The Worst Article Of 2010

In today’s news where ratings matter as much as content (and perhaps more), sensationalism in the press is expected. This has been especially true with regards to this year’s NBA free agent class, as some of the game’s biggest stars will reshape the league in an extraordinary fashion in the coming weeks. Given the players’ reluctance to name their potential suitors and the teams’ inability to talk about players signed to other teams news outlets have been left with little actual facts to report on.

Typically when the press is shut out to a story that the public wants to hear about, reporters will seek out “sources” (who frequently wish to remain anonymous) that may have inside knowledge. By getting an insight on the thoughts of the people involved, they can circumvent the cone of silence and provide information to the public. However one problem with this type of journalism is that their sources never have to deal with the consequences of their words. For instance an anonymous source may bend the truth (or invent it) in order to manipulate outside events. People or organizations may leak information (that may not be true) to a source knowing that they will hand it over to the media. Or worse, a reporter may invent an anonymous source to lend a piece some credibility.

Stories with anonymous sources are best taken with a grain of salt. Depending on the reader and the content, some people may swallow the article as truth more easily than others, especially if it fits with the reader’s view of the topic. So in some sense a part of the success of an article quoting an anonymous source is the believability of it.

So enter SNY.tv’s article titled “Source: Knicks eye Johnson, not James.”

The Knicks are targeting Joe Johnson as their No. 1 free agent choice and believe he’s a better fit for the team than LeBron James, according to an NBA source with knowledge of the team’s plans.

“Yes, we think he’s a better player,” the source said of Johnson. “He makes other people better. With LeBron’s people running the locker room that hurts the organization.”

he source also mentioned concerns about James’ entourage taking over the franchise.

“I don’t care what most people think,” the source said. “I’m not saying that LeBron is not a good player, but other stuff comes with it. LeBron’s friends want jobs. You’re gonna lose running your organization. As time goes on you got to hire this guy, you got to hire that guy.”

The source says the Knicks think Joe Johnson is a better player than LeBron James. It’s hard to believe that anyone would think that Johnson is a better player than James. If I had to pick a quick metric to show the disparity between the two I’d say that basketball-reference.com calculates James’ probability of making the Hall of Fame at 98%, and Johnson’s at 6%.

But just as interesting is the person who said that. The author Adam Zagoria, describes him as “an NBA source with knowledge of the team’s plans.” So the source sounds like someone who works closely with the NBA and has insider access to the Knicks, but doesn’t work for the team. But the quote uses the word “we” to describe the Knicks, which implies he’s part of the organization. For instance if the source was Donnie Walsh’s barber, he would have said “they think”, not “we think”. To use “we” implies the guy actually works for the team. So why wouldn’t Zagoria just describe him in a less wordy way as “a source who works for the Knicks?”

Those aren’t the only parts that don’t make sense. The source claims the Knicks are avoiding LeBron James because they’d have to hire some of his friends as well. Let’s just assume that I can’t possibly know if this is true (but a google search for “Cleveland Cavaliers hire LeBron’s friends” results in naught). Does anyone think that hiring 20 of LeBron’s friends at $50k a year mean anything to a team that has paid Eddy Curry $20M to play in 10 games over the last two seasons? Put it this way, if there was no salary cap, would there be any doubt that the Knicks bid would go well over the current maximum price for James? (At least enough to cover cushy jobs for his entourage.)

To summarize the article, the Knicks think Joe Johnson will lead to more wins, they don’t want LeBron James because his entourage will demand jobs in the organization, and the source of this information can’t make up his mind if he’s just knowledgeable about the team or actually works for them. Any one of these facts are difficult to believe, nevertheless all of them combined. Imagine if I wrote an article with quoting a source with knowledge of SNY.tv who said:

“Adam Zagoria just called up his friend who has a John Starks jersey and occasionally gets off his meds. Feeling self defensive about LeBron going to another team, the guy began to rant about how Joe Johnson was better anyway. Hoping to make a big name of himself with such a controversial headline, Zagoria decided to run with the story quoting his mentally unstable friend as an NBA source with knowledge of the team. (This wasn’t such a stretch, since his friend once saw Donnie Walsh exiting the Garden & yelled “Are you going to sign LeBron?” To which he swore that Walsh gave him a wink.). The editor at SNY.tv, too busy with his Hijack Armored Bank Truck in Mafia Wars and pushed the story through without really reading it.

Such an article would be laughed at because it’s so unlikely to be true. I think.

Free Agent Bargain Bin

The attention is rightly focused on the big gun free agents, but it’s also fun to think about potential cheap free agency steals. The Knicks could use some bargains to fill out the rotation no matter how they fair with the bigger name free agents.

