2011 Report Card: Chauncey Billups

In a way, Chauncey Billups is a holdover from a bygone era. After the 2003-04 season — mere weeks after the Billups-led Pistons upended a fractious Lakers squad 4-1 in the Finals — the NBA rolled out rule changes that clamped down on what defenders could get away with, particularly on the perimeter.

For bigger, more physical guards like Billups, that meant no more hand-checking to make up for a lack of lateral speed and quickness. In doing so, the league was paving the way for a new era of guard-friendly, higher scoring, and less physical play. Two Steve Nash MVPs and one dizzying influx of young, uber-athletic point guards later, Billups is very much the exception to the new rule – and rulers – of today’s NBA.

As such, landing Billups in the Carmelo Anthony deal was, for Knick fans, a little like the owner of an IRL team acquiring a first-tier stock car from NASCAR: it might be a winner, and you very well could have a chance to trade it in for arguably the best Indy car out there (in this case, Chris Paul). But in the mean time, you’re basically stuck trying to fit a powerful-but-not-very-nimble machine into the winding, speed-and-quickness-dependent IRL track that is Mike D’Antoni’s offense. Square peg, round hole.

These and other unknowns aside, one thing most were sure Billups would provide was reliable, efficient  shooting. However, his injury-stymied stint in the orange and blue was anything but keeping with recent trends, as Billups saw his TS% drop by 50 points (63% to 58%) from his first 51 games in Denver. Meanwhile, his 3PT% fell by a whopping 110 points (44% to 33%).

Despite running with two elite scorers in Melo and Stat, Billups’ usage rate (21.4 to 24.3, his highest ever) as well as his FGAs per 36 (11.7 to 14, also his highest ever) both shot up noticeably. Meanwhile, his assists per 36 (6.3 vs. 6.2 career), and rebounds per 36 (3.5 vs. 3.3) went up slightly, in part due to the slightly faster pace.

More ethereally, Billlups struggled noticeably in pick and roll situations, often forcing bad shots or simply missing the open cutter. Moreover, Chauncey’s inability to find a consistent groove with Amar’e Stoudemire mirrored what seemed at times to be an over-reliance on feeding Carmelo Anthony in isolation.

On defense he had trouble containing smaller, quicker point guards, giving as much as he took in matchups with the likes of Ramon Sessions and Jameer Nelson. And with the exception of a very big one against Miami on February 27th, his Mr. Big Shot moniker seemed at times like it could have been replaced with “Mr. What the Hell Kind of Shot Was That”?

True, sustaining a deep thigh contusion (from the knee of Dwight Howard, no less) that sidelines you for six games certainly doesn’t help.  And neither does missing three of the four games of the Boston series with a knee strain. Knowing how important a solid point guard is to Mike D’Antoni’s offense, Billups’ nagging injuries may have contributed more than anything to the veteran’s stunted stretch. More importantly, it threw out of whack what was already a very fragile work in progress.

Which brings us back to the earlier point about race cars: Will the (hopefully healthy) team that shapes out over the summer and early fall look more like the one pre-Melo trade (IRL), or the one after (NASCAR)?

Will Billups work hard enough on his endurance and conditioning to handle the quicker pace?

Will another training camp help push Toney Douglas up a rung, to where we might see a Douglas-Billups backcourt for 25-30 minutes a game?

If the Knicks indeed draft a Reggie Jackson, Josh Selby or Darrius Morris, where will he fit in?

For all the question marks — and there are many — one thing is clear: a full training camp with his new teammates should go a long way in determining  whether the statistical red flags of Chauncey’s first 22 games as a Knick were an anomaly, or simply what’s to be expected going forward from a 35-year-old point guard with more than 1000 NBA games in his legs.

 

Report Card (5 point scale):

Offense: 3
Defense: 2
Teamwork: 3
Rootability: 3
Performance/Expectations: 3

Final Grade: B-

Similarity Scores:

PlayerID FLName Year Age Tm PER TS_P eFG_P PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
0 Chauncey Billups 2011 34 TOT 18.7 .617 .519 18.8 0.4 3.0 6.0 1.1 0.2 2.8
0.088 Terry Porter 1998 34 MIN 17.3 .586 .529 15.7 0.7 3.4 5.5 1.3 0.3 2.1
0.140 Jeff Hornacek 1998 34 UTA 19.3 .587 .516 16.7 1.0 4.0 5.1 1.6 0.2 1.9
0.151 Fred Brown 1983 34 SEA 17.7 .546 .529 20.5 0.8 2.4 6.1 1.5 0.3 2.8
0.152 Gail Goodrich 1978 34 NOJ 16.2 .545 .495 18.4 1.1 2.5 5.5 1.2 0.3 2.9
0.157 Sam Cassell 2004 34 MIN 22.8 .566 .517 20.3 0.6 3.4 7.5 1.3 0.2 2.8
0.185 Brad Davis 1990 34 DAL 13.7 .575 .538 13.1 0.3 2.6 6.7 1.3 0.3 2.4
0.193 Detlef Schrempf 1997 34 SEA 18.3 .592 .531 16.8 1.4 6.5 4.4 1.0 0.3 2.5
0.245 Randy Smith 1983 34 TOT 14.5 .532 .486 17.0 0.9 2.5 5.3 1.4 0.0 2.5
0.255 Mark Aguirre 1994 34 LAC 13.1 .544 .522 17.3 1.2 4.9 4.4 0.9 0.3 2.9
0.273 Earl Boykins 2011 34 MIL 17.6 .526 .482 17.0 0.6 2.3 5.9 1.6 0.1 2.2

