Knicks 2007 Report Card (A to Z): Eddy Curry

KnickerBlogger: I’m sure anyone that only goes by per game stats thinks that Eddy Curry had the best season of his career. Early in the year, the mainstream media was quick to catch on to Curry’s 11 straight game of 20+ points. In 2007, Curry had career per game highs in points, rebounds, free throws, and possibly hugs of Jamal Crawford. (Am I the only one that notices that Curry does this?)

However closer analysis of Curry’s season shows little improvement. Comparing his last 3 seasons by per-minute numbers, Curry’s 2007 isn’t much different from his career averages. Surprisingly Curry showed no big improvement in his per minute scoring, and his per minute rebounding was the second lowest of his career. Statistically, Curry’s big improvement was in his personal fouls. Obviously fouls are important for a budding big man, since foul trouble can limit the amount of time a player can stay on the floor. Curry was able to play in 10 more minutes per game this year, partly due to his ability to stay out of foul trouble. (The other factor was his improved conditioning). Eddy Curry showed minor improvement in one other category, his assists. Although his passing is still below average, Curry seemed to improve as the season wore on.

Per Minute Stats from www.basketball-reference.com
Season Ag Tm G MP FGA FTA ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TO PF PTS
2001-02 19 CHI 72 1150 13.1 5.6 3.9 5.6 9.5 0.9 0.6 1.8 2.4 6 16.8
2002-03 20 CHI 81 1571 14.6 7.3 3 6 9 0.9 0.5 1.6 3.5 5.8 21.6
2003-04 21 CHI 73 2154 15.6 6.5 2.7 5.7 8.4 1.3 0.4 1.5 3.3 4.8 19.9
2004-05 22 CHI 63 1808 16.2 6.9 2.6 4.9 7.5 0.8 0.5 1.3 3.6 4.5 22.4
2005-06 23 NYK 72 1866 12.8 10.4 3.1 6.2 9.3 0.4 0.6 1.2 3.8 5.1 21
2006-07 24 NYK 81 2849 14.3 9.3 2.7 5.3 8 1 0.5 0.6 4.1 3.7 22.1

Looking at Curry’s 2006 numbers it seems that Larry Brown had 2 positive effects on him. Under the stern Knick coach Curry’s rebounding peaked and he doubled his free throw attempts per minute in 2006. While Curry’s rebounding returned to his pre-Brown numbers last year, he seemed to retain the ability to draw fouls at a higher rate.

Curry’s per-minute stats for 2007 show two disturbing trends. As I mentioned before, he reduced the rate in which he fouls opponents, but that may have come at the expense of his shot blocking. Already a poor defensive presence in the paint, Curry’s shot block rate was nearly half his career rate. Of all centers that played more than 12 min/g, Eddy Curry was the third worst at blocked shots per minute, only ahead of Andrew Bogut and Marc Jackson. Additionally Curry’s turnover rate spiked to the highest of his career as he became the focal point of the Knick offense. Usually players commit fewer turnovers as they age, but it seems Curry has become more turnover prone over the years.

KnickerBlogger’s Grade: C+

2008 Outlook: Unfortunately for Knick fans, Curry is a one trick pony at a premium position. All he provides is scoring, albeit he is a very efficient scorer from the floor. Curry is poor at holding onto the ball, bad at passing, worse at rebounding, and non-existent with his help defense. New York’s management has declared that Curry is their center of the future. If this is true, the Knicks are going to need more than just his scoring to become a successful team during his tenure. At only 24 years old (25 in December) Curry still has time to develop into a more complete player. But what is Curry likely to improve on in 2008?

Seeing at how lackadaisical he is on defense combined with the drop in his rebound and block rate, it seems that Curry’s isn’t likely to get better on the defensive end. However he did show an increase in his assist numbers, and he looked to be a better passer late in the season. So Curry’s best hope to become a better player in 2008 is to work on his passing. Improved passing ability will allow Curry to make opponents pay for double teaming him, which will in turn force opponents to stop doubling him. That in turn should mean Curry’s scoring would increase. Improving his passing should drop his turnover rate as well, as some of those turnovers came from poor passing out of double teams. A change that would effect those areas would make Eddy Curry one of the best offensive players in the league.

Dave Crockett: I have to disagree and say Curry earned a solid B. Scott Skiles criticized Curry for being the same player in New York as he was in Chicago on a per-minute basis. [Disclosure: I can’t stand Skiles and felt like he was just being an ass on principle.] For the record, I think that criticism misses something pretty fundamental apart from my dislike for Skiles. His reference was clearly to Curry’s offense. Well, the only way for Curry to be a monumentally better offensive player is through higher efficiency or greater usage. Big efficiency gains seem pretty unlikely in a players already as efficient as Curry. Even still, Curry has in fact improved his efficiency in NY. He’s been a 60.4% true shooter in NY, up from 56.7% in Chicago. He might improve his efficiency by shooting in the 70s from the FT line, a point to which I will return, but from the floor he’s pretty darn efficient. The only other way to see a big-time jump in per minute scoring would be through increased usage. As offensive centerpieces go Curry’s 23.1 usage rate isn’t modest but it’s also not Ben Gordon’s ridiculous 27.3. By my count only eight players shot 60%+ TS and were used less than Curry in 07. So while you’re not likely to see big per minute scoring jumps from a player with Curry’s profile that doesn’t mean he hasn’t improved.

Curry has faced two primary challenges since coming into the league: 1) Can he improve his conditioning and cut down his fouls so he can play more minutes to take advantage of his already efficient offense? 2) Can he develop facets of his game other than scoring?

He has managed to address the first challenge, which is no small feat. How many of us Knicks fans thought back in 05 that Mike Sweetney would be better than Curry no matter what Kevin Pelton said? If it were a trivial matter to get in good enough shape to add 10 minutes of playing time when you were already averaging over 20 then Sweetney and Ollie Miller, both far superior rebounders to Curry, might be perennial all-stars.

