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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Debunking The Four vs Five Theory

One of the reasons I started this blog was to question NBA cliches, vapid expressions like “defense wins championships”, “momentum”, and “chemistry”. One thing that’s been on my mind recently has been some of the debates on KnickerBlogger during the Lee/Balkman era. For years David Lee has been a favorite by a section of KnickerBlogger writers and followers, and in the earlier days the General’s troops received a lot of criticism for supporting him so vehemently. Lee’s detractors argued that putting him on the floor hurt the offense because his limited skills gave opposing teams the equivalent of an extra man on defense, saying that the team was trying to score 4 on 5. Meanwhile Lee’s supporters argued that his excellent inside scoring and rebounding forced the opposing team to keep a man on him.

To be clear, this was early in David Lee’s career, before he extended his range to 15 feet and was more aggressive with putting the ball on the floor. Also I’d like to add that Renaldo Balkman deserves mention in this discussion. Much like Lee, Balkman’s offensive game was limited to scoring near the hoop and recovering his team’s missed shots.

This topic has been on my mind because some fans are giving a portion of the credit to the Knicks recent win streak to the insertion of Jared Jeffries into the rotation. I don’t want to bring Jeffries’ defensive contributions into this discussion, and admit that there’s no doubt most of his value comes from that end of the floor. What I’m most interested in is solely the discussion on the offensive side of the ball, and I’d like to limit this topic to that portion.

Jeffries is just awful on the offensive side of the floor, with exactly one skill – rebounding. Of course this is the same attribute that Lee & Balkman exceled at, but the latter were better at it and had the additional attribute of being able to score around the basket at a good rate. Jeffries slightly higher turnover rate is exacerbated by his low point total. (In other words, his hands are much worse than the other two.) If the ability for defenses to leave a offensively challenged 5th man uncovered was real, then Jeffries would be a lightning rod for such an effect.

  Player Year eFG% FTA  FT% ORB AST TOV  PTS  TS%
Jeffries 2010 .444 2.8 .576 3.1 2.2 1.9  8.2 .473
 Balkman 2010 .521 3.2 .531 3.4 1.5 1.6 10.5 .533
     Lee 2008 .575 3.7 .762 3.8 1.7 1.7 12.7 .621

A good example of Jeffries ineptitude was Saturday’s game. Jeffries overall line wasn’t awful, as he scored 12 points on 10 shots with just 2 turnovers and 2 assists. However his stats, which were atypically good for Jeffries, belies how poorly he played. Easily he could have had a much better night, as he missed two wide open three pointers, a 5 foot hook shot, and three layups two of which were blocked. The latter acts are typical of Jeffries who at 6-11 is inexplicably feeble around the basket. At the end of the night, Jeffries was a team worst -13.

If you asked me to sum up in as few words as possible why I don’t believe in momentum in basketball, I would say watch enough games, and you’ll see that when announcers start talking about momentum often enough the momentum will “shift”. Momentum typically isn’t something a team builds on, but rather it has zero predictive ability. New York had a lot of momentum in their 12-0 run early in the first quarter, of course until the Rockets followed it with their own 13-5 run. Momentum truly is just the last shot. You would expect when the Knicks began to play Jeffries, one of the worst offensive players in the league, major minutes that there would be a sizable group of fans discussing the Knicks being hurt by having to play 4 vs 5 on offense. However it seems that the opposite has occurred. When the Knicks put Jeffries into the starting lineup and began to win games, no one mentioned his hindrance on the offensive side.

Normally when I debunk something I tend to look at it from a statistical bent. However in this case, since the observational analysts seem to be content with the results, I guess I should be as well. Or rather, if by using the same source (a team trying to score with a player who isn’t able to score on his own) and method (observational data) a group of people come up with two different theories (Lee/Balkman are detrimental to the team, Jeffries is not) then you can assume that there is an inherent flaw in the study and the theory has no merit. From my perspective this is a clear case of looking at the result and trying to fit an answer into the blank. When the Knicks were playing poorly, the “4 vs 5 offense” existed and part of the problem. When they were playing well, the “4 vs 5 offense” wasn’t real.

I guess if I wanted to give real proof I’d point to the 2006 Pistons who had the league’s 4th best offense despite giving Ben Wallace 35 minutes a night. From an observational standpoint I could look at Saturday’s game. If the Rockets let Jeffries freelance without a defender then David Lee and Wilson Chandler would be the most hurt. But the duo shot a combined 20-30, most of their work coming from in the paint and in the midrange.

