We've chalked up a hundred things as factors to Mike Bibby's down year: A lingering injury; Eric Musselman; the loss of Rick Adelman; the sporadic presence of Brad Miller; the ascension of Kevin Martin; Ron Artest; age; David Stern's microfiber fetish; bullheaded stubbornness. At least one of these has something to do with it -- but we cannot prove any of those factors (unless someone comes up with either a wrist x-ray or footage of Mike Bibby confessing to his pastor he wants nothing more than Musselman to get canned).
But we know Mike Bibby's game has changed, we can see it. And we can prove how he's changed as a player.
These graphs tell part of the story. Bibby has become more reliant on threes the past two years. The top graph shows the breakdown of Mike's shooting possessions. The bulk of his shots have traditionally been twos, though his reliance on threes has increased quite a bit recently, while the frequency with which he draws fouls has remained rather consistent. That extra reliance on threes hasn't been due to a sudden surge in his efficiency from that range; Bibby's three-point shooting percentage has trailed off a bit since the championship contention years. His two-point shooting and really his overall shooting performance has remained fairly consistent; his effective field goal percentage has been between .478 and .514 every year save his rookie campaign. He's really a very consistent player year-to-year...
...which doesn't explain the major change in his game. This does.
Bibby's assist rate has absolutely plummeted. Even if you ignore the start of his career, when he was much more a distributor than a scorer -- he's no longer really a point guard. Look at 2001-02, his first season in Sacramento. Both his assist and turnover rates sunk sharply. Why? On a team with so many passers (from Doug Christie on up to Chris Webber and Vlade Divac), he wasn't asked to be a typical playmaking point guard. It's common sense, right? So it would be common sense to assume his assist (and even turnover) rate would bounce back up when the team turned back into a more traditional setup, with an ironhands power forward (any one of Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Corliss Williamson and the namesake Kenny Thomas) and a scoring shooting guard (Bonzi Wells, Kevin Martin). But that never happened.
In fact, his assist rate got even worse, which seems unexplainable. We know Bibby can be a point guard -- even on the well-passing Kings teams of 01-02 through 04-05, Mike put up assist rates well north of 20 (24.7 in 2004-05). You'd think when the team again needs a big-time distributor to help Brad Miller with playmaking duties, Bibby would step up. Nope. Instead, he shot the ball more than ever.
Sure, the Kings needed him to look for his shot with Peja Stojakovic gone. But to the point of ignoring his positional duties? And these numbers remove the blame from Musselman, Artest and Martin -- the assist rate was actually worse in 2005-06 than 2006-07. Maybe I'm jumping to conclusions, but it sure looked last season like Bibby was on a one-player team out there, not trying to set up his running mates at all. The statistics show our brains weren't tricking us -- Bibby has had one of the worst assist rates among all point guards the last two years. He's still an above-average player, but he's a point guard in name only. A PGINO, if you will.
This team needs a distributor. Mike Bibby can do it. Will he? Probably not. And that sucks.