Q-Rich Poll

Ok folks, I’m always curious what my readers think, so another poll for y’all. As always I ask that if you have a minute, leave a comment to let us know why you voted the way you did. You can always leave it anonymously, if you wish. Today’s subject: Quentin Richardson.

According to his stat page on Basketball-Reference.com, Q-Rich’s PER his rookie season was an impressive 16.6. He topped that his second year, going up nearly a point to 17.4. Unfortunately, he’s never topped that mark. His third year, a time when many players show marked improvement, Richardson’s PER dropped anemically to 12.5. In his last year for the Clippers, he brought it to the league average (15.1), but even last year on a super-charged offensive team, Quentin only manged a 13.5.

In addition to his decline in production, Richardson also became less durable. Despite missing only 5 games total his first two seasons, Quentin missed 40 in the next two. One of the knocks against him is his reported chronic back pain, something Richardson claims is no longer an issue.

So here’s the poll, and remember, leave a reason in the comment section.

Defensive About Brown

I don’t like to dwell too much on rumors, because if I jumped on every scenario that Peter Vecsey has envisioned, I wouldn’t have much time to write about things that actually happen. However with the Knicks tending an official offer to Larry Brown making it a real possibility that he’ll be the New York coach in 2006, now might be an appropriate time to look at what he could mean to this city.

So far the reviews have been mixed at best. Some people think that the unselfish ABA assist leader from ’68-’70 might clash with the Knicks’ star trying to convince Marbury to shoot less, or that the Knicks roster is too far from contention. Even Pro Basketball Prospectus author John Hollinger is against the move, noting that hiring Brown is antithetical to the Knicks’ rebuilding philosophy. No one pays a coach $10M to babysit the tykes while Jerome James does a 21st century revival of Marv Throneberry. In fact it’s Hollinger’s opinion that surprises me the most. Not only is one of the part time jobs of the voluminous author to cover the Knicks for the New York Sun, but John also coined the term “Larry Brown Effect” in the ’03 Prospectus. The LBE showed that Larry Brown (pre-Detroit) has improved his teams by an average of 11.2 wins in his first season.

While Hollinger looked at Brown’s overall effect on his clubs, I wanted to look deeper into those teams. So I split his accomplishments up between offensive & defensive rankings, and I looked at the teams in the first and second year of Brown.

Year    Team    Y1O     Y1D     Y2O     Y2D
2003    DET     -4      2       -3      1
1998    PHI     1       6       1       21
1994    IND     -6      13      -3      16
1993    LAC     2       5       5       -2
1989    SAS     -13     9       -5      19
1982    NJN     0       13      2       15
1975    DEN     7       3       7       2
1973    CAR     4       8       7       5
        SUM     -9.0    59.0    11.0    77.0
        AVG     -1.1    7.4     1.4     9.6
        MEAN    0.5     7.0     1.5     10.0

By the chart above, teams that Brown coached improved an average of 7.4 rankings on defense in their first year, and 9.6 in the second. On the offensive end, they showed little to no improvement. In other words Larry Brown is a defensive wizard. Which is why I would be thrilled to have him as coach of the Knicks.

When Herb Williams took over the head coaching responsibility in January, one of the things I said I would keep an eye on is how the Knicks fared on offense and defense for the rest of the season. At the time they ranked 17th and 24th respectively, and unfortunately they showed little to no improvement by the end of the year. On offense the Knicks finished 16th, but on defense they dropped three spots to 27th.

It was New York’s defense, or lack thereof that irked me. Even 5 games into last season, it was clear that the Knicks needed an upgrade. Isiah Thomas’ roster seemed to have players who lacked effort or ability on the defensive end, including his two prize guards: Marbury and Crawford. Stephon’s defensive liabilities were so bad that only a few weeks later it prompted guest-blogger David Crockett to write that Marbury should be traded because he created “easy scoring opportunities for opponents, putting his teammates in a terrible bind.” He added “at this point in Marbury?s career it seems unlikely that he is going to devote himself more fully to defense for more than a quarter here or there… How can the team construct a title contender with Marbury as its focal player?”

As for Crawford, in April I had an email-versation with John Hollinger that went like this.

KB: “I’m not sold on Crawford. Combine the awful defense with the chuck at all costs offense, and 2011 seems a far away. Both would have to change for Craw to be a useful starter, and I’m not high on those odds.”

JH: “Reasonable people can disagree on Crawford. I just think a stronger coach could whip him into shape and help smooth all those rough edges. We won’t know until or unless the Knicks hire one.”

