2009 Stat Page is Up!

Good news – I have the 2009 stat page up & running! There are some new improvements I’ve made this year. The first is that I’m using the same stats as Basketball-Reference.com. Hence all per minute calculations are per 36 minutes. But also our formulas for team possessions & efficiency are the same, which means there shouldn’t be any differences between the stats on our pages. (Checking a couple by eye shows this to be true). Additionally the change in possession equations should mean that our PER should be the same as well. B-R doesn’t use team turnovers when calculating PER, but I do. To make up the difference I’m using a multiplier on turnovers so that my value should be close or equal to B-R’s.

I’ve also tried to account for traded players (something the Knicks may encounter this year). When a player gets traded, in the past they would no longer appear on the former team’s stat page. This year they will appear, but with the word “(Traded)” next to their name. Hence you’ll be able to more easily compare a player’s stats before and after they move to a new team.

Unfortunately the download link isn’t working at this time. (Does anyone regularly download the stats? I’m curious let me know.) That will be up by Monday morning.

Oh the best part of the stat page: the Knicks are #2 in offensive efficiency!

Heat 115 Knicks 120

[Late in the third quarter, the Knicks are up by about 20. An exchange between announcers Clyde Frazier and Gus Johnson.]
Clyde: I think the crowd is stunned, Gus, by what has happened here tonight…
Gus: I’m stunned. They’re playing so well. It’s almost too easy.
Clyde: Yes, that word surreal… The crowd is like they’re waiting for something bad to happen…
Gus: The Knicks are playing well.

Watching from home, I was stunned from before the start of the game with the opening act of Q-Tip. For years “Take Me Home” by Doug E Fresh was one of the worst parts of any Knick game. As I wrote nearly 2 years ago, New York is the birthplace and capital of rap. We shouldn’t have to settle for a third rate rapper covering a song about rural life. Q-Tip is a New York native who is well respected for his work in A Tribe Called Quest, and is still active with his solo career. Nonetheless Q-Tip’s song was fit for a New York basketball team.

I was still stunned when D’Antoni furiously called a time out with 4:46 left in the game and the Knicks had a 106-92 lead. I just couldn’t imagine any of the last few New York coaches being mad with a 14 point buffer on opening night. Isiah Thomas probably wouldn’t have gotten out of his seat. Herb Williams might have looked around for a fan to tell him what to do. Lenny Wilkens might have been dreaming of 1979.

But the Knicks did play well. Granted they only won by 5 points, but they had a 16 point lead going into the fourth quarter. New York had positive contributions from Crawford (29 points on 19 shots), Lee (16 pts, 11 reb, 5 ast), Randolph (20 pts, 9 reb, 2 ast, 2 stl), and Chandler (17 pts, 9 reb in 23 min). Even though Gallinari didn’t play well, he made an appearance. How stunning is it, that an underage draft pick that missed most of summer league and preseason made his way onto the court in the first half?

It’s great that New York won, but I’m just glad of the difference that mark a change in philosophy. For the first time in years, I feel like the Knicks are a real team. I still don’t expect them to win many games this year. But I feel pride in this team, for the first time in a long time.

Prediction Time

My guess is that the Knicks won’t win more than 28 games. It’s not that I think the team hasn’t improved. I think Duhon pushing Marbury to the bench gives them depth at guard. With Duhon & Collins the Knicks have two able perimeter defenders – something they haven’t had since perhaps Sprewell & Ward. Maybe even Ward & Harper, since Latrell spent most of his time at small forward.

I think replacing Curry in the starting lineup with David Lee is a considerable improvement. Lee is not only a better player, but a Lee/Randolph front court compliments D’Antoni’s coaching style. Since both are able rebounders, there should be more fast break opportunities. And Lee can play off the ball more with Randolph than Curry would. Also I think Chandler will eventually supplant Richardson at small forward eventually, and that will help the team as well.

I think Mike D’Antoni is a good coach. In fact I think he’s the best coach this team has had since Van Gundy. Many thought D’Antoni preferred veterans over newbies, and the Knick prospects would suffer. Yet it seems many of the youngsters are favored by D’Antoni (Robinson, Chandler, Lee, and even Gallinari). He has a coherent structure for the offense. For the first time in years I feel that the Knicks are actually drawing up plays during timeouts instead of taking everyone’s dinner orders.

