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Thursday, October 2, 2014

GOTME (Part VI): Centers

The Greatest Center Of the Modern Era: Shaquille O’Neal

Player Best PER Avg 5 Best PER Career PER #1 PER # of top 10 PER
Shaq 30.6 30.1 26.6 5 11
Olajuwon 27.3 25.9 23.6 0 13
Robinson 30.7 29.4 26.2 3 11
Malone 26.8 25.1 22.3 2 7 (9)

I’ve noticed a cycle in the way that we, as a fan culture, appreciate our superstars. We have an uncomplicated love for the emergent star (think Kevin Durant) and a reverence (often dotted with disdain) for the star in his prime (think Kobe). As a star begins his decline, we grow weary of him and rewrite history in a manner that undersells his peak abilities (think Iverson or T-Mac). This stage often lasts beyond a player’s retirement until finally, around the time he becomes Hall-of-Fame eligible, we come to some general consensus about the way we’re going to remember him for the rest of eternity (barring some life altering event).

I mention this because Shaquille O’Neal is the greatest center of the modern era, and because he is firmly entrenched in that unforgiving third stage, and likely will be for the rest of his career. It’s not that anyone thinks Shaq wasn’t great or that anyone wouldn’t kill to have a 26-year-old version of him land on their favorite team. But I do feel like recent discussions of O’Neal’s prime focus more on his sporadic commitment to physical fitness and his in-fighting with Kobe than they do on his utter dominance.

And 15 years from now, when we’re having this same conversation, that dominance is the ONLY thing that will matter to anyone. At his peak, Shaquille O’Neal was most unstoppable force of the last 30 years. He was everything that Dwight Howard is now plus a mean streak, an extra 50 pounds of muscle, and a much more refined offensive game than many people remember. As the statistical revolution has taken shape over the past decade, it has christened Shaq as the only potential challenger (pre-LeBron) to Jordan’s peak numerical supremacy, which is fitting because his ’00-’02 Lakers teams were the only non-Jordan teams of the last two decades that felt unbeatable when you watched them. And, a developing Kobe Bryant aside, it’s not like the supporting casts on those teams were particularly overwhelming.

There’s a good argument to be had in ranking the best centers of the modern era, but that argument has nothing to do with which guy was #1. It’s Shaq, and everyone else can fight for second.

Reserves: Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Moses Malone
Hakeem Olajuwon gets my vote for 2nd place here, but its wayyyyyyyyyy closer than people think. Advanced stats actually like David Robinson a bit better, but Hakeem peaked longer and that gives him the edge for me. Everyone thinks of the ’95 conference finals as a referendum on the comparison between he and Robinson, which I suppose isn’t a crazy position to take, but the real difference was in their basic skill sets: Hakeem’s passing and quickness were unparalleled for a big man.

Chuck Klosterman’s latest book included a great essay on Ralph Samson, which argued that Samson was doomed by the perception that he was a guard in a center’s body; the observation, which was meant as a compliment to his awesome versatility, ultimately distracted Samson from the more obvious conclusion that he was 7-freaking-4 and could have had a much easier time relying primarily on his size, while using his other skills to push him from “great” to “transcendent.” What’s amazing is that the Rockets actually had two players who fit the “guard-built-like-a-center” prototype at the same time. Unlike his teammate, The Dream learned to dominate traditionally — developing the best post moves and footwork of his generation — while tapping into his point guard skill set in a way that made him one of the most unique players in NBA history. Hakeem wasn’t the second best player of his generation, but was the best player in the right system in the two best years to be the best player in the right system, and as a result claimed the only two championships left for the masses during the Age of Jordan.

