Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Computers vs. Scouts

With 16 days left before the draft, teams are busily working out prospects, haggling with agents and breaking down game tape. Could there be an easier way? Last week we were talking about computer rating systems that purport to identify the best draft prospects, without the messy work of actually watching games, administering brain profile tests and trekking through rundown former Soviet airports.  The two systems that have garnered the most attention were designed by Erich Doerr, a David Berri disciple, and ESPN’s John Hollinger. A good summation and explanation of the systems was posted here last year:

 http://www.knickerblogger.net/index.php/2007/06/26/draft-analysis-by-the-numbers/

The short version: Doerr’s “PAWS” (Pace-Adjusted Win Score) rating looks solely at college game statistics, ranking players using Berri’s winscore metric. He adjusts for strength of schedule (40 points against Kansas means more than 40 points against Helen Keller). Doerr’s posts are not easy reading, but it appears he simply takes the best-ranked players and assumes that those are the best NBA prospects.  

Hollinger starts with a similar approach, using his PER (Player Efficiency Rating), calculated with college game statistics.  Unlike Doerr, he makes a number of adjustments.  In essence, this puts Hollinger closer to mainstream draft gurus. He finds that players who are tall for their position tend to do better in the pros. He also finds that certain statistics – like steals – are specific markers of athleticism. Unlike Doerr, Hollinger also takes age into account. An 18-year-old prospect with the same numbers as a 22-year-old prospect (or even a 19-year-old) gets a significantly higher rating.

Even the creators of these systems would say that they are only a tool, and very much a work-in-progress.  A smart drafter might use them to identify promising players to whom he or she hadn’t paid much attention, or to raise red flags about prominent players who might be overrated.  Here’s a comparison of what the Hollinger & Doerr computers spit out last year, along with the actual draft order.  Since both systems rate only college players, for the sake of side-by-side comparison I left Yi Jianlan and Marco Belinelli off the actual draft list.  That’s right, these methods won’t tell you who’s tearing up the Italian League, or whether OJ Mayo’s high school career was more impressive than that of LeBron James.

Oh, and Nick Fazekas? He only played 269 minutes as a rookie, but per 40 minutes he scored 15.9 points and had 13.2 rebounds, along with a TS% of 58.2 and a rebound rate better than David Lee or Zach Randolph.

     Hollinger                                           Doerr                              Actual 2007 Draft

1. Kevin Durant                                  Nick Fazekas                       Greg Oden

2. Greg Oden                                     Kevin Durant                        Kevin Durant         

3. Mike Conley, Jr.                             Al Horford                            Al Horford

4. Thaddeus Young                           Greg Oden                            Mike Conley, Jr.

5. Brandan Wright                             Joakim Noah                          Jeff Green

6. Al Horford                                     Jared Dudley                         Corey Brewer

7. Nick Fazekas                                 Jason Smith                           Brandan Wright

8. Josh McRoberts                             Morris Almond                       Joakim Noah

9. Rodney Stuckey                             Julian Wright                         Spencer Hawes

10. Jared Dudley                                Brandan Wright                     Acie Law, IV

11. Joakim Noah                                Rodney Stuckey                    Thaddeus Young

12. Glen Davis                                   Al Thornton                           Julian Wright

13. Sean Williams                               Mike Conley, Jr.                    Al Thornton

14. Jeff Green                                     Glen Davis                            Rodney Stuckey

15. Kyle Visser                                   Daequan Cook                      Nick Young

16. Herbert Hill                                  Marcus Williams                    Sean Williams

17. Javaris Crittenden                         Jeff Green                             Javaris Crittendon

18. Wilson Chandler                            Sean Williams                      Jason Smith

19. Julian Wright                                 Corey Brewer                        Daequan Cook

20. Daquean Cook                              Derrick Byars                        Jared Dudley

 

 

69 comments on “Computers vs. Scouts

  1. Caleb Post author

    Nick Fazekas, potential throw-in to our 4-way trade with the Clippers, Pistons and Sixers.

  2. dave crockett

    “[Hollinger] also finds that certain statistics – like steals – are specific markers of athleticism.”

    I have a bone to pick with this claim. I read it from Hollinger and keep reading it all over the place. It strikes me as a troubling oversimplification.

    Getting steals is a skill. Athleticism helps, but it’s not a requirement. Steals, in my mind at least, are about aggression and scheme. I always think of Pepe Sanchez. Few people remember the diminutive Argentinian point guard who played at Temple in the mid-90s, during the Rip Hamilton, Elton Brand, Corey Maggette era of college hoops. One of my favorite all-time players, he was always among the NCAA leaders in steals and assists. Although Sanchez had fantastic court vision and hand-eye coordination, he was unfortunately one of the least athletic backcourt players I’ve ever seen at a major basketball school. He got a cup of coffee with the Pistons in summer league, but just couldn’t muster the athleticism needed to play in the NBA.

    Sanchez does not “disprove” Hollinger’s steals = athleticism intuition but disconfirming cases like Sanchez’s aren’t hard to spot. There are enough to make Hollinger’s claim seem like a serious overstatement. Stealing the ball is a skill. Athleticism helps, but aggression and scheme matter at least as much.