A Quick Look at Knicks Draft Prospects, Part II

Click on the link to see part I.

I’ll take a look at four additional players that may be available when New York selects at #17. As in the previous version, stats per season courtesy draftexpress.com.

6. Tyler Honeycutt, G/F, UCLA

Numbers that matter: true shooting (55%, 52), ft/fg (47%, 30), Rebs* (9.6, 8.1), Asts* (4, 3.2), TOs* (3.6, 3.4)
* pace-adjusted per 40 minutes

Honeycutt is a very intriguing and perplexing player to me. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him slide to round 2. Nor would it surprise me to see him as a consensus lottery selection in next week’s mock drafts. He fits the profile of a fast-riser in the draft: athletic wing player, long-limbed, with three-point range.

For reasons that are unclear to me Honeycutt transformed himself from a slasher to a three-point gunner after his freshman season. He dramatically increased his three-point attempts with a slight increase in accuracy, but his declining ft/fg more than offset any efficiency gains from becoming a gunner. I don’t know if Honeycutt’s transformation came at the request of his coach or by his own assessment of his draft prospects. Either way, he became less efficient as a sophomore.

Still, there’s a lot to like about Honeycutt (and I like him a lot). He has length, and he has a frame that should hold more weight. He has plenty of athleticism and he has skill. He even set the offense for UCLA at times. If I have a criticism in the handful of times I have seen him play, it is that he will at times forsake the simple play for something more grandiose. (For instance, he missed a layup in UCLA’s tournament game versus Florida trying to avoid contact and make a spectacular finish rather than absorbing contact and shooting free throws.)

7. Jimmer Fredette, G, BYU

Numbers that matter: true shooting (55%, 60, 62, 59), ft/fg (20%, 36, 51, 37), Asts* (3.6, 5, 5.7, 4.5), TOs* (2.4, 3.1, 3.3, 3.7)

I first saw Fredette when he dropped almost 50 on my beloved Arizona Wildcats as a junior. He put the ball on the floor and drove past solid perimeter defenders. He shot from range. He got to the line. I think it’s interesting that he is so polarizing as a prospect. I don’t think it’s about his game, which translates fairly straightforwardly to the NBA I think. He’s a college star whose limitations will keep him from NBA stardom, but who could become a very good NBA player–eventually a candidate for 6th man of the year even–in a reduced role. It is unlikely that he can be a primary scorer for a playoff-caliber NBA team. He is a backup combo guard for a screen and roll oriented team whose bread-and-butter is his jump shot. Fredette probably fits best in a structured offense where he is not the only ball handler, where he can space the floor and can come off screens. I suspect Utah’s highly-choreographed offense is the best fit (assuming they keep it). However, I think he could play for D’Antoni and contribute. My fear about New York drafting him is the out-sized rhetoric coming from both his supporters and his detractors.

8. Lucus Noguiera, C, Brazil

Numbers that matter: N/A

Right now, some question exists about whether Noguiera will remain in the draft. Even if he does, some questions remain about whether he is ready and/or willing to come to the NBA this coming season. He is an intriguing but uber-raw prospect; all arms, legs, and potential.

9. Justin Harper, F, Richmond

Numbers that matter: true shooting (54%, 52, 57, 64), ft/fg (21%, 28, 25, 26), Rebs (6.4, 8.3, 8.7, 9.1), TOs* (2.1, 2.7, 2.2, 2.0)

Do you judge a prospect by what he does or what he should be expected to do? That is the question, and Harper is the proverbial prospect that polarizes people on the question. Harper has been an efficient offensive player, particularly over his last two seasons at Richmond (a quality program that improved in large part because of him). He’s been a steadily improving, if unspectacular rebounder. He improved his free-throw shooting from wretched to quite good. He stands a shade under 6’9” with long arms. He is a jump shooting combo forward, not unlike Kyle Singler but better. A good pro comparison is probably Extra E. He has the kind of size and shooting ability that would be welcome in New York. He is a quintessential stretch four.