Obviously, Curry has not been able to address the second challenge anywhere near as well as the first. Yet even though this is undoubtedly true it is not a statement that should be made without caveat. It is not clear that Curry’s increased minutes really did come at the expense of his (admittedly) sub-par defense. As KB has detailed, Curry never provide much shot-blocking but provided virtually none this past season. However, this must be balanced against the fact that his +/- (+5.3) and defensive rating (110 vs. 106 league avg.) remained unchanged from the previous season while his fouls have steadily declined (to a career low 3.7 per 40 in 07). So it’s not clear that he’s hemorrhaging layups despite not blocking shots and fouling less. My observations suggests to me that Curry’s improved conditioning has led to better positioning and footwork (a la Jason Collins) allowing him to stay away from some of his notorious cheap reach-in fouls. I’m not suggesting Curry is a better defender but he’s not necessarily a worse one. Further, it may not be such a bad idea to have Curry forgo blocking shots when he so clearly cannot block them.

If, as KB suggests, Curry is likely to remain a one-trick pony (and 35 minutes of efficient scoring ain’t such a bad trick) then in addition to improving his passing he must become a better free throw shooter. That is one area where Curry could make a noticeable jump in efficiency. He got to the line frequently–40 times for every 100 shots–but shot a career-low 61.5% last season (career 64%). Curry does not have a broken down stroke in need of rehabilitation, like Shaq, Ben Wallace, or Chris Dudley. In fact, Curry has a good looking stroke with no obvious hitches. If Larry Johnson could shoot free throws in the high 70s-low 80s with his hideous mechanics there is no earthly reason Curry shouldn’t shoot consistently in high-70s. He just needs decide to become a decent free throw shooter and park his butt in the gym until he becomes one. That’s one thing I’ll be looking for right away in 08.

Brian Maniscalco: Let’s take a closer look at Curry’s increased floor time and usage.

season  mpg   poss / 40min   poss / game   fouls / 40min   off fouls / 40min   def fouls / 40min 
2005/06 25.9 21.3 13.8 5.1 1.4 3.7
2006/07 35.2 23.1 20.3 3.7 1.3 2.4

Curry?s 06/07 mark of 23.1 possessions used per 40 minutes was only a small uptick from the previous season. Nonetheless, that mark was a career high and the first time he led his team in usage rate (tied with Jamal Crawford). In total, Curry?s possessions used per game increased by almost 50% over the previous season because of all the extra minutes he played. Of course, a critical contributing factor to Curry?s increased court presence was his ability to cut down on personal fouls. However, somewhat contrary to popular perception, Curry?s drop in fouls per minute came entirely came from a decrease in defensive foul rate. (Although an improvement in offensive foul rate is also evident on a per-possession basis.)

Does the dip in defensive foul rate indicate an impoverished defensive effort from an already poor defender? In 07, Curry experienced an anomalous, precipitous drop in both overall fouls (3.7) and blocked shots (0.6) per 40 minutes compared to his prior career averages (5.1 and 1.5, respectively). So the data is suggestive that Curry’s decreased aggression in attempting to block shots is directly tied to his decreased defensive foul rate, sacrificing shot blocking attempts for more court time. As Dave points out, though, existing defensive stats (coarse and imperfect as they may be) portray Curry as an equally bad defender in both his seasons as a Knick, despite blocking half as many shots last season. A moment’s reflection shows that this is not too surprising, given that fouling fewer times on defense means fewer free throws for the opposition. According to 82games.com, the Knicks allowed 21 opponent free throw attempts per 48 minutes with Curry on the court, down from 26 the previous season. Likewise, Curry’s net +/- for opponent free throw attempts per 48 minutes improved from -6 to -14.

Just about every per minute and per possession measure of offensive efficiency will tell you that Curry was about as effective on offense in 07 as in 06. However, this is impressive given that Curry played 1000 more total minutes in 07, used more possessions and attempted more shots per minute, and drew more double and triple teams from defenses primarily geared towards slowing him down. With all those factors working to suppress his efficiency, the mere fact that he was able to maintain prior levels suggests some degree of improvement in an already strong offensive attack.

Unfortunately, there is one straightforward way to substantially slow down Curry?s Goliath act in the paint: double team him, triple team him, and do whatever you can to get the ball out of his hands. Not only does this tactic prevent Curry from getting up a shot, but it also often leads to a turnover.

Passing, ball handling, and turnovers (all stats per 100 possessions used)

season  assists   off. fouls   bad passes   ballhanding TOs   misc TOs   TOs   assists / bad passes 
2005/06 1.9 6.7 2.2 6.2 2.8 18.0 0.9
2006/07 4.3 5.6 2.9 6.9 2.5 17.9 1.5

Curry is a poor passer and a turnover machine. Much of what he giveth in terms of post offense, he taketh away (or rather, giveth away) with his turnovers. His per-possession turnover rate ranked among the 10 worst in the league last season, which is especially damaging considering the number of possessions Curry uses. Among the 10 worst ball handlers, only Dwight Howard offered a comparably poisonous mixture of high usage (20.8 possessions / 40 minutes) and high turnover rate (19.3 turnovers per 100 possessions). It is no coincidence that the Knicks? Achilles? heel on offense during the Curry era has been turnovers (worst in 05/06, second worst in 06/07).

Is there hope for a better ball handling tomorrow? The outlook is hazy.

Curry actually managed to commit 1.1 fewer offensive fouls per 100 possessions used in 07 than in 06. That’s a crucial improvement, given that offensive fouls produce the double whammy of a turnover and, potentially, foul trouble. The dip in offensive fouls is also another piece of evidence that Curry did in fact refine his post offense during last season. Indeed, subjectively it seemed as if he committed far fewer of the egrigiously bulldozing, bull in the china shop kinds of offensive fouls that plagued him in his first season as a Knick.

Unfortunately, Curry?s improvement in terms of offensive fouls and miscellaneous turnovers was almost exactly balanced out by an increase in passing and ball handling turnovers. This is especially troubling because these are exactly the sorts of turnovers you would expect to be generated by an aggressive, double teaming defense looking to get the ball out of Curry?s hands. This is the kind of defensive pressure Curry is going to experience for as long as he remains the main focal point of the offense. It will take significant effort on Curry’s part to improve his court vision, passing, and overall savvy to the point where he cannot be taken out of a game by swarming defenses.