    In 2005/06 the not-very-athletic Mardy Collins averaged 3.3 steals/40 at Temple, while the uber athletic Renaldo Balkman averaged 2.9/40 at S. Carolina. Despite markedly different levels of athleticism they were getting roughly equivalent steals in college. I would attribute Collins’ slightly higher number to the aggressive matchup zone Temple played for so many years. Now, situated in the same defensive system in NY they’re still getting roughly equivalent steals (1.8/40 for Balkman, 1.5 for Collins) but now Balkman gets more. Balkman’s athleticism making up the difference, I suspect, now that the scheme is held constant.

    Two guys drafted last year primarily as defenders, and both widely considered pretty athletic, Aaron Afflalo (UCLA) and Alando Tucker (Wisconsin), averaged .8/40 and 1.2/40 respectively in 06/07. Their defensive schemes in college were based more on clogging up the lane and position defense rather than generating steals. Stephen Curry on the other hand, an average athlete at best, averaged 2.2/40 that year in more of a trapping, pressing system at Davidson.

    Again, these cases don’t disconfirm a “steals = athleticism” intuition. They complicate it a lot though; so much so that I would be very hesitant to start factoring in steals to help grade player’s athleticism.

  3. dave crockett

    Great post by the way Caleb!

    Hollinger just has a way of getting under my skin sometimes by making borderline grandiose claims based on numbers that don’t tell nearly as clear a story as he would like to suggest.

  4. D Hoboken

    Couple of thoughts…

    I don’t like the idea of using the 6th pick to get rid of Randolph. I think he has to have a little value to some team. there are a few teams that have no low post scoring and might be willing to take on his contract: Chicago, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and if they get rid of ‘sheed, Detroit.

    I think Chicago would trade Larry Hughes for z-bo straight up. (assuming they take rose)

    I also think we can find a way to send him to either the sixers or memphis.

    I also agree with other posters that they don’t need to move randolph this year and that some of our guys stats should improve under dantoni.

    One great deal i saw mentioned was sending Marbury to Indiana for Oneil and the 11th pick. (basically buying the 11th pick for 20 million dollars)

    Is there a draft pick value system in the NBA like there is in the NFL? I am wondering if the Nets would trade the 10th and 21st for the Knicks 6th. I like our chances better with augustine or westbrook and another pick like lopez than the 6th if its not OJ Mayo.

    on a seperate note…some mocks have the knicks taking Randolph from LSU- I’m not high on him- he looks like a skinny channing frye to me, not an impact player.

  5. Thomas B.

    Caleb,

    Way to go on the initial offering! I don’t understand a word of it, but congrats to you.

  6. Joel

    Just to clarify, my impression was that it wasn’t just steals that Hollinger took into consideration, but some combination of steals, blocks, rebound rate, etc. All the ways in which someone might be quantifiably and functionally athletic (well, not counting combine results). The intent is to push down those people whose athleticism doesn’t actually translate into basketball (call them “Joey Grahams”) as well as those whose athleticism doesn’t cross the threshold necessary to be a quality NBA player.

    Whether it actually succeeds? Well, the results look pretty good to me, so far.

    I like Hollinger – I guess he can be a little reductive and/or holier-than-thou at times, but given how many mouth-breathing Kobe fanboys and die-hard anti-stat types he has to deal with, it’s hard to blame him.

  7. Matthew

    Doerr’s list doesn’t pass the laugh test. Fazekas might be better than he gets credit for but drafting him over Oden and Durant would be laugh-out-loud stupid.

  8. retropkid

    Now they just need to use some regressions to identify what position each team really needs to fill….match up needs with talent ranking, and who needs GMs and agents!

    I’m waiting for the stats to tell us which team will next hire Zeke as coach….and when….

  9. jon abbey

    Fazekas was released by Dallas midseason, picked up by the Clippers, and doesn’t seem to definitely be on their team for next year. not exactly an All-Star career trajectory thus far…

  10. Ess-dog

    Looks like both had a good eye on Stuckey. Hollinger actually has our very own Wilson Chandler at 18. Does anyone know where we picked him? See I knew Zeke was a great GM (crowd laughs.)
    Has anyone gotten a hold of Hollinger’s 2008 list? Just curious. Who would this year’s “sleepers” be?
    Budinger? Donte Greene?

  11. Renaldo Balkman's Agent

    “it’s getting awfully hard to care about the NBA.”

    Agreed. But less because of the F-ing ref-ing and more because the Knicks have sucked for so long.

  12. Renaldo Balkman's Agent

    “Team 3 lost the first two games in the series and Team 3’s owner complained to NBA officials,” the letter said. “Team 3’s owner alleged that referees were letting a Team 4 player get away with illegal screens. NBA Executive Y told Referee Supervisor Z that the referees for that game were to enforce the screening rules strictly against that Team 4 player. Referee Supervisor Z informed the referees about his instructions. As an alternate referee for that game, Tim also received these instructions.”

    Sounds like the beginning of an LSAT question…..

  13. Ray

    Speculation is good but it only gets me a bit more fustrated. When draft day comes we will see how much magic Donnie Walsh has left in him.

