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Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Few Reasons 2006 Will Be Better for the Knicks

[Today's article comes from David Crockett. Dr. Crockett is the lead researcher of optimism at KnickerBlogger.Net industries.]

As poorly as the Knicks have played in spots they really aren?t quite as bad as they look.

In all seriousness, this team should be a bit better than its current 8-21 record (as of January 4th) based on its Pythagorean formula, which projects wins and losses based the two most direct determinants of winning (i.e., how much you score and how much you give up). If I?ve calculated it correctly the Knicks should have between 13 or 14 wins rather than their current 8. [KB's Note: There are different ways to calculate expected win% using points for/against. David has chosen: g*pf^2.37/(pf^2.37+pa^2.37), while the stat page uses (G*(PTS^14/(PTS^14 + oPTS^14)) which has the Knicks at 10 expected wins.] The difference between actual and projected wins is often referred to as ?luck,? or perhaps more precisely the difference is in little things less directly related to winning than scoring or defense. Often, whether those little things go in your favor can be pretty random. (A good example from football is recovering fumbled balls. Jumping on a lose football is pretty much a 50-50 proposition but it can have a huge impact on winning or losing a game. Over time it evens out but it at a given moment it can really hurt or really help.)

Of course ?coulda, shoulda, woulda? is the sad lullaby of losers. Still, it is hard to deny that in addition to a number of completely self-inflicted wounds the Knicks have also been genuinely unlucky in the early part of the season. They?ve played a ton of road games against a killer schedule.

What can the Knicks build on in the New Year?

The Schedule Gets Kinder. Through November and December the Knicks spent a lot of time on the road. In those two months the team had only four sets of consecutive home dates. One negative impact of playing so much on the road is lost practice time spent traveling. January will mark the first month where the Knicks will play the majority of their games at home. They will have four sets of consecutive home dates in January alone. Apart from the crowd noise, the home cooking, and all that jazz, Larry Brown will have the opportunity to practice and teach which should pay some dividends in the spring.

Of course the cynic in me responds that with all the time the fans at MSG spend booing them the road may not be so bad for the Knicks. Certainly, the Knicks will be dogs in most of their home dates going forward. Still, for a young team trying to find itself home is probably the best place to be.

The Four Factors (Offense). Any longtime reader of Knickerblogger.net knows that KB?s stat page allows the reader to sort teams by Dean Oliver?s four factors most closely associated with winning (i.e., shooting, turnovers, rebounding, and free throws). Offensively, in two of those areas (rebounding and getting to the free throw line) the Knicks are among the best in the league. Conversely, the Knicks are the highest turnover team in the NBA and in the bottom five in eFG%.

As I alluded to in September (see Question #2) the question of style/tempo would be an interesting one for Larry Brown. Fortunately, he has allowed the Knicks to play the seventh quickest pace in the league at 92.6 possessions per game (Phoenix is 1st at 95.6). Given the makeup of the roster I believe this is the right call. Unfortunately, at this point the Knicks aren?t any more efficient now (103.2) than they were last season (103). But, one could change the framing of that statement and argue that the current Knicks have managed to match the offensive output of last year?s version despite only intermittent production from an out-of-shape and hobbled Curry, an unstable rotation filled with rookie starters, and perhaps most importantly with a knack for getting to the free throw line. So going forward one reason to suspect that the offensive efficiency will improve is that Curry is getting closer to game shape. One reason to suspect that the Knicks will cut down on turnovers is that the rotation is beginning to stabilize. Also, adding David Lee to the starting lineup, even out of position at small forward, brings better ball handling and passing to the frontcourt than Quentin Richardson or Trevor Ariza.

The Four Factors (Defense). Interestingly, the Knicks are also good in two of the four areas on defense. First, the positive. This Knick team forces turnovers. At just over 17 per game the Knicks are 6th in forcing turnovers in the league. It?s easy to overlook this aspect of their game since they give all those back plus some. Also, they currently rank 12th in defensive rebounding (where only 1.1 offensive rebounds allowed per game separates them from #5 San Antonio). The Knicks do a very good job of limiting their opponent?s second shots. Now, the not so good. The Knicks are among the worst in the league at eFG defense, allowing over 50% eFG. Thus, not surprisingly the Knicks are among the most charitable teams in the league sending opponents to the FT line almost 29 times per 100 FGAs.

How can the Knicks improve on defense? Well, for starters they could stop turning the ball over on offense so doggone much. Cutting down on easy baskets won?t turn them into the 2004 Pistons but it could, even with no other improvements, move them out of the bottom quarter of bad eFG defense teams. A quick look at 82games.com appears to confirm this. The Knicks allow by far the largest percentage of opponent?s shots early in the clock (37% of opponent shots come at 0-10 seconds) and yield the highest eFG (55%) on those attempts. This is most likely the accumulated impact of turnovers and poor transition defense.

Let?s hope for all our sakes that the Knicks have resolved in the New Year to be smarter with the ball, to get back on D, and keep getting to the line. If so, 2006 may be a happy year indeed.

83 comments on “A Few Reasons 2006 Will Be Better for the Knicks

  1. Seth

    remember what they say about Larry Brown teams after the all-star break too…

    i’ve never actually seen that proven…only claimed

  2. NGLI

    The #1 reason why the Knicks will be better in 2006 is that LB is an anal *****. Yup, and his teams always get better once they get used to dealing with a defensive-minded anal ***** with a hyper-restrictive offence. Numbers are numbers, but the Suns game should have given New Yorkers enough hope for the future.

    The #2 reason why the Knicks will be better in 2006 is that the roster is far more talented than the W/L record indicates. Steph has been productive as he ever has in the last 5 games (no seriously, check out his numbers)…and c’mon…the team can’t get any worse… ^_^

  3. birchnbrook

    The Knicks have mediocre to above average talent. LB totally screwed them up from the beginning with his ridiculous absence of any semblance of a set rotation. Nobody knew what he wanted, nobody knew what their roll was, nobody knew who would be starting or playing from one game to the next. Steph knew he would play, LB just wouldn’t let him play his game. Pardon me for questioning the “master” but don’t coaches get paid for instituting a system that fits the talent?

    Now you could argue that Isiah has assembled such a flawed lineup that nobody could put a winning team on the floor. That is BS. Isiah has made a bunch of terrible moves and merely moved the deck chairs on the Titanic, but he did import some young talent that is at least more exciting than the waste that Layden left over.