In fact the Knick offense was fine unless Jeffries was shooting. If he made his three layups (which you’d expect from someone 6-11), the Knicks start the 4th quarter up by 7 points. Add in the two turnovers and two wide open three pointers he missed, and the team would have cruised to victory with an average performance from #20. So it wasn’t that the other team was able to use Jeffries to stunt the rest of the offense, but rather it was Jeffries own futility which hurt the offense. So if the Knicks aren’t having their entire offense disrupted by having Jared Jeffries on the floor for 33 minutes a game (his average since December 6th), then playing a offensively superior player like a young David Lee or Renaldo Balkman wasn’t a detriment either.

37 comments on “Debunking The Four vs Five Theory

  1. SeeWhyDee77

    Interesting post MK. Y’know, whas puzzling about JJ is when he came outta college, he was heralded as a good all around player. He was a better ball handler and shooter than he is now. Maybe he’s suffering from a lack of confidence. Didn’t Michael Jordan draft him? As I recall, Jordan also broke Kwame Brown. Hear me out on this one. My theory is both those guys had the physical ability to be better than they are now, but maybe not the mental make up. Maybe if Jordan didn’t draft those 2 guys, they wouldn’t be suffering from such a lack of confidence. As far as JJ’s value on offense, Ben Wallace is a good starting point. However, I don’t think JJ is as inept on offense as Ben Wallace. While he tends to catch fumble-itis, JJ still is a better shooter and a better passer. As long as he makes the right pass 70% of the time or more, his offensive limits are acceptable b/c he plays great defense. Not to metion that he’s not a plodding 6’11 guy who would slow down the offense. So in this case, maybe moreso becuz of the system, we can get by with JJ on offense. So yes, the “4 on 5″ theory does not apply with the Knicks-unless Curry is on the floor lol.

  2. Manh George

    I don’t have the data, but Jeffries +/- rating has usually been among the team leaders during the recent run, it seems to me. if so, that would debunk at least part of your theory. Jeffries had a bad game from a +/- viewpoint but that doesn’t appear to be the norm. And, with D’Antonio seemingly wanting to go with a long team much of the time, the next alternative, Bender, was no better, despite the better +/- in this particular game. The team clearly missed Harrington. Hughes might have been a better coice than either, if D’Antoni weren’t so damned stubborn. And yes, jeffries is just an awful offensive player, but his role in the defense is so different than what Lee or Balkman ever brought to the team.

    I see another recent problem: I suspect that teams have learned how to defend against the Knicks more effectively. In at least the last two games, including the win, the offense really seemed to struggle when the opponent sent two or three defenders out to pick up well beyond the key. Lacking a quick pg to penetrate, (assuming that N8 is no pg), the team seems to struggle when pressed just after they cross the center line. If true, D’Antoni will need to retool the offense to respond to this new approach.

  3. Nick C.

    Does this mean its corrolaries, Player X demands double teams with his post play, penetration, draws the attention of the defense … are BS as well?

  4. Mike Kurylo Post author

    “And yes, jeffries is just an awful offensive player, but his role in the defense is so different than what Lee or Balkman ever brought to the team.”

    I’d agree to that, but then again this is solely about Jeffries offense. (Although I’d argue that Balkman is a better defensive player – but that’s neither here nor there). Or rather this is really about whether or not NBA teams can take a mismatch like Jeffries and use it to disrupt the rest of the players on offense. And from the evidence that seems to be untrue.

    “However, I don’t think JJ is as inept on offense as Ben Wallace. While he tends to catch fumble-itis, JJ still is a better shooter and a better passer.”

    I don’t know if I buy this. At the same age, Wallace had a TS% 25 points higher, with a half turnover less per 36 mins. Granted Jeffries is better at two aspects passing & free throws, Wallace was much better at recovering offensive rebounds. If I had to have a teammate for a single possession, I’d take the 28 year old Wallace over Jeffries. At least Wallace won’t fumble the ball or blow the layup if I get double teamed.