  14. daaarn

    Right now I’m in nervous anticipation. I can’t wait to see who the Knicks pick, yet I can’t help but feel it’ll be an unwelcome surprise (to me anyway). With some early info coming in from the combines and workouts, it seems like our slim chances of getting a true impact player are gone (I think Mayo is almost definitely off the board now). I’m not particularly fond of any of the remaining players left around our draft range and I haven’t been hearing about too many trade-down rumors so I’m not really liking our prospects. Either way, I think anyone we’re likely to get w/ the 6th pick will be a solid, if unspectacular player.

  15. Erich

    Hey guys,
    I’m quite honored to be listed side by side with Hollinger & 30 NBA GM’s.

    While I publish a PAWS/M score, I hesitate to deem that as a pure index of player value. Typically, I have started with a popular mock draft and advise optimism or pessimism based on projected draft cost and statistical indicators.
    I believe NCAA PAWS projects better than Hollinger’s PER, but have yet to go as far as Hollinger in assessing other factors or creating a single number player value. I may say more about this in a forthcoming article.

    Thank you for your comments and I even appreciate the criticism. I’m a numbers guy, and I tend to write like one. Sorry!

    Erich

    2008 draft coverage (more to come)

    Grading the 2007 Prospect Projections

    My 2008 Wages of Wins Journal NCAA Player Preview

  16. Ess-dog

    Wow Erich Doerr! This is like George Clooney stopping by my weekly poker game…
    I’d be curious to hear more about Love. The season he had at 19 years old against the country’s best teams was amazing. Doerr ranks him pretty high (and the fact that he ranks Dorsey so high – the player that stopped Love in the final game – is interesting too.
    If OJ is gone and we still have the 6th pick and Love is available, do you take him? Could he project as a center in D’Antoni’s system as a Kurt Thomas type? Of course, this would be dependent on a trade of either Lee or Randolph. Would you trade Lee to Sacto for the #12 pick? See if Westbrook or Augustin falls?

  17. Owen

    Lee for the 12th pick. You jest of course.

    I love Love. I think it’s crazy how underrated he is in this draft. And I would love to have him as a Knick, except that he doesn’t really fill any of our many needs.

    I love Dorsey also. He seemed to me to be the backbone of that Memphis Tigers team. The Ben Wallace potential is real I think. I don’t know where he is projected to go, but he might be an awesome pick up in the second round or by trading down.

  18. jon abbey

    I love Love also, it’s a shame that he’s such an overlap with Lee, I don’t see how either of them can play many minutes anywhere but PF.

    “I love Dorsey also. He seemed to me to be the backbone of that Memphis Tigers team. The Ben Wallace potential is real I think. I don’t know where he is projected to go, but he might be an awesome pick up in the second round or by trading down.”

    again, just to be sure, you realize he’s going to be 25 in December? no wonder he looked like a man among boys, he was. I’d go after him hard if he doesn’t get drafted, though.

  19. Owen

    i do realize he is 24. Fair objection. I did like what Erich had to say on the matter.

    “The most common complaint on Dorsey is his age. People mention that he did dominate, but he’s 24 years old. Please note that his domination started four years ago, during his freshman year.”

    We need a rugged defensive presence, he seems to fit the bill.

  20. RenZ

    “Would you trade Lee to Sacto for the #12 pick? See if Westbrook or Augustin falls?”

    Hmmm… as the most vocal “Trade Zach Randolph Immediately” proponent on this board, I’d prefer to include Randolph in a deal like that. Lee and Randolph for any of Sac’s crappy contracts + #12.

  21. Ess-dog

    If we had a 2nd round pick, I’d take Dorsey.
    As far as Lee goes, of course I’d rather get rid of Randolph, but honestly, I can’t see anyone taking that contract for a player that is considered selfish and lazy on D and a bit of a troublemaker. There’s only one owner that dumb who would be that reckless with his money…

    ahem…

  22. retropkid

    I Love love too. Enough to, horrors!, offer David Lee as a carrot for somebody to take Curry and/or Randolph off our hands.

    Love has tremendous upside, Lee has proven chops, presumably more attractive than a draft pick now, and I think we need to move our wheat to get rid of some chaff, unfortunately.

    Is anyone surprised that top NBA players and teams are alleged to get the calls? C’mon — the fix has been in for decades, I know for certain the rumor of Pat Ewing (frozen envelope) going to the Knicks is fact. The NBA is a business at the end of the day…and entertainment…not sport…

  23. David Crockett

    Joel said:

    I like Hollinger – I guess he can be a little reductive and/or holier-than-thou at times, but given how many mouth-breathing Kobe fanboys and die-hard anti-stat types he has to deal with, it’s hard to blame him.

    :: I don’t dislike Hollinger either per se, but that’s exactly what drives me crazy about him. He can be reductionist AND holier than thou in his popular writing (which is how most people access his work). His interpretations and conclusions can be flip. Flip sells papers and books. I totally get that. But if you’re not going to use stats with all the standard academic caveats of cautious and conservative interpretation–and of course you can’t in popular sports writing–then you can’t beat people across the brow with your proprietary stat.