    It seems to me that whoever LB played, that all he had to do was set a rotation and they could be a .500 team. Mo Taylor, Malik Rose, Crawford, Steph – these are talented vets who could beat some teams. Now I would certainly prefer to see the rooks play, but LB never even gave the vets the chance.

    Now he says he is finally going to set a rotation, and decides to start two of the rooks – but not the best one? The one that was rook of the month, on his way to being 2nd rook of the year (behind Paul)? In the trip OT against PHX Frye plays 15 minutes? What is going on here? Very, very strange decisions from LB.

    The schedule softens so hope will return, but then disappear again towards the end of the season.

    Down the road – I want to win a championship. If that means play the kids, get worse, and clear cap space for 2 years from now, so be it. Let Penny’s, AD’s, Houston’s, JYD, Malik Rose, and Shandon Anderson’s deal come off the cap. Next year trade away Crawford, QRich and James (ugh) for ending deals. Work mightily to trade Steph over the next 2 years (anyone in this league can be traded – you might not like what you get back, but anyone can be traded). That way, 2 years from now, the Knicks maybe, just maybe, can attract a quality free agent and actually have a high draft choice (I know, don’t remind me about the Curry deal). Just my two cents.

  4. Brian Cronin

    The Knicks are just four games out of the final playoff spot in a shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitty Eastern Conference.

    The “good” Knicks roster of Marbury, Crawford, Lee, Frye and Curry is not a great team, but I find it hard to believe that those five guys are not as good as a lot of these teams ahead of the Knicks. And all five of them (except Curry) can play basically the whole game, so it’s not like the Camby years, where the Knicks could put out a really good five man squad for maybe five minutes. These guys can play together (with Robinson, Woods and Antonio Davis subbing in) for basically the whole game.

    Four games out.

    It is just a quest to get swept by the Pistons, but what it DOES do is make the Knicks’ first round pick this year become a non-lottery pick, making it really not matter.

    In addition, all the Knicks need to do is play “sorta less shitty” NEXT year to ALSO make the playoffs (and get swept in the first round), thereby making Chicago’s quest to swap picks meaningless.

    THEN, in 2007-08, the Knicks can finally perhaps move forward.

    Two years of making the playoffs and getting swept in the first round is not terrible, I do not think.

  5. dave crockett

    NGLI – interesting that you characterize the offense as hyperrestrictive. Do you really think so? Honestly, the biggest change I see from last year, and the one I think Steph gets so miffed about, is that the team has incorporated more post-ups and fewer screen-roll plays. And it’s not like they don’t run screen-roll; just not as much. Besides the Knicks are scoring almost exactly as they did last season. The biggest offensive problems facing this team, imo, are turnovers and poor spacing.

    What concerns me is the defense, particularly the transition D.

  6. Count Zero

    Gotta agree with dc – hyperrestrictive? LB has been working on establishing more of a post game because he has a legit post player in Curry. When you have a guy who can score in the low post the way Curry can, you would be a fool to not run plays for him. You see Miami running a lot of screen-roll with Shaq? (Curry Shaq, but his forte is his low post game.)

    The problem with this has been when Curry gets doubled (sometimes even tripled), they are unable to take advantage by finding an open perimeter shooter to knock down the three and make ‘em pay. Part of that is Curry’s passing skills, part of it is movement without the ball, and part of it is no pure jump shooter. Give me a vintage 2000 AH and Curry’s assist numbers would be climbing.

    But as dc said, right now defense and turnovers are bigger concerns.

  7. James

    Brian,

    I know you’re thinking because I’ve been there. It stinks that Chicago could potentially get a lottery pick, even a high one, from us.

    But I think you, as I have done, have to take a ‘spilt milk’ attitude on this. We gave them a first round pick (actually a 1-25 pick). Where it actually turns out to be is utterly, utterly irrelevant to us. It only helps or hurts Chicago. And potentially Isiah, although he will always argue that if Eddy Curry had been drafted at age 22 he’d have been a 1st overall pick, and in any case he was a 4th overall pick. Now, sure, if you view the Bulls like I view the Lakers then yes you don’t want them to succeed. But otherwise I think we should all just let it go. Those 14 lottery picks will be picked by some team that isn’t the Knicks so all those teams will improve irrespective of whether the Bulls are one of those teams. And the same goes for the pick swap (although the Bulls themselves aren’t looking great either).

    Anyway, just my two cents. We can tear our hair out or just realise that at this point it’s meaningless to us, and I’ve for the latter.

  8. Big Fella

    Yes, let’s blame the FANS for the Knicks’ awful play at home this season, not the criminally stupid decisions made by Isiah Thomas, and the ridiculously fickle and irresponsible substitution patterns of the egomaniacal Larry Brown.

    That being said, the Knicks are a different team with Curry on the floor, especially if the team learns about spacing and he can learn to pass out of a double team. And with Lee, Robinson, and Frye getting heavy minutes, at least we can see what we have going forward. Mo Taylor, Malik Rose, and Antonio Davis are NOT pieces of a .500 team.

  9. kareem

    “Two years of making the playoffs and getting swept in the first round is not terrible, I do not think.”

    What is wrong with you people? This team spends twice and sometimes 3 times more money than any other team and when Zeke got here had everything in place to clear the deck and be in contention by now with good young players.

  10. Brian Cronin

    You’re absolutely right, James, about next year’s pick. I really do have to move on with that pick.

    2007′s pick, though, I think is something we can help avoid, as that one actually DOES impact the team, because it is only valuable to Chicago if the Knicks are a lottery team, so I think it would behoove the Knicks to NOT be a lottery team that year.

    But yeah, you’re totally right about having to just put the mistakes of the past out of my head. Good call.

  11. Brian Cronin

    “What is wrong with you people? This team spends twice and sometimes 3 times more money than any other team and when Zeke got here had everything in place to clear the deck and be in contention by now with good young players.”

    And to you, Kareem, I think I would just have to say a variation of what James said to me.

    We all know Isiah screwed the pooch, but what’s done is done. Now we’re just looking at what the Knicks CAN do to be a good team. They can’t untrade the picks, so we just have to look at what the Knicks can do in the future.