So why all the negativity? (If you can call a 5 game improvement negativity.) First is that the East has improved drastically. Jermaine O’Neal makes the Raptors better. Elton Brand makes the Sixers better. Beasley and a full season from Wade & Marion make the Heat better. Mo Williams might make the Cavs better.

My second cause for concern is the roster makeup. It’s thought that Zach Randolph will be moved at the deadline. Let’s just assume that the Knicks move him for a lesser player. Who takes his place in the lineup? The guy they traded for? Well by definition that player should be worse. (Who would take on contract & give up a better player?) If not then maybe Eddy Curry? Or Jared Jeffries? Or Gallinari? None of these will translate into more wins this season.

And who is to say that the Knicks don’t move Lee, Chandler, or Robinson? The team is rebuilding, and it’s hard to say what the roster will look like in March. Even without any changes, the team is paper thin at small forward. The depth chart is two deep: Chandler and Richardson. If one or both get hurt the Knicks will struggle.

So with all that in mind, I’ll stick with 28 wins for the Knicks in 2009. However it doesn’t matter to me how many wins the team gets. This year the team will be more fun to watch. Already it seems that the younger players like Lee, Robinson, and Chandler are going to get more minutes.


Some other predictions from around the league.

Hollinger: 28 wins

Ball Don’t Lie: 23 wins

Yahoo/Accuscore: 25 wins

Straight Bangin: 30 wins

Posting & Toasting: 36 wins

UPDATED: Basketball Prospectus: 24

Knicks 2009 Season Preview Part V

Part I here.
Part II here.
Part III here.
Part IV here.

FRONTCOURT: (cont)

Hailed the franchise centerpiece upon his arrival in 2005, Curry now finds himself as the odd man out in the front court. In his three years in New York, Eddy Curry’s per minute stats have stayed the same, only his minutes per game has fluctuated. During 2007 the Knick center averaged 35.2 minutes per game, about 10 minutes more than the year before and the year after, hence causing a spike in his per game stats. This has led many to believe that it was a major step forward for Curry, when in fact little developmental gain was actually made.

But two years ago the only stat Curry had peaked in was his fouls per min (3.3 PF/36). Meanwhile he had career worsts in turnovers (3.7 TO/36), blocks (0.5 blk/36), and free throw percentage (61.5%). Last year Curry’s stats were about the same as his other two in Knick uniforms. His turnovers did drop to the lowest in 4 seasons (3.0 TO/36), but his rebounding hit an all time low (6.5 REB/36). Once he does release the ball he’s efficient (TS%: 57.8%, eFG%: 54.6%) but the high turnovers and low peripheral stats make him a below average player.

Curry’s injury in the preseason has left him a step behind everyone else, but you have to wonder if he wouldn’t be coming off the bench even if he were healthy. It seems that versatile players do well in D’Antoni’s system. There’s hardly any set plays and not much repetitiveness, just about every player needs to be able to read and react. So a unitasker like Eddy Curry, who for his whole career has been a go-to-the-post-catch-the-ball-shoot-the-ball guy, may have trouble adjusting. Since arriving in New York, he has been handed the Knicks starting center without having to earn it. For the first time in his career, Curry is being challenged. Steady Eddy has been stagnant over the last 3 years, but he’s only turning 26 so there’s still chance he could improve. Maybe this is the jolt he needs to develop as a player.

Malik Rose is still on the roster, but he’s not likely to get much playing time when the season starts. Most likely any time he gets early will go to Jared Jeffries once he’s healthy. Under D’Antoni Jeffries will be moved from the swingman role to a frontcourt spot. There’s no question that Jeffries is a limited player on offense (career: TS%: 47.3%, eFG%: 44.3%), and his only real contribution is rebounding (3.2 OREB/36) and defense. Power forward shouldn’t be anything new to Jeffries, since he played nearly half his minutes there last year. But playing center will be, and it’ll be interesting how Jeffries handles the change under D’Antoni.

