Draft Night Postscript

1. Renaldo Balkman, F, 6?6.5?, S. Carolina (Rd. 1, #20)

Analysis. When David Stern uttered, ?With the 20th selection of the 2006 NBA Draft the New York Knicks select Renaldo Balkman of the University of South Carolina,? my jaw dropped and my mouth hung wide open. As many of you regular readers may know I happen to be an employee of that fine university. So I have seen much of Renaldo Balkman?more in 2004-05 than this past season?and it?s hard not to like what he brings, but strictly as a role player.

Though he officially measures only 6?5.5? in shoes he has quick feet and exceptionally long arms (7?1? wingspan, 8?8.5? standing reach). His standing reach, incidentally, is longer than many taller players like Shelden Williams, Shawne Williams, and James Augustine. Balkman?s physical attributes allow him to legitimately defend shooting guards, larger point guards, small forwards, and some power forwards. I thought Balkman, Hassan Adams from Arizona (#54, Nets), and Bobby Jones from Washington (#37, Sixers) were the best defensive specialist small forwards available. Balkman is a surprisingly good passer, though turnover prone because of carelessness.

His calling card is his Nate Robinson-esque manic energy, focused almost exclusively on defense. Those incurable college hoops junkies who tuned in to the NIT final four saw it on display, as Balkman dominated the Madison Square Garden portion of the tournament in a manner consistent with his college career. Watching the games it looked like three of him were on the floor, yet his numbers for the tournament were even less impressive than in the regular season. (He was shut out in two of the games.) This season at South Carolina, as widely reported, he scored 9.6 points in just under 26 mpg (14.9 per 40). Taking only 6.6 shots per game, he averaged 61.5% (TS%) from the floor; precisely what you want and expect from a high energy player who doesn?t take 3s. Nothing jumps out at you on paper.

However, Balkman?s value becomes more apparent when you look at the entire stat sheet. He puts something in every column, chipping in per game averages of 6 boards (9.8 total/3.3 offensive per 40), 2 assists (3 per 40), 1.7 steals (2.7 per 40), and 1.3 blocks (2 per 40). He also generally stays out of foul trouble despite being a well-regarded defender. He committed only 2.2 per game (3.4 per 40) this season. Unfortunately, Isiah has already demonstrating that he does not understand Balkman’s value by throwing out the Phoenix red herring and then saddling him with impossible Rodman comparisons. In truth, the best NBA comparison is Utah?s Andrei Kirilenko. Like Kirilenko, Balkman lacks a singular prowess but does a bit of everything other than score. Kirilenko?s similar per 40 NBA career averages (17.2 points, 8.1 boards, 3.2 assists, 2 steals, 3.2 blocks, and 2.8 fouls) certainly do not imply that Balkman will be as good. But they are a far betterpoint of comparison than Rodman’s career numbers. Balkman would need to almost double his rebounding to match Rodman?s.

On the downside, I question whether Balkman’s limited offense will translate to the NBA though I strongly suspect his other numbers will. In three seasons at S. Carolina Balkman?s offensive game has not progressed beyond transition baskets and offensive rebounds. On a team that struggled to break 70 points most nights Balkman made next to no offensive contribution in almost a quarter of the games. This season he was shut out four times, including twice in his coming out party at the NIT, and scored fewer than five points in four other games. He brings little to a halfcourt offense, which is why he was thought by most to be a second round pick at best.

Outlook. Undoubtedly, Isiah?s strength as an executive?such that it is?has been his NFL-style approach to the draft, favoring ?best player available? over ?need.? He went away from the value-based approach with this pick. Of course, having your job threatened provides all the incentive most people need to abandon long-term thinking if they were ever capable of it. In addition, since what?s left of his tattered reputation is super-glued to Stephon Marbury it?s not surprising that he passed on the glut of point guards available at #20. Almost all the value was concentrated at that position. So he rolled the dice on a player that fills a need for a defense-oriented small forward that fits his bias toward athleticism to a tee. Balkman is in many crucial respects precisely what the Knicks need: someone who defends, who doesn?t need the ball to perform well, and who does the little things off the ball like set screens, pass, and cut.

