Third Party Summer League Assessment

From the better late than never pile, Kurt from ForumBlueAndGold emailed me this evaluation of the Knick summer league players:

I’m out in the sweltering heat of Vegas and I’ve now sat through two Summer League Knicks games, and since I have the time I thought I’d send you my impressions (informed in part by David Thorpe, who I was sitting next to for one of the games).

Jordan Hill: I don’t know what to make of him. There are flashes of rebounding fire and he certainly has an NBA body, but he seemed almost invisible despite them. I’m not sure what he can do in the post, because he almost never got the ball there. In the first game I saw that was because Thabeet was on him, and he could not get into position to get the ball on the block because Thabeet has long arms that deflect entry passes. That and the Knicks guards seemed to fear the post entry pass like it was the swine flu. When he got into space, he showed some athleticism and ability to finish. The Knicks were not as offensively quick or sharp in the Summer League (at times leaning toward a “seven seconds or more” effort) so again it’s a little hard to judge what he will do in the the Knicks season setting. Thorpe thinks he is a player that will look better surrounded by other players, but was also of the mind that it may two years before we really know how good (or not) Hill is.

Toney Douglas: I really like this guy, because players that make good decisions and play within themselves are such a rarity in Vegas. Ran some very nice drive and kicks, found open teammates in transition, played good defense, just was professional for a rookie, he didn’t look raw. The problem was he couldn’t shoot, his form looked good and he got open looks, but the ball just did not go in. I can’t believe that is long-term trend, but he never got it going in Vegas. He is not going to blow you away with his athleticism, but if he can find his shot he’s a solid backup PG.

Morris Almond: He can score at the NBA level. Good moves from the post and in transition. Really finishes well around the rim. Nice shot from the outside. The downside is he cares not about rebounding or defense, he is like a mini Zach Randolph that way (save that really, Zach boards pretty well). Also, a few scouts (not Thorpe) told me comes with work ethic and attitude issues.

2009 Report Card: David Lee

After 3 years of coming off the bench, David Lee finally earned a starting spot in 2009. Lee started 74 of 81 games (D’Antoni toyed with a Randolph/Chandler front court in November), 19 more than in his 3 previous seasons combined. On the court, Lee expanded his repertoire showing some new moves in the low and mid post while adding a jump shot. This, along with being emphasized in the offense with pick and rolls, allowed his pts/36 to increase to a career high of 16.5. However it’s not necessarily the scoring increase that elevated Lee from reserve to starter. KnickerBlogger readers and stat savvy fans understood that for a few years David Lee has been the most productive of the Knick front court players.

Much like his draftmate Nate Robinson, the expanded role exposed a flaw in Lee’s game: his defense. Lee’s block shot rate hit the lowest of his career (0.3 blk/36) and was similar to that of another notoriously bad defender in Zach Randolph. Granted in Lee’s defense, Coach D’Antoni played him as an undersized center (6-9), but even at PF, Lee’s help defense is sub par. Ideally the Knicks (or whoever signs Lee) will want to pair him with a center that can turn back some shots.

Overall Lee had a typically good season. He provided efficient scoring with excellent rebounding, and didn’t eat up too many possessions. He silenced his critics who said the half court set would stall with Lee in the mix. D’Antoni frequently featured Lee with pick & rolls, and the New York offense increased to the middle of the pack (17th, 108.1 pts/poss). Lee was 4th among Knick regulars in points per minutes, so talk about him being a garbage man is unfounded. There are a lot of players in the NBA with the ability to create a shot in isolation, but too often they do so at the high cost of missed shots, turnovers, and a lack of fundamentals. Thank goodness David Lee isn’t one of those players.