So what’s not to like? Well, unlike Kenneth Faried, Harper may have actually suffered from the standard college practice of adding an inch (or two) to a player’s height. I saw Harper listed everywhere from 6’9”- 6’11” while at Richmond, and when combined with his chiseled frame and long arms he suffered the type-casting that comes with that kind of perceived size. According to combine measures Harper is in fact heavier and taller than Faried (though it is worth noting that Faried is a smidgen longer-armed). But their games couldn’t be more different. People look at Harper, then look at Faried and think, “If Harper only played with Faried’s intensity…” Scouts and analysts have continuously questioned Harper’s motor, but I think most of that is a function of their expectations that he should be a more physical player.

Right now, Harper is one of my favorite prospects in terms of potential and fit for New York. The only reason he’s not higher on this list is that I am hoping people continue to see him as a late first/early second pick. That way New York may be able to trade down, pick up a second, and still get him.

Robert and John go to the 2011 NBA Draft Lottery

Woo! Lottery time again! For the past ten years we devout ‘Bocker Backers, after another underwhelming, physically enervating, drive-a-sane-fellow-to-drink season, could at least look forward to seeing Ed Tapscott’s Scott Layden’s Isiah Thomas’s Donnie Walsh’s dour face on the dais, waiting to see how the ping-pong balls bounce…

What’s that you say? The Knicks aren’t lottery-bound this year? You’re kidding? Oh, right. STAT, ‘Melo, playoffs. I almost forgot. My bad.

But even without a NY presence, because Knickerbloggeristas demand TOTAL coverage, your humble correspondents, the nattily-dressed scribe John Kenney and I, were dispatched to the NBA Entertainment© Studios  in lovely downtown Secaucus, NJ to get the skinny. Below is a (more or less), unedited, moment-by-moment account of the proceedings. Johnny K’s going to start us off as I was trapped in the city until about 6pm, queuing for an audition for a Leffe beer commercial where they had me say, “So light doesn’t mean light,” about twelve or so times (For serious. This is my life). Johnny-boy, take it away…

JOHN KENNEY, 5:20pm

Robert rather eloquently describes the appearance of the NBA building below, so I’ll begin by saying that, upon entering, I headed straight for the food. Upon filling my plate with fresh pasta, I looked around the room for a place to sit. The tables were interestingly divided into “tables-of-people-I-know-I-can’t-sit-with” (such as Dan Gilbert’s table with a mix of children and Cleveland Browns) and “tables-of-people-I-don’t-know-and-might-not-be-interested-by.” I finally decided to sit by a bald newsman and his elder counterpart. Luckily for me, that counterpart was Jazz GM Kevin O’Connor. After learning that O’Connor was originally from New York and engaging in some chit-chat over Jorge Posada, I was able to turn the conversation to the Deron Williams trade, a conversation which is recapped here. After concluding with Mr. O’Connor, I walked to the media workroom to watch David Stern and Adam Silver attempt to defend the owners’ claim that salaries need to be drastically reduced. I was glad to receive a text from Robert saying he had finally arrived, and although it took us a few minutes to meet up, (side note: Robert was most certainly the only person at the event worried he would be overdressed in jeans) we eventually were able to combine our Knickerblogger-interviewing-powers and set off together to scour the room. 

ROBERT SILVERMAN, 6:28pm

So after finally making my way to Penn Station and climbing aboard NJ Transit, I ener this very Gehry-inspired, heavily-secured compound that evidently serves as the corporate HQ of NBA Entertainment. Lawd-a-mercy, I am impressed. Whether it’s Bernard King’s warmup togs in the memorabilia case or the high-class grub (Seared Ahi tuna with Wasabi crème, a freaking Risotto bar), this is a preem-o gala. After some techno-fumbling, John and I locate each other in the press room, where The Commish, David Stern and his uber-ectomorphic consigliere, Adam Silver are slinging platitudes about the inevitable potential lockout next season. Honestly, I’m geeking about the press room because it looks like…well…a real, honest-to-goondness press room. You have to understand, I (perhaps foolishly) cling to the romantic notion of the mild-mannered muckraker for a major metropolitan newspaper, press tag tucked into his/her fedora and chain-smoking incessantly. You know, ink-stained wretches and whatnot. Maybe I’ve watched His Girl Friday too many times, but part of me still fancies the idea that a newspaper gig is still all high pants n’ fast talkin‘ (in the best possible sense). Needless to say, the real deal is manna from heaven for yours truly.

But ye gods, enough of my mooning/waxing nostalgic! There are NBA professionals out there to be interviewed, GM’s and bigwigs and ex-players galore. So John and I split up to cover as much ground as possible.

JOHN K., 6:35pm

So, you’re not going to believe this, but David Kahn was there, as somehow the Timberwolves fail-proof plan of creating a team of point-guards had not led them to the postseason. After another reporter asked a question about Ricky Rubio’s availability, Kahn responded with one of the most unintentionally funny responses I’ve ever heard.