    I don’t see this current Knicks team as BEING very “blow-upable,” so I think it is pretty much either

    1. Suck

    2. Sorta not suck

    At least until 2007-08.

    And I would prefer the latter. I really do not think there is a “Be really good” option for the Knicks this year and next. If everything falls into place perfectly, then next year MIGHT be able to “be really good,” but that is unlikely, and any chance of the Knicks being really good next year will depend on the players they have NOW, not on any moves Isiah would make.

    I’m a Yankees fan, but I still remember (when the Yankees stunk) the joys of rooting for a team that MIGHT make the playoffs, and MAKING the playoffs was a good thing.

    I think these Knicks can give us that enjoyment this year and next, and maybe in 2007-08, we might be able to root for a team with a real shot at a title.

    That’s cool by me, but I get that it might not be cool for you.

  12. Kevin Pelton

    “The Knicks are just four games out of the final playoff spot in a shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitty Eastern Conference.”

    Yeah, but the problem is there are what, five teams between the Knicks and eighth place? So not only do they have to go on a run, they can’t have anybody else do so. That seems pretty improbable.

  13. Steve

    hey,

    the four-games-out thing is a little misrepresentative, because it sounds like nyk is are in reach of the postseason. in fact, we all know that the 8th seed is going to be around .500, give or take a game or two. in order for the knicks to finish 41-41, they need to go 33-20 for the remainder.

    that’s a long long longshot, although not impossible. i believe in LB, and maybe he actually means it when he says that he’s going to settle on a 9-man rotation. I think the knicks will be fine next year, don’t sweat the Bulls (who really suck this year) and their ability to swap picks.

    meanwhile, i bought that new 5-disc Knicks history DVD. it games 7 entire games from knicks teams of the past. so far, i’ve rewatched AH’s 1999 runner to beat the Heat (so so nice) and Starks’ dunk on Mike and Horace Grant back in 1993. wow. it’s interesting watching those games and remembering what knicks games used to be like. starks’ laser-like entry passes into the post; clutch play from chris childs and charlie ward; ewing getting lots and lots of friendly calls; and one stretch in the 1999 game when the knicks went 24 straight minutes without a turnover. oh. so. nice. maybe i just got spoiled by the 1990s, which was a damn good decade to be a knicks fan (I remember feeling so strange in 2002 when Chaney’s boys stayed home in May and June.)

    Anyway, those games are a reminder to hang in there, because a playoff basketball game at MSG is one of the best things is sports. LB will get it done, just like has with every other team he’s coached.

  14. kareem

    “We all know Isiah screwed the pooch, but what?s done is done. Now we?re just looking at what the Knicks CAN do to be a good team. They can?t untrade the picks, so we just have to look at what the Knicks can do in the future.”

    The problem isn’t the Knicks won’t be good until 07-08, it’s that they might not even be good then, AND lord knows what moves Zeke is going to start making once there’s more pressure on the team to perform. There’s no reason a team with these kind of resources should be in this situation.

    I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, but you guys need to pool your collective abilities and put some pressue on management to fire Zeke. It wouldn’t be very hard to do.

  15. NGLI

    dave crockett, Count Zero, yeah, I think Brown tries to micromanage too much on offence.

    Maybe hyperrestrictive is the wrong choice of words, but still…I can’t help but think half of the turnover problems are caused by an inexperienced team trying to run play after play after play that LB draws up. This isn’t Detroit, and there is no Tayshawn Prince to distribute like a 2nd pointguard. That’s why the Knicks turn the ball over so much.

    It all comes back to Steph: Steph doesn’t turn the ball over that often when the ball is still in his hands. The Knicks offence might have been a bit worse than last year, but that’s because Steph had the ball in his hands wayyyyyy more.

    Although I’m encouraged by Steph’s play as of late — showing that he is capable of running the team as Brown sees fit — I wouldn’t mind it if Steph called the “Starbury” play more often (which basically means running the clock down 15 seconds and driving without any pick): I still think that it would be better to let them play a little streetball every once and a while, rather than trying to make the 2-3 extra passes every friggin possession that leads to the massive turnover problems.

    Maybe this losing streak is just messing with my head…I’m actually nostalgic for the good old days of the 04-05 season.

  16. NGLI

    Whoops, meant to say the offence was a bit worse LAST year than this one. But still…turnovers are the problem, not scoring – that’s what I’m talking about.

    BTW – good point about the doubleteaming and Curry: although he’s not as bad as James (who regards every touch as a shot for himself), he tries to force the issue too much, he’s a lousy passer, and he has nobody to kick it out to…Q, where are you? The few times Curry kicks it out properly, it just ends up as a brick.

  17. John

    Maybe fire Zeke as GM and keep him in some capacity in a consultant role for his clairvoiance in the draft. Despite public pressure, Isiah was decisive in picking both Frye and Lee (who, incidentally, was booed by the league’s Most Wise and Knowledgeable Fans, when picked 30th). BTW, I’m glad to see Lee earn the starting spot, as he never publicly complained about the poor reception New Yorkers gave him or all the DNPs.
    MY word was “porno”!!!

  18. Steve

    and just like that, closing the season 32-20 doesn’t seem so unreasonable anymore.

    frye: 30 and 7. marbury: 11 assists, one turnover.

    wow.

  19. kareem

    It kills me how drastically people’s opinions change after EVERY game. This is how this mess started. Stay the course people.

  20. Brian Cronin

    But my course has always been (okay, at least it has “always been” since the last week or so in December :)) that the Knicks can be a DECENT team if they just started playing the good players, and not the bad ones.

    Larry Brown did that for two games so far, and the team has looked, well, pretty decent.

    Not great by any stretch of the imagination, but decent.

    And I think that’s nothing to scoff at (yes, scoff was my word, and I just tried to work it into my comment…hehe)!

  21. Steve

    Hey Kareem,

    I know what you’re saying — Knick fans tend to rush to judgment, and swing opinions wildly based on What Have You Done For Me Lately.

    But I think this is different. Check out this excerpt from today’s New York Times:

    “Frye’s offensive resurgence was well-timed, helping offset the absences of Crawford and Richardson.

    Frye said he was simply trying to assimilate a lot of lessons at once, and he said Marbury was in a similar situation.

