his car outside the arena "because I couldn't go inside that day and take abuse." Today, remember, Brown is telling his Grizzlies point guard to relax. Brown also no longer lives on the island. He says 10 coaches could have won the award he won Wednesday. And no one sits frozen, either. Brown has another year on his contract with some question whether he wants to return. But his players have made up their minds. "Everybody hopes he's back," Pau Gasol said recently. "The players love him as much as he loves us."