David Robinson gets criticized for not winning a ring until Duncan came along, but those Spurs teams he kept carrying to 55 win seasons were otherwise pretty shallow and still kept putting up big win totals in a conference full of memorable, if flawed, teams (Malone/Stockton Jazz, Hakeem’s Rockets, Barkley/KJ Suns, GP/Kemp Sonics). At his peak, Robinson was the best pre-Shaq center of the era, but Hakeem got it done when it mattered most with an equally mediocre supporting cast. All talk of Duncan-induced tanking aside, the progression from the 59-win ’95-96 spurs (with Robinson healthy) to the 20-win ’96-’97 spurs (with Robinson hurt) was one of the most remarkable injury-inflicted meltdowns in NBA history. In the end, the best thing Robinson ever did for the spurs was get injured (thus allowing them to draft Duncan), which is ironic considering that he topped 80 games in 6 of his first 7 years in the league. Regardless of your opinion on the importance of the stat, his win shares per game may be the single most surprising number (for any player) in the above chart. He’s remembered as a great person, an endlessly interesting figure, and, in my opinion, the third best center of the modern era.

I’ll admit that Moses Malone is hurt in this analysis by the fact that I was a fetus during the last season in which he finished higher than 10th in the MVP voting (blame my dad for not sitting a radio on my mom’s stomach). He lands fourth among post-1980 centers in PER and I don’t have a ton of conclusive visual evidence to overrule the call on the field, but he did win 2 MVP’s and a ring post-1980 and remained a viable starting center until he was roughly 68 years old. I’m open to arguments that he should be nudged ahead of the Admiral, although the disparity between the quality of his teammates and the quality of Robinson’s (pre-Duncan) is enormous.

Honorable Mentions
The fact that Kareem even warrants mention is astonishing considering that his post-1980 career was vastly inferior to what he had done previously. He still probably comes in 5th for the 10 years he put in between 1980 and 1989. Again, astounding.

Robert Parish was the ideal center for his team but even the most die-hard Celtics fan wouldn’t argue that he could have carried a franchise the way Hakeem and Robinson did. Alonzo Mourning was really good but I still blame him for escalating that brawl in the playoffs, he should be grateful I’m even willing to mention his name after that. And, while there’s a place on this site to write about the under appreciated greatness of Patrick Ewing, that place is not here, where I would surely spill so much ink on him that it would distract from the guys who I’ve deservedly placed ahead of him.

Young possibility: Dwight Howard
I’m still deciding whether Dwight Howard is the most overrated or underrated guy in the league. Watching him dominate in spurts without calling more for the ball is endlessly frustrating and advanced stats call even his visually impressive Defense into question. That said, how the hell did that team make the finals last year (and put themselves in position to win as many as 3 of those games)? They had no Jameer, every analytical tool I’ve seen labels Hedo overrated, Skip Alston had never done anything before, and, though I love Rashard Lewis, he was absurdly one-dimensional for the majority of that run. If you eliminate the impossible and only the improbable remains, the improbable must be true: Dwight Howard must be an elite NBA player despite having absolutely zero offensive skill set. It’s good to be 7-1 and run and jump like you’re 6-1, no?

103 comments on “GOTME (Part VI): Centers

  1. TDM

    What? No Earl Barron? No Shawn Bradley? C’mon!

    The problem with labelling Shaq the GOTME is that his FT% is and has always been abysmal. The other 3 addressed above posted career ft% over 70%, while Shaq’s best season from the line, he topped out at 62%. His worst – 42%. I see this as a huge weakness to his game, and certainly one that should be considered when determining the GOTME. Opposing teams created the “hack-a-shaq” specifically because of this weakness in his game.

    That said, I cannot recall ever seeing such a huge person move as quickly as Shaq. Being in LA, I had the opportunity to catch quite a few Lakers games with Shaq. When he would get fed the ball in the low post, it was with lightning-quick instinct that he would swivel and go to the hole. There is nothing that the other team could do to stop him. This is the biggest distinction between a guy like Shaq, and a guy like Curry. Even in his good year(s), Curry’s face would contort as he tried to figure out what to do with the ball in the low post. He has no instincts for the game. I feel quite certain that if Shaq had Michael Sweetney hanging on each of his arms when he got fed the ball, he could still put it in the hole, and-1. Then, he would step to the line, sweat, and brick his ft.