There is at least a bit of a silver lining here. Curry?s assist rate also increased last season. The increase of both assists and bad passes per 100 possessions suggests that Curry may simply have been passing more overall due to double teams forcing his hand. And in fact, we do see that Curry?s assist to bad pass ratio improved as well. So on the whole it seems like Curry?s passing game did improve, in spite of what his increased rate of bad passes might lead one to think. Of course, he still has a long way to go before his passing is passable.

Silver lining part two: Curry?s turnover rate has been substantially worse in his two seasons as a Knick than it was during his time with Chicago (averaging 14.5 TOs per 100 possessions, with the highest mark being 15.3). So Curry is not doomed to be an 18 TO / 100 possession guy for the rest of his career. It?s unclear exactly why his turnover rate spiked after coming to New York. It?s unlikely that the rise in turnovers has followed from a more prominent role in the offense, since Curry?s usage rate has been remarkably constant across his career. The most likely explanation is that there is something about playing in the context of New York?s offense that makes Curry more turnover prone than he was when playing with the offenses of his Bulls teams. So it is possible that the right kinds of changes in team personnel, and/or the right kind of changes in New York’s offensive system, could be a significant help in easing Curry?s turnover woes.

But ultimately, make no mistake: Curry?s ability to successfully handle the pressure of aggressive double teams without turning the ball over is the next big hurdle in his development as an offensive weapon. It is the looming roadblock on the horizon and how he responds to it will in large part determine the course of his career. If he does not substantially improve his ball handling in the face of defensive pressure, his defining strength will always be mitigated by a great weakness, and his net effectiveness as an offensive force will therefore always be limited.

For dropping his foul rate enough to play significant minutes for the first time in his career, and for maintaining outstanding offensive efficiency in spite of becoming the true focal point of his team’s offense for the first time in his career, I give Curry a B. Curry managed to make some non-trivial first steps towards becoming a legitimate first option on offense. Now let’s see if he can improve the defense and rebounding (not holding my breath) or cut down on the turnover rates (seems plausible, if not particularly likely).

Brian Cronin – Quick question, what exactly is a Win Score? I get that Wages of Wins and all that stuff is generally best done as a rate stat (and as a rate stat, Eddy Curry finishes very low in the league, like 150th or something like that, comparable to players like Mark Blount and Stephen Jackson). Fair enough, but then what is the point of having a “Win Score,” which I presume is a counting stat?

Because, interestingly enough, Eddy Curry had the 75th highest “Win Score” last year.

John Hollinger’s PER had him with the 70th highest PER (17.07).

The similarities amused me, but I presume that “Win Score” is basically meaningless if you’re a Wages of Wins fan, right?

Anyhow, as the other fellows have pointed out so nicely, your evaluation of Eddy Curry’s performance is generally based upon how much of an importance you place upon effective scoring. Curry is one of the more effective scorers in the NBA, and as we see, such effective scoring leads to double teams, which are usually useful, but not so useful when Curry

A. Can’t kick the ball out, because he is a terrible passer who instead will usually turn the ball over if attempting to pass

or

B. Manages to kick the ball out to a player who can’t/won’t take the open outside shot the double team on Curry has provided.

You really would think that the Knicks would have given Curry some outside shooters, no? And apparently, according to the most recent rumors, they’re not even going for an outside shooter in the draft!! Ah well…there’s always trades, I suppose…

So Eddy Curry – tremendous scorer who can’t do anything else – while Wages of Wins thinks that is effectively useless, I think I lean toward Hollinger’s take on Curry, which is that Curry is currently around one of the top 15 centers in the NBA, and I think he deserves the C+ that KB gave him.

Let’s hope he improves this year!!

They Said It

The internet offers a place for many people to express their opinion. Gone are the days where only the opinion of people who get paid for writing are seen by the masses. Today anyone can state what they think on a subject publicly, for everyone to see. Below are some quotes taken directly from various web pages, so I can’t take credit for any of them. I’ve only added a lighthearted header (in bold) to enhance your reading pleasure.

Trade 5: Reality for Xbox 360?
Link

4 trades that make the knicks champions next year…

Trade 1: Marbury and Rose to Cleveland for hughes, gooden, and damon jones

Trade 2: Knicks trade Frye, Lee, jeffries and 2008 2nd round pick to sacramento for Artest, Garcia, and 2007 #10 pick.

Trade 3: Knicks trade curry, nate and #10 pick to charlotte for okafor, brevin knight and #22 pick.

Trade 4: Knicks trade francis, crawford, #22 and #23. and 2009 1st round unprotected to indiana for o’neal and tinsley


I’m pretty sure he’s a Scorpio, but I’m really not into Astrology.
Link

This is just a rumor, but according to Jonathan Givony from Draft Express, there’s talk that the Knicks may trade Jamal Crawford straight up for Ron Artest, or a package of Channing Frye and Malik Rose for Artest.

Listen to his podcast. This rumor comes up around the 11 minute mark.

Personally I wouldn’t do it. For all his talent, I think he’s a cancer.

http://draftexpress.com/podcast.php


But the old rookies come in well fed.
Link

The young rookies come into the NBA hungry. They play with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.

If Isiah can draft a tough-minded kid who can score and defend, that would be priceless.


Does shooting 4 for 12 create a rift in the space-time continum creating a new dimension?
Link

I think Jcraw has been one of our best players since the halfway mark of 2005/2006.
Jcraw is a notorious slow starter to sasons. I dont know why that is but I think Jcraws teammates and other teams players know what a dynamic dimension Jcraw brings to this team. I called our collaspe the day we learned about Jcraw being out because I realize how important his passing, ability to break down the defense and his clutch shooting late in games meant to us.

And from the same post:
It’s easy for us to overcome an injury, but it’s probably a bit harder for the person that’s injured.

The injuries to Dlee hurt as well but I felt we could over come Dlees injury not Jcraws.