  24. David Crockett

    I too love Love. I entered the season pretty skeptical when I saw his body for the first time. But as long as a guy meets the athleticism threshold I’ll take ultra skilled over ultra athletic every time, mostly because it is so difficult to teach skills at the NBA level. It requires a great deal of coaching stability, which is in very short supply.

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Love in the draft. So much of his value is in his floor game that he has to go to the right team to be successful. If someone asks him to be the focal point of the offense as a scorer they’ll be disappointed.

  25. ess-dog

    I feel like the Wolves might take Love because he is exactly what Kevin McHale was in his day- a thinking power forward who could do a little bit of everything despite lack of mobility. It might be hard to argue that he would not be the most valuable player left if he is there at #6. If the Sixers were smart, they’d trade up to get Love. If he’s still there at 6 that trade might very well happen. Or Sacramento who needs a good draw and a power forward.
    The Knicks are in a spot where someone good will be left over; Bayless, Lopez, Love or Gallinari or a couple of those. That’s why I think there will be a draft day trade of #6 to someone who wants one of those players badly.

  26. TDM

    I agree that the Wolves may take Love, but I also still think they may take B. Lopez. They seem set in the backcourt with McCants and Foye. And I can’t imagine that their best player, Jefferson, won’t start complaining that he is playing out of position -kind of like Kurt Thomas did in his last few seasons with the Knicks. Its one thing to play out of position when you are winning, but Minnesota obviously isn’t in that position. On a separate note, according to espn trade machine Jefferson is only making around $2.5/year. Is that accurate?

  27. Erich

    I’m hoping Clooney is a decent poker player…

    One reason I have yet to construct a purely statistical index value is that I believe scouts really do bring a lot to the table. I’m not one to advocate Scouts vs Stats, I’d rather embrace both, noting that I personally believe that stats are generally undervalued in evaluating draft picks. This is why I take a mock draft as the basis and use statistics to craft claims of optimism & pessimism.

    While I focus more on the NCAA, I would refer you to David Berri’s work in assessing the Knicks and their best path. Off hand, the immediate future doesn’t look bright. Berri has discussed how coaches are typically overvalued and in this case, D’Antoni’s personnel preferences may really hurt the Knicks. David Lee and Renaldo Balkman are viewed as two of the more productive Knicks by PAWS, and shipping these undervalued assets out would certainly hurt the Knicks significantly.

    From a recent Berri article:

    Knicks after 76 games

    This information suggests losing Lee & Balkman may cost the Knicks 10+ wins (this would be mitigated by what they receive in return, but it sounds like these guys might be traded for pennies on the productive dollar). On the bright side, a Quentin Richardson revitalization offers some hope for the future. For more in-depth analysis, I’d watch Berri’s Wages of Wins Journal for an offseason Knicks review article or browse the Wages of Wins Journal history for Knick-related posts.

    In the draft, the Knicks are in a tough spot and would do best to add the top talent available. To me, that means not passing on Love and possibly moving up to get him. As for trading productive players/picks for cap room, that’s beyond the scope of my speculation here.

  28. jon abbey

    with all due respect, even if you’re God himself, we need more Berri links on this site like David Stern needs more crooked refs (actually maybe he does need more, he’s evidently down one on his task force now).

  29. W.C.

    Sometimes these discussion can get really interesting when you compare the views of numbers oriented people to visual oriented people or people that try to combine the best of both.

    I’m very much into using statistics as a compliment to visual observation of a player because I think there are intangibles that some players bring to the table that can be very positive or negative, but they can’t be captured well numerically.

    I also think that certain team chemistry factors work to enhance or detract from an individual player’s results making him appear to be better or worse than he actually is based on stats.

    Even though Balkman and Lee rate fairly well statistically, I don’t think either player will ever be more than a solid role player based on my observation.

    In the case of Balkman, his offensive skills (outside shooting and free throw shooting) are so poor I think a team cannot become a major contender with him getting a lot of minutes unless he’s on the court with some very talented offensive players. It’s like playing offense 4 against 5 any time you are in the half court. The defense gets a free “double team card” against whoever else they want.

    To some degree (though much less) the same is true of Lee. Lee also needs to improve his outside shot enough so that defenders stop sagging off and double teaming in the paint. This is a liability that doesn’t show up in stats very well because it’s hurting others.

    To me, QricH shouldn’t even be in the NBA anymore. He’s horrible now and was never all that good to begin with. You can’t have a SF that shoots 35%-40% as the starting SF on this Knicks team. Any discussion that includes the Knicks and Qrich’s potential contribution when healthier is vomit material.

  30. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger)

    “In the case of Balkman, his offensive skills (outside shooting and free throw shooting) are so poor I think a team cannot become a major contender with him getting a lot of minutes unless he’s on the court with some very talented offensive players. It’s like playing offense 4 against 5 any time you are in the half court. The defense gets a free “double team card” against whoever else they want.”

    My god if I see this argument again I might just gauge my eyes out. I’m tired of the “you can’t have an offense without everyone being able to create their own shot and/or have a jumper”. The 2006 Pistons be damned.