DAVID KAHN
You know, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on Ricky’s situation – he’s still in season over there – so, I’m not going to say anything on that topic.

JOHN KENNEY (unspoken, internal monologue)
Uh, you know you drafted the guy right? That you promised he’d be coming to Minnesota? The guy didn’t ask about Rubio’s girlfriend, he asked if he was coming to Minnesota!

Anyway, most reporters were disappointed by the answer and walked away, but yours truly hadn’t forgotten who they should REALLY have been asking about…Anthony Randolph! (Full disclosure: I don’t care what the advanced stats say about Randolph, I like him, and I can’t help it. I would need to see an entirely different kind of sports psychologist to get over this. [Robert adds: Ditto]) I mentioned that AR had come on strongly at the end of the year, and Kahn responded by praising his ability, especially given that he is still so young. I was at first baffled by his statement that Randolph could develop into a low-post compliment to Kevin Love, but I suppose it makes sense: Randolph is long and athletic, and Love is, well, not. But could a Randolph-Love frontcourt really defend, um, anyone? I guess the T-Wolves’ fans will just have to trust in Kahn. Don’t laugh.

ROBERT S., 7:01pm

I’m hunkered down with Paul Silas. It took me a few seconds to remember which team he was currently coaching him but luckily, I diverted from my faulty memory by mentioning that I’d seen him play for the Sonics during the ’78-’79 season going up against Bob McAdoo & the ‘Bockers which led to this exchange:

PAUL SILAS
Oh man, Mac was a load. One time, we were going up against Buffalo in the ’74 playoffs and he was just torching Dave Cowens. So Dave comes up to me and asks me to take Mac for a few plays, just so he can catch his breath.

ROBERT SILVERMAN
Did you shut him down?

PAUL
Hell no! He kept hitting that rainbow jumper of his and Dave wouldn’t switch back for the rest of the game! (Silas cackles)

ROBERT
Anyone playing today remind you of yourself?

PAUL (Cackling louder)
They don’t let anyone play like I did these days.

Sweet.

I start to ask if there’s anyone in the draft he’s got his eye on, when a teen at our table, (who’d actually been strip-mining his nose a la Spaulding Smails [and similarly decked out in his finest Yacht Club gear] during the above conversation) starts interrupting, asking Silas a series of rapid-fire questions — what he thought of Rajon Rondo, the Celts, the Thunder — basically doing everything in his power to sidetrack my parlez with Paul Silas. At first I thought he was just an annoying kid, but I snuck a peek at his credentials and it turned out he was in some fashion employed by the Bobcats and was trying to keep a lid on whatever inside dope on the ‘Cats draft plans their coach might have inadvertently spilled. Clever lil’ sprog.

JOHN K., 7:14pm

Joe Dumars is probably a really nice guy, but wasn’t really up to the whole “being-interviewed” thing. Nevertheless, maintaining my unbroken streak of finding random former Knicks attached to the team of whomever I’m interviewing, I got him to describe Tracy McGrady as a versatile defender and playmaker. Mission accomplished.

ROBERT S., 7:20pm

For any of you who watched the Knickerbockers on cable from the late 80’s – late 90’s on the MSG Network©, even when the team was doing poorly, one could always count on some rollicking good fun from the announcing team of Marv Albert and John “Johnny Hoops” Andariese. (the color guy, pre-Clyde). While some may delight in Frazier’s linguistic gymnastics, I think the true broadcasting connoisseur delighted in Andariese’s particular hook. Part of it was Marv seemed to take sadistic pleasure in mocking Andariese with his particular brand of caustic/dry/sadistic wit. Johnny Hoops had the Ed McMahon/”I’ll laugh even though the joke isn’t that funny” bit down pat. More that that, to be blunt, Andariese had (and still has, on the radio) a fascination with basketball players’ bodies that often crossed the line separating an unquestionably heterosexual appreciation of athletic prowess into…well…oiled, Grecian, sweaty, thinly-veiled homoeroticism (you know, like the movie, 300).

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to snicker/reveal any closeted homophobia on my part, but lemme tell ya, our guy John just really dug men’s bodies (Cue Jerry Seinfeld, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”).  Any time he described a noteworthy play, as a matter of course, he’d mention that player’s height and pepper his commentary with gushing adoration about said player’s physicality. For example, when he’d say: “The strength of the 6’9″ Charles Oakley in the post is thrilling. He willed himself to outmuscle the (fill in opposing team here) for that rebound. He would not be denied,” you could sense a seething lust just simmering below the surface in way he verbally punched the italicized words/syllables above.