    “You know what’s funny, everybody’s so hard on Steph,” Frye said. “But Steph is learning just like we are. Even though he’s a vet, he has to learn. He doesn’t know everything about basketball. His attitude is great. He’s been a leader, but now he’s definitely showing it more on the court. He’s being more vocal, and he’s getting used to us and how we play and getting the ball to us at the right time.”

    It sounds like what everyone predicted when LB came on the scene. A period of tumultuous adjustment, then, suddenly, the light bulb clicks on and everyone gets it.

    Friday’s game vs. Washington was unlike any NYK has played this year. They played efficient offense, solid defense, role players played their roles, and stars played like stars. It’s this groups of players playing at their best. I don’t think games like that happen by accident — you can only play that well when you are a truly good team. Close losses like at Phoenix and at LA Clippers, and wins like at Seattle (where they were carried by a single hot shooter) happen when you are a talented team that plays hard, but you’re not that good yet.

    I think wins like the one vs. Washington are a sign of real progress. If I’m right, they’ll come out and take care of Seattle on Sunday in impressive fashion.

    (If I’m wrong, then I will be embarrassed!)

  22. Kareem

    Yeah, pardon me if I’m not swayed by 2 wins in a row for a team that’s 9 and 21. I mean, the Knicks could certainly be a .500 team or even a little better, but;

    1. They’re not.

    and

    2. That is still unacaptable.

    The big picture is Zeke created a supbar team with every resource at his disposal. Blah.

  23. Steve

    marbury: 15 assists, one turnover.

    i knew LB was a good coach, but it looks like he’s doing the impossible — turning stephon marbury into a winning player, a point guard who makes other guys better. witness mo taylor’s 11-for-14.

    (alright, alright kareem — i know what you’re thinking . . . “it’s only a three-game winning streak.” NYK didn’t play well, but winning when you play poorly, defending your home court against a mediocre/bad team is a sign of a team that doesn’t suck.)

  24. Hotdamn

    3 game win streak feels mighty nice. I realize that this team isn’t likely to be playoff bound…but if they keep playing this way or maybe a touch better…at least the bulls won’t get a draft pick in the top 5. Lots of people on this site say that the pick is history and it is…but only the knicks can determine how high or low that pick will be worth. All that aside…it’s nice to see the rooks playing clutch..Nate has been solid, his 3 point percentage has been a lovely surprise and although he’s still a little wild- he’s cut down on the uncontrolled drives to the basket some and is looking better after every game. Frye is solid now and has all-star potential if he starts getting more bounds and if he can block more shots on help-D a la Marcus Camby. I still think these knicks can be quite good particularly when zeke moves out some of the ill-fitting pieces and potentially (hopefully) brings in some quality role players that will fill a need. AD, Penny, and Jerome have gotta go one way or another (if it means trading Ariza so be it) and when they do…well, zeke would have to be extremely foolish to bring players in that are any worse than the aforementioned players are at this point in their careers (minus james- he’s always sucked a phatty.)
    I’m crossing my fingers for the Cleveland game…it’ll show if the progress has been the real deal or if it’s some good luck. As long as they don’t get blown out– i’ll consider it a positive. A win would be huge.

  25. dave crockett

    Kareem said: The big picture is Zeke created a supbar team with every resource at his disposal. Blah.

    I think this is where I have my biggest disagreement. Certainly the team is subpar but in the cap era starting out subpar virtually guarantees you’ll stay that way. Of course you’d rather have big time resources than not but the whole point of having a cap is so that they don’t help much. Once a team is in a bad way it can really only make marginal improvements; and that’s been true whether they try to spend or draft their way out of salary cap hell.

    That doesn’t absolve Isiah of bad moves (e.g., the Mo Taylor and Starbury trades). But, I don’t know that any GM inherting this team could have transformed them into something significantly different than they are now. Look around the league at the capped out, uncompetitive teams since 1999. Who has been able to make a more or less permanent turnaround in a shorter time? Most of the teams that I can recall who were capped out and bad in 2000 are still the same way.

  26. Kareem

    Off the top of my head, Denver is the best example while their are a score of other teams that suceeded simply by accepting losing and not panicking.

    Is this possibly a .500 team with the highest payroll and highest paid coach in the league? Eh, maybe. Does this mean that Zeke has made good moves? Of course not. I mean geez, you have to be a pretty big moron to be sitting on an 11 and 21 team (or even .500 team) while spending this kind of cash and mortgaging a large part of the future. For how bad the Knicks have been for so long, I should hope they would have SOME pieces, but instead of just looking at the parts that have gone right (which have been minimal) you need to look at the larger picture when this team should be either competing for a title or a squad with great young players.

    I understand the team is 11-21 so this may sound like 20/20 hindsite but I’m not judging these moves based on the record alone… I think if a GM makes the right decisions at the time and they don’t pan out then god bless em. But when you are consistently bone-headed like Zeke to the point where the moves don’t even make sense at the time, there is a problem regardless of result.

  27. Kareem

    Again, before you get excited about the future, look around the league and see if there are any teams you wouldn’t rather trade places with.

    I count none.

  28. Scott

    Come on, now, Kareem, this is getting silly — Sacramento, Atlanta, Toronto, Seattle, Utah, Boston, NO/OK City, Washington, even the Lakers, and Houston unless McGrady gets and stay healthy, Charlotte, Minnesota, Chicago all make my list. You can argue some, but all of them? And, please, if Denver is your best example of a successful slash-and-burn rebuild, I’m not impressed. Name a recent champion that’s done it — and the Spurs losing Robinson and tanking a season doesn’t as a deliberate roster purge.

    Plus, Kareem — Isiah Thomas has won NCAA and NBA championships, he has coached an NBA playoff team, he drafted Tracy McGrady out of high school. What have you accomplished in basketball or in life that gives you the right to call him a moron? Disagree with moves, fine, but have some respect for an accomplished person.

    And he does have a plan that he’s executing — take on payroll, which his owner is willing to do and which made sense given several years of guaranteed cap hell when he took over with Houston’s contract on the books, in exchange for adding talent. It may not lead to a championship, but, then again, most teams never do get there. I’m not holding my breath for Denver’s title run either.

  29. Steve

    It might be interesting to think about what-might-have-been by examining the roster and resources Isiah inherited.