    David Lee “looked” inept on offense early in his career, (where he was in fact he was a very positive contributor), and I think this is the heart of the matter. It sounds reasonable to say a player with a limited skill set appears to hurt an offense, but it’s just not true. A player is a detriment to the offense only through his own ineptitude – and that is probably best determined through statistical means.

  5. Frank O.

    Mike:
    Best piece this season, IMO.

    It caused me to think about this a bit. I hope I can convey my thoughts in a clear manner.
    I went back to look at the roster of the Knicks in Lee’s second year, which is the first year he started to get decent minutes (29.8 per game).
    He had a TS% of 65.2 and an eFG% of 60. Very nice numbers.
    But the Knicks that year had a paucity of scorers and a point guard who did not make his team better. Hence, the Knicks did not necessarily have the luxury of having position players whose skills were somewhat limited. Lee basically had no mid-range shot and his defense wasn’t particularly strong. But he was a great rebounder and finisher around the hoop. A very nice role player on a team of role players.
    You look at that team, the Knicks had Curry, Crawford, Frye, Balkman, Marbury, Jeffries and Francis among a few other unmentionables…
    Essentially, one of the most unsatisfying teams, yet not the worst team in the past 10 years…:)
    I think measured against players like Marbury and Crawford, who could get their own and comparable players like Balkman and Frye, one could see where some were derisive of the Lee love.
    My recall, however, from back then is slightly different.
    It could be inaccurate, but I think most of the reaction came because there were people on this blog experiencing extreme man-love for Lee, which in hindsight appears to have been exceedingly prescient. At the time, there were those who saw a nice player, who was good around the hoop and finished well. But, as is often the case in the NBA if you are not seeing a player day-in and day-out practicing, there were absolutely no indications that this guy Lee would be able to develop and offensive game as diverse as he showed in the loss to Houston. He drove, dribbling behind his back in the paint. He was deadly from 19 feet and in. He was voracious around the basket, cleaning up. If there was a down side, it was he could do nothing to keep Scola from ripping the Knicks.
    So there were reasons that I think were understandable to challenge Lee’s greatness at that time, given the Knicks roster and style of play. Not defending them, given those who lauded Lee turned out to be accurate.

    But this year, the Knicks have a team, were roles are more clear. There is someone through which the offense runs, and everyone sees it that way. It is also obvious that this team plays offense together and there are scorers all over the roster. I would say that Jeffries role on this team is quite clearly that of a defensive stopper and beyond that he is not needed.
    It is clear also on defense that people have clear roles. If Lee is the anchor of the offense, Jeffries decidedly anchors the defense.
    It is a luxury that the Knicks can do that. It was more trying in Houston because the Knicks did not have Harrington whose role on this team cannot be underestimated. He can score, and, this year, he has played some tenacious defense when the Knicks needed it.
    Not having Harrington exposed the Knicks.

    I recall writing a few times that night, asking really why was it that the ball kept finding Jeffries when the Knicks needed a shot. Well, Mike’s piece made me realize: it was because Harrington was not present.
    When Lee is being contained as he was in the third period. When Chandler is opposed by probably the best defender in basketball, Gallo is shackled by tough defense and all that is left is Duhon and Nate to get you scoring, well, Jeffries is exposed. Suddenly, it is a luxury the Knicks couldn’t afford to have, a defensive specialist on the court.
    Jeffries reminded me of an early, skinnier, far less nasty, Charles Oakley. Oakley later developed a pretty effective mid-range, but for a lot of years he was a bricklayer.

    Lee was never as limited as Jeffries in that he could score around the hoop, albeit, dunks and layups, and rebound. But it was hard to see Lee being as great as he became at that time like some folks recognized. I think that is more a testament to those with that kind of foresight and less a shortcoming of those who appreciated what he did, but didn’t see as clearly that he could develop his game to what it is today.
    I think even Owen would tell you that Lee has become more than even he thought possible back then. I’m not sure anyone saw him as an All Star.

  6. Mike Kurylo Post author

    “Does this mean its corrolaries, Player X demands double teams with his post play, penetration, draws the attention of the defense … are BS as well?”

    I would say that NBA defenses have to stay honest to each individual NBA player – to an extent. Yes Jeffries will see his share of open jumpers, because the defense will allow him those (or Duhon the paint, or Chandler the 20 footer…) But it’s too far of a stretch to say that Lee & Chandler will have 2 guys on them every time Jeffries in the floor. It’s one thing to guide a player to his weaknesses defensively, but another to forgo defending him altogether. Even a player like Jeffries who is indescribably bad in the paint (or from anywhere really) won’t be set free in order for the defense to gain an advantage elsewhere.