    Bottom line is that I believe Shaq is the Most Dominant Ever, I just have trouble labelling him as the Greatest Ever.

  2. Nick C.

    I always thought Hakeem was above Shaq, partly cuz I never over liked Shaq and I liked Hakeem, partly b/c of the one NBA finals (unfair as it is 2nd year Shaq and peak Hakeem), but mostly b/c of defense. I must say that I ws surprised that in the end Shaq actually was a better rebounder, it never seemed that Shaq was a league best while early on Hakeem challenged for that title.

  3. Mike Kurylo

    Yeah I thought this would be the hardest position, but I think it’s pretty clear that Shaq was more dominant than the other centers. Yes the FT% was a negative, but if it was it couldn’t have been that detrimental given the number of championships he won.

    I’m surprised at how competitive it was at the reserves. Actually I might be inclined to put Hakeem lower, due to his lower TS%. But his defensive numbers are impressive enough to make him second fiddle. I made an editor’s decision to include Malone in the Reserves, although Kevin’s description interestingly was left in tact. His rebounding numbers are off the chart, even only looking at post-1980.

  4. Nick C.

    Lookign at that form chart there’s not much to separate Shaq from Robinson. That being said even a Shaq non-fan like myself would never in a million years think Robinson was better than Shaq. Which begs the question why??? Is it the rings and the post-season, Shaq’s bad-ass persona vs. David Robinson’s Christian naval cadet???
    b/c less than one point of PER over a career and best 5 with Shaq havin a 5 to 3 lead in LL PER seems very slight to me and then Shaq’s 3 second team all-defense vs. 3 first and 3 2nd for Robinson and it looks like on paper on a blind taste test Mr. Robinson might come out on top unless you factor in that Shaq has played about 4 more seasons, but bas of this year Shaq is the age Robinson was when he retired.

  5. BigBlueAL

    Shaq’s numbers were truly amazing despite his atrocious FT%. I had a feeling Ewing wouldnt make the reserves but unfortunately as I am one of the biggest Ewing fans ever I admit he doesnt deserve to be there although I assume he would be on top of the next tier of Centers.

  6. Z

    Keep in mind, David Robinson didn’t enter the league until he was 24. He dominated in college, took three years off, and then dominated the pros, becoming an all-star his rookie year.

    I’d take Hakeem over him in a GOTME draft, but I think that is only because I liked to watch Hakeem play more. Robinson, like Duncan, lacked pizazz. But man– if Robinson had worse parents, he could have had 17 seriously impressive seasons to judge him by.

  7. TDM

    This will probably draw some fire, but I’d pick Olajuwon not just over Robinson, but over Shaq or Moses as well.

    For example, when comparing O to Shaq over their respective 18 year careers, Hakeem recorded more rebounds (13748 to 12921), blocks (3830 to 2690, and steals (2162 to 723). Shaq does get the nod on scoring, however (28255 to 26946) and Moses gets the nod on rebounding (17834), but in terms of all-around greatest, I’d choose Olajuwon in a heartbeat. He ranks in the top of all of these categories, not just in the modern era but for all time – points (10), rebounds (12), steals (9), blocks (1).

    Also, keep in mind, that Hakeem was able to put up better numbers for the most part while having a usage rate consistently lower than Shaqs. Throw in Shaq’s piss-poor free throw shooting — for me, the choice is clear.

  8. Mike Kurylo

    I put a lot of stock into a player’s peak. I feel that a higher peak leads to more championships. Put it this way which would you rather have 1 year of LeBron James or 10 years of Glen Rice?

    In any case Shaq was the league’s best player for half a decade. And maybe Robinson gets the short end of the stick for having a worse supporting cast, but Shaq had more dominant seasons. Shaq bested a PER of 26 11 times, where Robinson did it only 7. Granted Robinson was more durable and a better defender, but neither of those really give him the edge over Shaq in my view. If they’re about even, then you have to look at what happened in a team concept, and Robinson’s playoff record pre-Duncan is pretty bad.