    The pick they traded to PHX to get Marbury turned out to be Kirk Snyder, a non-factor in the league. Although, if they had played out the season with Ward and Eisley running the point, their record would have been much worse. The pick, instead of 15 or 16 (can’t remember), would have been something closer to 7, 8, 9. I remember at the time thinking that Andre Iguodala would have been a nice pick around there, and he’s turned out to be a solid pro with big upside.

    Other than that pick, Isiah had expiring deals of Ward and McDyess; Keith Van Horn; Maciej Lampe, who is a bust; Milos Vujanic, who has never made it over from Europe; and Frank Williams, who seemed like a legit starting point guard until he quietly vanished from the league. (Does anyone else remember how well the Knicks played during a stretch before the Marbury trade — they won four in a row, a few huge blowout wins, and a solid road win at Memphis. Frank Williams looked like the next Clyde Frazier. Van Horn was playing well. Then, Williams got injured, and the Marbury trade happened. Don’t know why Williams tumbled out of the league.)

    Shandon Anderson, Sweetney, Doleac, Weatherspoon, Eisley, Mutombo. Not much there to work with. I’m not sure what guys like Donnie Walsh from Indiana or RC Buford from San Antonio would have done with those assets. I’m guessing they would have waited, sucked, drafted, and looked for cap room after AH’s deal (finally) expired. They would at least have had a clear plan.

    I think the problem people have with Zeke has been a lack of vision, no plan. Deals like Weatherspoon for Moochie Norris just looked like spinning in circles. I think that may have been just Zeke being a rookie GM, learning the ropes.

    He seems to have learned his lesson. Reports have LB pushing for an Antonio Davis (expiring contract) for Theo Ratliff (three more years) trade, but Isiah has told him no. He’s committed to rebuilding, and not going after old guys with bad money.

    Anyway, Zeke’s track record is mixed. His drafts are as good as anyone in the league, I like the Curry trade, and maybe he’s finally learned his lesson in cap management.

    Let’s hope, cuz Dolan ain’t firing him anytime soon.

  30. Kareem

    Steve,

    I think that’s a pretty fair assesment except for a couple of points:

    1. You can’t look at moving guys like Lampe, Vujanic as pluses just b/c they didn’t turn out well. The fact is they had value at the time of the deal as a lot of people were high on them.

    2. The Curry trade is an unmitigated disaster when taking the draft picks into account and the fact that Curry hasn’t ever even outperfored Sweetness. It’s what makes me think he hasn’t learned his lesson.

    “I?m not sure what guys like Donnie Walsh from Indiana or RC Buford from San Antonio would have done with those assets. I?m guessing they would have waited, sucked, drafted, and looked for cap room after AH?s deal (finally) expired. They would at least have had a clear plan.”

    That is correct.

    Scott,

    I can’t believe I’m even responding to you but…

    “Sacramento, Atlanta, Toronto, Seattle, Utah, Boston, NO/OK City, Washington, even the Lakers, and Houston unless McGrady gets and stay healthy, Charlotte, Minnesota, Chicago all make my list”

    Well, maybe that’s b/c you don’t know a lot about basketball. The only team you could make an argument for on their is NO.OK. The fact that you would include a team like Houston on your list shows how little you understand. The Knicks would trade their entire roster for Yao Ming alone.

    Also, please do not respond to further posts of mine as I have multiple championship rings with the Lakers and i’m guessing you do not. Seriously, by your logic I may not have the right to call Isiah Thomas a moron, but I can think of one person by this criteria who is fair game. This is insane thinking… you’re a far worse player than every guy on the Knicks, so please do not discredit them Scott. Also, you are a far worse writer than everyone on this board, so please refrain from commenting as well.

  31. Ben

    Kareem,

    I will have to disagree with you on the Curry Trade. I believe it will be looked back on as the turning point for this team. The pick probably won’t end up being worse than 7th or 8th at the worst this year and the way the Bulls look we probably won’t have to trade next year and if we do it will only be a couple of spots in the draft. Also I was a huge Sweetney supporter last year and I was expecting him to break out. HE has regressed this year and comparing him to Curry is not even close.

    When it comes to our future in two years at C and PF I can only think of a few, 4 or 5, teams that I would Trade Curry and Frye straight up for their starting, or best, PF and C.

    I think that while Zeke has made lots of mistakes there is a plan as evidenced by our promising young core.

  32. Young T

    I really have to disagree with Kareem. First of all, look at the Bulls now. They have gone backwards since last year – the only reason they were willing to make the Sweetney-Curry trade was the heart issue. I guarantee if it weren’t for that the Bulls would definitely take Curry back. Sweets is averaging like 10 and 6? Thats nothing: plus it is pretty much erroneous to use per minute stats with him as there is a reason, often overlooked, why he doesn’t play longer – he doesn’t have the conditioning!

    Curry is averaging 4 more points and roughly the same boards in only a couple more minutes. Plus he draws defenders, his PER is higher than Sweetney, he plays a far more valuable position, he allows Frye to play PF, he has a big size advantage, basicallt the list of reasons why Curry is more valuable to us than Sweets goes on and on. Also, the fact that Curry basically didn’t really train the whole offseason partly accounts for his slow-ish start to the season. Another important point is that Curry seems a lot more likely to bust out and drop 30 on teams than Sweetney, essentially he is more of a game-winner.

    Of course throwing the picks in was a downside to the overall trade, but on the other hand we at least have been able to use Antonio, Chicago aint got much use from TT, have they?

    Frye and Curry is a very promising frontline and could deliver for years to come.

  33. Scott

    Kareem,

    Likewise, I can’t believe I’m responding, but here goes…

    Maybe my list is my list because I don’t know much about basketball? Maybe. I see myself as a somewhat knowledgable fan, but certainly I’m not knowledgable at the level of a Donnie Walsh, RC Buford, or Isiah Thomas. My only point is that the same is true of you, and therefore a little humility in your assessments of what any of these GMs do is in order. (Unless your last name is Abdul-Jabbar, in which case your otherwise odd ramblings about winning championship rings with the Lakers would finally make sense.)

    Isiah may have a plan, even if it’s not what you would have done. I’ll even allow that his plan may not work as well as yours would have. I certainly wouldn’t tell anyone not to be critical. But I find the blustering about him being a “moron” to be very distasteful and unwarranted, and harmful to the quality of discussion on this otherwise very interesting forum.