    As for your question, I would say no. Penetration often breaks the defense down into having players miss their assignments. For further evidence, check out the first play here:

    http://www.knickerblogger.net/2663/some-plays-count-gallo-lee.html

  7. Manh George

    What year are those Balkman stats for?

    It certainly isn’t 2009-10. He’s out of the rotation, apparently in part because he won’t go hard in practice.

  8. Frank O.

    By the way, unrelated to the topic, there was a great quote from D’Antoni regarding Nate that Hahn got regarding Nate:

    “On offense, he needs to be Nate. On defense, he needs to be Knicks.”

    The implication of that statement is that D’Antoni understands Nate’s motivation and drive is on offense and that Nate has not been a team player on defense.

    It appears to be a pretty simple law that Nate should be able to live by.

  9. Frank O.

    One correction. That year the Knicks had a paucity of efficient scorers.
    They had a bunch of guys that were either volume shooters or players that needed to have the ball forced to them for them to be useful.

  10. stratomatic

    IMO it’s very difficult to measure this sort of thing. Someone could easily argue that Lee and Chandler would have better overall offensive statistics if Jeffries was a better offensive player.

    How do you prove they are wrong?

    First, I think it’s clear we need observation to know whether a defense is actually adjusting to the weak offensive player by giving him extra space, double teaming other players, and clogging the middle. If they are not, then obviously his offensive limitations are irrelevant. That is often the case.

    However, if they are, I think the impact is real because you can see how it changes some plays.

    The real issue is how significant a factor it is.

    First, if a player like Jeffries or Balkman is given a little more space it will only be a factor on a handful of possessions per game distributed among virtually every teammate he plays with.

    What we are talking about is each of Lee, Chandler, Duhon, Harrington, Gallo, and others either not getting off an easy shot here or there they otherwise would have had or taking a marginally more difficult one here or there during the course of the game.

    Neither instance translates into an automatic lost possession or missed shot. It just lowers the probability of success marginally. Since this overall impact is also distributed among all the Knicks, the impact on any single teammate’s stats would be practically unnoticeable and unmeasureable given all the normal variations in such things.

    I have no ability to measure such things. But IMO the negative impact is real and “cumulatively” probably worth a couple of points per game distributed among all the players. That’s a wild ass guess, but it’s as good as anything else I’ve seen because it at least makes some sense based on what we see on the court and what we know about variations in shooting success and shot difficulty.

    THerefore, IMO, if a guy is highly productive defensively and in other ways relative to alternatives on the team (like Jeffries), the team can still be better off with him on the court despite his offensive limitations. However, given the choice between Jeffries “as is” and Jeffries with some finishing ability and a little mid range game, I would take the latter without hesitation and expect the Knicks’ offense to function slightly better on some nights and to win an extra game here or there through the course of the season because of it.

    I guess what I am saying is that agree with the conclusion, but not that there is no impact.

  11. stratomatic

    Frank,

    If I understand your point, I agree.

    I believe the mix of players you have on the team is a factor in whether or not Jeffries and similar players can be as effective as possible. If a team already has a lot of good high usage outside shooters that can help space the floor and put points on the board, then Jeffries inability to do so is less of an issue.

  12. Frank O.

    By the way, the person that really is exposed on the Knicks roster from the Houston game was Bender.
    He is a player that mostly provides some shot blocking and some rebounding. He’s a lesser Jeffries on defense, and, from what I have seen, a very rusty offensive player.
    When you have Bender in the rotation rather than Harrington, it means two of the seven rotation players are simply not good scorers.
    When you have Harrington, Jeffries becomes far less notable.
    Bender played 17+ minutes, was 1-4 from the floor and managed 1 rebound, although he had two blocks.

    I think guys here are right saying that D’Antoni should expand to an 8 man rotation, btw

  13. Frank O.

    Stratomatic, you are correct, and far more concise than me. :)
    See what happens when one uses writing to think???

  14. Nick C.

    Mike, (#6) Thanks, I think that link was what brought the question to mind. Soemthimes with the 4v5 argument and others I almost get the impression that what one person can or cannot do has no effect on the 5 man unit as a whole. One thing, perhaps JJ makes up for his ineptitude with the ball with his little “screens” and other off the ball things.