  9. Ted Nelson

    I don’t think Championships should figure into this discussion so heavily. I don’t have a real problem with Shaq being #1, but it’s by no means clear. Hakeem was a very good defender, and I maintain that he played in a much tougher era for bigmen. Who was the 2nd best C in the NBA during Shaq’s reign as #1? Who was guarding him while he absolutely dominated? Not Robinson, Ewing, Zo pre-kidney, Dike pre-40, Kevin Willis pre-40, Daughrety, . He also wasn’t going up against the greatest team of the modern era during his run of dominance, as Hakeem, Robinson, and Ewing were.

    Hakeem never played with a player as good as Kobe or Wade (Drexler was older by the time he got to Houston). When Robinson did (Duncan), he too won it all.

    Like the other positions, defense is hard to judge. Makes the discussion hard to have.

    ” As a star begins his decline, we grow weary of him and rewrite history in a manner that undersells his peak abilities (think Iverson or T-Mac).”

    That’s not fair at all. People would have said the same things about them when they were at their peaks as they would now (besides one or two seasons each where they actually played up to a. their talent and b. their hype).

  10. Knick with the Knack

    Grrr. Glossing over Ewing like that, on _this_ site, is unacceptable.

    I have no problem with your rankings, nor do I have a problem with anyone who wants to put Olajuwon #1. I’m willing to accept that David Robinson was better than many of us thought when he was playing, but there’s simply no way he was as good as Olajuwon or O’Neal. I too am a tad too young to remember Moses at his best (some of which came pre-1980).

  11. Ben R

    Shaq changed professional basketball. He was so dominant the NBA legalized the zone and honestly if they refs were calling every foul Shaq would have fouled every opposing bigman out by midway through the third quarter, he got fouled on every play.

    Also he is the best center of the modern era with a terrible FT%, if he had shot over 70% he would be in the discussion with Jordan as greatest player of the modern era.

    The point Ted made about who he played against is a good one but Shaq saw the rules change in the NBA and still stayed dominant. Did all the traditional centers all of a sudden get worse or did the no hand-checking on the perimeter and the legal zone make the traditional center obsolete. Maybe Shaq would have been even more dominant in the slower, more grind it out 90′s.

  12. kaine

    I would leave Malone aside just for the time being. his career was too long to judge him only for the post 80s…and I think he played against much better centers.

    just mention him as done with Kareem.

    Russell Chamberlain Kareem Shaq in no particular order.

    other than them it’s difficult. maybe Moses is the fifth but no one really achieved what the big 4 did.

    post 1980:
    Shaq first.
    Akeem is clearly the second: won big, clutch player, maybe the best defensive center ever one on one. he learned his job with Moses and that showed. If he had won at least one time against jordan, he would be in the top 5 ever.

    which was better: Robinson or Ewing?

  13. TDM

    Off-topic: the league granted the knicks salary relief for mobleys contract. He was officially waived on Monday.

  14. Ted Nelson

    “Did all the traditional centers all of a sudden get worse or did the no hand-checking on the perimeter and the legal zone make the traditional center obsolete.”

    Good question. I would also add that a lot of the “7 foot” talent moved to the 4 (Webber, KG, Duncan, Dirk… all top 5 in GOTME PFs, plus Sheed, JO, Pau, Van Horn, and more recently Amare, Bosh, Troy Murphy) or even the 3 (Odom, Tim Thomas, Hedo, Rashard Lewis, Kirilenko–who’d rather play 4 I think).