Report Card (5 point scale):
Offense: 5
Defense: 2
Teamwork: 5
Rootability: 5
Performance/Expectations: 4

Grade: B+

Similarity Scores:

.000 David Lee 2009 NYK 19.0 .590 .549 16.5 3.3 12.1 2.2 1.0 0.3 1.9
.095 Jerome Whitehead 1982 SDC 16.7 .599 .559 16.2 3.8 10.8 1.7 0.8 0.7 2.3
.115 Loy Vaught 1994 LAC 16.0 .566 .537 14.9 3.7 11.2 1.3 1.3 0.4 1.6
.116 A.C. Green 1989 LAL 17.8 .594 .532 15.6 3.7 10.6 1.5 1.3 0.8 1.7
.134 Michael Cage 1987 LAC 17.1 .579 .521 15.5 4.4 11.4 1.6 1.2 0.8 2.1
.161 Chris Wilcox 2008 SEA 16.3 .554 .524 17.1 2.6 9.0 1.5 1.0 0.7 2.1
.162 Tyrone Hill 1994 CLE 18.4 .590 .543 15.0 4.6 12.4 1.1 1.3 0.9 1.9
.166 Tom Owens 1975 TOT 19.4 .565 .527 16.9 4.0 12.3 2.8 0.5 1.1 2.1
.166 Brad Daugherty 1991 CLE 19.9 .583 .524 20.1 2.2 10.1 3.1 0.9 0.6 2.6
.166 Kenny Carr 1981 CLE 17.0 .560 .511 16.9 3.6 11.5 2.6 1.0 0.6 3.2
.174 Calvin Natt 1982 POR 19.0 .622 .577 18.4 2.7 8.5 2.1 0.9 0.5 1.9

For Knick fans that envision David Lee as a borderline All Star (including his agent), this has to be a disappointing list of comparable players. But overall this isn’t such a bad list to be in. The top 4 players (Wilcox is still active) were all in the league for 11+ seasons, with Green & Cage banging until their late 30s. And there is one other ray of hope: Lee outclasses most of these players.

At his current age (25), Lee has already become a league leader in his key strengths (rebounding & scoring percentage). In the two seasons he’s had enough minutes to qualify for league leaders, Lee has been in the top 10 in fg% twice, and in his first season as a starter he was in the top 5 in both offensive and defensive rebounds. By the age of 25 Cage was in the top 5 in offensive rebounding once and Vaught was among the top 10 in field goal percentage. Other than these two instances, none of Lee’s other top 5 comparable players accomplished either of these goals by the same age.

So what to make of this list? Clearly Lee’s defensive inefficiencies put him in a lower tier of players. To use a food analogy, this group of players are the hamburgers of the league. They’re not something that you’d necessarily look to build around, but if you were deprived of them, you’d feel something was missing. There aren’t many White Castle sliders (Wilcox?, Carr?) and there are some Jackson Hole Wyoming savory burgers (Green, Cage, Daugherty). And although David Lee is still a hamburger, he’s made of Kobe beef.

2009 Report Card: Eddy Curry

When the Knicks acquired Eddy Curry, he was supposed to be the future of the franchise. Although there were signs that he would never reach that level of play (namely every stat but fg% and pts/36), his size and flashes of scoring lead many to believe in his potential.

In 2009 Eddy Curry had his most disappointing season, playing a grand total of 12 minutes and scoring only 5 points. Immediately after the season ended, Curry vowed to get in shape, and immediately began twittering about his work out regimen. In the weeks since, his private trainer “leaked” that Curry lost 30 pounds, and Eddy appeared before the Knicks brass at the summer league. It appears that Curry is doing what he does best. He appeals to the optimist in Knick fans, while producing almost nothing.

Report Card (5 point scale):
Offense: 1
Defense: 1
Teamwork: 1
Rootability: -87
Performance/Expectations: 1

Grade: F

Similarity Scores:

I’ve decided to look at his 2008 season, since he barely played in 2009.