  31. jon abbey

    if you want to feel sick about spending so much time following this league, check out this piece:

    http://myespn.go.com/blogs/truehoop/0-32-308/A-Professional-Gambler-s-Take-on-the-Tim-Donaghy-Scandal.html

    I really wish following this league wasn’t so deeply ingrained in my blood, because it’s been a while since I’ve been as pissed off at a talking head on TV as I was last night at the smarmy, condescending liar that is David Stern.

    there needs to be a public outcry about this, he deserves to be fired as much as Isiah did. this is seriously worse than the Black Sox scandal, and that’s not hyperbole. this is the league fixing games, not a bunch of rogue players. just sickening.

  32. Nick

    Mike – You must want to throw things at your TV every time the announcers say Kobe or whoever can roam the court because they don’t bother guarding Rondo due to his lack of a long range game. Is it possible that this happens or is Van Gundy or whoever else claims this to be so just making it up? PS: we all know the Pistons won with Ben Wallace and the Lakers were Showtime with Rambis.

    Jon-At least I’m not the only person that finds Stern to be so vulgar and repulsive.

  33. retropkid

    Rambis. The Lakers got MUCH better when they picked up Mychal Thompson….go back and read Bird’s quotes about that. Rambis had some value, but his lack of scoring ability clearly WAS a weakness for that team.

  34. Ted Nelson

    “This is a liability that doesn’t show up in stats very well because it’s hurting others.”

    It does show in the stats to some extent. If teammates score less and/or less efficiency with Lee or Balkman on the court or the offense as a whole does, this is measured statistically. Don’t get me wrong, I like your point about stats and observation working together and don’t feel that stats tell you everything.

    “if I see this argument again I might just gauge my eyes out.”

    I agree 100%: there’s tons of evidence that you can have a very good offense with a relatively bad offensive player in your rotation. (Balkman was hardly the Knicks’ only problem.) W.C. is also right that you need good players around Balkman to be a contender, but you can say the same thing about any player.

    “Berri has discussed how coaches are typically overvalued”

    I don’t follow Berri’s work, but I would expect the Knicks to be an exception in some regards. Isiah was not only the coach, but the ringmaster of the entire NYK’s circus. This was also a team that won 33 games in 06-07 then took a 10 win step backwards with largely the same personnel. (Of course, I’m full prepared for them to sign Artest this offseason and win 13 games next season).

  35. Ted Nelson

    “The Lakers got MUCH better when they picked up Mychal Thompson”

    This is, in fact, FALSE. Each year that Rambis played in 19 mpg or more the Lakers were the BEST offense in the NBA during the regular season and won two titles in those 4 seasons. In his last season, 86-87, playing 19 mpg or more on the Showtime Lakers they led the NBA with a regular season offensive efficiency of 115.6 and won the title. They added Thompson in 87-88 and fell to second in regular seasons offensive efficiency at 113.1 but also won the title. So they scored 2.5 points less per 100 possessions with Thompson and Rambis only playing 12 mpg.

  36. Nick

    Is it possible that the defender rebounders make up for whatever shortcomings they may have in the half court set by creating turnovers, forcing misses and otherwise generating more fast break opportunities? If the numbers are around with reference to just the half court sets I would be interested to see them.

  37. Thomas B.

    “In the case of Balkman, his offensive skills (outside shooting and free throw shooting) are so poor I think a team cannot become a major contender with him getting a lot of minutes unless he’s on the court with some very talented offensive players. It’s like playing offense 4 against 5 any time you are in the half court. The defense gets a free “double team card” against whoever else they want.”

    I am growing so tired of reading statements such as this.

    W.C., I’m not trying to single you out because a few posters have said that, but this statement really does not hold water. It is true that Balkman can hit a jumper or create his own shot but that does not mean he cannot be an offensive contributor. Balkman is an above average offensive rebounder and excellent at cutting to the basket. With propoer ball movement, Balkman can score either cutting in the lane, or by getting an offensive put back. The Pistons had a very effective half court offense with Ben Wallace-an acknowledged zero on offense-right in the middle. In the right offensive system, Balkman will be just fine. It comes down to coaching. It is the job of the coach to develop systems in which the players can thrive. Balkman can be a superb contributor to a fast break offense thanks to his speed, ball ahndling, and ability to finish.

    Furthermore, this game generally isnt won on one side of the court. Balkman’s rebounding, defense, outlet passing, fast break, and steals are overall more valuable to a team than a guy who can only hit a mid range jumper and gives you nothing else.

    Yes, I would ike Balkman to develop a reliable mid range jumper, but I do not want him to stop doing the other things he does so well. Sometimes a players learns to score and he forgets to do anything else.