Jerome James is another player that was expected to be cut, but is still on the roster. James hasn’t played much over his Knick career, because of his incredible sense of humor. During games the camera always finds James making his teammates laugh on the bench. Obviously the Knick front office values such humor, and it’s unquestionable that camaraderie is one of those intangibles that plays a big part in winning. If the Knicks are going to turn the corner, they’ll need James to tell jokes on a nightly basis.

Unfortunately James’ tremendous contribution off the court has made the Knicks miss out on an incredible player on the court. Jerome James was easily the best Knick last year, on a per minute basis. In fact James led the league in PER, and his shooting was through the roof (TS%: 106.4%, eFG%: 100.0%). His PER jumped nearly 900% from the year before and if James continues with that kind of development, he should post a 407.7 PER this year. In other words what Jordan did in all his seasons combined (418.5 PER).

But perhaps the Knicks need laughter on the bench more than a player with a PER of the combined sum of an All Star team. Just look at any team celebrating winning a title, and you’ll see laughter. Losing teams rarely laugh. This correlation is too high to ignore. Since most of the other Knicks lack a proper sense of humor, it’s important for D’Antoni to keep him on the bench. New York can’t win a title with Jerome James on the court.

Knicks 2009 Season Preview Part IV

Part I here.
Part II here.
Part III here.

FRONTCOURT:

During the summer it was assumed that both Stephon Marbury and Zach Randolph would be playing for other teams once the season started. Yet somehow both managed to stay on the New York roster. Randolph was twice mentioned in trade talks, but both times it seemed that the other party wanted too much to take his contract off New York’s hands. Unable to move Randolph, it was thought that the Knicks would play him only to keep his trade value high.

But a funny thing happened on the way to salary cap freedom, Randolph has begun to fit into D’Antoni’s system. He has had the third most minutes in preseason, and was second in points per game. Like Crawford, Zach was fond of caressing the ball and pounding it into the hardwood for 10 seconds before shooting it. I thought that and Randolph’s lackadaisical running of the floor would make him a poor fit in the Knicks’ new offense. However Randolph has adapted his play and his efficiency in preseason has improved (TS%: 57.2%, eFG%: 53.9%).

The Knicks are still looking to move Randolph because he doesn’t fit into their long term plans. A good season (or half season) from Zach would benefit the team not just on the court, but in front office negotiations as well. As long as Randolph gives the same effort throughout the season that he has in preseason, and avoids any off the court incidents the Knicks should be able to move him to a team looking for scoring and rebounding. Already there are rumors that some teams are interested in acquiring him, and the season hasn’t even begun yet.

Randolph and Marbury weren’t the only two Knicks expecting to change zip codes. David Lee’s name was often named in trade talks, giving WOW loving Knick fans summer nightmares. It wasn’t that Walsh wanted to move Lee, but rather other teams saw him as the Knicks most valuable player. Lee’s skill set allows him to fit on just about every NBA team and make a positive contribution, hence why so many teams are interested in acquiring him.

A fan favorite, Lee doesn’t have many weaknesses on the offensive end. He’s great at finishing around the hoop, and he’s been able to slowly expand his repertoire away from the hoop. While Lee doesn’t have the bevy of moves that Zach Randolph does, he’s able to drive to the hoop from the mid post and finish with a handful of different moves. Additionally his jumpshot has come a long way since his rookie year, as Lee hit 40.5% from outside (compare to Randolph’s 38.9%). Critics of Lee’s low volume scoring (9.4 FGA/36) should note that his turnovers are low (1.5 TO/36) and his shooting percentages are through the roof (career: TS%: 62.1%, eFG%: 57.5).

Unfortunately Lee’s inspired play doesn’t translate to the other end of the floor. His blocked shots (0.4 BLK/36) and steals (0.8 STL/36) are low, and his man to man defense is suspect. Lee’s only contribution to defense is his tenacious rebounding (11.1 REB/36). If Lee were above average in any defensive aspect, he’d be an All Star. His mediocre defense will keep him on the caliber of NBA starter, albeit a very good one.

Knicks 2009 Season Preview Part III

Part I here.
Part II here.