    Now, if you want to speak civilly about rebuilding plans for the Knicks, that’s great. I’m game. If you want to keep calling me a moron, I’ll simply take it as an honor to be the categorized with Isiah Thomas on any dimension, and move on.

  34. John

    The fact is, whether the Bulls get the fourth pick or the 15th, we are not going to know if the Curry trade was a good one until after next year when these questions are answered:

    1. Can Sweetney get in shape and improve to a 10-10 guy on a consistent basis?

    2. Is Curry’s health question resolved, and is he either BabyShaq or a mediocre, overpaid big? and

    3.Is the guy the Bulls get with our pick the next Darko or the next Bosh?

    If I had to judge right now though, I think the loss of the pick and high salary puts it over the brink as a bad trade.

  35. Count Zero

    I would take it even further than that…there are 2 criteria upon which to evaluate the Curry trade:

    1) Sweetney vs. Curry + ’06 Pick — Curry is clearly a better player with much higher potential than Sweets. Much as people like to remember he was the best young player on the team, Sweets is overweight, lacks stamina, and is just as lazy as people accuse Curry of being.

    Now the pick…how do you evaluate a future pick? You don’t evaluate a future pick based on who the Bulls get with him, or what number pick it ends up being, or any other of a number of retrospective values. That requires a GM to have the ability to see the future. You evaluate it on the basis of what it was worth when you traded it. At the time the Knicks traded this pick, most people projected them as a 35-45 win team. Thus, the pick was most likely to fall into the 7-12 range. A 7-12 pick has a good possibility of landing a future All-Star, but it can also be garbage — it depends on what you do with it. Layden vs. Zeke. Problem is, Zeke (and his crew) have proven pretty good at evaluating draft day talent so far…better than average. Thus, a 7-12 pick in Zeke’s hands would have good potential of landing another Frye.

    Final balance: Sweets + 7-12 pick in Zeke’s hands, plus potential swap opportunity in ’07 equals slightly better potential than Curry in my mind. This factors in Curry’s health risk.

    2) Salary Cap Manipulation — That is to say, what type of leverage did you gain / lose vs. the cap as a result of the trade? Well, clearly the Knicks took on a hefty, ugly contract so your first reaction has to be BLECH! But, not so fast…

    The fact of the matter is that even without Curry’s contract, the Knicks would not have been in any position to clear the kind of cap room it takes to sign a big free agent anytime in ’06, ’07, or ’08. Whether you are at the cap, $5 million over it, or $50 million over it, you still have the same amount of free agent funds available — the mid-level exception. So, unless you are able to clear enough cap to get $10 million or more below, the point is moot. There is no way the Knicks can get to $10 million below anytime before 2010, so cap space is irrelevant for them at this point.

    Final balance: Cap space bonus for Bulls, no change for Knicks.

    Final evaluation: A moderately bad trade for the Knicks, but there is a large variable in it because Curry is only 23 and at his size and quickness, he could potentially turn into a perennial All-Star — the “Baby Shaq” he was labeled as early. All in all, I don’t like it, but I don’t think it’s as bad a trade as some people make it out to be.

  36. Scott

    I like what Isiah’s done overall but remain iffy on the Curry deal — and if it ends up a top three pick, that should count on the negative side of the ledger in evaluating it. The job of the GM is to evaluate the future. It’s not some weird crystal ball thing, it’s just what they’re paid to do — whether the time horizon is the next six months for championship contenders or longer for rebuilding teams. It’s hard — that’s why 50 some guys were picked in the draft ahead of Manu Ginobili — but it’s what they’re all trying to do.

    By the same principle, it also counts that Lampe and Vujanic turned out (so far) to be worthless. Thus, Isiah did well to move them when they still had any value at all — the only question is whether he could have gotten a better deal. This is where anything us outsiders say is speculative, but my guess is that if they weren’t used as throw-ins for Marbury, they would have been worth second round picks (which is, after all, what each of them was). Nothing to hold against Zeke there in my view.

  37. dave crockett

    Count Zero Said: … So, unless you are able to clear enough cap to get $10 million or more below, the point is moot. There is no way the Knicks can get to $10 million below anytime before 2010, so cap space is irrelevant for them at this point.

    Solid analysis Count Zero. This is the point I’ve tried to make, but you said it better than I. Being over the cap is not an excuse to make moves that worsen your cap position. But, being over the cap means that you’ll need to take some calculated gambles along the way.

    The Curry deal has to be evaluated in the context of the entire offseason. Gambling away the ’06 first rounder has to be balanced against the two additional 1st rounders Thomas acquired in ’05. Thomas drafted three players in the same year that contribute double digit PER; Lee and Frye are both above league average. Right now the ’06 draft is not projected to be as nearly as strong; Adam Morrison and Rudy Gay are the top 2 players, neither of whom projects to be an NBA star.

    While I agree that Isiah has an eye for talent, the talent has to be there. If there was a year to go without a 1st rounder it may be the year following an unusually productive draft.

  38. Lance

    Makes you wonder what would have happened a few years ago if Dennis Scott and Muggsy Bouges were healthy when they were on the NYK roster. Remember them?

  39. Kareem

    Dave and Count,

    Please clear something up for me since I don’t have all of the info in front of me…

    1. Aren’t the Knicks over the cap until 2010 b/c of Isiah? And couldn’t they have been under much earlier by trading some of their assets to do so?

    2. Why does aquiring two late round draft picks in ’05 offset losing a lottery pick in ’06 and possibly ’07? Isn’t that like saying “I found a 20 dollar bill on the floor so it offsets the 100 dollar bill I just threw out the window.”

    3. Are Rudy Gay, Adam Morrison, or really any top 10 pick in this years draft (and a possible top 10 pick in next years) so bad that they’re are not even projected to be productive, low cost players? Have you seen them play? Also, are you familiar wth foreign players or do you ignore them since Zeke does? Has their ever been a draft where a top-10 pick is as invaluable as you are pretending this years is?

    4. Isn’t it easier to trade for productive players when dealing with teams who aren’t willing to pay they lux. tax if the guys you are moving have cap friendly contracts?

  40. dave crockett

    Kareem asks:

    1. Aren?t the Knicks over the cap until 2010 b/c of Isiah? And couldn?t they have been under much earlier by trading some of their assets to do so?