  38. ess-dog

    I think you are all right. It’s true Balkman has some offensive liabilities… but his defense and rebounding and all-around hustle make him worthy of minutes. Although coaching can be overrated, it seems like finding a good rotation would be paramount to this club’s success. I.T. never found a good rotation (god knows he tried enough times.) Balkman could start with Randolph if we had a defensive minded center as well like Diop or Oden to make up for Randolph’s lax D. Balkman AND Lee starting together would be tough as neither is so good at creating a shot. But, in D’Antoni’s system, it seems like it would be more important to have great passing guards that can shoot the deep ball and good ‘finishers’, and that is what both Lee and Balkman CAN do well at their positions: run the floor and finish. I could see a group of Bayless, Crawford, Balkman, Lee and a center that’s not Curry (Fazekas?) playing great, lots of athleticism. Maybe use Randolph or Chandler if you want more creating off the dribble and shooting. If Jamal could play a little D, that would help. But yeah, we can’t use Curry or Q any more.

  39. Mulligan

    Haralabos Voulgaris (the gambler from the TrueHoop article) seems like a pretty insightful dude. I really enjoyed reading that interview. The guy seems like an untapped resource with an enviable mind and work ethic. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a job with a team because of that interview…

  40. Funky

    Don’t forget about maybe the greatest example of a terrible shooter (and finisher) who nevertheless helped his team win: Dennis Rodman.

  41. W.C.

    >My god if I see this argument again I might just gauge my eyes out. I’m tired of the “you can’t have an offense without everyone being able to create their own shot and/or have a jumper”. The 2006 Pistons be damned.<

    When the Knicks have a core like the Pistons to surround Balkman, I’ll agree with you. LMAO

    The problem is VERY FEW teams have that kind of core. The Knicks are, well, about 5 players away. LOL

    I was very specific that it was possible, but you need a lot of offense to overcome a player that can’t score at all unless he’s got a dunk – especially when he hits less than 50% from the free throw line because they can hack him every time he even gets close to the paint.

  42. Ben R

    Balkman’s biggest weakness is not his lack of a jumper but his truly horrible free throw shooting. If Balkman can simply return to his rookie year or college percentage then he is instantly an averagly efficient scorer. (If he had shot 56.7% from the line his TS% would have been 52%)

    If he can improve even to a poor free throw percentage like 65% then his ability to get to the free throw line becomes a real weapon. He shot a free throw for every 2 shots which makes him a dangerous player if he can convert those free throws with even slightly below average efficiency.

    Balkman’s lack of a jumpshot is not a big liability if he is used properly by his coach. He is a great finisher, gets to line alot, and can lead the break. He only becomes an offensive liability if he is asked to hang around the perimeter, in a half court offense, like the Knicks stagnant offense last year.

    Since both Balkman and Lee are great finsihers, and good passers they should thrive if they are in an offense that is uptempo and uses alot of ball movement. Luckily D’Antoni likes to push the ball upcourt which is exactly one of Balkman’s biggest strengths.

    This four players stand around while one player tries to score one on one offense is a bad way to play basketball and hopefully we won’t see it anymore. As long as that is not our offense Balkman and Lee ahould be fine on the offensive end.

  43. Ted Nelson

    “It’s like playing offense 4 against 5 any time you are in the half court. The defense gets a free “double team card” against whoever else they want.”

    This is a big problem with your logic in my opinion. It’s not really like that. Maybe for an unathletic 6 footer with no J or if eveyone had to stay stationary and just shoot Js. In reality, Balkman can set screens to get others open and also make the opponent pay for doubling off him by grabbing offensive rebounds or cutting to the basket (in an otherwise functional offense).

    If Balkman can play suffocating D, be the best rebounding SF in the game, move well without the ball, and shoot a TS% of .531 (all things he did as a rookie), I’d say he can be a productive member of any team.

    Let’s not forget that there are two sides of the ball. As we’ve discussed before here, Detriot proved it could be a top 5 offensive team with Wallace but was not even in the TOP HALF of the league in regular season offensive efficiency either of the years it made the finals (18th and 17th).

    Thinking in a static way (maybe something like Berri’s model) if a player causes the other team to score, for example, 5 fewer points per 100 possessions than his substitute, while costing his team 3 points per 100 possession compared to that substitute, he gives his team a 2 point per 100 possession advantage. (Basically, if Balkman can cause a defensive swing like he did as a rookie, I think it was 9 points per 100 possessions or something ridiculous like that, in it would be hard to be bad enough on offense not to help his team.)

    Thinking only about offense, your claim that a low usage player with no J or post game necessarily hurts his team is still dubious. Say that a team gets about 1 shot per possession (assuming TOs and ORebs even out), if a guy like Zach Randolph (who can create his own shot, but is actually a worse jump shooter than David Lee) takes 15 of those shots for you (as he did for the 07-08 Knicks) and scores 1.15 points (his 07-08 points per FGA) it would be pretty easy to argue that he’s actually hurting a team that scored 1.18 points on FGAs not taken by Randolph (as the 07-08 Knicks did).

    For the Knicks I just don’t see Balkman’s lack of offense as nearly as big a problem as Isiah’s core’s (Randolph, Curry, Marbury, Crawford) lack of work ethic/ basketball IQ/ a team first mentality. Balkman wasn’t even in the rotation, while a bunch of guys who “create shots” were. Somehow the team sucked. Would they have sucked any less with Balkman in the rotation? Could they have?