It’s not easy to know what offers various free agents will receive, but here are my (mostly subjective) rankings of the top players I assume may be had at relative bargain prices:

(Honorary mention #1 LeBron James… even at the max  LeBron is the biggest bargain in the entire league.)

#2 Craig Smith

Should be among the most underrated free agents: he’s both productive and in his prime. Doesn’t have tons of upside, but is a relatively sure thing. Most other bargains are young with no history of production or old without much left. Smith has consistently produced on bad teams for both the Timberwolves and Clippers. He scores efficiently and is a fairly stout defender, though his rebounding is mediocre and he turns it over a bit too much. Craig is among the most productive undersized 4s out there and should be a solid 4th or 3rd bigman. Lack of a jump-shot probably turns D’Antoni off.

It’s hard to imagine Smith getting more than the $4 million Brandon Bass got last offseason. He’s only about 6’6.5” in shoes, so teams are likely to have their reservations. Additionally he only averaged 16 mpg, leading to an unimpressive per game line of 8 and 4. Guys without impressive per game numbers often get overlooked by conventional GMs.

Similar Player Comparison

#3 Ian Mahinmi

There’s very little track record, but Mahinmi comes in 3rd (2nd really) because it’s unlikely he costs much (Spurs declined a $1 mill+ option for next season), his very limited track record is impressive, and he’s still got big upside.

For some reason Gregg Popovich just would not play Mahinmi. The conventional wisdom is that the Spurs have a loaded frontcourt, but until they added McDyess and Blair last offseason that really wasn’t the case. So I assume there is some sort of b-ball IQ/work ethic/attitude/injury issue. A red flag since the Spurs are smart and Pops usually gets the most from good players. However the Frenchman is crazy athletic, only 23 years old, and stands 6’11.

In the 165 minutes he earned in 2010, he managed 22 pts, 11.3 reb, and 1.7 blk per 36 minutes, with a very healthy TS% of .667. Of course some of that occurred in garbage time, but it’s very intriguing nonetheless. In 07-08 he put up similar numbers in the D-League. He’s got the feeling of a Jermaine O’Neal level hidden gem.

If Mahinmi can get it together enough to get on the court, he might be a good fit at C for D’Antoni: basically, he’s an athletic freak who finishes strong at the hoop. Has the potential to be the interior presence the Knicks have been desperate for. Even if other teams bid up his services to, say, the $4-7 mill per year range, I would consider spending short-term dollars on Mahinmi before I spent long-term dollars on Rudy Gay, Joe Johnson, and some of the other big name FAs.

Similar Player ComparisonBrad Miller’s 22 year old rookie season is another one.

#4 Shaun Livingston

Plenty of question marks, but might have put it all together last season. The biggest question with Livingston is whether he can stay healthy. Once thought to have HOF potential, Livingston’s upside is now closer to solid rotation player. He’s not a good jump shooter, so D’Antoni may not love him, but he’d be a good backcourt partner for Douglas on paper. Livingston can run an offense, but at 6’7” he can defend shooting guards.

Shaun is a low-volume scorer and was efficient last season, but in fairness it was a small sample. (Despite having no 3-pt shot, he’s primarily a jump-shooter and shot well on jumpers last season.) Solid playmaker, but TOs are a big problem. Livingston’s biggest strength is versatility: he can play PG on offense and SG on defense, allowing him to complement a smaller combo-guard who plays the SG on offense and PG on defense. Toney Douglas is such a player. (Jaycee Carroll too.) Livingston might be had cheap, since the Wiz have filled up their backcourt. We’ll see if last season was a fluke or a sign of things to come… and that’s what you want to be saying about bargain bin free agents (not highly paid ones…).

Similar Player Comparison Unfortunately, to date, closer to Marko Jaric than Doc Rivers or Penny. If we’re talking minimum salary, a 25 year old Jaric is a good value. If we’re talking $4-5 mill per… not as much.

#5 Dorell Wright

Wright is a 24 year old coming off a good season where he made $2.75 million. Should the Knicks have $3-5 mill left over perhaps he’s worth a look. If he ends up with no offer but the veteran’s minimum, then he’s a steal. There’s a lot of redundancy with him and Bill Walker, Wilson Chandler, and Landry Fields… so the Knicks resources are probably better spent elsewhere. I think Wright will be a solid FA bargain for someone, though.