Alas, I can’t seem to unearth a YouTube clip of John A.’s verbal stylings as evidence, but trust me, it was unique. Naturally, when I see him at the Lottery, I have to ask for an interview/express what a fan I was back in the day. We go through a few pro forma questions, “What did you think of the Knicks’ season?” “Do you think Walsh is coming back?” etc. and got the usual, politic responses. Then I asked,  “What do you think the team needs to do to take the next step?” and Mr. Andariese said this:

JOHN ANDARIESE
They’ve got to love each other more

ROBERT SILVERMAN
Uh huh

JOHN
They’ve got to know that the guy in the huddle is their brother and would do anything for them. They need to feel the love.

ROBERT
Right

JOHN
But that’s all there for them, the love, lying in wait.

Fin.

Effing beautiful. I loves me some John Andariese as only a man can love another man. Men!

ROBERT S., 8:05pm

They start flicking the lights in our buffet tent (just like in a B’way show!) which signals that the ping-pongery is about to begin. Through a circuitous set of tunnels we go and whomp, there we are in on set. Jay Bilas is at his desk (Bilas, to my surprise, has got some serious length/wingspan. I wonder what his athleticism/ridiculous upside is.) The stage manager (the theatrical similarities don’t cease) explains the rules and we settle into our seats. As y’all well know by now, there’s a kid at the Cavs’ podium, dressed not unlike a miniature, Caucasian Malcolm X. He’s seated right next to David Kahn who’s doing his novel best to chat up the kid. This prompts the following exchange between John and I:

ROBERT SILVERMAN
You think the kid is trying to work out a trade w/Kahn?

JOHN KENNEY
Yeah, the kid’s offering to switch seats w/Kahn in exchange for a top-three protected 1st round pick in 2014

ROBERT
I think Kahn wants to know how to tie that bow tie. Those are hard to do and definitely makes one look smarter. Thinks it’ll help w/future negotiations

JOHN
The kid is countering by asking for Kevin Love in exchange for J.J. Hickson, the bow tie & lessons on how to tie it.

High comedy, indeed…

ROBERT S., 8:10pm

Oo. We’re shown a live Heather Cox update from Conference Room 3a™, deep in the bowels of NBA Entertainment©, which, we’re informed, has been hermetically sealed and coated with a thick layer of lead to prevent wireless, radioactive, vermin or any other kind of infestation/information-leaking as the ping pong balls are plucked by a phalanx of bean-counters from the prestigious and ethically unimpeachable firm of  Ernst & Young LLC. The morally unassailable trio emerges from Conference Room 3a™,  wielding Samsonite briefcases (that we can only assume are handcuffed to their wrists) and scurrying to another room to reveal the results of the ponderous proceedings.

Needless to say, the mock seriousness/solemnity of the lottery is borderline hilarious. Criminy, one faux-controversy about David Stern pawing at the bin for the “frozen/bent envelope” so that the Knicks got Ewing back in ’85 and we have to go through all this mishegas.

ROBERT S., 8:13pm

Speak of the devil! David Stern sneaks into the room and semi-awkwardly takes a seat off to the side. No grand entrance, no pomp and/or circumstance, rather, The Grand Poobah himself kind of shuffled in from the side, trying not to draw inordinate attention to himself. On the other hand, Stern seems genuinely thrilled to be there. He’s beaming like the Bar-Mitzvah boy’s grandfather at Rodeph Sholom and quietly clapping and blurting out, “Yay!” at random/seemingly innocuous events like the aforementioned stage manager reading the instructions.

ROBERT S., 8:16pm

So we’ve gone through the high holy picking of the sacred balls and Utah and Cleveland have moved up. John’s going to explain this because I’m confused

JOHN K., 8:17pm

So, basically at this point we knew that New Jersey and the Clippers had each traded top-three picks away. When the Cavs pick via Clippers moved up into the top three, David Stern looked like his grandson had just been named valedictorian and/or scored a date to the prom with Christina Hendricks. Huge, guano-eating grin. Those two picks moving up also made a lot of teams’ selections worse, with the Raptors now picking 5th despite having the 3rd worst record.

ROBERT S., 8:18pm

I kinda agree with David Kahn. Not that the lottery is fixed (I know, I know, he was [semi] kidding), but that once Danny Gilbert’s scion got up onstage, it was all over. For cripes’ sake, the gosh-darn theatricality of it was too perfect. They sent an adorable mite with a freaking tumor to represent Cleveland, a city that was perceived as doomed/tragic/boned even BTD (Before “The Decision”). Of course they’re going to win the lottery and perpetuate the “The Clippers are equally doomed/tragic/boned” meme for not getting any protection on the pick they sent to Ohio as Baron Davis’ dowry. If there’s one thing I do know, it’s dramatic structure and hoo-boy, did Stern deliver the goods like Euripides in his prime.