Unfortunately Balkman is a textbook reach for need at #20 overall. Given the talent available, he will almost certainly be unable to justify his selection without near-miraculous offensive improvement. At this point Knick fans might save themselves the agony Mets fans have endured after future all-star Scott Kazmir was traded for the disappointing Victor Zambrano. Many chronicled and compared every pitch, simply adding painful detail to the obvious truth: the Mets got hosed. Balkman doesn?t have much upside but may well develop to fill precisely the role for which he was drafted, especially if he can develop a mid-range jump shot a l? Udonis Haslem. On a personal note, I hope the beat writers and fans allow this kid to just be the role player he is without throwing the Rodman comparisons back at him. He may model his play after Rodman’s and Isiah may be deluded into thinking he’s Rodman but Senator, he’s no Dennis Rodman. Isiah really oughta know better.

2. Mardy Collins ? 6?5.5? G/F, Temple (Rd. 1, #29)

Analysis. Collins is solid value at #29. Keeping with an emphasis on defense Collins is a big guard with long arms and can guard multiple positions. At Temple he never averaged fewer than 1.8 steals in four seasons and averaged 2.8 steals in each of the last two. He?s very good at jumping the passing lanes (and recovering when he doesn?t get the steal). Like many Temple players Collins will come to the league well prepared to defend but will struggle offensively.

To his credit, on offense Collins was asked to carry the load in college, playing big minutes all four seasons. In his most impressive stretch this season at the end of January against Maryland, Xavier, and UMass, Collins averaged 25 points, 3 boards, and 7.3 assists. In an earlier stretch against Auburn, Alabama, and S. Carolina he averaged 13, 3, and 5. This season he accounted for 27% of offense-starved Temple?s points and 40% of its assists. He is not a super efficient offensive player; neither a good 3 point or free throw shooter. In fairness Temple?s offense often requires guards to take poor shots against the clock. I still would have liked to see a higher percentage, especially at the line, but Collins is not quite as bad as he?s been portrayed. He shot 50.1% (TS) this season. He is very effective in the post and in the mid-range. He does a good job of using his size to get himself to the foul line extended area where he can hit the mid-range pull up jumper and hit cutters. He has “an old man’s game” and I mean that in a good way. He’s smart enough to play within his limitations.

Outlook. It?s hard to criticize Thomas for taking Collins at #29. Collins is a nice chip; a talented player with point guard skills but who could play minutes at any of three positions in a pinch or who could be included as part of a deal. But where he plays, if at all, will depend entirely on what happens with the roster this off-season. Thomas is indicating right now that he?s ready to head into the season with the current group. However, that sounds like an attempt at damage control after James Dolan undermined his bargaining power by publicly announcing his lame duck status. ?

The odds are that picks numbered 20 and 29 in any draft will likely end up being at best serviceable NBA players, with the rare exception moving on to stardom. Neither Balkman nor Collins projects as a future star, though both could and should be useful players. Of the two Collins projects to have the best career because he is the more complete player. What we can say a few days after the draft is that once again New York Knick management found a way to overpay a guy with limited marketability to put it kindly. Without question Balkman would have been available at #29. Now we can only hope that he can actually fill the role for which he was selected. Mardy Collins is a player I have long liked and had targeted for the Knicks, but a draft with one of Marcus Williams, Jordan Farmar, Rajon Rondo, Shannon Brown, or Josh Boone, along with Balkman or Collins at 29 would have preferable. [End]

Hope everyone out their has a Happy Independence Day!!!

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Part-time blogger on the Knicks at Knickerblogger.net and Seahawks at FieldGulls.com. In my free time I hang out at the University of South Carolina and occasionally fill thirsty young minds with knowledge about various and sundry things related to consumer behavior and marketing.

20 thoughts to “Draft Night Postscript”

  1. I could be wrong but when I look at Balkman I project more Jerome Williams than Kirilenko. Jerome was also a limited offensive player in college. He avaraged slightly more rebounds and less blocks but I think Balkman and Williams will have similar careers. I personally think that would be a good value at 20 considering this will probably be remembered as an extremely weak draft.

  2. “Kirilenko […] lacks a singular prowess”

    I hate to be picky, but Kirilenko clearly excels at shot-blocking, esp from the SF position. While I like Balkman, too, I don’t think he’ll be nearly as good as Kirilenko. I’ll agree that they’ll both pile up stats in several columns, but I don’t see Balkman putting up anywhere near the number of blocks that Kirilenko can get.

    Also, though, I really appreciate someone finally cutting Isiah a bit of a break on this matter. Given his draft history, he really deserves the benefit of the doubt here. True, he showed his terrible GM side when he bought the rumors that Phoenix was going to take Balkman, but Balkman is what this team needs. The only better pick I think he could have made at #20 would be Brown or Ager. The last thing the Knicks need is another PG or the under-motivated Boone.