    :: The first question’s easy. No. Thomas inherited a team that was hopelessly capped out. Houston’s and Shanderson’s contracts stay on the cap through next season. The second question is far more interesting, and the fundamental source of the debate here. The CBA is set up to virtually disallow teams the opportunity to trim salary through trades. As trades go, GMs are stuck either swapping headaches (e.g., Thomas for Van Horn) or taking on talent in exchange for additional years over the cap (e.g., Marbury/Hardaway for Eisley, McDyess, Lampe and picks).

    But this gets at the point that CZ brought up, one that I echo. Unless a team is *under* the cap all the GM can do is make this kind of trade, spend the MLE, and draft. You seem to suggest repeatedly that NY?s ?virtually unlimited? resources provide Thomas with some other unspecified option. What is it?

    2. Why does aquiring two late round draft picks in ?05 offset losing a lottery pick in ?06 and possibly ?07?

    :: Because the quality of player available varies widely from year to year, especially after the top 4-5 players. The 2003 Lebron draft is widely considered to have been an especially deep draft. 2002 and 2004 were very weak by comparison. Some drafts are simply better than others. In fact, the new age restriction the promises to water drafts down even further. (Also, in ?07 Chicago has the option of swapping picks, so the Knicks may not lose anything. Chi may have little interest in paying a higher salary unless they can get a difference maker.)

  41. dave crockett

    Kareem asks?

    3. Are Rudy Gay, Adam Morrison, or really any top 10 pick in this years draft (and a possible top 10 pick in next years) so bad that they?re are not even projected to be productive, low cost players?

    :: My argument is simply that you can add enough production in year A to offset foregoing the market in year B, leaving you no worse off than had you been in the market both years. Curry alone is worth foregoing even the top pick in this June?s draft imo (2003 would have been a different story). But Thomas?s ?05 draft was also productive enough to even further lower the opportunity cost of forgoing a pick in ?06. NY has a surplus of young, productive, and inexpensive talent not a shortage.

    Have you seen them play?

    :: I saw 4 UConn games last year, one so far this year (vs Arizona in Maui). I?ve seen at least 5 Gonzaga games in the past two seasons, maybe more. For the record I?ve liked Morrison since his freshman season.

    Also, are you familiar wth foreign players or do you ignore them since Zeke does?

    :: I won?t dignify that with a comment other than to point out that it was uncalled for. We can disagree without all that.

  42. dave crockett

    Kareem asks?

    4. Isn?t it easier to trade for productive players when dealing with teams who aren?t willing to pay the lux. tax if the guys you are moving have cap friendly contracts?

    :: Well, yeah. If you had cap friendly contracts to play with you wouldn?t be in salary cap hell in the first place. If you start out with bad contracts the CBA demands that you end up with bad contracts. This is the issue I have with your (and Hollinger?s) frequent sniping at Thomas. As many here have pointed out, the Knicks were screwed through ?07 almost no matter what because of the Houston and Anderson deals. There was no getting under the cap with those deals, and salary flexibility really only happens under the cap.

    After ?07 we?re stuck paying Marbury but that?s the only onerous contract. The Knicks have $49 million in committed payroll in ?08 (that?s minus picks, free agents, etc.). While I personally believe the right thing for Thomas to do when he came to NY was blow it up, draft well, and wait for ?07 rolling the dice on a couple players in their primes or entering them is not a horrid idea on principle. (For the record, I?ve said repeatedly that Thomas?s record is mixed in this regard; not great, but certainly not the trainwreck it?s portrayed to be.)

  43. Kareem

    1. Correct me if I misunderstood you, but the Anderson and Houston contracts expire in ’07. I was responding to the idea that the Knicks wouldn’t be under until 2010. Isn’t this due to Isiah? Also, there are ways to unload undesirable contracts. This is through trading cap friendly players and draft picks, neither of which the Zeke seems to value appropriatly. There are teams who would glady take an expiring Anderson/Houston contract a year early if packaged with some talent or a pick.

    2. You’re missing the point. Even if ’05 was a strong draft, that has nothing to due with losing your ’06 and maybe ’07 lottery picks. They didn’t swap their ’06 pick for the ’05 pick. You should take a look at the players available in the lottery over the last 10 years. Even in the weaker drafts, you have a good chance of getting a productive player/all-star. And, I might add, this is the best way to get a franchise player.

    3. There is no such thing as a surplus of young, talente, inexpensive players. This holds especially true when you’re A) A terrible team and B) When you can afford to move these kinds of players for high priced, grade A, talent. Or, in other words, these are the kinds of players Minnesota would want for Kevin Garnett, the Celtics for Paul Pierce, etc.

    As far as saying that Curry is worth a lottery pick, that is somewhat true except for 3 factors that devalue him as a commodity:

    A. The lottery pick was also sent with a player who is the same age and no statistical evidence suggests is worse than Curry.

    B. He has a heart condition that has caused him to miss time and was a major factor in his old team getting rid of him.

    C. On arrival, he wsa given a contract that paid him an insane ammount given his heart condition and play.

    Or, in other words, even if you don’t value lottery picks in this draft (which, if you look at lottery picks in even weak drafts is a mistake) there is no way I’d rather have a 10 million a year, uninsurable, Eddie Curry than a statistically comparable Mike Sweetney.

    – I don’t know how you can have seen Rudy Gay or Adam Morrison and not think they don’t have tons of potential. They’re both better than Marvin Williams, Sean May, Ray Felton, Derron Williams, and any number of players from last years draft in my opinion.

    4. “If you start out with bad contracts the CBA demands that you end up with bad contracts.”