SMALL FORWARD:

If guard is the Knicks’ most plentiful position, then small forward is their least. Let’s take a look at these two players:

Name TS% EFG% PTS/36 PER
A 0.51 0.48 16.2 15.0
B 0.48 0.45 11.9 10.7

From these stats Player A is obviously superior. And that’s who the Knicks thought they were getting when they traded for Quentin Richardson. Player B is the player they actually got. (A is Richardson’s averages pre-New York, B is his averages in a Knick uniform). Despite a clear decline in play, Richardson will be the Knicks defacto starter at small forward, a position he’s had for the last 3 years. It’s painfully obvious that Richardson’s career has taken a downturn due to injuries. SI.com has a list of his injuries over the last two seasons: head, right ankle, flu, right knee tendon, back surgery, sprained right elbow, back spasms, and hamstring strain. We can only hope that Q-Rich takes his flu shot this year.

Richardson has a couple of positives. He has a familiarity with D’Antoni due to playing under him in 2005, and he exerts energy on the defensive end. How effective those two make him are another story. Quentin can hit the three (career 35.2% 3P%) and rebound (6.4 REB/36), but he has been a substandard scorer. Last year he was woefully inefficient (TS%: 44.4%, eFG%: 42.1%) and averaged a pitiful 8.1 points per game off of 8.5 shot attempts. The team would be better off playing him 20 minutes off the bench instead of the 28.3 minutes per game he averaged last year. Without a major turnaround in scoring efficiency, he’s bench material.

Unfortunately Richardson will more likely get the lion’s share of the minutes at small forward, because the Knicks don’t have many other options. The main reserve is 21 year old Wilson Chandler. A late first round pick, Chandler is an athletic 6-8 swingman. As billed by the “Ill Will” tatooes on his arms, Chandler is a good defender. He can contribute in a variety of ways: blocks, steals, rebounds, three point shots, and points. On the negative side of the ledger, Chandler is an inefficient scorer (TS: 48.0%, eFG% 45.7%) who isn’t shy about taking a shot.

There are lots of players similar to Chandler, under 21 year old forwards with poor shooting percentages, with varying results. For every Donyell Marshall, Trevor Ariza, and Al Harrington there seems to be a Lamond Murray, Sylvester Gray, or Yi Jianlian to match (for Net fans change that last name to Samaki Walker). At this point it’s unclear which path Chandler is on.

Wilson Chandler may be too young for a starting role, but if the Knicks went out to a nightclub, Danilo Gallinari would be waiting outside for someone to pass him Wilson Chandler’s driver’s license. [Warning from the KnickerBlogger.Net legal dept. – using someone else’s id to enter a nightclub is illegal, immoral, and more likely to have your night end in a White Castle than someone else’s bed.] Gallinari won’t be of legal American drinking age until next August. Additionally he’ll be adjusting to an entirely different country, game, and diet. (Sorry Gallo – you won’t have freshly made hand cut pasta on the road.)

Lamentably, there isn’t much to say about Gallinari’s game that wouldn’t be conjecture. He hurt his back in summer league and is just starting to practice with the team. Since D’Antoni said he didn’t want Gallinari to play in the D-League, it’s probable that Danilo will sit on the end of the bench for most of the year. Gallinari’s future will be at power forward, but considering he hasn’t grown into his body yet, his injury, and the Knicks lack of depth at the three, small forward is probably where he’ll get the bulk of his minutes. When Richardson eventually misses a big chunk of time, don’t be surprised to see Gallinari’s name get called in the second quarter of games.

All in all the Knicks don’t have a lot of options at small forward. Going into the season two of their three potential SFs are battling injuries: Chandler and Gallinari. Additionally Jared Jeffries (who isn’t listed here because D’Antoni plays him in the frontcourt) who could play SF is also injured. Patrick Ewing Jr., who at the time of this writing has a chance of making the roster, has played only 24 preseason minutes. Even if Junior makes the team, it’s possible he’ll start the season in the D-League. D’Antoni will use a three guard rotation at times, but if Richardson and Chandler both get hurt at the same time he’ll have some interesting decisions to make.