  15. SeeWhyDee77

    completely off topic..but Sean Williams just got waived. Anyone here other than me think that we should grab him now? Not for his offense of course. I’m just imagining him , Bender & JJ patrolling the lanes on Defense. Perfect Balance no? I mean Curry’s not gonna EVER get PT again in NY, so why not? Sorry to change the subject b/c this post on JJ really is a great one.

  16. Mike Kurylo Post author

    I had a hard time writing this article (it’s been a month coming) because there are so many holes in the 4v5 logic. First and foremost is that it derives from observational measures – but not even directly. Rather it’s merely conjecture. Someone states it, and ipso facto it’s supposedly true. So it’s not true in the sense that someone saw it and said it’s true, but rather someone thought it and said it’s true. Watching that game I didn’t see plays where the rest of the Knicks are bothered by Jeffries man.

    It’s like those arguments where someone comes up with an analogy that sounds good and believable. I’m sure in the days of Galileo when he said the Earth rotates around the Sun, someone said “Galileo, if I’m riding my horse in a circle, I feel a breeze and the force pulling me off the horse. So if the Earth was circling the sun then it’d be crazy windy and we’d be hanging on for dear life.” Again the analogy sounds good, but ultimately it’s baseless.

    Hence why I somewhat agree with stratomatic (although I think that it’s close to a slippery slope) but in the end I don’t think you have to get all statistical to contradict such a statement. If the facts of the case point more in one direction, and the other side only has rhetoric, then I think it’s clear which one is more believable.

  17. stratomatic

    Frank,

    My view about Jeffries getting more exposed when Harrington is off the court is similar to my other view.

    If 1 low usuage scorer is in the game, as long at there are other players in the game that can create and score, they can marginally increase their own usuage to make up the difference with little or no impact.

    If 2 or 3 low usage scorers are in the game, the incremental burden of extra shots falls on 2 or 3 players instead of 4. At that point, you could easily start bumpiing up against the limitations of those players also. You could wind up with players like Chandler being “forced” to take a couple more outside shots that usual when we really don’t want him doing that.

    In the debate about usuage and efficiency I again think both camps are essentially correct. There is a relationship, but it is overrated. The impact is marginal because an extra mediocre shot here or there is not the same as a guaranteed lost possession or miss, some players have the ability to increase usuage marginally without impact, and the impact is spread across many players so you won’t notice it very easily by looking at any indiviual player’s stats.

    However, I think the cumulative impact might be a couple of points. That could be the difference between a couple of wins and losses over the course of the season.

    IMHO, the reality on both scores is somewhere in between on both issues. The impacts are greatly exagerrated. The stats prove that. But they are not non existant. Watching games proves that.

  18. stratomatic

    Mike,

    I didn’t watch the Houston game closely enough to know whether there was a single play where Jeffries defender mattered to someone else, but I know I have seen games where defenders sagged off bad outside shooters and helped double team and defend other players. I’ve also seen superstars get double teamed all night long and the defense “live with” the worst shooter taking open shots.

    That why I have my view.

    The actually estimate of the impact is purely “out of my ass”.

    I think coaches have to watch the game, see what’s going on, and then make adjustments. If Jeffries defender is doubling Gallo and Jeffries is throwing up bricks when he gets the ball back, you have to get him out of there. If not, the you want to take full advantage of what Jeffries brings to the table.

  19. latke

    You argue that the idea of momentum is a myth. I would argue that certain teams and players have better senses of the psychological significance of momentum. Winning teams know that there is the kind of momentum that occurs in all games — the team starts to feel good and makes a couple shots in a row — and the kind of momentum that crushes the other team’s confidence. A player like Bryant or Jordan, or even less talented players like Chauncey Billups can sense when a team is gaining confidence and momentum, and will raise his energy level and focus in order to stop that momentum.

    It can’t be denied that a big part of basketball, particularly long range shooting and ball movement, improve significantly when a team feels in control and loosens up. Psychologically strong players turn shorter runs into longer ones, and end other teams’ momentum more quickly.

  20. Mike Kurylo Post author

    statomatic – I think that’s a good point about having 1 guy on the floor vs. 2. I’ve heard that before, and have never had the chance to check on it.