    Right, unless, as you suggest, the team is blown up. Look, this team has been terrible since Zeke took over, including this year. The Knicks could be sitting pretty right now and with their willingness to take on salary and pay the lux tax be in position to start moving young, talented, cap-friendly players and draft picks for the Garnett’s and Pierce’s of the world. Instead, they’re hoping Eddie Curry, Channing Frye, Jamal Crawford, and Nate Robinson grow up to be these kinds of guys. Doesn’t really make sense, does it? I mean, why wait until 2010 to maybe be good when you could have had a powerhouse in ’07

    Jerome James

  44. Scott

    The Knicks could be sitting pretty right now? I disagree. You cannot just “blow it up” without paying some cost — as Dave says, that’s the way the CBA works. You cannot get rid of bad contracts without a) giving up talent to induce a team to take your headaches, b)giving up draft picks to the same end, or c) sitting on your hands waiting for them to expire. The Layden Knicks had little talent anyone else wanted; the Kareem Rebuilding Plan would seem to involve keeping your draft picks. So (c) was the only option — not so much “blowing it up” as letting it slowly implode over a three-year period. That means that your 2005-06 Knicks would have been Channing Frye, Trevor Ariza, Kirk Snyder (or maybe Andre Iguodala by the logic earlier in this thred), the detritus of the Layden era, some MLE/LLE guys. No Curry, Crawford, Nate, Lee, or Marbury. You’d be hoping to draft Rudy Gay, planning to be in the lottery again in 06-07 and hoping to lure a big free agent in the summer of 2007. Maybe that was the best option, but be realistic about what that would mean: being really bad for four or five years, and then trying to lure a big free agent to that really bad team. You’re still gambling, but your gamble is on hitting it big in the lottery or getting a big free agent.

    Next — have you seen espn.com’s list of top 25 free agents available this coming off-season. There’s Ben Wallace and a bunch of second-tier players. The superstars almost never move as free agents — they sign fat extensions before they even get to the market. (Nash is an exception, but look at the past off-season — the top guy to move was Larry Hughes, good but no franchise player.)

    Finally — you said many teams would gladly take a Shandon/Eisley packaged with “some talent or picks.” I agree. Isiah’s strategy has more often involved being one of those “many teams.” Taking on guys like Penny, Malik Rose, and Jerome Williams, even Q-Rich, has enabled him to get talent (Steph, Craw) and picks (David Lee, 1st rounder yet to come, Nate). If you look at it this way maybe you’ll see that there’s a logic to what Isiah’s been doing, even if you don’t like the particular players he’s gone after and even if you still think waiting the contracts out was a better plan.

  45. Kareem

    I think it’s a pretty straight forward “plan” actually, and the same “plan” Zeke said he was going to execute when he first got the job.

    You either really suck and I mean high lottery, top 3 pick suck and keep your picks to build a young core of appropriatly priced players while signing desirable MLE guys until you get under the cap in ’07. You then sign some FAs and try to move players and picks for a Garnett type. Baron Davis was traded for peanuts, Shaq and McGrady were aquired for not a great deal, and Portland could have had Paul Pierce for their first round pick last year so simply by sucking and being under the cap, star talent is available if you have cap room and lotto picks to deal.

    This is basically where Memphis and Denver are right now. You can rebuild very quickly in the NBA if you have some young pieces and are under the cap.

    OR

    You move some assets, some picks, (and this includes the guys that were sent in the Marbury trade), some players, and get under the cap right away, and start signing appropriatly priced FAs to complement the picks you still have in 07 and 08. This is more of a “win now” plan.

    Personaly, I prefer the first route. You get the chance of landing some really top level talent through the draft as well as through trade in ’07 AND you have the failsafe of keeping your ’07 and ’08 picks in case things go wrong.

    These are the kind of plans guys like Donnie Walsh or RC Buford would put in place and stick to.

    I seriously think there is no logic to what he’s done except tried to shortcut the process and in turn has made the misery far longer. When you talk about the “talent’ that he’s aquired in the process, you’re talking about low round draft picks like Nate Robinson and Lee who are no sure things to say the least, and guys like Curry, Jerome James, and Crawford who he had to seriously overpay, and in Curry’s case give up picks and a comparable player for.

    In fact, and correct me if I’m wrong, isn’t what I’m saying what he claimed his plan was when he got the job?

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  47. Scott

    I’ll try this one more time.

    Kareem: the first “plan” you describe I agree could have been done — the team would have been guaranteed to be abysmal until at least 2007, which is 3 1/2 years into Isiah’s tenure, but it could have been done and might even have worked. But keep this in mind when you say Isiah is “prolonging the misery” — you wanted him to come in with a plan that would require four years of bottom-feeding BEFORE EVEN TRYING TO WIN MORE GAMES. That’s prolonged misery — ask Bulls fans.

    The second plan you mention wasn’t possible given the Layden Knicks. As has been pointed out (and this is my last time trying to make this point), you can’t trade bad players with bad contracts to “get under the cap right away” unless you have talent to package with the bad contracts. Lampe and Vujanic weren’t going to get it done. You could have traded unprotected 1st round picks, but that’s what you’re howling about with the Curry trade (not w/o reason). Plus then you’re asking KG to come to a team w/no talent AND no high lottery picks to build from.

    Finally, as you say, you can trade for superstars — but notice that you don’t have to be under the cap to do it. You just need expriring contracts and young players/draft picks to deal.

    Donnie Walsh, btw, rebuilt on the fly — he didn’t “blow it up” when the Reggie/Smits/Davis boys core got old.

    OK, enough said on this topic, for me anyway…

  48. Kareem

    I’LL TRY THIS ONE MORE TIME AS WELL

    1. Aren’t the Knicks terrible until ’07 anyway?

    2. Saying Lampe, Vujanic, aren’t going to “get er done” as assets to get under the cap is MAJOR revisonist history and below you. People were hot on these two. The use of them, plus expiring contracts, players of some value from the team, and future draft picks could have put the Knicks under immediatly.

    3. KG doesn’t have a choice where he goes if he’s traded, just like Baron Davis, Shaq and McGrady didn’t.

    Actually, Donnie Walsh did blow the team up, he just had a championship caliber team to use to retool. He did exactly what I am suggesting. He kept his picks, traded for young, appropriatly priced players, and rode it out. Some guys, like Bender, didn’t pan out, and others, like Jermaine O’Neal, Foster, Tinsley, etc. did. Or, you can look at Kiki Vandewege (sp) did in Denver. He had a lot of big, unmovable contracts and he totally cleaned house. Abdul-Wahad, LaFrentz, Van Exel, etc. They sucked, got a high draft pick, and used cap space to rebuild in a year. Not too f-cking complicated if you ask me, and it’s the course the Knicks should STILL be looking to take.

    HOW DARE THOSE GMS COME IN WITH A PLAN THAT SAYS NOT TO AT LEAST TRY TO WIN GAMES NOW!!!

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