  44. Nick

    “For the Knicks I just don’t see Balkman’s lack of offense as nearly as big a problem as Isiah’s core’s (Randolph, Curry, Marbury, Crawford) lack of work ethic/ basketball IQ/ a team first mentality. Balkman wasn’t even in the rotation, while a bunch of guys who “create shots” were. Somehow the team sucked. Would they have sucked any less with Balkman in the rotation? Could they have?”

    I nearly laughed out loud reading that. I think you just summed up 4 years of exasperation in one short paragraph.

  45. W.C.

    Ted,

    >It does show in the stats to some extent. If teammates score less and/or less efficiency with Lee or Balkman on the court or the offense as
    a whole does, this is measured statistically. <

    I can tell that you look beyond the stats. So this is not directed at you, but to make my point…..

    Let’s suppose we are comparing the Knicks with Balkman on the court to the Knicks with QRich on the court. I haven’t even looked at those stats. So I don’t know what they would show. However, I think it’s irrelevant because QRich was horrible last year. So if they show that the Knicks were more efficient with Balkman playing, IMO they aren’t really saying that Balkman was a positive, they are saying he was less bad than QRich. There are millions of examples of improper interpretation of raw stats like that.

    To me, the Knicks biggest weakness last year (among many) was outside shooting from the SF spot. If the Knicks had traded Frye for a solid outside shooting SF instead of Randolph, I have a funny feeling last year would have turned out a whole lot better than even the optimists among us think.

    So when I see people pointing to guys like Balkman and QRich as good building blocks, I can’t help but think they aren’t watching the games or understanding that one of the Knick’s biggest problems is consistent outside shooting. They didn’t get high % oustide shooting from anyone. Everyone was somewhere between acceptable and very poor.

    I don’t want to throw Balkman under a truck (I DO want to throw QRich under one though), but this guy should be a minor role player on the Knicks unless a lot of things are totally overhauled.

    If you have a super core group, you can get away with having a more limited player on the team. That goes double if you are talking about the best defensive player in the league (Wallace) or the best rebounder in the game (Rodman). Balkman is neither.

  46. Ted Nelson

    I was talking more hypothetically, as in if a player’s teammates or more importantly team scores less with that player on the floor it shows up in the stats. Again, Balkman didn’t play much last season, so it’s hard to say he had much of anything to do with the Knicks sucking. He made the Knicks a better team when on the court each of the last two seasons. I realize that’s not saying a whole lot, but I’m not sure how much more you can ask for.

    The Knicks were 27th in 3P%, so yeah outside shooting is/was a problem for the Knicks, but as much of a problem as selfish play? Stupid play? Lazy play? I don’t know… I’m not sure why you would single out 3P%. The Knicks were also 27th in FG%. They were an all around below average offense (except offensive rebounding).

    I guess one thing I was getting at is that I’d rather see the Knicks get a couple good guards and keep Balkman (assuming he can play as he did his rookie year) to split time at the 3 with someone who can shoot than see a jump shooting SF brought in to “fit” with Crawford, Randolph, and Curry. Of course, I’m not going to lose sleep if the Knicks upgrade the 3 and move Balkman, either. It’s just that the Knicks have bigger fish to fry than a fringe rotation player who excels in his role.

    I don’t know if I’d call Balkman a “building block,” but definitely a guy with the potential to be a good role player. Of course, a J would do a lot for him.

    “If you have a super core group, you can get away with having a more limited player on the team. That goes double if you are talking about the best defensive player in the league (Wallace) or the best rebounder in the game (Rodman). Balkman is neither.”

    Balkman looked like a potential shut-down perimeter defender and grabbed 9.9 reb/36 from the 3 spot as a rookie, so while he might not be Wallace or Rodman he can definitely be a difference maker in those aspects of the game.

    The thing I’m wondering (and having trouble putting into words) is whether you need a “super core group” for a Balkman type player (lets say it’s obvious that he’s a great defender who scores a limited number of points but does so efficiently, which it’s not really after a sophmore slump) to help your team. I really don’t think so.

  47. Nick

    It might be that with a “super core group” he gets credit w/ a crappy team he’s just looked at as dispensable at best. Sort of Bruce Bowen v. Trenton Hasell.

  48. Dave

    I like Balkman he’s got a lot of useful skills. Needs to work on his consistency and on how to get more out of his offensive talents. He’s a good passer and ballhandler, he should be able to do more offensively.

    I’m not to bothered by teams doubling off of Balkman. When the lane is open he moves to the basket well. What I’d like to see him to do when the lane isn’t open is move towards the free throw line area, make the catch, he’s close enough to the basket where he’s a threat and that forces the defense to rotate over to him. From there his passing can pick out a good shot for his teammate. I’d like to see him do that more often.

    It’ll be interesting to see how he does next season.

  49. W.C.

    Ted,

    >Again, Balkman didn’t play much last season, so it’s hard to say he had much of anything to do with the Knicks sucking.He made the Knicks a better team when on the court each of the last two seasons. I realize that’s not saying a whole lot, but I’m not sure how much more you can ask for.<

    This is what I was talking about before. He made them better because he was replacing a borderline nightmare from hell in QRich. If we had a solid all around SF, then the stats would reflect that he made things worse relative to that guy instead of better relative to QRich.