  3. Comparing Balkman to Kirelenko is like comparing Mardy Collins to Magic Johnson. An undersized Jerome Williams is more fitting.

  4. Well, with Big Ben coming to Chicago, I just hope that Jackie Butler doesn’t become an interesting replacement in the center merry-go-round. I like that the Knicks made the qualifying offer. Now they just have to match offers!

  5. I had not considered the JYD comparison when I wrote. Good catch. He may indeed be the best comparison for Balkman’s career as a few of you have pointed out. Though my recollection of JYD at Georgetown was as more of a power player. But at any rate the Dennis Rodman comparison is so far off base I wonder why Isiah would even repeat it.

  6. AK-47 might be an extreme example because of his shot blocking ability, but let’s also remember how unique this guy is. B-R has his most comparable to date to be Vlade Divac, which doesn’t seem to be a great match for Kirilenko. On the other hand Jerome Williams was never a good shot blocker (max blk/40 in one season was 0.7) and it seems that Balkman might be more likely to guard 2s than 4s, so I don’t see the undersized JYD to be accurate either.

    My take: a poor man’s Tayshaun Prince.

  7. Since I haven’t written an article in a while, here’s my take on this draft.

    It seems that in this draft fits Isiah’s was looking to fill in the missing pieces of his ideal team. At the time it seemed illogical to trade Keith Van Horn, but Thomas was looking for an athletic SF that can defend. Look at the SF since: Tim Thomas (who was athletic enough but never willing), Jerome Williams (who proved to be willing but not athletic enough), Trevor Ariza (who couldn’t find the court under Larry Brown), Quentin Richardson (whose body came to New York damaged), Matt Barnes, and Qyntel Woods. You could file them into two categories: offensive SF that should have been athletic enough to be good defenders (Tiny Tim & Q-Rich) and defensive SF that couldn’t score (Ariza, JYD, Woods, Barnes). On one hand you have to wonder why the Knicks traded Ariza, who has a similar skill set to Balkman’s, but on the other that is exactly Isiah’s M.O. Use your assets to trade for other players, then find players that were similar to replace them (Keith Van Horn -> Tim Thomas, Ariza -> Balkman). In theory it’s a fantastic idea, but Isiah hasn’t used it well in practice, usually acquiring guys that are overrated (Steve Francis) in the process.

    With a guard rotation of Marbury, Francis, Robinson, and Crawford the undersized Knicks sorely need a big guard that can defend. In fact there are many here that feel that the Knicks haven’t had a good defender at guard since a feisty Frank Williams battled against Jason Kidd in the 2004 playoffs. Since then Isiah has looked to fill this role with bargain bin players like Jamison Brewer and Jermaine Jackson. Thomas is hoping that lanky for a PG Collins can finally fill this role for the Knicks. In theory, Collins can mix with the Knick small shooting guards (Francis & Robinson) to provide help on the defensive end.

  8. I really hope Francis is moved. We don’t need Francis AND Crawford AND Marbury AND… well, you get the idea. You’d think “Franchise” would have to have some value to somebody. The thought of Marbury and Francis attempting to defend opposing backcourts is making me throw up in my mouth a little.

    Who are the other NBA teams with stupid GMS? I got it– Golden State. Baron Davis and Stevie Francis, um, yeah, that’s it, that’d be a great backcourt. Or how about Minnesota? They seem pretty dumb. At this point I’d take almost anything for Francis since it would be addition by subtraction. In a different situation Francis could be a somewhat valuable player but as a Knick with Marbury on the roster he’s hopeless.

  9. If Isiah was smart, he’d pull the trigger on the Kmart for Francis deal. A pretty good PF would get more playing time on a team with an overloaded back court. Who cares about the money? Fans want a winning team.

    Kenyon Martin could swing around the 5 and the 4 like Amare on the Suns. The Knicks could go small ball like Phoenix. Crawford at the 2, Steph at the 1, and Nate off the bench ala Boykins.

    c- Frye
    PF – Kmart
    sf – Q
    sg – Crawford
    pg – Stephon

    6th – Nate

    That’s a decent team that could over achieve with the right coach – possibly into the second round in the weak east. (provided Ny gets the 5th spot)

  10. I can’t take it anymore!… Please no more….

    c- Frye
    PF – Kmart
    sf – Q
    sg – Crawford
    pg – Stephon

    Who is going to play defense for your starting 5?
    Stephon is a moron, he can’t even answer a simple question from the living Knick’s legend “Clyde”. The sooner the Knick’s get rid of Stephon, Francis and J.Rose the better. Really they should waiver all three now and suffer 100 million in loses and years of being a non-contender, because no other NBA team wants theses pay check collecting bums..