Wright is similar to Wilson Chandler. Dorell is low-volume/medium-high-efficiency, while Wilson is medium-volume/medium-low-efficiency. Otherwise Wright was as good as or better than Chandler in terms of defense, shot blocking, stealing, rebounding, TOs, assists, etc (despite the prevailing homerism, Chandler is just not a very special player). Wright’s 3-pt shot took a huge step forward in 2009-10 after missing most of 08-09. He’s already shown the outside shot that we’re all hoping Chandler will develop by 24 years old.

Wright is a strong defender who I would also compare to Mickael Pietrus. He could fill the wing defense/ outside shooting role (Bowen, Bell, etc.) quite well (also MUCH better finisher than Bowen or Bell). Play either the 2 or the 3 depending on situation. A solid, well-rounded NBA rotation player entering his prime. Should Chandler be used in a sign-and-trade, Wright could instantly replace his production at a slightly higher cost. A change of scenery could do Wright some good. I bet San Antonio steals him for, say, 3-4 years $3 mill per.

Similar Player Comparison

#6 Ben Wallace

We all know Ben: big on defense, not so much on offense. Not a typical D’Antoni guy, but the Knicks were desperate for some interior D last season and might be again next season. Ben played for the minimum in Detroit last season, playing pretty well for an otherwise soft, underperforming Pistons squad. His DPOY days are over, but for the minimum there may not be a better interior defender. Detroit was 8.6 pts/100 possessions better defensively with him on the court last season and 1.6 pts/100 better offensively. Their rebounding went up on both sides of the ball, they blocked more shots, and teams had a harder time scoring 1-on-1. Wallace and LeBron have a relationship from Cleveland, no idea if that’s a plus or a minus… Of the washed up veterans, Wallace is probably my favorite (Maybe Kurt Thomas #2).

“…It must have been the morning after…”

A couple of thoughts post-draft/pre-SheShmron Shrames day…

Ah. The draft. It’s been a somewhat trying experience (as it has with all things Knickerbocker-y) the last couple of years decade, hasn’t it. Due to professional obligations, I wasn’t able to perform my yearly ritual of watching the draft, scouring the blogs for sweet, creamery instant analysis and/or punditry, followed hard upon by some light screaming, pounding nails into the floor with my forehead and, like any addict, swearing to any and all gods that would hear my plea, “Once and for all, I’m done with this team! Done, say I!” But I, like all’s y’all, out there, keep swaddling up to the bar and ordering another round of Nix B’ball, with a side of colossal disappointment.

So when I got home late Thurs. eve, I wasn’t overly shocked to click on Firefox and discover that the very interwebs itself seemed to collectively howl with ear-rattling disappointment. Not that it was a shocker. For those who don’t recall (possibly due to the aforementioned head-as-hammer maneuver described above), feel free to hum along with a couple of these rock n’ roll classics:

Renaldo Balkman over Rajon Rondo.

Channing Frye over Danny Granger and/or Andrew Bynum

Jordan Hill over Ty Lawson or DeJuan Blair (No, I’m not mentioning Brandon Jennings. I honestly think he’s a mini-Iverson & royally overrated, based mainly on a 55-point night and a scorching shooting streak in Nov. )

Even Wilson Chandler over Marc Gasol, Carl Landry and Rudy Fernandez even looks dicey in retrospect.

And of course, the immortal Fred Weis over Ron Artest

Naturally, in hindsight, it’s easy to cherry pick an all-star team. The thing about the draft is that, unlike the actual games themselves, we, the fans, can credibly maintain the notion that we can do just as good a job as the pros. It’s why the folks who actually attend the thing live are filled with such rabid vitriol, methinks. We certainly can’t even begin to entertain the notion that we could can a 15-footer off a pick and roll, but evaluating who to take? C’mon! We spend hours evaluating these cats and it’s our fracking hobby. And with the explosion of data available online coupled with the geometric progression of advanced statistical analysis (and your humble correspondent is still quite the newbie in that regard), there are times when we’re actually right – we do know as much as the scouts/GM’s/ESPN wags.

And of course, the whole “draft grading” process is pretty darn silly. Yes, the scribes are going batshit over the Landry Fields/Andy Rautins thing. Brother, please.

The one draft in the last 10 years that the ink-stained wretches were thrilled about the Nix pix was in ’03 (or as Chad Ford’s nightmares call it, “Darko over Melo/Wade/Bosh.”).

http://sports.espn.go.com/nbadraft/d03/story?id=1573414

So take heart, true believers. We’ll know in a few years

Speaking of the so-called experts, it seems that conventional wisdom (an oxymoron if ever there was one), has decreed that SheShmron is headed to Chicago/Miami/back in Cleveland/even the Clips – basically, anywhere but our fair burgh. With that in mind, (‘cause, you know, those guys are like, never wrong) here’s one way forward that eschews signing any of the big names come July 1st. And I take it as a given that Donnie Walsh scours our humble blog on a daily basis and will provide my ideas as a quality plan Z, should all else fail.