Also my father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate is a dating a writer of Lost, and he says that everyone is dead and the island is really purgatory.
http://www.ultimateknicks.com/forum/topic.asp?t=21904

Just letting yall know, lil inside info..

I know a girl from Seattle who dates Danny Fortson and they know Rashards brother – they went to his house recently (Rashard) and it was being prepared to be sold – she said its 100% hes leaving and so is Fortson if anyone cares LOL.


The right nut is reserved for a Frye/Oden package.
Link

I would give Lee and my left NUT for Kobe.


So you would have passed on David Lee?
Link

You never draft tall and white, never. Unless the kid can flush anything around the basket which he [Aaron Gray] can’t. He is dunk bait, travis knight was a better prospect and thats scary


I’m a pacifist, so I’ll go with ‘trade.’
Link

This is just opinion. Save the negative noninformational bullshit for an Isiah thread.

Keep

Marbury
Richardson
Lee
Robinson
Balkman
Collins
Morris

Trade or kill
Francis
Crawford
Curry
Frye
James
Rose
Cato
Jefferies


Mike Rowe’s not afraid either.
Link

Colorado State?s Jason Smith, a finesse 7-footer moving up and into the first round on many draft boards of late, also does not lack in confidence. ?I bet I could come in and be a starter for the Knicks,? he said. ?Look, I?ve got the fight in me to get better. I work hard every day. I can face the basket or play down low. I?m not afraid to do the dirty jobs. I?ll do anything to help my team.?

?The Knicks are a rising organization and I think — no, I know — that I could help them win.?


I said this last summer, but then again the only person I beat in the TrueHoop smackdown was Henry’s mom.
Link

Last year the Chicago Bulls finished 6th in the NBA on defense so Wallace doesn?t address a big need for them. However it doesn?t mean that the signing won?t make them better. One way Big Ben can help the Bulls is to make them the best defensive team in the league.

and from the same article:

On the other hand, the biggest winners in the Ben Wallace sweepstakes could be the Cleveland Cavaliers. During the regular season the Cavs finished second in their division behind the Pistons, and Cleveland?s postseason was ended in the second round of the playoffs by Detroit. LeBron James is already playing MVP caliber ball, and if Ilgauskas and Hughes stay healthy for the year (and maybe with a little off-season tweaking) dismantling the Pistons could be just the thing they need to reach the Conference Finals.

Draft Prospects, Part II

If you missed Part I highlighting PGs who may be on the Knicks’ radar screen during this upcoming draft click here.

I?ll go position-by-position and highlight at most a handful of players who may be available when the Knicks select at #23. The players are listed in no particular order. Player stats and profiles come largely from draftexpress.net and nbadraft.net.

Shooting Guard

The Knicks have a number of players that play at least some time at SG, though none exclusively. Francis and Crawford play the lion’s share of minutes as undersized combo guards while Quentin Richardson is a classic swingman. All three have serious injury red-flags entering next season. So the Knicks will almost certainly consider a number of prospects, as this is the deepest position in a deep draft.

A little factoid: last season New York shot 34.6% on threes. Opponents shot 37.6%. But the raw numbers for some reason are even more dismaying to me. Opponents were +99 on 3-pt. makes (+153 on 3-pt. attempts) last season. That cannot all be attributed to the SGs but hopefully Thomas & Co. will consider prospects that can both shoot and defend the three pointer.

1. Derrick Byers (6’7″, 225#, Vanderbilt)

Byars is an intriguing prospect despite mediocre shooting numbers (57% TS, 54% eFG). Vanderbilt’s offense is, by design, very dependent on the 3-pt. shot and I thought an odd fit for his mid-range, up-tempo skill set. Byars took 47% of his attempts from behind the arc, and not surprisingly didn’t get to the FT line very often (.27 FT/FG). However, his 1.45:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, playing primarily as a SF, belies the impression that he’s gunner. NBAdraft.net compares him to Shane Battier but Byars is more of a classic swingman than an undersized PF. A more apt comparison, I think, is James Posey with better offensive potential though he’s not quite the same caliber of defender.

2. Marco Belinelli (6’6″, 190#, Italy)

Belinelli is a do-it-all combo guard with a little sizzle in his game. He looks like he can play. But everyone looks like they can play on their youtube highlight package–though admittedly throwing down a 360-degree dunk in a game got my attention. (Who even tries stuff like that other than Nate Robinson?) I don’t imagine Belinelli is on NY’s radar screen since Thomas has clearly shied away from international talent. The Knicks got fleeced pretty regularly on international players in the recent past (recall the names Weis, Trybanski, Vranes, and Lampe) and Thomas has been in no hurry to get back into that market. The key to finding international players that stick seems to be in cultivating relationships with the right people in the right leagues at the ownership level not just the executive level. New York doesn’t have those kinds of relationships. Irrespective of whether that’s entirely Thomas’ fault I’d be surprised to see him make much of an investment in an international rookie over a comparable college rookie.

3. Aaron Afflalo (6’5″, 215, UCLA)

Afflalo is one of the few SGs ready to play NBA caliber defense immediately. His athleticism is decent though not jump-out-of-the-gym overwhelming. In the halfcourt he doesn’t offer a lot of offense outside his catch and shoot game, and as we saw two straight years in the Final Four his jump shot is apt to leave him without prior notice. He still managed a 59% TS%, punctuated by many a layup at the other end of a strong defensive effort. He should be a solid enough offensive player to stay out on the floor but his bread and butter will be defense.

4. Morris Almond (6’6, 215#, Rice)

If efficient scoring from the SG position is what you are after Almond is your guy. In those categories it’s hard to fuss with what he did at Rice. He shot it well (63% TS). He shot it well from the perimeter (46% 3-pt.). He got himself to the FT line (.52 FT/FG). He improved his rebounding each season (7.9 per 40 as a senior). On the downside, it’s not clear that Almond brings anything to the table other than scoring. That makes me wonder what he can contribute playing with a center who–to put it kindly–has yet to master passing out of the double team. Almond is not himself much of a passer (0.34-to-1 assist to turnover), nor is he an adept ball handler (11% TO-r). I have no idea what kind of defender he is but suffice it to say I’ve read little commentary about his defense.