Enter Larry Brown, stage left. Even though it was half of a hopeless season, Herb Williams’ inability to get the Knicks to play any defense left me doubtful that he would be the right guy to get the job done. Not only could Brown get Marbury and Crawford to shut down down the conga-line to the hoop, but he might be able to affect the rest of the roster as well. With the right training, Trevor Ariza could become a defensive stopped in the mold of Tayshaun Prince. Isiah’s new acquisition, the burly and foul prone Jerome James, might be able to stay in the game for more than 20 minutes a night with a little guidance. The Knicks have a rookie Channing Frye that, if his summer league 10 foul game is any indication, needs a little help in becoming their future center. And he can’t mishandle Mike Sweetney any worse than his predecessors.

Brown is exactly what the organization needs. The Knicks need someone that can get this young team to play defense. What better for this franchise to remind New Yorkers of its’ past than to become a defensive minded squad? Fans can be reminded of the Camby-LJ-Sprewell era, the Ewing-Oakley-Starks era, or the Reed-Jackson-DeBusschere era depending on their age. Notice that behind each one of those teams was a strong coach: Van Gundy, Riley, or Holzman.

Even if Brown stays for two or three years and the team only is good enough to go a round or two in the playoffs, the franchise should be better off because most of the players are in a position in their career where they can improve. It’s possible that the lessons the players learn under Brown can stay with them for the rest of their career. As for the aftermath, the proof is in Brown’s last few stops (we’ll throw out the Clippers, since we’re only concerned with legitimate NBA franchises). No one is predicting that Detroit will cease to be an Eastern powerhouse because Brown is no longer patrolling the sidelines. Indiana arguably was better after Brown left in 1997. Last I checked the Spurs have done pretty well for themselves since 1992. Only Philadelphia is the worse for wear, but in Larry’s last year their top guys included Keith Van Horn, Eric Snow, and Derrick Coleman. It was inevitible that they were going to crash sooner or later. As for the Knicks, the odds look good to me with Brown at the helm. Even if it’s only to temporarily right the ship.

[Edited after a full night’s sleep.]

No To Brown & Walker?

In case you thought everyone in New York wanted Larry Brown, there are at least two guys that feel it’s not the best move for New York. The illustrious John Hollinger has a freebie in the New York Sun (that I’m sure everyone has read by now), and Tim from HoopsJunkie with a lengthy expantion on the topic. And my nomination for best post on a team-centered message board goes to the man named ‘tomverve’ on Antoine Walker vs. Mike Sweetney. It’s good. It’s long. It’s well thought out. It’s logical. It’s got numbers to back everything up. It links to my page :-). What’s not to like?

Swift, Brown, and Fun With Logos

SWIFT

Stromile Swift just signed with the Houston Rockets for the mid level exception. Swift is 4 years younger than Jerome James, and has a career Player Efficiency Rating that is 5.6 points higher. James has a higher block rate and better shooting percentage, and that’s it. Swift is better in every other category including half the foul rate. I’m not going to say that Isiah could have signed him, because Swift might have preferred Houston over New York. But how did the two end up with the same salary? You’d at least think that somehow the Knicks could have gotten a better deal. That’s like buying a Big Mac & finding out a Jackson Hole 7oz burger is the same price.

BROWN
Hearing about Larry Brown and the Pistons, did any New Yorkers have flashbacks to Bill Parcels? I’m not going to say that Brown would solve all of New York’s problems, but I will say that Parcels did turn around the Jets. If it wasn’t for him, I’m convinced the Jets would rival the Arizona Cardinals for futility in the NFL.

PISTONS LOGO

So the Detroit Pistons have designed a “new” logo:

As you can see it looks almost exactly like their old logo. Is someone going to tell me that people prefer a logo that:
* is simple
* uses primary colors instead of pastels
* doesn’t have a horse
* doesn’t have automobile exhausts
* doesn’t have flames coming out of the above mentioned horse and exhausts
* has legible text instead of oddly angled 3d fonts

My theory is that they had this logo for years, but since it looked so much like their old logo, they needed something garish in-between. And I’m sure the owners of the Pistons are upset that everyone who bought a jersey, hat, t-shirt, bobblehead doll, beer cozy, etc. may feel the need to rid themselves of the old item & purchase a brand new one.

Four Players That Need More Time

In today’s article, I’ll identify 4 guys who were productive last year, but didn’t see enough minutes from their team. All of them are big men, and two have been playing well for two or more seasons now.