    I realize I’m coming off as a Balkman hater, but I actually like the guy. He plays hard and has some skills. I hope he develops some more offensive skills and becomes a very useful player for us. He’s just not on my list of players that I think could be crucial to the Knicks future or someone I think of as a building block.

  50. W.C.

    Ted,

    >Again, Balkman didn’t play much last season, so it’s hard to say he had much of anything to do with the Knicks sucking.<

    It clearly wasn’t his fault.

  51. Z-man

    Knicks worked Mayo out today. I’d be bummed if he was around at #6 and we had already traded the pick to create cap room. My gut feeling is that he’s gonna be a stud.

  52. Ben R

    “He made them better because he was replacing a borderline nightmare from hell in QRich. If we had a solid all around SF, then the stats would reflect that he made things worse relative to that guy instead of better relative to QRich.”

    The thing is Balkman also made the Knicks better than Richardson in 2006-2007 when Richardson was coming off his best season and was overall an above average SF.

    Balkman really stuggled last year but overall both from watching and from looking at the stats he still made the Knicks better.

    If last year was the real Balkman then I think he is going to be a rotation player on a good team averaging 15-20 minutes to provide energy, defense and rebounding. But if his rookie year was the real Balkman then I think he is going to be a starter on a good team and a very good basketball player.

    I personally think he stuggled last year due to his injury, lack of a PG, lack of a good scheme, lack of playing time, lack of a defined role, and a bad environment. So I believe we will get the Balkman from his rookie year next season. Either way though he is still a valuable player due to his defense and rebounding alone.

    As for Ted’s comment about high usage players like Randolph and Crawford who shoot less than the league average in TS% and points per FGA, I totally agree they are much more harmful to a teams offense than a player like Balkman or Wallace, who shoot very little. On top of that Balkman’s career TS% is 51.4%, Randolph’s is 51.8% and Crawford’s is 51.3% the league average, I believe, is usually around 53% so in reality you do not want any of them shooting the ball. The fact that Balkman shoots very little is a good thing not a bad one.

    Also to add to some points made earlier it is not easy to double off of a player that is constantly in motion because if you do he will cut to the basket and get an easy shot. You only need two good outside shooters on the floor at a time. everyone else can have different offensive roles.

    The Knicks problem was not Balkman or Lee’s lack of an outside shot but the fact that our outside shooters were either bad (Richardson, Randolph) or wildly inconsistant (Crawford, Robinson).

    Get good shooting guards and a good offensive scheme and players like Balkman and Lee will look good on the offensive end cutting the basket and getting offensive rebounds.

  53. caleb

    Running a lot is the other way to get high-percentage shots — there’s no particular reason our offense needs to be geared to a half-court set, which obviously is not ideal for a player like Balkman.

    You can’t run unless you make defensive stops, and rebound.

    Just stating the obvious — our defense was worse than our offense last year (and much worse the year before, when the offense was decent) — so by any objective measure, the D is the biggest problem / place where there’s most room for improvement.

  54. caleb

    Shifting gears to the Lakers & Celtics…

    Rondo is proving his worth tonight, no? He looks slow after an ankle injury and suddenly the best defensive team in the league gives up 40 points in the first quarter…

  55. Owen

    I can’t wait to hear what the commentariat has to say about this one….

    And I will reads 20 Second Timeout with glee….

  56. jrock

    can we now dispense with all the kobe>MJ talk once and for all? he choked that game so hard. no way does His Airness shoot 6-19 for 17 pts in a game that important.

  57. jon abbey

    “I can’t wait to hear what the commentariat has to say about this one….”

    who cares anymore? it was a well-scripted episode of a reality show by Stern’s writers, kudos to him on that. presumably he now has LA winning two more before Boston finally triumphs.

  58. Brian Cronin

    I am aghast at how inept some of the end game plays have been in the playoffs.

    Cleveland had some doozies, and L.A. tonight just looked lost at the end of the game.

  59. o_boogie

    Dallas looking to acquire a draft pick:

    http://realgm.com/src_wiretap_archives/52961/20080612/mavericks_looking_to_trade_for_a_pick/

    Trade the 6th and Malik Rose for Josh Howard. Howard was always a favorite of mine. I think the pot stuff was dumb, but he is an excellent talent and would fit nicely in D’Antoni’s open system. Howard brings the versatility desired by D’Antoni and is a good defender for all backcourt/wing positions. His stock is pretty low right now so we may be able to get him cheaper than it would have cost, than say two seasons ago. Worst case scenario, Howard’s contract expires the summer of 2010, so even if it doesn’t work out it will not mess up our future cap situation.

  60. cwod

    I think it would take a little more than Malik Rose, who’s basically useless, to get Howard, especially since the sixth pick might not even be much more than a solid role player. Unless Dallas decides to trade Dirk for young players/picks, they’re going to be in win-now mode, and I’m not sure the sixth pick helps them much. I could see them trading Howard for a useful veteran.

    Also, would Howard be a great fit in D’Antoni’s system? He’s not a good passer and had most of his success during the pre-Kidd isolation-play offense.

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