    Should that indicate something to Knicks fans..”Nobody wants them, and their hugh contracts.. Actually even if their contracts were not large..I don’t believe they would attract too much interest. How could the last two trades ever been made (Francis and J.Rose?) I could live with one Moron on the team, but now three?
    Also, J. Crawford doesn’t even know what “Defense” is! Can Isaiah teach hime? How?

    This situation with the NY Knicks is getting to far out of hand…. Legally something has to be done, this franhise is degrading the NBA.. Thomas, Dolan, & company are not even funny any more, not even worth being the butt end of all NBA jokes.

    Enough is Enough!

    Fire everbody….

  11. Report: Knicks Sign Jeffries to Offer Sheet
    “The New York Knicks signed restricted free agent guard/forward Jared Jeffries to an offer sheet this afternoon, according to NBA sources,” reports Ivan Carter of THE WASHINGTON POST. “The Washington Wizards will have seven days to decide whether to match the offer. Team owner Abe Pollin, president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld and coach Eddie Jordan have all indicated a desire to retain Jeffries

    GOOD NEWS. Hope NY gets this guy, and it will be good if he can make a difference in the locker room… DEFENSE!

  12. Don’t the Knicks still have a logjam of big men? If Jeffries can play defense, well, that’s good, but where are Frye and Lee going to play? And all those old guys they STILL have under contract…

    The one article I read said Jeffries was probably going to get matched by Washington anyway…

    I have to admit, somehow I’d failed to notice that Jeffries was any good the last few years…is he really a quality player?

  13. I think Jeffries would look great starting with Starbury and Francis/Crawford because he’s a role player who defends well and doesn’t need any plays run for him on offense. Who cares if Jalen and Richardson stay on the bench? (Jim K, though he’s 6’11”, Jeffries plays either SG or SF, so this wouldn’t affect the PF or C rotations for the Knicks.)

  14. This move makes the Jackie Butler move make a little more sense (and a NY Post article at the time said that this is why the Knicks WOULDN’T match Butler, and it turns out, weeks later, that they were correct).

    The Knicks couldn’t sign both players, and they determined that Jeffries is the better player.

    Yes, if they had moved some guys BEFORE then, they could have signed BOTH, but if teams know Isiah HAD to trade someone, I don’t think he’d be in a good negotiation position, considering the players he is trying to dump are all garbage.

    What this seems to be setting up (presuming Washington doesn’t match, and I sure wouldn’t if I were them, as this deal is way too much, but hey, money is the one advantage the Knicks actually HAVE) are some “three for one”/”one for a draft pick”/”one for a trade exemption” deals, with Jeffries likely taking the place of Richardson in the small forward spot and Miller being signed to be the new third-string center (I bet there’s a nice under-the-table agreement right now between the Knicks and Miller asking him to wait for them to clear some roster space).

    Jeffries isn’t that good (and he makes Balkman pretty much superfluous), as he hovers around an 11 PER, but he’s better than Richardson, and, as others mention, he plays really good defense, which makes carrying an 11 PER understandable, especially considering the offensive players he’ll be playing with.

    I think this is a good registered free agent to go after, because if Washington DOES match, it really doesn’t matter THAT much.

  15. “The signing of 6.10 free-agent Jefferies to and offer Sheet maybe one of the great moves for Isiah Thomas if the Washington Wizards dont match the offer. Jefferies provide help in 3-positions (PF/SF/SG) against certain Knick oponents on the defensive end. Plus he is experience in playing with scoring PG & PF.” Um, yeah. Too bad he sucks. Seriously, 5 years 30 million. Are you kidding me? I love watching fans genuflect in an attempt to defend the indefensible.
    “This move makes the Jackie Butler move make a little more sense (and a NY Post article at the time said that this is why the Knicks WOULDN?T match Butler, and it turns out, weeks later, that they were correct).

    The Knicks couldn?t sign both players, and they determined that Jeffries is the better player.” Exhibit 1971 that Isiah Thomas is an idiot.

  16. I liked Butler a lot, but I think there’s certainly a very good case to made for Jared Jeffries being a better player than Butler.

    And he’s certainly a player who addresses a need for the Knicks, while Butler (while a good backup) essentially duplicated the skill set of another, better player who Butler was stuck behind.

    But yeah, I don’t get it being a great move, either.

    Just a move that improved the team.

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