5. Rodney Stuckey (6’5″, 207#, E. Washington)

Stuckey is an athletic combo guard. NBADraftExpress.com has a TON of material on Stuckey, including a pretty extensive write-up, which is as thorough as anything I could write. They also include his stats as part of a point guard comparison. I think the odds are fairly small that he’ll be on the board at #23.

6. Daequon Cook (6’5″, 210#, Ohio State)

Cook is thought by many to be a more explosive version of Morris Almond with higher upside. Cook’s shooting numbers should hardly elicit shame (55% TS, 42% 3-pt., .21 FT/FG), especially considering that he was not the first option on offense. However, I had to slap the “caveat emptor” tag on him once I looked at his game logs. After exploding onto the scene Cook never scored more than 12 after the first week of January. He took at least 5 attempts in 22 of the 27 games he played in calendar 2007 so it’s not like he wasn’t shooting. When a kid is billed as an explosive scorer and spends virtually half the season NOT scoring I am inclined to say, “No thanks. Really. I’m trying to cut that out of my diet.”

Small Forward

Based solely on Hollinger’s PER small forward was the least productive position on the team (14.3) and the only one below the league average set at 15 (if we round SG and PF up from 14.9). It also had the largest differential from opponent’s PER of -3.7. This is one of those instances where the stats confirm what we plainly observed: SF sucked a bit more than the other positions on the team. The Knicks hope Richardson’s back will be less problematic this year and that Balkman continues to develop, but the team could clearly use some help. In this draft there appear to be more swingmen than undersized power forwards.

1. Jared Dudley (6’7″, 225#, Boston College)

I love Dudley’s game, which exists almost exclusively from the neck up. His basketball IQ is, to my mind at least, exactly what the Knicks need. Dudley was a 66% true shooter on 44% from 3-pt. range and .55 FT/FG. What I love is that he went from 16.5 ppg as a sophomore to over 19 as a senior on essentially the same number of shots per 40 (between 12 and 12.5). His gains were all on efficiency. Offensively, observation tells me his best attribute is his passing, though his meager assist-to-turnover (1:1.15) belies this observation. Previous seasons, when surrounded by more talent, his assist-to-turnover ratio was much better. On the downside Dudley is barely an NBA caliber athlete, if at all. He reminds me of Luke Walton more than any other NBA player. Like Walton, Dudley has replacement-level talent but is a perfect fit on a team where he can feed a low-post player. On a roster with no low-post player he’s not as helpful. That makes Dudley a gamble at #23. As much as I like him I’m not sure I’d take it.

2. Julian Wright (6’6″, 210, Kansas)

I find Wright very intriguing. I won’t be surprised almost no matter where he goes off the board. Wright reminds me of a taller Renaldo Balkman. Both are outstanding rebounders. Wright is a better passer and ballhandler but he’s not the same kind of finisher or shot blocker. Of course neither can hit a jump shot past 12 feet with any consistency. Wright’s strengths and weaknesses are fairly clear cut. So where he goes is a question of whether a team likes what he can do well enough to live with what he cannot. I think Wright would benefit most from sliding down the board into the 20s and going to a team that doesn’t expect him to score.

3. Thaddeus Young (6’8″, 217#, Georgia Tech)

In an earlier post on draft picks a reader had this to say:

Coming out of high school people were talking about Thaddeus Young in the same breath as Kevin Durant. By comparison he suffers mightily but if he hadn?t been so hyped, he would have been impressive. Everyone gripes about his shot, and it?s not pretty, but he actually shot 40 percent on threes so it doesn?t seem like that big a problem. He would probably be a Top 10 pick next year so if he slides to 23 – or even close, where we could trade up – he?d be a steal.

I didn’t see much Georgia Tech at all so I don’t have much observation to go on, only parts of a couple games. But Young’s statistical profile makes me think Channing Frye more than Kevin Garnett. The lefty Young did shoot 42% on his 3s this season, and without taking an inordinate number (25% of his FGAs). Yet his TS% is a pedestrian 56% because he didn’t get to the line much at all (only .19 FT/FG). What should set Young apart is his athleticism. He’s a chiseled 19-year old with room to grow but the two places athleticism should pay off are FTAs and rebounds (6.2 per 40), and they are clearly not strongsuits.

4. Wilson Chandler (6’7″, 220#, DePaul)

Reputed to have been offered a promise by the Knicks at #23, Chandler is a jumping jack out of DePaul who hasn’t been on many people’s radars until recently. I have never seen nor heard of him until last week. So I will point interested readers to this write-up on draftexpress and this on nbadraft.net. Suffice it to say there is nothing about his statistical performance in any area that makes you say, “this is the guy.” Although the same is true of Balkman he was a non-scorer at S. Carolina. Chandler by contrast is a very inefficient one (52% TS). Let’s hope this is all a smokescreen because drafting Chandler would be the very definition of asking for it.

5. Marcus Williams (6’7″, 205#, Arizona)

The sophomore campaign at Arizona was disappointing for the 6’7″ swingman largely because the team disappointed. Williams clearly regressed as a 3-pt. shooter (43.5% to 28.8%) but otherwise his numbers were almost identical to his freshman season. He is a better rebounder than generally given credit at about 8 per 40 but doesn’t get to the line as often as you’d hope (.30 FT/FG) for someone who isn’t a deadeye perimeter shooter. I’m not certain Williams has the makings of a special player but I’d be surprised if he’s not a league average or slightly better player by his second year. He’s smart, has a lot of skills, and understands how to get open and how to get his own shot.

Tip Off

Tuesday on PTI, the lead story was about the upcoming NBA draft. The consensus is that either Oden or Kevin Durant will be taken first overall, and according to PTI hosts Wilbon & Kornheiser the Portland Trailblazers are uncertain who they’ll take with the first pick. This draft is thought to be the deepest one is years which makes it a special time in sports history, one that we can look back on and say “I remember when …” For instance, someone who witnessed the 1984 draft can say that they saw four future Hall of Famers (Olajuwon, Jordan, Barkley, and Stockton) get drafted, in addition to talented players like Otis Thorpe, Kevin Willis, Sam Perkins, Michael Cage, and Alvin Robinson.

