Knickerblogger.net will be in full playoff mode until the 2007 champion is crowned. But before we let go of the Knicks’ forgettable season I wanted to take a brief look back through the window of five-man units. Because Thomas? played a lot of people a fairly high number of minutes I thought it would be worthwhile to look at how they fared on Dean Oliver?s four factors with help from our good friends at 82games.com. I?ll look at offense today and defense later.
I thought looking at five-man units might be particularly interesting for NY because so many different units played significant minutes. We generally expect starters to play the lion?s share and other units to play comparatively fewer minutes. That is, minutes tend to have a skewed distribution. Of course some teams play their reserves more than others but the top minute-getting units play a lot of minutes together. For example Chicago?s top unit played 618 minutes, Detroit?607, Cleveland?467, New Jersey?460, and Toronto?321. Miami?s opening night starting five (Williams-Wade-Kapono-Haslem-Mourning) played fewer than 160 minutes because of injuries, but its top unit (Williams-Jones-Posey-Haslem-O’Neal) still played 301 minutes. By contrast, New York?s top unit played only 192 minutes together.
Unfortunately, the raw data needed to calculate all four factors directly are not available by five-man unit. Shooting is available directly. I can also use net turnover percentage and net free-throw attempts to create a ?quick and dirty? picture of turnovers and free throws. I must leave rebounding out of this analysis however, because the available data doesn?t break it out into its offensive and defensive components.
Before getting to the factors, let?s take a quick look at the best and worst five-man units based solely on plus-minus (+/-).
The Best and Worst Five-Man Units
The 3 best:
|#||Minutes rank||Unit||Minutes +/-|
|1||13||Robinson Francis Collins Rose Curry||58||33|
|2||5||Marbury Crawford Lee Frye Curry||137||26|
|3||20||Robinson Crawford Q-Rich Lee Frye||34||14|
The 3 worst:
|18||12||Marbury Crawford Q-Rich Curry James||62||-30|
|19||4||Marbury Crawford Jeffries Frye Curry||142||-38|
|20||3||Marbury Crawford Q-Rich Frye Curry||162||-68|
Some of the heaviest-minute units were just awful. The Marbury Crawford Q-Rich Frye Curry unit was undeniably terrible, outscored by 68 points in 162 minutes, roughly -20 points per 48. Swapping in Jeffries for Q-Rich ?improves? this unit to just plain bad. But note, swapping David Lee into this unit for Q-Rich or Jeffries makes a substantial improvement. In comparable minutes Lee’s presence is the difference between the unit ranking 19th or 20th in +/- or fifth. He appears to really click with Marbury, Crawford, Frye, and Curry. His impact is not nearly as striking with any other mix of players. (Lee also plays on NY’s top minute-getting unit?Marbury Crawford Q-Rich Lee Curry?which ended up only -2 on the season.) Another interesting feature of these two tables is the surprisingly good +/- of the unit that ended the season: Robinson Francis Collins Rose and Curry.
The Four err… Three Factors
Top 5 shooting units:
|#||Minutes rank (minutes played)||Unit||Eff FG (eFG)||Close%|
|1||10 (67)||Marbury Crawford Jeffries Lee Curry||0.614||52|
|2||13 (58)||Robinson Francis Collins Rose Curry||0.604||59|
|3||9 (78)||Robinson Crawford Lee Q-Rich Curry||0.59||46|
|4||14 (54)||Marbury Crawford Q-Rich Rose Curry||0.58||48|
|5||15 (47)||Robinson Crawford Balkman Lee Curry||0.561||55|
It is probably no surprise that the five best shooting units all include Eddy Curry. However it may surprise that only two of the best shooting units include Stephon Marbury while three include Nate Robinson. The little man quietly had himself a nice sophomore season?well maybe ?quietly? isn?t the right word, but you get where I?m going. For all the people trying to run him out of town for his immaturity, consider that Robinson was fairly efficient (39% 3-pt shooter, 55.3% TS) and one of the least turnover prone players on the roster despite some of his shenanigans.
Perhaps the most unpleasant surprise here is that none of the team?s top five units in minutes was among its five best shooting. Channing Frye?s sophomore-season-to-forget is certainly one culprit, though not the only one.
Marbury-Crawford-Q-Rich-Lee-Curry (.503 eFG/192 min)
Marbury-Francis-Q-Rich-Frye-Curry (.506 eFG /162 min)
Marbury-Crawford-Q-Rich-Frye-Curry (.460 eFG /162 min)
Marbury-Crawford-Jeffries-Frye-Curry (.519 eFG /142 min)
Marbury-Crawford-Lee-Frye-Curry (.509 eFG /137 min)
Top 5 turnover units:
|#||Minutes rank (minutes played)||Unit||Net TO%||+/-|
|1||20||Robinson Crawford Q-Rich Lee Frye||5||14|
|2||11||Marbury Crawford Q-Rich Lee Frye||4||-7|
|3||18||Marbury Crawford Q-Rich Jeffries Curry||3||2|
|4||15||Robinson Crawford Balkman Lee Curry||2||8|
|5||6||Marbury Francis Jeffries Frye Curry||1||-17|
Turnovers have plagued this team like it is stuck inside some sort of biblical curse plague dome. The table shows the only five units that managed to create more turnovers than they lost. I feel reasonably confident that none of these units created many turnovers but rather were better than others at taking care of the ball. Note again that only one of these units was in the top 10 in minutes played.
I also added in the +/- numbers for those units. Two of them still managed to be badly outscored despite holding onto the ball better than opponents. The worst unit on net turnover percentage was Robinson Collins Jeffries Frye Curry unit (-13 TO%). There appears to be no truth to the rumor that these players will petition David Stern to bring back the composite ball.
Top 5 free-throw units:
|#||Minutes rank (minutes played)||Unit||Net FT Attempts|
|1||5 (137)||Marbury Crawford Lee Frye Curry||53|
|2||2 (162)||Marbury Francis Q-Rich Frye Curry||35|
|3||7 (93)||Marbury Q-Rich Jeffries Frye Curry||29|
|4||1 (192)||Marbury Crawford Q-Rich Lee Curry||28|
|5||8 (88)||Marbury Francis Q-Rich Lee Curry||27|
Overall, we know the Knicks are good at getting to the free throw line. They rank seventh in FTAs per FG. For five-man units only net free-throw attempts is available. The Marbury Crawford Lee Frye Curry unit has a whopping 53-attempt advantage. That?s more than a 2.5 more attempts per minute. New York?s top 15 units all take more free-throws than their opponents. Last season only their top 11 units took more free throws.