1. Trade Kevin Love & Ramon Sessions for Eddy Curry & Toney Douglas & cash considerations.

I think given Kahn’s various miscues. One could pry Kevin Love off his hands before he realizes what he’s got. The above deal saves Minny beacoup cash and gives M’DA a legit PG. As much as I loathe the thought of giving up DWTDD, to get Love, it’d be worth it.

2. Trade Rudy Fernandez for Wilson Chandler

Given the rumors that Walsh and the walking corpse of Kevin Pritchard were discussing Chandler for Rudy AND the 22nd pick, one would have to think that a straight swap would be doable. Rudy’d be perfect in SSOL.

3. Sign Shaun Livingston, Ian Mahinmi and Travis Outlaw

Here are three young players w/serious upside who probably won’t be re-signed by their respective squads. DC’s got Wall/Hinrich to play point, San Antonio has Duncan McDyess, Blair, Tiago Splitter and now Ryan Reynolds up front and the Clips just drafted Aminu at SF and Donald Sterling’s arms don’t reach his pockets.

My rudimentary math says the above septuplet would come to about 18-22 million in salary. Combined with the cats still on the roster (I’d re-up Bill “Sky” Walker and the Earl of Barron) and ditching FDPSHECEC (Fat, debtor, possible sexual harasser Eddy Curry’s expiring contract gives the ‘Bockers about 28 million in salary commitment for this season, and more importantly, well under the cap moving forward, say for when CP3 eventually hits the market.

This’d be the rotation in 2010-11:

PG Sessions Livingston

SG Fernandez Walker Livingston

SF Gallinari Walker Outlaw

PF Love Outlaw

C Barron Mahinmi

Bench: Rautins, Fields and a few D-leaguers TBD

That’s a decent team for when the KG-like player does become available via trade.

So? Whaddaya think? Good ideas? Reasonable perspective? Remember, I am a mere blogger, nervously typing this in my underwear in mother’s basement AND a Knicks fan, so please be gentle. My fragile pysche/self-esteem can’t take too severe a blow.

Knicks Also Nab Jerome Jordan

44th pick: Jerome Jordan
(Acquired in trade with Milwaukee – pending league approval)
[Scouting Reports: Draft Express, NBA Draft.Net, HoopsAnalyst]

Well here is the big man that Knick fans were hoping for on draft night. For second round centers, Jordan isn’t a bad option. Statistically he stacks up reasonably well against other centers picked near him like Dexter Pittman and Solomon Alabi. He has legitimate size for an NBA center (7-1, 235 lbs) and in college did fairly well with regards to scoring, rebounding, and blocking shots. On the other hand he has some weaknesses, including inferior strength, a lack of intensity, and learning the game late in life. However there isn’t a second round center without a laundry list of flaws. His ability to knock down the mid-range jumper and run the floor should make him D’Antoni friendly.

Knicks Draft Rautins and Fields

38th pick: Andy Rautins
[NBADraft.Net, Draft Express, HoopsAnalyst]

39th pick: Landry Fields
[NBADraft.Net, Draft Express, HoopsAnalyst]

In my mock draft, I grabbed two guys that wouldn’t have fit D’Antoni’s system very well. It appears that Donnie Walsh had the exact opposite idea. Although the Knicks needed some defensive big men to protect the paint, New York turned to players that are known for their scoring and are likely to fit into D’Antoni’s offense.

To say that these picks were unexpected is an understatement. Neither DraftExpress nor NBADraft.Net had either player in their mock draft. Much like past picks of Renaldo Balkman (Rondo), Jordan Hill (Ty Lawson), Toney Douglas (DaJuan Blair), and Channing Frye (Andrew Bynum) there will be questions going forward whether the Knicks should have taken a higher profile player (Varnado, Stephenson, etc.)

Last year D’Antoni had two players that didn’t necessarily fit his mold, as Jordan Hill appeared to be too raw offensively and Toney Douglas was a point guard that isn’t a natural distributor. This year should be different. Rautins ability to hit the three ball at a high rate (40.75) combined with strong court vision should make him a good option in the half court. Meanwhile Fields ability to get to the hole and draw contact (8.8 FTA/40 pace adjusted) should be a much needed addition to a team that was second worst in the NBA at getting to the free throw line. Hence Knick fans should expect more playing time from these two players than Hill or Douglas received last year.