.000 Eddy Curry 2008 NYK 15.0 .578 .546 18.4 2.6 6.5 0.8 0.3 0.7 3.0
.132 Craig Smith 2009 MIN 16.9 .599 .562 18.4 2.4 7.0 1.9 0.8 0.5 2.6
.161 Mike Jackson 1975 VIR 13.9 .584 .528 17.7 3.3 8.1 1.5 0.8 0.3 3.8
.171 Wayman Tisdale 1990 SAC 18.1 .565 .525 21.5 2.3 7.3 1.3 0.7 0.7 1.9
.172 Hakim Warrick 2008 MEM 16.2 .555 .512 17.5 2.5 7.3 1.1 0.7 0.6 1.7
.184 Armen Gilliam 1990 TOT 16.6 .565 .515 18.9 3.1 8.9 1.5 1.0 0.8 2.7
.184 Othella Harrington 1999 HOU 16.1 .559 .513 15.9 2.9 9.8 0.6 0.2 1.0 2.4
.185 Zan Tabak 1996 TOR 12.4 .554 .543 13.9 3.2 8.6 1.7 0.6 0.8 2.7
.196 Orlando Woolridge 1985 CHI 19.5 .608 .554 22.6 2.0 5.6 1.7 0.7 0.5 2.3
.198 Frank Card 1970 WSA 15.3 .556 .528 17.4 3.1 9.5 1.8     2.9
.198 Ike Diogu 2009 TOT 20.3 .611 .534 19.9 4.4 9.4 0.5 0.5 0.5 2.0

All of these players are 6-9 or shorter, except for 7 footer Zan Tabak. Curry is 6-11, but plays small due to his lack of rebounding & blocked shots. In this list Curry is the second worst rebounder, the worst passer, and second worst at coughing up the ball. There aren’t a lot of good players on this list, which speaks volumes for those aspects of Curry’s game. [And yes, Virginia had an ABA team.]

For fun I ran the similarity scores for Eddy Curry in 2005, his last year as a Bull. For irony’s sake I’ve included the 11th person. (Note Ike Diogu’s 2006’s season is the most similar to Curry, but I excluded it because in 2005 it wouldn’t have happened yet.) Not a whole lot of franchise centers here.

.000 Eddy Curry 2005 CHI 16.3 .583 .538 20.2 2.3 6.7 0.7 0.4 1.2 3.2
.132 Bill Cartwright 1980 NYK 17.9 .608 .547 20.4 2.2 8.3 1.9 0.5 1.2 2.5
.152 Lorenzo Charles 1986 ATL 11.5 .587 .557 16.1 1.7 5.1 1.1 0.3 0.8 2.4
.170 Tom Chambers 1982 SDC 15.0 .553 .525 18.7 2.8 7.5 2.0 0.8 0.6 3.0
.183 Rasheed Wallace 1997 POR 18.4 .588 .565 17.8 2.3 8.0 1.4 0.9 1.1 2.2
.184 Joe Barry Carroll 1981 GSW 16.4 .534 .491 19.1 3.4 9.4 1.4 0.6 1.5 3.0
.200 Tim McCormick 1985 SEA 14.7 .606 .557 16.5 3.3 9.0 1.8 0.4 0.7 2.6
.209 Gary Trent 1997 POR 16.8 .569 .536 16.6 2.9 8.0 1.6 0.9 0.7 2.4
.214 Eric White 1988 LAC 15.2 .597 .536 18.2 3.2 6.3 0.9 0.7 0.3 2.1
.222 Walter Berry 1987 TOT 16.8 .561 .531 22.7 3.1 7.0 2.4 0.9 0.9 3.5
.224 John Wallace 1997 NYK 13.0 .571 .521 14.9 2.3 7.1 1.7 1.0 1.1 3.5
.229 Mike Sweetney 2005 NYK 16.4 .592 .531 15.5 4.0 10.0 1.0 0.6 0.7 2.6

2009 Summer League: Game 2 Recap

The game 2 results seemed a lot like game 1 on an individual level. Jordan Hill shot an identical 6-14 and Toney Douglas set up the offense with 10 assists, but had trouble scoring. Inexplicably Tskitishvili looks like an NBA player, this time scoring 12 points on 9 shots, hitting 4 of 8 from downtown. Morris Almond had a subpar shooting nite, but chipped in with 4 steals.