ROBERT S., 8:22pm

Y’all may not know this, but I have one of the loudest natural speaking voices in Christendom and unless I consciously monitor it, I tend to broadcast my thoughts/opinions to anyone and everyone in the general vicinity. I mention this because when I lean over to John and say, “Doesn’t Kevin O’Connor (The Jazz’ GM) look like the Headmaster of an all-boys boarding school somewhere in New England? Like Philips Exeter, maybe?” My pithy bit of wit is overheard by the entire left side of the bleachers, including Chairman Stern, who, amidst scattered guffaws by his entourage, shoots me a look. For about half a second (but what seemed like an eternity), I thought I was about to be garroted. It reminded me of the time I was at MSG in ’85 and I spilled half a Coke on Dave DeBusschere’s (GM at the time) shoes and he tried to have me kicked out of the arena.  But lo, the man himself just slyly smirked and let be, like the Zen Warrior/Monk/Poet/Badass he is.

JOHN K., 8:50pm

So the lottery had concluded, and the crowd had moved back to the Hospitality room to watch the Mavericks vs the Thunder / take advantage of the unlimited cheeseburger sliders. Suddenly, I heard someone whispering about going to the 3D TV off in the corner, so naturally I followed along. Before you know it, I’m standing with Jay Bilas, Heather Cox, and Kevin Johnson (Mayor of Sacramento and former NBA player), wearing special glasses and watching Russell Westbrook fly up the court in 3D. This is the type of thing that happens at the NBA Draft Lottery. Unfortunately, Bilas didn’t describe the product’s tremendous upside or potential, but Johnson did remark that it was quite the experience.

JOHN K., 9:12pm

So, I’m getting ready to leave, and I need to borrow Robert’s phone to call a cab (as mine has died). Mind you, Robert is wearing a tweed jacket, jeans, and hipster glasses. I would have bet up to $50 that he was going to pull an Apple product out of his pocket. But lo and behold, his phone of choosing appears to be from 2001. Robert’s explanation that this particular phone is in alignment with his political ideology fails to convince my collegiate mind, so I let him know that the next decade is calling him, whenever he decides to join. Overall, the day was a terrific experience, and I look forward to joining Robert again next year.

ROBERT S., 9:27pm

I hesitate to mention this, but I’m still getting the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it so here goes…Post-lottery I too was in the dining stent, scarfing up fancy cupcakes when I stumble upon [redacted] having a conversation with [redacted] about some fairly sensitive upcoming [redacted]. It was a seemingly public chat (there were three or four other writers around [redacted]), so naturally, I started taking notes. The convo’s over so I begin to walk away when suddenly, I feel a hand on my shoulder and [redacted] is saying in a clearly threatening tone, “You always listen in on private conversations and take notes?” I stammer something about not knowing it was private and [redacted] gets right in my grill, and says, “That’s on background, got it?” I crumble like Jared Jeffries in the low post and promise not to write about it (not very Cary Grant-esque behavior on my part, I know)

[Redacted] leaves and I’m kinda shaken. I mean, I just got leaned on! And he used journalist-y argot and everything! Part of me really wanted to go back and get into it with him about the laws regarding expectation of privacy and whatnot, but [redacted] was pretty big/tall/scary so I settled for feeling like a real newspaperman who just got the squeeze put on him by a hired goon.

Even better, our little tet-a-tet certainly wasn’t on background so I can certainly regale y’all with the tale here.

C’est tout, mes gars. Oh yeah, one last thing. While the cameras were running I did my darndest to steal some face time. You can see me over Bilas’s shoulder at the 2:14 and 2:49 mark here. I’m the bloke with the beard pretending he’s macking on the (cheap-o) cellular. Shoulda worn my fedora…

A Quick Look at Knicks Draft Prospects, Part I

As you are no doubt aware the Knicks have the 17th overall selection in the upcoming draft (pending lockout notwithstanding). So mock season is upon us.

I thought I’d take an abbreviated look at some of the prospects NY may be considering at the selection. Keeping in mind that Donnie moves in mysterious ways, I will hold off on making any sort of predictions about what the Knicks will do. Rather, this is just a general discussion of a few prospects who may be around at #17, and where they might fit in NY’s plans.

To begin, I’ll state that I have my doubts about whether NY will find an immediate rotation player at #17 in this particular draft. However, despite some of the hand-wringing I see among the pundits, I think this draft will feature some high-quality NBA starters after a couple years.

Also, I think the Knicks should approach this draft thinking “best player available.” Some of the team’s most pressing needs (i.e., perimeter depth and defensive rebounding) will have to be met in the market or through improvements from current players more than the draft. If a player is available at 17 who fills a need, fantastic. But, NY should look to the this draft to improve the overall talent and depth it lost in the recent roster churn. I list a decent-sized handful in order of how much they intrigue me. Note: stats listed per season are courtesy of draftexpress.com.

1. Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead St.

