In Defense of Kelvin Cato

by ricealum

(Good lord, I never thought I'd be doing this ...!


ClutchFans BBS— where people from around the world meet to discuss the Rocks!

Poor Kelvin Cato. He spends his whole career sleep walking through games, and when he finally has a good year, no one notices!

Typical are comments on the Clutch BBS such as "He can't even handle a simple pass" and "I think you might be forgetting all the 0 point, 2 rebound, 4 fouls performances that Cato puts up on a nightly basis."

I looked at Cato's 2001-02 stats on the web and did some analysis. (I put all those stats from the web into an Excel spreadsheet for analysis which you can download if you like.)

I found no 0 point, 2 rebound, 4 fouls performances at all for Cato. And lest you think I am being picky, Cato had 13 zero point games all year, and 7 of those were DNP. In his six nonscoring games, he averaged 14.8 minutes and 4.7 rebounds, which is not very good — but also not typical.

Cato played 75 games, averaging 26 minutes, and fouled out only 5 times. He averaged 2.8 fouls per game, which was an area he had been asked to improve on. He averaged 6.6 points and 7 boards (13.1 per 48, which is not too bad) and blocked 1.3 (2.9 per 48, which was disappointing but not terrible).

As for all those turnovers, I guess the scorekeeper missed them all. He averaged 0.7 TO (including 39 games where he had none at all), 0.5 steals, and 0.4 assists, for a "good hands" average of 1.30 (assists+steals/TO). Pretty fair.

Value to the team? The Rockets were 28-54 (.341) overall. In the seven games without Cato, they were only 2-5 (.286). When Cato played 30 minutes or more, they were 9-15 (.375) and when he played 40 or more, they were 4-1 (.800). It really doesn't sound like he hurt the team all that much. In fact, it sounds like the more Cato played, the better the Rockets did!

He had 11 double doubles and the Rockets were 6-5 in those games. He had double figure rebounds 24 times. Wasn't rebounding the other main area he was asked to improve in?

Don't get me wrong: I am not claiming Cato is a great player. But I do think he's getting a bum rap from a lot of people who want him to be Hakeem Olajuwon because he once blocked 11 shots in a game. He's a top 20 center in the league and worth having even with his overpriced contract. Compare him to, say, Todd McCulloch, Greg Ostertag, or Bryant Reeves and count your blessings.

Yao Ming praises Cato's strength: “If I want to succeed in the NBA, I will have to become strong like Kelvin Cato.”

Eventually, the fates willing, Cato will be a backup to Yao and would have to be considered one of the top reserve centers in the game. Right off the top of my head, I can't think of a single team with a better backup center, although I didn't look at rosters. He's surely a Top 5 reserve center. Give the guy a break.

Oh, and as for his "overpriced contract," Old Man Rock was kind enough to pass the following along. Compare Cato's salary of $6 million to Matt Geiger (waived but still making $8 million a year) or Greg Ostertag (technically still active and earning $7 million) and Cato's salary seems pretty reasonable. Combine him with Yao Ming, and you have 48 minutes of solid center play with 12 hack-a-Shaqs for about the same money as Bryant ("Big Continent") Reeves. Still think Cato is overpaid?

NBA Centers ranked by 2001-02 salary
(To the right my personal ranking by ability.)

 1. Shaquille O'Neal (LAL) .... $21,428,572... # 1
 2. Alonzo Mourning (Mia) ..... $18,754,800... # 7
 3. Jayson Williams ........... $15,125,000 (retired but still on salary)
 4. Dikembe Mutombo (Phi) ..... $14,315,790... # 3
 5. Bryant Reeves (Mem) ....... $11,555,554.. # 30
 6. Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Cle)... $11,250,000.. # 17
 7. Antonio Davis (Tor) ....... $11,000,000.. # 10 (now a PF)
 8. Vlade Divac (Sac) ......... $10,444,642... # 4
 9. Theo Ratliff (Atl) ........ $9,667,969.... # 9
10. David Robinson (SA) ....... $9,500,000.... # 8
11. Matt Geiger (Phi) ......... $8,142,160 [released]
12. Elden Campbell (Cha) ...... $7,975,000... # 11
13. Marcus Camby (NY) ......... $7,300,000... # 12
14. Dale Davis ................ $7,010,000... # 13
15. Greg Ostertag ............. $6,933,328... # 24
16. Jermaine O'Neal ........... $6,325,000.... # 6
17. Erick Dampier ............. $6,235,000... # 19
18. Kelvin Cato ............... $6,048,000... # 18
19. Jim McIlvaine ............. $6,000,000 [released]