    There was also a period there where a few promising 5s had little desire to play basketball: Curry, Olowokandi, Kwame Brown, Jerome James maybe, Weis didn’t even come to the US (though I don’t think he’d have done that well if he did). If only x guys born in the world have the size and athleticism and access to training/exposure to become top NBA Cs and 4 of the most physically gifted are flunkies, maybe that exhausts the supply. (Like if Robinson stayed in the military, Ewing took his Jamaican pride to a Balkman level, Zo’s kidney acted up earlier, and Hakeem didn’t like basketball there would have been almost no top Cs in the late 80′s/90′s time period.) Maybe it was also that the Curry crowd were only seen as promising because there was no better talent ahead of them and/or they were hurt by rule changes.

    Some top talent moving positions and some promising flunkies maybe explains a good deal of the centerless NBA that we had for a few years.

    A lot of 5s from the 00s seem to be skinnier than the 90s Cs, don’t know if that’s just chance or because quicker Cs were favored by the rules or something. Camby, Tyson Chandler, Dalembert…

    As Caleb has alluded to previously, the talent seems to have switched back to the 5. Both traditional (BIG) 5s and the 6-8 PF playing the 5. Even a lot of the guys teams used to go out of their way to put a center next to and call 4s are playing more at the 5 now (Duncan, JO, Pau, Sheed/KG at times).

    “Maybe Shaq would have been even more dominant in the slower, more grind it out 90’s.”

    Possible. Impossible to say really. I just feel like if he had to go up against Ewing and Oakley in the same frontcourt, in their primes, in a more physical era his life would have been harder. Plus the competition from Hakeem, Robinson, Ewing, etc. may have made him stand out less (people may jump on me for this, but Jordan would probably stand out less too if he played today with LeBron, Kobe, and Wade).

    When the Lakers 3-peated the other All-NBA team (first through third) centers were a 34 and 35 year old Robinson, Zo in their first win but the very next season–Laker win #2–his kidney(s) flared and his career as we knew it was over, a “34″ and “35″ year old Dikembe, and Ben Wallace. Their last title season (01-02) there wasn’t even a C on the 2nd team.

    We have to go on what actually happened–and Shaq dominated–but some context can help. I don’t doubt that Shaq would still be on this list if he were 5 or 10 years older and his prime was earlier, I just don’t know that he would stand out as much. And, as with the other positions, using box score stats and stats derived from them would seem to favor offense over defense. Using championships is better for ranking GMs, not players (maybe we could say “in the playoffs his stats were X” or “in game 7s/conference finals/the finals his stats were X” or “in playoff clutch time his stats were X”… but just being on the team that wins it all only says so much about an individual player).

  15. Ted Nelson

    “Webber, KG, Duncan, Dirk… all top 5 in GOTME PFs”

    Sorry, threw Webber up front last minute because he was drafted before the rest. He was at least mentioned in the GOTME PF discussion, but not top 5.

  16. DS

    I think the post-Shaq era could have a decent one for “traditional” centers. Though the game has changed the position drastically, I am not ready to call traditional centers obsolete. There could be just a drought.

    [1] If Duncan would have labeled himself as a 5 (I believe in the school of thought that he’s thought of as a PF more because he’s listed as such than because he plays like one), [2] if Bynum, Oden, and esp. Yao had realized their Hall of Fame potential, and [3] w/ serviceable starters/fringe All-Stars like Kendrick Perkins, Bogut, Okur, Tyson Chandler(?). That’s 8 names off the top of my head.

    I don’t think the athletic freaks like KG, Amare, Dwight, Dirk, and LeBron have destroyed all chances at success for a slower, taller, less athletic big man.

    I think Hakeem and Robinson would still have thrived in the “no hand-checking on the perimeter and the legal zone” new world. Though Jon Koncak, Felton Spencer, and Andrew Lang might not be starting 5′s today.

  17. DS

    By post-Shaq era, I mean after he was traded to Miami and his career started winding down. I don’t mean from next year on.