Numbers that matter: true shooting (53%, 57, 58, 62), ft/fg (34%, 54, 60, 64), rebs* (16.7, 17.7, 17.4, 17.2), TOs* (3.3, 3, 3.2, 3.1) *pace-adjusted per 40 minutes

For what Faried is–a demonic freak of an undersized, rebounding PF–everything is where you’d expect it to be statistically. We know that rebounding generally translates from college to pro, and Faried’s college production is incredibly consistent in this area when considering the attention he draws. What impresses me most the times I have seen him is that his defensive presence isn’t overly-reliant on explosiveness and energy. At a glance he appears to have some Jared Jeffries-like instincts on defense. He anticipates better than most college bigs playing at the backs of 2-3 zones; they rarely even see the opportunities for steals that Faried actually converts. He seems to understand how to play angles to discourage entry passes, as well as defensive rotations. Faried has the makings of a quality NBA defender, especially considering that he contributes roughly four combined blocks and steals. On offense Faried is nothing special, but his points per possession improved every year to a very respectable 1.16 as a senior. He has very good hands. He doesn’t bobble entry passes and he finishes with authority, but he’s not a black hole. He doesn’t get many assists but Morehead State’s offense is chuck-and-duck. Faried isn’t a ball-stopper. Some Knicks fans may be old enough to remember Kurt Thomas at TCU. Faried is a bit more explosive than Thomas was then, but not by much. (I know that’s hard for some to believe, but Thomas had some ups before his ankles betrayed him.) If I have a concern about Faried it is that sometimes players with his profile–undersized rebounding forward–can “age” quickly from attrition or injury. Unless they can develop a mid-range jumper their value plummets.

2. Kyle Singler, F, Duke

Numbers that matter: true shooting (57%, 55, 55, 54), ft/fg (30%, 37, 38, 30), Rebs* (7.4, 9.4, 7.9, 7.5), TOs* (2.8, 3.1, 2.2, 2.1)

Pass. Singler is no “poor man’s” Gallo. For a second there I was almost fooled by the rosy cheeks myself. Singler is a tweener who lacks a readily-discernible NBA skill.

3. Markieff Morris, PF, Kansas

Numbers that matter: true shooting (50%, 61, 64), ft/fg (45%, 64, 46), Rebs* (11.2, 11.6, 13), TOs* (3.1, 3.1, 3.2)

The slightly larger but much less-heralded of the Morris twins, I can’t help but wonder if their pro career will mirror the Grant twins’ (Horace and Harvey). Horace (Clemson) was far less-heralded than brother Harvey (Oklahoma) but the former became the better pro. Markief would play Horace’s role in the league as a defense and rebounding PF right from central casting. He’s perfectly built for the position, but has somewhat limited upside. His offensive game is still developing, but he’s already a nasty defender. It’s not clear whether he’ll be available at #17, but he seems like a Walsh kind of pick.

4. Josh Selby, G, Kansas

Numbers that matter: Incomplete

My inclination is to not read much into Selby’s single disappointing year of college production. It’s pretty clear that he would have declared out of high school given the choice. The turnovers are a big red flag, but he played so few games. Sometimes the high school stuff provides the best information on how the pro scouts see a kid. He’s explosive. He’d be the quintessential “upside” pick that NY has consistently passed on in recent years.

5. Reggie Jackson, PG, Boston College

Numbers that matter: true shooting (51%, 52, 62), ft/fg (26%, 31, 31), Asts* (3.5, 6.1, 5.4), TOs* (2.5, 3.5, 2.9)

I know a number of regulars here at Knickerblogger.net are fond of Jackson. Perhaps the light went on for him this past season. I did not seen him play this past season, where he shot 42% from three and averaged over 5 pace-adjusted assists per 40. If I have a concern it is that he shot unusually well from three last season. That could be a maturing player adding range and better understanding of when to shoot, or it could be a fluke. Nevertheless, the assist numbers alone make him an intriguing prospect to consider developing.

Next time:
6. Tyler Honeycutt, G/F, UCLA
7. Jim-mah!, G, BYU
8. Lucas Noguiera, C, Brazil
9. Justin Harper, F, Richmond

Could Deron Williams Have Been a Knick?

Think back to the week of last season’s trade deadline. The intolerable duration of the Melo saga had finally concluded when it was upstaged by the shocking trade of Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets. After months of speculation about a deal everyone knew would occur, an arguably more important trade occurred without anyone knowing about it in advance.

At Tuesday’s Draft Lottery I had the opportunity to speak with Utah Jazz GM Kevin O’Connor, and I asked him if the Knicks had the assets to obtain Deron Williams. O’Connor stated that New York GM Donnie Walsh had put together a good team with an abundance of young players and that the assets sent out in the Melo trade were the exact ones he would have targeted had he sought to trade Williams to the Knicks. However, he continued by saying that he was happy with the trade with the Nets, as it brought them both talent and youth. He vouched for Derrick Favors’ toughness and desire, saying his quiet exterior hid a strong competitive fire. And the draft picks (one of which turned into the #3 pick) were an added bonus.