Dan Gadzuric

By definition, the league average for John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is 15. Last year despite only playing 22 minutes per game, Gadzuric managed a PER of 18.5. The next person on the list was Michael Redd. Ironically Redd just received a 6 year $90M+ contract from the Bucks, while Gadzuric will play for the same 6 years, but for $54M less. Doesn’t seem fair does it? Just the other day, the APBRmetric board was discussing this very topic. That is that teams tend to overpay for guys with good pts/g, and that if a Moneyball type executive wanted to exploit the NBA, this would be good place to start.

If given a fair chance, he could easily step in & start for 20 teams in the NBA. Maybe even 25 teams. While I have no delusions that Gadzuric would be an All Star, it seems a waste in a league where centers are at a premium. Just looking back over the last few years of free agency, mediocre 7 footers like Foyle, Dampier, and Olowokandi have received big deals for little production. Meanwhile, Dan has posted a PER above 17 for two straight years. An athletic player, he can hit the glass at both ends of the court, block shots, and come up with a steal. Gadzuric shoots at or above 50%, and has cut back on his fouls to a level where he could easily play 30-35 minutes a game. With the arrival of #1 overall pick Bogut, the Bucks may not need Dan more than the 22 minutes a game that they gave him last year. It’s a shame, because given quality minutes, this guy could really shine.

Al Jefferson

Just go to a Celtics forum, and mention the words “trade” and “Jefferson” in the same sentence. You might see some replies like:

heff: “blasphemy!”
Big Al: “Jefferson is basically the only untouchable player on the team right now”
Jahwei: “Another reminder. Kids, don’t do drugs.”

Well you get the picture. Despite 2005 being Jefferson’s first year in the league, and receiving only 15 minutes a game, he still put up a PER of 16.6. Oh and remember this kid can’t kick back with a beer after the game until January, unless David Stern decides to play the Celtics home opener in Tijuana. As most youngling that enter the league, Jefferson was prone to turnovers and fouls. Considering that he can work on those numbers, he’ll be an asset for the Celtics next year. Jefferson is a fine rebounder, and ranked 19th in John Hollinger’s rebounding rate last year (with the above mentioned Gadzuric being 2nd). Doc Rivers was critical of Jefferson’s defense last year, which limited his minutes. If Al can hustle during preseason and get on his coach’s good side, Rivers might loosen the apron strings and be pleasantly surprised with the results he gets.

Mike Sweetney

How much longer will Mike be on these lists? Do I have to show up in the Garden with a “Free Mike Sweetney” sign? The guy had a 17.2 PER in his first year, despite spending the first few weeks on the IR behind such NBA luminaries like Clarence Weatherspoon and Othella Harrington. Still the Knicks only played him in 11 minutes per game. The year after Sweetney posts a 16.4 PER, despite playing against taller opponents at the five. Still the Knicks limit his minutes to under 20, whether or not he’s performing well.

Even this summer, with the Knicks trading Kurt Thomas, Sweetney’s hold on the PF position is tenuous. He’s been rumored to be traded for everyone from Antoine Walker to Kwame Brown. In last year’s Basketball Forecast, John Hollinger wrote “a good way to judge if the Knicks know what they’re doing is to see how long it takes for Sweetney to take Kurt Thomas’ job.” For this year’s book, Hollinger would be smart to copy & paste the same quote in, because a year later the Knicks still might not have figured out what they have. New York still has a glut of PFs, and it’s possible that Herb trots out Malik Rose, Jerome Williams, and Maurice Taylor often enough to limit Sweetney’s minutes again. However if given the chance to play 30 minutes a night, Big Mike will be a nice sleeper for those in fantasy basketball leagues that are looking for a double-double power forward.

Nick Collison

In 2003, just three picks after New York nabbed Mike Sweetney, the SuperSonics drafted Collison. Unfortunately the pick didn’t pay immediate dividends for Seattle, as Collison missed the season with surgery on both shoulders. Last year he rebounded back from his injuries, and had a PER of 15.0.

Collison took advantage of the Sonics open offense, and shot nearly 54%. Add to that an ability to draw contact, where he had a true shooting percentage of 57%, the same as Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard. Another reason to like Collison is that he upped his game during the playoffs. During the season he scored at a rate of 15.9 pts/48 minutes, but during the playoffs that average went up to 20.3. Getting more playing time next year shouldn’t be an issue for Nick. Seattle lost center Jerome James, and you never know what’s going to happen with volatile Danny Fortson.