From what I saw, Hill just doesn’t like to take the ball to the hoop and prefers to resort to fall away hooks and turn around jumpers. He did have an alley-oop, but that was on a fast break when he had a clear path to the rim. Douglas reminds me of the Knicks current point guard Chris Duhon. Good at breaking down the defense and dishing the rock, but just can’t find his own shot.

Skita was on fire from downtown, but didn’t bring any intensity in the paint on either end. It was a Wang Zhi Zhi kind of effort. Considering he has played nearly a game’s worth of minutes over Sene (44 to 20) he has the inside track on a big man roster spot, should one open. Blake Ahearn has been disappointing. Granted he’s scored 18 points on 16 shots, but he’s only hit one of ten from downtown. At times he seems to be miscast as a point guard, often having trouble bringing the ball up the court or starting the offense from 30+ feet away. One saving grace has been ability to draw fouls, and he’s been automatic from the charity stripe (11-11).

What worried me the most is that the team was flat defensively. They allowed Detroit to score 30 in the opening quarter, and 29 in the final 10 minutes. Douglas and Hill were supposed to give the Knicks a boost on that end of the floor, but neither were able to hold the tide against Detroit’s summer league squad. Hill looked especially bad, and received this poor review from True Hoop’s Kevin Arnovitz:

Hill also seemed a little passive as a post defender, even against the likes of Trent Plaisted. Hill stayed in close proximity on defense to his assigned man, but rarely tried to knock his guy off his spot. In general, the closer Hill was to the basket, the less comfortable he was.

I know it’s silly to suggest summer league coaching suggestions, but where was Mouhamed Sene? New York needed some help in the paint, and Sene out rebounded Tskitishvili in less than half the minutes. Team results don’t matter much, but perhaps it would be better to team Hill, Almond, and Douglas with other players to see how they perform with different skillsets on the floor.

2009 Summer League: Game 1 Recap

New York’s first summer league game didn’t go as planned for their two first round draft picks. Jordan Hill hit only 6 of 14 and failed to block a shot. He showed tenacity on the glass (8 rebounds in 28 minutes), but like I noted after New York drafted him most of his created shots were turn around jumpers or fadeaways that were away from the hoop. Hill seems to shy away from contact on the offensive end, and only drew 2 free throws. In post game reports, he admitted to being out of shape, not exactly what you want to hear from the #8 pick. Hill’s draftmate, Toney Douglas, had an even worse shooting night. Playing point guard he shot a miserable 2 of 13 (8 points) although he racked up 11 assists without turning the ball over.

As for the rest, Morris Almond is making a pitch for shooting guard with his 17 points on 12 shots. He had a Houston-esque boxscore doing little else, grabbing only 1 rebound and notching just a single assist. One thing Almond didn’t do is take a single free throw, surprising considering his propensity to draw contact in the NBDL & NBA. Considering his outside shooting, I’m curious how he gets to the line. Is it Miller-esque jump into your opponent after the fake, does he post up, or can he take it to the paint?

Tskitishvili started much to my surprise, and just as surprising played well. He connected on 3 of 5 from downtown and blocked 3 shots. I’m still skeptical of the 26 year old all of a suddenly learning how to shoot. Joe Crawford had 10 points on 9 shots and beemed confidence on the court. On one play he drive right at Thabeet, and on another he badly missed a three point shot.

On the other hand Sene only played 11 minutes, and blocked 3 shots as well, but failed to score a single point and coughed up the ball twice. Sharp shooter Blake Ahearn struggled with his shot, hitting 1 of 8 (including 0-4 from three), although he was an automatic 6-6 from the free throw line. Korolev and Noel never made it on to the court.