Speaking of the 1984 NBA draft, the good folks at Da Capo Press were kind enough to send me a copy of Filip Bondy’s new book. In Tip Off, Bondy sends us back in time with as much behind the scenes information as possible. The book moves at a meticulous pace, as each chapter centers around one person. We get to experience the draft from the perspective of the draftees as well as the front office people that are making the decisions. In a fresh departure from today’s obnoxious sports talk, Bondy doesn’t pass judgment on the characters. Everyone from Bobby Knight to Charles Barkley is presented as human beings trying to do their best given the circumstances of the day. Even the Portland Trailblazers, typically vilified for passing on Jordan, are portrayed as sympathetic players who don’t have the liberty of foresight.

Filip Bondy gives a factual and evenhanded look back at everyone involved. Tip Off lacks any sensationalism; the stories make the book so intriguing. For instance the book talks about Bulls briefly considered trading the #3 pick to Houston for Ralph Sampson, Charles Barkley using the Olympic tryouts as a springboard to a better draft spot, and Michael Jordan’s fierce competitiveness developing even in college. If you’re itching for NBA action during the offseason or are just curious what goes on behind the scenes in the draft, Tip Off should be on your summer reading list.

Draft Prospects, Part I

With draft night a little more than a week away I thought I?d take a fresh look at some of the players likely to be on Isiah Thomas? radar since posting this in early May. The Knicks, who have conducted pre-draft workouts in conjunction with the rival Nets, appear to have concluded them. Of course, additional workouts are possible, as today?s Post is reporting that the Knicks may be interested in DePaul’s uber-athletic small forward Wilson Chandler.

As one might expect of a team with only a late-first round selection none of the players New York worked out classifies as a collegiate or international superstar, though the list certainly includes some intriguing names. They include (in reverse chronological order): Aaron Gray (Pittsburgh), Herbert Hill (Providence), Jared Jordan (Marist), Marco Belinelli (Fortitudo Bologna, Italy), Daequan Cook (Ohio State), Nick Fazekas (Nevada), Artem Sabelin (Avtodor Saratov, Russia), Taurean Green (Florida), Trey Johnson (Jackson State), Dominic James (Marquette), Ron Lewis (Ohio State), DeVon Hardin (California), Marko Lekic (Vojvodina, Serbia), Jason Smith (Colorado State), Glen ?Big Baby? Davis (LSU), Josh McRoberts (Duke), Nick Young (USC), Stephane Lasme (UMass), Brandon Wallace (S. Carolina), Jamar Wilson (Albany), DeShaun Wood (Wright State), Derrick Byars (Vanderbilt), Sammy Mejia (DePaul), Demitris Nichols (Syracuse) and Curtis Sumpter (Villanova). Of those, Sabelin, Hardin, and James have reportedly withdrawn their names from draft consideration.

I’ll go position-by-position and highlight at most a handful of players who may be available when the Knicks select at #23. The players are listed in no particular order. Player stats come largely from draftexpress.net and team pages and links to player profiles are from nbadraft.net.

Point Guard

Whether you think PG is a position of dire need or a position that could simply use some depth the Knicks could not easily afford to pass over a down the road starter in this draft. Marbury is at the point in his career when he needs to play fewer minutes. Francis’ status with the team remains uncertain. Crawford’s offensive issues and recovery from injury leaves him ideally suited for a sixth man role. Collins remains such an awful shooter it overwhelms what he does well. And Robinson is a SG for all practical purposes.

1. Javaris Crittenton (6’5″, 194#, Ga. Tech)

Crittenton has a similar physical build as Steve Francis and draws favorable comparisons as a player. The comparison is strained for a number of reasons though not implausible. Crittenton is not the same kind of true shooter as Francis. He shot an “okay” 56%. He doesn’t have three point range (and to his credit doesn’t take an inordinate number) but he doesn’t get to the FT line much either (.39 FT/FGA). Crittenton is also a pedestrian decision-maker at this point (1.47 assist-to-turnover on almost 5 TOs/game). He’s clearly talented but far from a finished product. On the plus side the kid is built like a tank, has been widely described as unselfish, and is widely regarded as coachable.

2. Acie Law (6’3″, 195#, Texas A&M)

Law is a do-it-all scoring point, who is solid in every phase–an efficient scorer (60% TS) and a solid passer (1.92:1 assist-to-turnover on just over 3 TOs/game). He doesn’t take a lot of threes but shoots a good percentage. The knock on him is that he’s a slightly bigger Nate Robinson–a natural shooting guard miscast as a point guard because of less-than-ideal size.

3. Taurean Green (6′, 177#, Florida)

Green is a classic beauty-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder type. He is not unlike Orlando’s Jameer Nelson, though not as accomplished a college scorer. The major question, given his size limitations, concerns how well his game translates to the NBA. His meal ticket is probably his shooting. He shot a fantastic 63% TS last season, shoots it well from three-point range (40+%) and also gets to the FT line a fair amount (.48 FT/FGA) for someone that took almost 60% of his shots from behind the arc. Green’s natural tendency is to push the ball and look for something easy before pulling it out and running the halfcourt sets. I like that in a guard. Still, he’s a fairly pedestrian passer, as his 1.37:1 assist-to-turnover ratio attests.

4. Gabe Pruitt (6’4″, 170#, USC)

Pruitt is a very athletic point guard who moved over from the SG for Tim Floyd after leading the Trojans in scoring as a freshman. His passing numbers look phenomenal (2.35:1 assist-to-turnover ratio) on only 2.2 TOs/game. A word of caution. Floyd’s offense features a high proportion of post-ups and isolation plays. So my inclination is to interpret those numbers as evidence of Pruitt’s penchant for NOT doing dumb things with the ball rather than evidence suggesting he is a “gifted” passer. I happen to love guards who don’t do dumb things with the ball, so that’s no knock on Pruitt. Pruitt’s also made himself into a good defender. One aspect of his game that does concern me however is what appears to be an overreliance on the three point shot (55% of his FGAs). Combine that with the fact that he doesn’t get to the FT line much and what you have is a decent-but-nothing-special shooter. Ultimately, I think Pruitt may be best on a team where he can backup both guard spots.

