Knicks 2009 Season Preview Part II

Part I here.

GUARD (cont):

If you wanted to guess which Knick guard will gain the most under D’Antoni, it should be Nate Robinson. The diminutive guard was thought of as a novelty by his last two coaches, and Robinson has struggled to find court time. Over his 3 years he’s averaged only 23.0 minutes per game. But D’Antoni sees Robinson differently from the previous regimes, and was even quoted saying “I love the guy.” One of the knocks on Robinson is his maturity, but it seems that coach D’Antoni is willing to work on this issue. For instance Nate argues with officials too frequently, and D’Antoni tries to intervene either by distracting him with instructions or talking to the official on his behalf.

If the Knicks are willing to give Robinson more playing time then they might be pleasantly surprised with the results. A look at both Robinson and Crawford’s per game stats appear to show Crawford as a superior player. However when looking at their per minute stats, they are nearly identical with two exceptions. Robinson has higher per 36-minute rebounding (4.2 to 2.3) and fouls (3.6 to 1.6). The fouls are an indicator of Robinson’s immaturity, since the 5-9 guard foolishly tries to block shots (he has grand total of 8 blocks in 4783 minutes). On the other hand getting a Crawford-esque player who rebounds for a fraction of the cost would be a boon for the Knicks. It’s not far fetched to expect Nate to get 30 minutes per game this year.

A month ago, many NBA pundits (including this one) thought Stephon Marbury would be wearing another team’s uniform by now. However Knicks President Donnie Walsh publicly stated he doesn’t like to buy out players, and kept Marbury on the roster. Of course this gave Peter Vescey the greatest thrill of his life, being able to call out Newsday’s Alan Hahn for wrongly reporting the story a week before. For those not familiar with New York Newspapers, that’s like Ted Stevens calling John Ford immoral for accepting bribes. Anyway the team didn’t change their plan of making Chris Duhon the starter and Marbury will come off the bench. Stephon has been a starter his whole career (812 of 823 games), so this is new territory for both him & the team.

If Marbury can accept his role on the team, it would be a boost to the Knicks. His talent has never been questioned, just his commitment to winning. Marbury’s production over the last 3 years (average PER: 15.2) has tailed off from his peak years ’99-’05 (average PER 20.7), but he’s still a threat to go to the hoop and finish with his right hand. Even in an off year, Stephon took 36% of his shots from “inside”. And Marbury is able to knock down the three (career 3P% as a Knick: 34.8%). Of course with Marbury it’s always worth mentioning that Mr. Hyde is lurking around the corner. But if he can contribute off the bench for a full season without a major incident (on or off the court), consider it a big plus for Walsh and D’Antoni for keeping him around.

Last and least is Mardy Collins. At 6’6 the Temple alum is the Knicks best perimeter defender and a strong rebounder. Unfortunately that’s about all the former Owl is good at. Over his career he’s been a miserable shooter (TS%: 41.7%, eFG%: 38.3%, FT%: 26.6%, FT%: 59.2%) and not great at running the offense (4.4 AST/36, 2.9 TO/36). In the three point era, only 5 players have played more than 1400 minutes by the age of 24 with a TS% lower than 42.0%: DeSagana Diop, Mark Macon, Junior Harrington, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, and Mardy Collins. That’s not a good group for an aspiring point guard to be in. It goes without saying that Collins will have to be a more efficient scorer to continue playing professional basketball.

Isiah OD?

No joke…

Isiah Thomas was apparently taken from his home in an ambulance last night, after a bout of weirdness that involved feeling faint because of a stressful family situation, or an overdose of sleeping pills. Depends who you believe.  Talking heads from the police, hospital and the Knicks are playing it close to the vest, but the Daily News quotes Thomas’ son as saying his father was briefly hospitalized. 

This was first reported by local TV news, and there is now a much more detailed article posted by ESPN’s True Hoopster.


Knicks 2009 Season Preview Part I

Just about every season preview begins with a wrap-up of the last year. I’m going to assume that if you’re here reading this, you don’t really need a review of last year. In fact, if you’re a Knick fan, you probably don’t want to review any recent history. So with that said let’s continue with what we might expect this year.

For 2009, the guard position should be the Knicks deepest. Duhon and Crawford will start, at least for now, while Marbury, Robinson, and Collins will provide ample depth. Even though D’Antoni says he likes to keep the rotation short, I envision a scenario where the top 4 will see a lot of playing time. In fact it’s entirely possible that all 5 will be in the rotation. Between D’Antoni’s predilection for going small and the fast pace the Knicks will play, it makes sense that they’ll need as many guards as possible.