At the time of the Williams trade, Knicks fans wondered if their organization knowingly turned down a deal for Deron? The All-Star point guard would have been a better fit with Amar’e. He also could have probably been obtained for less than what the Knicks gave up for Melo. Apparently this was not the case. O’Connor revealed that Donnie Walsh had inquired about Williams before the Melo trade was completed. However the Utah GM had played it cool, not revealing that his point guard was on the market. When I suggested he may have gotten a better deal had he let more teams know Deron was available, O’Connor explained that “I didn’t want people saying, no, I don’t want to be traded to this team or that team.”  To avoid leaks, they waited, content to go after whichever team  ‘lost’ the Melo sweepstakes and offer them an All-Star Point Guard Consolation Prize.

With that news, Knicks fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Had Donnie not inquired about Deron Williams, that would have been a horrible, horrible lapse of judgment. A Jazz trade could potentially have created a starting five for the Knicks of Deron Williams, Landry Fields, Andrei Kirilenko, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Timofey Mozgov (with Kirilenko thrown in for salary purposes in a trade that would have included Raymond Felton, Anthony Randolph, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, multiple picks and Eddy Curry.) That line-up has some intriguing advantages over the unit that was fielded post-Melo.

However was such a lineup obtainable? Most likely not. From Walsh’s perspective Utah wasn’t looking to make a deal so the only star in play was Carmelo Anthony. The only way Deron could have ended up in a Knick uniform was if either Carmelo Anthony wished for another team, O’Connor revealed his true hand, or another team made a stronger offer for ‘Melo. Note that none of these factors were in the Knicks control, so that it was outside forces working against Williams being shipped to New York. Apparently, Deron Williams to the Knicks wasn’t meant to be.

2011 Report Card: Derrick Brown

The Knicks snapped up Derrick Brown off waivers at the beginning of March, but rarely used him. He only saw 88 minutes of court time in a Knick uniform, which is much less than the 488 he saw in Charlotte. On the season, Brown had a robust ts% (58.8%) and appeared to be a strong defender, so he should have received more minutes. However it’s extremely likely that his non-existent three point shot is was kept him glued to the bench. Only once did Brown get to play more than 20 minutes in a single game. (I guess only Jared Jeffries has the wonderful intangibles that endears him to D’Antoni despite his lack offense.)

It appears that Brown has no shot to speak of, and I recall him being strictly a slasher who scored near the hoop. According to Hoopdata, an extremely high percentage (74.0%) of his shots were at the rim and he was awful between the paint and the three point line (17.0%). Even though he hit 5 of 10 three pointers in 2011, I think his career 60.6% free throw percentage is more telling of his ability to knock down an open jumper.

Given that he’ll be 24 next year, that he only made $288k last year, that he is a good defender, it seems reasonable for the Knicks to bring him back for another look. However if D’Antoni is content to leave him at the end of the bench and have his talents go to waste, then it’s best for New York to sign someone that will potentially get more use.

Report Card (5 point scale):

Offense: 3
Defense: 4
Teamwork: 3
Rootability: 3
Performance/Expectations: 4

Final Grade: I

Similarity Scores:

PlayerID FLName Year Age Tm PER TS_P eFG_P PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
0 Derrick Brown 2011 23 TOT 12.9 .588 .584 11.6 2.6 6.2 2.1 1.2 0.6 2.2
0.062 Danny Vranes 1982 23 SEA 11.2 .573 .546 12.6 2.4 6.6 1.9 0.9 0.7 2.3
0.086 Fred Roberts 1984 23 SAS 12.6 .604 .538 13.5 2.4 7.1 2.3 1.2 0.9 2.4
0.108 Josh Childress 2007 23 ATL 16.2 .586 .529 12.7 2.2 6.0 2.3 1.0 0.6 1.4
0.117 Darrin Hancock 1995 23 CHH 11.2 .554 .566 13.0 1.2 4.5 2.5 1.6 0.3 2.5
0.129 Wesley Person 1995 23 PHO 14.2 .596 .575 16.3 1.3 4.0 2.1 1.0 0.5 1.6
0.133 Michael Cage 1985 23 LAC 12.5 .582 .543 11.9 2.8 8.8 1.1 0.9 0.7 1.8
0.135 Bill Walker 2011 23 NYK 11.3 .583 .566 13.7 0.7 5.6 1.6 1.0 0.3 1.7
0.139 Rasheed Wallace 1998 23 POR 14.9 .564 .537 14.0 1.6 5.9 2.4 0.9 1.1 2.1
0.140 John Thomas 1999 23 TOR 13.7 .586 .577 10.3 3.9 8.1 0.9 1.0 0.5 1.3
0.141 Wesley Matthews 2010 23 UTA 12.3 .592 .539 13.7 0.9 3.4 2.2 1.1 0.3 1.7