    From my observations, I think the most obvious case of double teaming comes with a great scorer being on the floor (LeBron, Shaq, Jordan, etc.) Other than that they tend to occur most frequently when a blown assignment/penetration occurs. (Perhaps you can add pick & roll as well, but that’s another case completely). I just don’t see teams doubling off Jeffries because a 12 year old can score better than him. And I think there’s a difference between sagging off someone to give him an open jumper and flat out doubling off of him.

    Of course if it were possible that defenses could live with getting the ball to the worst offensive guy, then Jeffries would lead the team with shots attempted. But then again this is probably where coaches make their money – making sure that it doesn’t happen. Hence in a realistic version the 4v5 doesn’t happen because of the level of play & coaching.

  21. Z

    “I think even Owen would tell you that Lee has become more than even he thought possible back then. I’m not sure anyone saw him as an All Star.” -Frank O.

    Okay, I’ve seen you say this a bunch lately, and if those of you out there that did, in fact, see Lee as a potential all-star won’t toot their own horns, I’ll do it for you:

    Here’s the Knickerblogger 2007 report card for David Lee:

    http://www.knickerblogger.net/515/knicks-2007-report-card-a-to-z-david-lee.html

    Mike K. concludes with: “While Lee is plenty valuable without a jump shot, for him to go from being a very good complimentary player to an All Star will require a bit more scoring volume. A 15 footer would go a long way in Lee’s development.”

    Dave Crockett comments: “I see Lee’s peak years comparing favorably to those of Larry Nance or Horace Grant (i.e., very good, though probably not Hall of Fame*).”
    (*Horace Grant and Larry Nance = both all stars)

    Brian Cronin says: “[Lee] was a legitimate contender for the All-Star team in his second season!!”

    The comments on the thread basically all say that these guys are idiots for overrating a role player like David Lee.

    (and this is just one thread from three years ago. Give me time, Frank, and I’m sure I could come up with dozens of direct quotes seeing David Lee as a future all star).

  22. Frank O.

    Z:
    :)
    Okay. More congrats to the Lee Love Club.
    Those comments make the case, however, for some other folks taking a more conservative tone about Lee. :)

  23. Z-man

    Mike, I agree that the 4 vs. 5 thing is exaggerated, but there is an effect when offensively limited players are in situations that require them to score on more than just garbage baskets. Jeffries is definitely in the (poor man’s?) mold of Big Ben, Rodman, Motumbo, and some others that are most valuable when you absolutely don’t have to depend on them for scoring. Now that Chandler, Lee, Gallo and Harrington have been scoring consistently and, as a group, efficiently for a long stretch, Jeffries can totally focus on what he does best on both ends. On offense, that means fighting for boards, tip-ins and and tap-outs, swinging the ball, setting screens, etc. I don’t think you can really have a clear picture without considering both offense and defense. Transition defense is an extension of offense, and good defensive play and defensive rebounding generates transition offense. Jeffries excels in these areas and I think that helps offensive production.

    Still, I think that our dependence on Jeffries to play big minutes is part of the reason why this team is basically a .500 team at best. While Jeffries is not left completely unattended, cheating over even a foot can give a defender enough time to close down a driving lane or flash out at a perimeter shooter as the ball swings around. It gives defensive rotations an extra split second to react, since the price of being a tiny bit late on Jeffries is generally not that high, esp. when he is on the perimeter. Maybe if Jeffries is more of a threat, we aren’t asking why Gallo can’t get more looks.

    For me, the first indication that Lee would eventually develop a better shot was the way he dramatically raised his FT percentage after a summer of work. I still think his jumper (really more of a set shot) is ugly, but it goes in! What comes next year, 3-pt range?

  24. nicos

    Great Post Mike! Hadn’t seen the stat Marc R linked to but I think it’s a case of (as Nick C. mentioned) Jeffries doing enough little things off the ball to offset his inability to do anything with it. He’s really the only Knick who consistently sets screens off the ball- the Knick’s offense is pretty much drive and kick and he has a really good understanding of where the ball is going to go on the kick-out and where the defensive rotation is likely to be coming from and he does a great job of keeping rotating defenders from closing out on our shooters. The Problem in the Houston game was they really stepped up their man-to-man defense so they didn’t have to do a lot of rotating and their perimeter guys never had to sag down so Jeffries was left at loose ends.
    Also- Mike mentioned that he thought Balkman was a better defender than Jeffries- I’d agree he’s better on the ball (I think Jeffries is a little over-rated in this regard) but off the ball I think Jeffries gets the nod. Though Balkman might actually be better at coming up with steals & blocks as a help defender, Jeffries’ strength is anticipating who’s going to need help when and consistently getting to the right spot. He’s also invaluable at getting other guys to where they’re supposed to be. Given that, I think Jeffries over-all impact on the defensive end is greater.