As for whether or not these players will pan out, the pundits are skeptical. HoopsAnalyst’s Ed Weiland said that Rautins “looks like nothing more than a very valuable college role player” and NBADraft.Net questioned his “athleticism, size and strength.” On the other hand Weiland speculated that Fields “good enough to find a place in a rotation and possibly stick in the league for a long time.” The next step in these player’s evaluation will be in July’s summer league, which is usually a good yard stick for how one will transition from college to the NBA.

THN Mock: With the 38th & 39th picks New York selects…

38th pick: Jarvis Varnado
[Scouting Reports: Draft Express, NBADraft.Net, HoopsAnalyst]

If Varnado is still on the board after New York is done with their second pick, I will throw something at my television screen. I, like other Knick fans, have suffered through years of opposing teams coming into the Garden and having an E-Z Pass to the hoop. Sure there were Mutombo and Balkman, and perhaps Jerome James had a moment or two. Last year Jared Jeffries led the team in blocked shots per game with 1.1. For Vornado to beat that, he’d just need 8 minutes of playing time per game (if he kept his senior year rate). The lack of a presence in the paint is just not cutting it, especially for Knick fans that grew up rooting for defensively dominating teams. Unlike some of the shot blockers the Knicks have brought in from the D-League, Varnado can contribute in a few areas. He’s not just a one trick pony and can rebound & score efficiently around the hoop.

Yes there is a problem fitting Varnado into D’Antoni’s offense, but taking guys to match a coach’s system is foolish. Since D’Antoni likes playing 6’9 forwards at center, then why not give him one that plays like a center? Varnado isn’t going to extend the defense by pulling the opposing center away from the basket with his jumper as coach likes, but he’s not going to take shots he can’t hit. Like in Lee’s early career, Varnado is going to stay near the hoop and be highly efficient with the shots he takes. Oh and if the Knicks sign a big name offensive player this summer, they’re going to need someone to play some defense.

39th pick: Jeremy Lin
[Scouting Reports: NBADraft.Net, DraftExpress, HoopsAnalyst]

Perhaps a reach here, especially with Willie Warren and Mikhail Torrance still available. I wouldn’t be upset with Torrance, but Warren’s indifference to defense is a real turnoff for me. Not that Jeremy Lin is a lock down defender, but his peripheral numbers are much better than either player’s and he more than held his own against some good teams (UConn, Boston College and Georgetown).

The two knocks on Lin are his ability to be a true point guard and his jump shot. The latter is something that a host of players have remedied, and seems to be one skill that a player can theoretically change. (When is the last time you heard about a player working on their steals or rebounding?) The former might be a problem with D’Antoni, but considering the team’s lack of a true shooting guard (Wilson Chandler should really be a small forward), it’s possible that he could see time with a smaller bench unit. Of course if the Knicks grab a free agent that can run the offense, then Lin becomes a good sized point guard who doesn’t have to handle the rock.

By taking Lin, I’d probably score a hit with the Knicks marketing department as well. The tri-state area has a sizable Asian population, and I’m sure that if Lin made the rotation, jersey sales might go up a fraction.

True Hoop Network Mock Draft:
1 Washington – John Wall
2 Philadelphia – Evan Turner
3 New Jersey – Derrick Favors
4 Minnesota – Wesley Johnson
5 Sacramento – DeMarcus Cousins
6 Golden St. – Greg Monroe
7 Detroit – Ekpe Udoh
8 LA Clippers – Al-Farouq Aminu
9 Utah – Xavier Henry
10 Indiana – Paul George
11 New Orleans – Cole Aldrich
12 Memphis – Ed Davis
13 Toronto – Avery Bradley
14 Houston – Patrick Patterson
15 Milwaukee – Gordon Hayward
16 Minnesota – Hassan Whiteside
17 Chicago – Luke Babbitt
18 Miami – Eric Bledsoe
19 Boston – James Anderson
20 San Antonio – Damion James
21 Oklahoma Cty – Daniel Orton
22 Portland – Solomon Alabi
23 Minnesota – Kevin Seraphin
24 Atlanta – Larry Sanders
25 Memphis – Dominique Jones
26 Oklahoma Cty – Tibor Pleiss
27 New Jersey – Jordon Crawford
28 Memphis – Elliot Williams
29 Orlando – Quincy Pondexter
30 Washington – Craig Brackins

31 New Jersey – Stanley Robinson
32 Oklahoma Cty – Trevor Booker
33 Sacramento – Ryan Richards
34 Portland – Armon Johnson
35 Washington – Darington Hobson
36 Detroit – Gani Lawal
37 Milwaukee – Lance Stephenson