5. Aaron Brooks (5’11”, 160#, Oregon)

Brooks is an Eddie House-type shooter. He can put up points in bunches. He is quick enough to get his shot off despite his size. He is best suited to be a second or third guard. Although he is frequently compared to Earl Boykins because of his size he doesn’t quite have Boykins handle but is more athletic.

Up next: shooting guards and small forwards

Knicks 2007 Report Card (A to Z): Jamal Crawford

KnickerBlogger: In November of 2004, I wrote this about Jamal Crawford:

Jamal has an excellent handle, but there is nothing more frustrating than having Crawford settling for a jumper (which comprise 82% of his shots), after he?s faked his defender with a series of fancy dribbles. Crawford should force the issue towards the basket with his great passing and dribbling skills. In addition, he?d do well getting fouled driving to the hoop, since the guy makes a free throw shot look like a layup (86% FT).

Crawford?s only 24, so I hope the Knicks coaching staff can get Jamal to produce a little more before he becomes set in his ways. For someone that will likely be in New York for the next 7 years, I?d like for him to be able to give us a little more production, either on offense and defense. He has excellent skills to build on: quickness, dribbling, a good shot, and that three point buzzer beater shows his confidence. He just needs to be smarter with his shot, and work on his defensive fundamentals.

Three years later, and Crawford is still the same poor shot maker he was when he first arrived in New York. Last year Larry Brown seemed to recognize this and curtailed some of Crawford’s wildness. Under Brown, Crawford attempted the fewest shots per minute and had the highest TS% of his career. However under Isiah Thomas, Crawford reverted to his old self, making 2006 an aberration instead of a breakthrough. Last year among Knick guards, Crawford finished behind Marbury, Robinson, and Francis in both eFG% & TS%. He only edged out Mardy Collins, who has no jumpshot whatsoever. Despite his lack of efficiency on offense, Crawford led the Knicks with 16.1 FGA/40min.

On the positive side, Crawford’s familiarity with Curry allows him to feed the big guy in the post better than any of the other Knick guards. Crawford has the best handle and passing ability of the Knick guards. And he is fearless when it comes to taking shots.

On the negative side, Crawford hasn’t developed in the years you’d expect a player to realize his potential. Except for his age, everything I wrote about him three years ago still applies today. In just about every major category, except for free throws, Jamal Crawford has either stayed about the same or gotten worse since his last season in Chicago.

Per Minute eFG pts ast reb stl blk to fta
2004 0.449 19.7 5.8 4 1.6 0.4 2.7 3.4
2005 0.483 18.5 4.5 3 1.4 0.3 2.2 3.2
2006 0.474 17.7 4.7 3.9 1.4 0.2 2.7 5.6
2007 0.458 18.9 4.7 3.4 1 0.1 2.9 4.9

Crawford doesn’t earn a strong grade from my perspective because of the lack of game to game consistency from him. In consecutive games after his 52 point outburst, he only managed to make 9 of 24 shots and 5 of 15 shots. Prior to that 52 point game, he had a streak from January 5th through the 19th of 6 straight games where he connected on a pitiful 33% or less of his attempts.

The human mind is an interesting thing. We tend to remember strongly the very positive events (50 point games, game winning shots, flashy moves) or the very negative events (fights, Charles Smith). But we are poor at remembering the events that fall in between those two extremes. In other words humans are naturally bad at calculating probabilities (gambling, sports averages, lotto). Some may be shocked at my poor evaluation of Crawford, because he’s had his fair share of game winning shots, crossovers, and scoring outbursts. But the truth is he’s an inconsistent shooter who hurts his team more nights than he helps them.

KnickerBlogger’s Grade: C-

2008 Outlook: A scorpion wishes to cross a river, but is unable to swim. He sees a frog in the water and asks the frog for help. The frog is hesitant, since the scorpion’s sting would kill the frog. The scorpion pleads with the frog and tells the frog not to worry, that if he stung the frog, both of them would drown. With that logic in mind, the frog agrees and lets the scorpion climb onto his back. Half way across the river, the scorpion stings the frog. When the frog asks why he doomed both of them, the scorpion replies “I can’t help it, I’m a scorpion.”

Since the Knicks acquired Crawford, I’ve wondered when he would become a smarter shooter. At this point I’m ready to conclude that like the scorpion, Crawford is either unable or unwilling to change who he is. Since he’s so inefficient, the Knicks would be smart to reduce either the amount of shots he takes or his playing time. He’s probably best suited coming off the bench, like he began 2007. But more than likely he’ll enter the 2008 in the Knicks’ starting rotation.

Michael Zannettis: Not only does the human brain cling onto extreme experiences, but even in the face of a damning criticism it holds onto whatever slight glimmer of hope it can imagine. I agree with Crawford’s report card, especially the grim outlook for his remaining Knick career. That being said, to say that Crawford is the best post-feeding guard on the entire Knicks’ roster is true…because someone has to be. The fact that Crawford “can” pass is made completely insignificant for the simple matter that he “won’t” pass.

Dave Crockett: I can’t help but agree with KB’s evaluation. Although I enjoy watching Crawford, whose game has a certain elegance, an aesthetic quality that can be a real pleasure, he is one of the most frustrating players on the roster. The gap between his dizzying array of skills and spotty production is as wide as anyone’s on the team. What is frustrating is that the kid is not uncoachable. The only year he got good coaching, under Brown, he seemed to take to Brown’s vision of turning him into more of a Rip Hamilton-style guard: more curls, fewer isolations and 3pt shots. Indeed his aberrant good-shooting year under Brown was, as I recall, due almost entirely to taking fewer 3pt attempts.