Newly acquired Chris Duhon will supplement Marbury as the starting point guard this year. In Chicago Duhon was below average offensively but was an able defender in the backcourt, something the Knicks have been sorely lacking. He’s a capable long range shooter (35.6% 3P%), but is a poor finisher around the hoop. According to 82games Duhon had 24% of his “close” shots blocked, nearly double that of Stephon Marbury (13%). Think of Duhon as the NBA’s version of the game managing QB (Trent Dilfer). He’ll run the offense, take the open three, play half decent defense, but not score many points.

Some people mocked New York for giving Duhon an $11M dollar deal, including a few of Duhon’s former fans. The good news is that the deal is only 2 years, so the Knicks are looking at him as only a stopgap fix at point guard. New York isn’t going to contend for much over the length of his contract. The Duhon’s deal is a far cry from the 5 year (Jeffries & James) and 6 year (Curry & Crawford) contracts that were handed out by Isiah Thomas.

Jamal Crawford remains the incumbent at the shooting guard position. Many Knick fans still have hope that Jamal will shed his poor shot decision making ways and become a more efficient player. Under D’Antoni’s seven second offense, many assume that Crawford would blossom into a more efficient scorer. ESPN’s Daily Dime called Crawford the Knicks sleeper pick for fantasy basketball.

However it hasn’t turned out that way in preseason (TS%: 51.6, eFG%: 45.2, through 6 games), and Crawford may not flourish in this offense. Jamal’s strength is being able to create his own shot in the half court set, but D’Antoni’s offense uses movement to make shots for everyone, hence it diminishes Jamal’s contribution. Crawford, much like Zach Randolph, likes to hold ball and dictate the offense, and he has never been a great catch & shoot guy. His best season occurred under Larry Brown where he took 21% of his attempts from “inside” as opposed to only 14% last year.

Time will tell if Jamal will progress under D’Antoni, or if he’ll be the same frustrating off-balance shot taking player he’s been for the last 8 years. Considering the Knick coach doesn’t need his skill set on offense, and will expect more from Jamal on defense than the previous Knick coaches it’s possible that Crawford will see a reduction in minutes this year. Certainly Crawford isn’t likely to average the 39.9 minutes per game he played last year, and that will hurt his per game averages.

Odds & Ends

  • Via TrueHoop, Childress talks about how things other than scoring matter over in Europe. Mainly how scoring is less important. Henry Abbott sums up the matter nicely:

    If it really is true — that little things that win games are more valued in Europe — then that confirms just about every negative stereotype of American basketball development. And it fits perfectly with the message from just about every new-breed statistical expert: That scoring is overvalued here, at the expense of other things that are hugely important but less obvious.

  • We’ll see how true this is, but the Post is talking about Marbury starting tonight against the Celtics. Of course they’re not sure where he’ll start. Anyone else get the feeling he’s like Costanza in the episode he keeps leaving things in women’s houses to get them used to him so they’ll feel more comfortable dating him? [To the tune of by Mennen] Marrrrrr-bury.

    It would make the most sense to start Marbury at shooting guard, replacing the struggling Jamal Crawford, who was 1 of 6 for four points. Or he could conceivably replace Quentin Richardson in a three-guard offense. D’Antoni has started a Chris Duhon-Crawford backcourt through the first five preseason games and feels it may be time to experiment with just two exhibition games left.

  • Ever wonder what Trevor Ariza is doing these days?
  • A blog that praises it’s GM? Could it ever happen here?
  • Kevin Pelton’s breakout candidates for 2009. And there’s one Isiah Thomas drafted small forward.
  • Richardson Should Sit

    During the Knicks offseason, there has been a lot of conjecture on who will be in the starting lineup. Marbury’s continued presence makes him a threat to Chris Duhon at the shooting guard spot. Should Duhon have an awful preseason it’s possible that he could lose his job to Marbury or even Robinson. There have been questions surrounding the front court, with Lee, Randolph, Curry, and Jeffries being discussed as starting options. Due to the injuries to Curry and Jeffries, it appears that Lee and Randolph will be the starters. This has been strengthened by the pair’s strong play in the preseason.

    Meanwhile it was just assumed that the small forward spot would be handed to Quentin Richardson. Although he was coming off a poor year, Quentin’s familiarity with D’Antoni’s offense made him the front runner to start. Two of Richardson’s competitors for the swingman spot were eliminated when Jeffries was injured and Balkman was traded. The only SFs left on the roster were Wilson Chandler and second round pick Patrick Ewing Jr. Chandler is just old enough to buy a beer legally, and Ewing is already on his third team before he’s played a single game.