  25. Ted Nelson

    Mike already replied to both of these points, but:

    “I don’t think JJ is as inept on offense as Ben Wallace.”

    I think he is, if not more so.

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&p1=jeffrja01&y1=2010&p2=wallabe01&y2=2010

    Wallace rebounds much better, and his TO-rate is much lower. He gives up a little bit as a passer and Jeffries is also a smart player, but overall I think I would rather have Wallace offensively. And defensively I’d much rather have a younger Wallace.

    “his role in the defense is so different than what Lee or Balkman ever brought to the team.”

    Balkman is/was a very good defender, and Lee was always a good offensive player.

    So, basically what Mike said.

  26. nicos

    “Maybe if Jeffries is more of a threat, we aren’t asking why Gallo can’t get more looks.”
    I’m guessing that Gallo’s more effective when Jeffries is in the game (given, as I mentioned above, his skill at screening rotating defenders) but I have no stats to back it up. Where I think Jeffries has really hurt the Knicks is with offensive rebounding- On anything going to the basket, Jeffries’ guy tends to cheat off of him and follow the ball into the lane so when the shot goes up there’s always an extra defender there for the defensive rebound (this and the fact that Lee is spending a lot more time on the perimeter is why our offensive rebounding is so anemic). Of course, this is part of why Jeffries is an effective screener for our perimeter guys- his guy’s headed towards the paint so it’s not like Jeffries is dragging another defender out towards the three point line.

  27. Brian Cronin

    By the by, you know who else is also a better defender than Jeffries? Noah.

    That’s neither here nor there, but I forgot to respond when people were suggesting that they wouldn’t trade Jeffries for Noah. That’s nuts – Noah is a better offensive player and a better defensive player!

  28. BigBlueAL

    I repeat, Jeffries sucks. Anyone who wouldnt trade him for more cap space this summer because Jeffries is all of a sudden too important to this season’s playoff chances is drinking too much kool-aid.

  29. Ted Nelson

    “I think measured against players like Marbury and Crawford, who could get their own and comparable players like Balkman and Frye, one could see where some were derisive of the Lee love.”

    I really can’t see. He was a good (role) player on a mediocre/bad team. It’s not Lee’s fault that Crawford always stunk as a scorer on the Knicks, that Marbury never fulfilled expectations, that Frye followed up a strong rookie year with a total clunker, or that Isiah generally ran a nut house.

    “I think most of the reaction came because there were people on this blog experiencing extreme man-love for Lee, which in hindsight appears to have been exceedingly prescient. At the time, there were those who saw a nice player, who was good around the hoop and finished well. But, as is often the case in the NBA if you are not seeing a player day-in and day-out practicing, there were absolutely no indications that this guy Lee would be able to develop and offensive game as diverse as he showed in the loss to Houston.”

    It’s not that everyone thought he could develop into a well-rounded all-star (although some people did). It’s that he was already a good/valuable player despite his limitations at the time. A TS% of .600+ over a decent sample size is a special thing. So is a reb-rate of 18 or 20. Those are not the kind of numbers every role player puts up.

    “So there were reasons that I think were understandable to challenge Lee’s greatness at that time, given the Knicks roster and style of play. Not defending them, given those who lauded Lee turned out to be accurate.
    But this year, the Knicks have a team, were roles are more clear. There is someone through which the offense runs, and everyone sees it that way.”

    So, do you rip Lee or do you rip the other players/ the system?

    “One correction. That year the Knicks had a paucity of efficient scorers.
    They had a bunch of guys that were either volume shooters or players that needed to have the ball forced to them for them to be useful.”

    That’s just it. They had an inefficient offense (even Curry, a very efficient scorer, is/was a TO machine and flow killer). Do you blame the one guy who was very efficient, or do you blame his surroundings?