Thomas’ failure to build on what Larry Brown began with Crawford is to my mind his biggest player development failure–and I tend to think player development is one of his strengths. But Thomas legitimately blew it with Crawford this year by explicitly repudiated Brown’s vision for him, encouraging him to return to his 18-crossover, freelancing ways. (This is ironic considering that Thomas eventually wised up and basically embraced Brown’s vision for a more disciplined Stephon Marbury.) So, although I agree with the grade I have to give part of it to Thomas.

One matter I will quibble with a bit is Michael’s assertion that Crawford won’t pass. His career assist rate is 20.5. This past season’s 18.2 was a career low for him. He’s not a gifted passer but he’s certainly no Ben Gordon. His passing isn’t a liability. The bigger issues are that his usage rate is too high and he’s turnover prone. I think we can all agree though that with Crawford less would be more in 07-08.

Brian Cronin – I differ from KB in the sense that I think Crawford HAS changed from three years ago, if only because of his one season with Brown. Had that season never existed, then sure, I’d definitely agree that Crawford will never learn – but since we saw that he actually CAN play the “right” way, I think that is a nice sign for his future progress. He will most likely never capitalize upon it, but the option is there, and I do not know if I ever thought it WAS there before Brown came to the Knicks.

I also am looking forward to Crawford in 2007-08 because I am foolish enough to think that having seen the Knicks play for a season, Thomas will realize how to best use Crawford.

Anyhow, I think Crawford was basically a little better than the median NBA player last season (even though his PER dipped below “league average” for the first time since his rookie season), so I’d give him a slightly higher grade – I’d view him as a C+.

Could Eddy Curry Cost the Knicks Kobe Bryant?

It’s as official as unofficial gets. According to ESPN.com news services, Kobe Bryant has met with Lakers owner Jerry Buss and re-iterated his desire to be traded. According to ESPNNEWS, Kobe is willing to go to 1 of 3 different teams: Phoenix, Chicago, or New York. Of course it makes sense that the Lakers would refuse to trade Kobe to Phoenix, a Western Conference rival, so essentially it would be a 2 team race.

There’s a lot of speculation concerning possible Kobe deals. Chris Sheridan wrote that New York is a possible front runner, offering Jamal Crawford, David Lee, Channing Frye, Nate Robinson, Randolph Morris, Renaldo Balkman, and a pair of picks (’08 & ’10). Funny thing is, according to ESPN’s own’ trade checker, that deal isn’t possible, since the Knicks would be about $1.5M short with not enough small salaries to match. Even if they did a sign & trade (Cato?) to make the deal cap-frienldy, it would leave the Knicks with a roster similar to Kobe’s current team; one severely devoid of talent. New York’s depth chart would look something like:

PG: Marbury/Collins
SG: Kobe/Francis
SF: Richardson/Jeffries
PF: M.Rose/Jerome James
C: Curry/James/Cato?

The power forward depth chart would be a ghastly Malik Rose/Jerome James combo. The inevitable injury to Quentin Richardson would mean major playing time for both Jared Jeffries and Mardy Collins. New York wouldn’t have a draft pick to shore up their needs until the next Republican president. Glued to the bench for 35 minutes a game, Steve Francis would probably have his third career “in-season vacation”, and trading him would only leave a hole at reserve shooting guard. Isiah Thomas would only be left with the mid-level exception to build the team, and his previous acquisitions of Vin Baker, Jerome James, and Jared Jeffries wouldn’t instill me with confidence that he could acquire enough spare parts to build around Kobe.

Chad Ford imagines an interesting scenario: a 3-way deal concerning Los Angeles, Washington, and Chicago. The Bulls would send Ben Gordon, Tyrus Thomas, P.J. Brown to make the salaries match, and this year’s #9 pick. The Wizards would send their disgruntled superstar (Arenas) to the Lakers, and receive the Bulls’ young players. Meanwhile Chicago would net Kobe with enough of a team remaining to be highly competitive. This would be a more palatable deal for Los Angeles, who get a star in Arenas in return. Even if Washington isn’t interested in moving Arenas, Chicago can offer this deal to Los Angeles directly. Either Arenas or the Bulls package would give Los Angeles bigger name recognition and more talent than the one Sheridan proposed above

From a Knick perspective, what’s most curious about Ford’s proposal are the Chicago players involved. Chicago received Tyrus Thomas and the #9 pick from New York in the Eddy Curry trade. So with the rival Bulls in a much better position to get one of the premiere talents in the NBA, I can’t help to wonder if the Knicks would be in a better position to get Kobe had they not made the Eddy Curry trade? In this alternative world New York could send David Lee, who would fit Gordon’s role as young possible All Star, and Steve Francis who would not only match Kobe’ salary, but would be a useful replacement. An offer of David Lee, Tyrus Thomas, the #9 pick, and Steve Francis is just as good if not better than Ford’s trade. In this scenario, the Bulls wouldn’t have Thomas or the #9 pick to compete against New York’s offer, and instead Chicago would be the lesser player in this negotiation. New York could still increase the offer by including youngsters Balkman, Robinson, and/or Collins. In such a trade, New York’s depth chart would look like:

PG: Marbury/(Robinson/Collins)
SG: Kobe/Francis/Crawford/(Robinson)
SF: Richardson/(Balkman)/Jeffries
PF: M.Rose/(Balkman)
C: Frye/James/Cato?

Assuming that the Knicks don’t have to sweeten the pot with their young trio, the franchise would have better depth and more assets to trade than in Sheridan’s scenario. Crawford and Francis would both be expendable, and could be used to upgrade the F/C positions. Even Balkman, Collins, or Robinson could be moved to fit the team around Kobe’s needs. New York would finally have the marquee player they’ve sought since Ewing was traded. But most importantly, the Knicks would have a powerhouse team to end their 6 year declinasty.

Of course this is just speculation. The Wizards may wish to reconcile with Arenas. The Bulls might be forced to make a stronger offer containing Deng. A third team like the Pacers or Timberwolves might try to acquire Kobe. Or Kobe might rescind his trade demand and stay put. But if, or I should say, IF Kobe does get traded to Chicago for a package that included the fruit of the Eddy Curry trade, I’d spend a lot of time wondering if Eddy Curry cost the Knicks Kobe Bryant.