    However the stats show that Richardson isn’t the best candidate for the the position. Looking at Q-Rich’s career, it appears that his production has been erratic and diminishing over the last few years. His yearly PER has been 16.5, 17.4, 12.5, 15.1, 13.6, 9.6, 14.3, and 8.5. It seems that Quentin was a productive player in his first 4 years, but has been a poor player over the last 4 years. The big question mark concerning Richardson has always been his health, and it seems obvious that injuries have reduced him to a below average player.

    Luckily for Knick fans, greenhorn Wilson Chandler may be ready. Three games isn’t much to go on, especially preseason ones, but so far Wilson Chandler is outplaying Richardson on a per-minute basis.

    Name Min Reb Ast TO Stl BS BA PF Pts TS% eFG
    Chandler 73 11.3 3.0 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.0 3.0 21.2 52% 51%
    Richardson 50 5.0 1.4 1.4 1.4 0.7 0.0 4.3 15.1 46% 46%

    It’s uncertain what Chandler will do in his second season if given extended minutes. His rate stats weren’t bad in limited minutes last year, but his shooting percentages were low (48 TS%, 46% eFG). Unfortunately it’s pretty clear what Richardson will give the Knicks. As I said earlier three games isn’t much to judge a player. But given that Richardson is a veteran coming off 4 poor years, and is the only player on the Knicks familiar with D’Antoni’s offense, you’d expect better in preseason. At worst the rebuilding Knicks should give Chandler a majority of the minutes, and use the opportunity to gauge his development.

    So far D’Antoni doesn’t seem to be afraid to make changes. He’s installed Duhon as the starting PG, and toyed around with Jared Jeffries at the 5 spot. Curry isn’t likely to regain his starting spot either. D’Antoni has spoken highly of Chandler, so it’s possible that he may make the switch. If he doesn’t then Chandler may get his chance eventually. During his tenure as a Knick, Richardson has missed an average of 26 games a year. Given New York’s low depth at SF, it’s likely that Chandler will be starting at some point this season.

    “Knicks will be good on D–dammit!” Oh, and glad to be back

    The fishwrap is reporting that D’Antoni went on an “unsolicited diatribe” about defense prior to last night’s 110-104 win over Philly. The new coach is, perhaps understandably, a bit bristly over his Marbury-like reputation for defensive indifference. His Suns teams were more average than bad defensively, and at least some of the criticism levied at those teams came because more than a few commentators–ex-players among them–don’t know enough to adjust for pace.

    Still, I’d be a bit surprised to see the Knicks end the season above the median in defensive efficiency. Duhon’s addition will certainly help but really, unless Mardy Collins buys a jump shot from somewhere, no single defender on this roster is the equal of Marion, Raja Bell, (a motivated) Amare, and perhaps not even an ancient Grant Hill from D’Antoni’s Phoenix teams. One of the things I’m most ambivalent about with D’Antoni is his almost Isiah-like penchant for delusion. I like that he sticks up for his guys, but I worry a bit about how much of his own BS he buys sometimes. I also worry a bit about his sensitivity to criticism in a season that isn’t likely to go all that well.

    At any rate, this pre-season ought to be fairly interesting for the Knicks. I haven’t seen the team play yet, but my impression is that D’Antoni is trying to figure out his rotations in real time and get guys used to playing in the system together. So he’s intent on playing his core group deep into games. And although pre-season games aren’t super important all things equal, they are (imho) more important for teams that haven’t won much and for teams with new players or a new system. The Knicks are all of the above.

    Ahhh… it’s good to be back paying attention to basketball again. Now that Reyes, Wright, Beltran and Delgado couldn’t haul that heap of bloated corpses comprising the rest of the Mets into the playoffs, and my beloved Seahawks are pissing away Mike Holmgren’s final season in spectacular fashion, it just feels right to shift my focus back to my other collection of lovable losers (present company excluded of course). I will be keeping an eye on Missouri and a surprisingly decent Arizona football team, but as far as I am concerned it’s GO NEW YORK GO NEW YORK GO!!

    Aw c’mon!
    Don’t give it to Curry there! You know he’s gonna turn it ov–
    Well, get back on D! Don’t–
    Well dammit if you’re gonna foul him don’t let him lay it up too! Jeez!

    Good times. Good times…