Jeremy from Roundball Mining Company, was kind enough to answer some questions about the new Knicks.
KB: How did Denver use him most often, as a PF or SF?
RMC: Balkman was not used often enough to classify him as either. Two seasons ago I would say he was used more at power forward. Personally I believe he is best utilized as a small forward. He is too light in the rump to cover power forwards on the block, but he is a tremendous rebounder.
Here is an old scouting report on Balkman I produced at my former blog:
KB: Any thoughts on why he wasn’t used more?
RMC: The official line from George Karl was he did not like putting a player who cannot shoot on the floor, but that never seemed to eat into Kenyon Martin’s minutes. Another problem is that Balkman was a little too content to ride the bench. You do not want players always harping about a lack of playing time, but you do want them to want to play.
Personally, I think Balkman belongs in someone’s rotation. Karl is correct when he says he cannot shoot, but that does not mean he cannot score. I would equate Balkman to a possession receiver who finds open spots in the zone. He is always lurking around the rim and has a knack for getting open along the baseline. To continue with the football analogy, apparently, Karl wanted him to be a deep threat instead of a player willing and able to work underneath the coverage.
KB: Billups minutes have decreased over the last 3 years. Is this due to an improved Nuggets bench or Chauncey’s age?
RMC: Both. Chauncey has really worn down at the end of the previous two seasons. In 2008-09 it happened in the Western Conference finals. Last season it happened in March, which was startling. I do not know if Karl is purposely limiting his minutes or if it is a factor of Ty Lawson being more capable this season as a backup plus Arron Afflalo and J.R. Smith are playing well enough that running Billups at the two is not as good of an idea as it was last season.
Knicks fans should definitely be ready to see Billups’ effectiveness decrease as the season wears on. However, if he were to miss some time it could be a blessing in disguise. In 2009-10 he sat out eight games in December and January and part of two others with a hamstring injury. When he returned he was fresh and immediately produced arguably the best six week stretch of his career. He can still play, when he is rested.
KB: With a career TS% of 58.1%, Billups is extremely efficient. What do you attribute that to?
RMC: Honestly, it is due to hard work, instincts and talent. Chauncey is not the kind of shooter who waits for a swing pass to splash open threes. He takes and makes difficult threes, and he is great off the dribble. I have long hated his run up threes in transition, but according to Synergy, he is as good shooting threes in transition as he is in the half court.
Plus Billups gets to the line far more often than you would expect. You cannot lay off of him as he will shoot at any moment and as a result he is a very good penetrator. He does not get into the lane with speed, but the aforementioned instinct. As John Hollinger has pointed out in the past, you cannot judge Billups by his field goal percentage. His threes and free throws make him much more valuable on offense and efficient than that stat would suggest.
KB: D’Antoni offenses enjoy pushing the ball up, and running the pick & roll. How would you rate Chauncey in these two areas?
RMC: These are two areas where I believe Knicks fans will be disappointed in the swap of Felton and Billups. Chauncey is not a good pick and roll point guard. If he is pressured at all, he simply dribbles away from the pressure and never looks to pass. Chauncey is good at jog it up, but is not a run it up, push the pace for the entire time he is on the floor. When the Nuggets run, it is behind Ty Lawson. Chauncey is more content to take his time.
KB: How would you rate him defensively, let’s say on a scale from 1-5? (1= worst, 5th = best)
RMC: At this point in his career he is a two. He cannot stay in front of anyone anymore and his team defense and rotations have slipped as well. However, that was a problem for the Nuggets as a whole as they have plunged from a perennial top ten team in defensive efficiency to a bottom feeder this season.
KB: Knick fans were pining for Ty Lawson in the draft. How high are Denver fans on him?
RMC: I believe Lawson is a future top ten point guard. He can score and distribute and defensively is much better than expected although he still needs to improve at that end of the floor. The fact that Lawson is ready to start right now is a big reason why Denver was willing to part with Billups.
KB: Let’s start with his defense. Like Billups can you rate it on a scale from 1-5?
RMC: I would have to give Melo a two as well. He will get some steals and blocks, but as any informed fan knows, those do not necessarily translate to good defense. Melo showed some improvement on defense over the last two seasons, but it was an improvement from “where did my man go?” to at least paying attention 80% of the time. He is a very good rebounder from the small forward position and has appeared to accept the challenge of guarding other star scorers recently instead of looking to switch immediately.
I do not think Melo will ever be a player willing to provide timely help or rotate with purpose, but as long as he at least knows where his man is and takes some responsibility for what he does when he has the ball, he can at least provide some assistance on the defensive end.
KB: Carmelo’s rebounding has increased this year (7.8 reb/36) and is at the highest of his career. What do you attribute this change to?
RMC: I honestly do not have a good answer. I think it can partially be attributed to the absence of Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen for much of the first 50 games. Those two are typically the best rebounders Denver puts on the floor and Melo might have simply had a few more opportunities. I suspect you will see Melo continue to rebound well in New York. He has the potential to be a great offensive rebounder, but his effort at that end has been inconsistent on the offensive glass.
KB: Anthony’s three point shooting has been inconsistent over his career. Can you see him ever developing into a consistent league average shooter from downtown?
RMC: If it has not happened by now, I do not expect it to happen at all. Unlike with Billups, most of Melo’s three point attempts are of the catch and shoot variety. He does tend to drift and lean on his shot and you will see him raise his leg to keep balanced. That is something that could possibly be easily rectified. Also, Melo has shot the three in Denver for fun, not out of offensive necessity. With that being a big part of the Knicks offense, maybe he chooses to work on that aspect of his game more in the summer and become at least a passable three point shooter.
KB: Considering that D’Antoni’s offense relies on ball movement and spreading the floor with the three point shot, how well do you see Anthony fitting in with his new coach’s philosophy?
RMC: This is where I take issue with the Knicks’ love for Carmelo. Yes he is a very good scorer, but it comes at the expense of opportunities for others. Anthony has never taken advantage of the attention defenses pay to him by using his talents as a passer to consistently produce easy scoring opportunities for his teammates. Plus he is loves to hold the ball in his hands. I do not see him fitting into D’Antoni’s system very well, especially when Amare wants the ball in his hands as well.
If Fields and Billups are not keeping teams honest from the perimeter, they will pack the paint and make life miserable for Amare and Melo.
KB: Where would you rank Anthony in terms of NBA players right now? Top 10? Top 20?
RMC: I would put Carmelo at the fringe of the top ten. He is inefficient and forces his offense too often, but his talent is undeniable. From a pure ability standpoint Melo is a top five player, but he has never put all of his skills to use and that limits his effectiveness. Carmelo is all about scoring and then scoring some more. With that attitude he severely limits his ability to help his team win games.