    Stratomatic, good points. “I have no ability to measure such things.” I suppose you can look at teammates and team production with the player on and off, and after a large enough sample you should get an answer.

    Frank and Stratomatic,

    If your high volume scorers aren’t efficient your offense is probably going to be bad whether that extremely low volume scorer is efficient or not.

  30. david

    Mike K’s analysis strikes me as right on. One variable he left out, though, is how many shots Jeffries takes away (or doesn’t). As a low-usage player, he may help offensive efficiency by not taking many shots, whereas a higher efficiency higher usage player will take more away from team as they are stealing shots from our best players…

    Look at this (admittedly small sample size) data..

    http://basketballvalue.com/player.php?year=2009-2010&id=113

    Our three most frequently played units are :

    Chandler, Duhon, Gallinari, Jeffries and Lee, which is also one of our best units, scoring 113.27 points per 100 possessions and giving up 99.27

    and

    Chandler, Duhon, Gallinari, Hughes, Lee, which is one of our worst on both sides of the ball, scoring 99.05 and giving 110.71

    and

    Chandler, Duhon,Harrington, Jeffries, and Lee, which scores 109.68 and give up 111.07.

    What to take from this (other than a grain of salt)?

    Jeffries doesn’t hurt the offense that much because, although he sucks on offense, it doesn’t take away from the other guys (and may help, as he doesn’t take shots away from them either.)

    Hughes is much worse for the offense than Jeffries. I suspect this is the higher usage/just as bad problem.

    Gallo for Harrington is slightly better for offense and much better for defense.

    One last bit (this is a great site, btw!).

    In the combined 70 someodd minutes Jeffries and Hughes have spent on the court together, the team has been dominant on both offense and defense. (http://basketballvalue.com/player.php?year=2009-2010&id=315). Depending on who else is on the floor (for the bulk of it, lee, duhon/douglas and gallinari/Harrington), the team’s scores between 120 and 130 per 100 possessions and gives up between 67 and 81.

    The two sinkhole theory doesn’t show up in this data. I’d love to see an 8 man rotation of Lee, Gallo, Chandler, Jeffries, Duhon, Hughes, Nate and Harrington.

  31. d-mar

    Not sure where all the anti-Jeffries sentiment is coming from. I can’t argue with his ineptitude on offense, and his inability to finish around the rim is maddening. (although to criticize him for going 0-2 from 3 pt. range against the Rockets is kind of unfair)

    But guys, do you really think his ineptitude on offense outweighs what he does on defense? There’s no doubt he’s a big part of the Knicks recent resurgence and defensive focus. The second Charlotte game was lost as a direct result of Jeffries fouling out, and we probably wouldn’t have even been in a position to win it if not for Jeffries being everywhere on the court on D. And can Noah guard the opposing teams’ PG? I just think this idea that guys like Jeffries are a dime a dozen is misguided.

    All that being said (overused phrase I know), I’m fine with moving his contract if we can. Just watch what happens to the team defensively if that occurs.

  32. Brian Cronin

    And can Noah guard the opposing teams’ PG

    While it’s nice that Jeffries can, in theory, play smaller guards, it does not nearly equal the importance of the interior presence that guys like Noah give you (for instance, while both players are much better defensively than their counterparts in this comparison, Shawn Marion was never as good of a defender as Tim Duncan).

    And that’s not even getting into the fact that Noah is not an awful offensive player, while Jeffries is.

    It’s not even a shot at Jeffries, really, to say he isn’t as good as Noah. Noah is a good player, after all (to wit, Noah is currently having an off year, but he’s still having a much better season than Jeffries).

  33. BigBlueAL

    The problem for me is Jeffries’ contract and the fact that he was a lottery pick. If Jeffries was some undrafted FA who has carved a niche as a defensive specialist not making much money than fine give him his props. But the fact that he was the 11th pick in the draft and then given the contract he has by Isiah to me is so absurd I cant fathom what he or the Wizards saw in him.

    His PER is still in the single digits and his career PER is actually below 10 for god’s sake. So he sucks both statistically and visually on offense. I admit he is good defensively and helps the team on D when he plays but he to me still gets way too many minutes. He should be getting Bender type minutes with his type of contract and I would love Jeffries and appreciate what he brings to the team. But not for 6 mil per year and for 26 minutes per game.

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