  18. Ted Nelson

    DS,

    I don’t think the traditional center is at all dead. I just think that there was a period–when Shaq was dominant so basically the early 00s and very late 90s–when there was very little talent at the position. Stars were aging/retiring, Zo’s health tanked, plus the rule changes, position switches, and promising busts mentioned previously…

    Today, Howard, Bynum, Yao, and Oden are in or before their primes. I would add Horford, Nene, Marc Gasol, Noah, Kaman, Haywood/Dampier, Shaq, probably still Camby, Dalembert, Biedrins to the list of legit starting 5s, with some good PFs like Lee also in there. (Though you could say Horford and Nene would have been PFs in the 90s. Biedrins, Noah, and Dalembert probably too.) I think Thabeet will be solid, though I know I’m in the minority. Brook Lopez is solid and should get at least a bit better. Hibbert definitely fits the slow bill and he’s ok. Przybilla is solid and definitely a traditional C. Some other Gortat types have promise. Basically, most teams besides the Knicks have a legit 5 man. (Earl Barron does not count, even if it works out he’s soft.)

    I would also not say that Hakeem, Robinson, a young Ewing, Bill Russell, Wilt, etc. were any less athletic (or Howard or Bynum today) than anyone else, just a different sort of athleticism.

    I think Duncan is, or at least was, a legitimate PF. He played with a defensive 5 a lot of the time, and played the high post. He was also a legitimate 5, sure, but I think he was a legit 4. I could call LeBron James a 2 or a 3 and you couldn’t really tell me I’m wrong either way.

  19. Ben R

    I think what has really hurt the traditional center is the loosened up perimeter rules. It is very easy to exploit a traditional center on the pick and roll. There is no way Robinson or Ewing could defend, Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade, Tony Parker, etc. on the pick and roll now. Before the rule change they could arm check the guard to cut off their progress and that would give their teammates enough time to recover, now they can’t.

    I would also argue Jordan might very well be even more dominant with the looser perimeter rules.

    The NBA really openened up the game to smaller faster players in the late 90′s and there has not been a dominant traditional center since. Only hybrid 4-5′s and very athletic, quick 5′s.

  20. Ben R

    Ted –
    I would argue that players like Oden, Yao, Marc Gasol, Dampier, Bogut, Gray, Hibbert, etc would be even more useful players ten years ago and Yao and Oden (if they were healthier) would have possibly been some of the greatest center’s ever before the rule changes.

    As for many of the other players you pointed out they are much thinner and more agile than the typical 1990′s center and while good in today’s NBA would not have been strong enough to play with many of the 1990′s centers. We have gone from big bodies with good footwork; Ewing, Robinson, Shaq, to tall bodies with great agility; Howard, Biedrins, Bynum. The game has changed and the traditional back to the basket center is not nearly as useful.

  21. Ted Nelson

    Ben

    #20:
    Robinson was pretty athletic until his 30s, and not sure exactly when Ewing’s knees went but he could move before then. Guys like Przybilla/Oden, Yao, Haywood, Bynum, Shaq/Z, Perkins manage to be interior defensive presences today. All the contenders have a traditional C. Basically I’m saying maybe Robinson and Ewing and whoever else might not be as effective today, but they’d still be very good. Not sure exactly how much different they would be, which is the important question.

    Jordan may have slightly better numbers today, but my point was that when you looked at him next to LeBron, Kobe, and Wade he wouldn’t be as special/stand out as much. LeBron is really the important one, since there were Dominique types during LeBron’s career. Today I think you’d look at the top of the pecking order as MJ AND LeBron, whereas when he was around he was the top perimeter player by far. That’s what I’m saying with Shaq. When you put him next to ancient Robinson & Dike, terminal Zo, and Ben Wallace he’s head & shoulders above the competition. Next to Hakeem, Robinson in his prime, Ewing, Dike in his prime, etc. etc. he wouldn’t stand out as much. How exactly that would impact MJ/Shaq in terms of stats, rep, rings, etc… I don’t know.

    “The NBA really openened up the game to smaller faster players in the late 90’s and there has not been a dominant traditional center since. Only hybrid 4-5’s and very athletic, quick 5’s.”

    That’s what we’re discussing. I’m saying that as well as rule changes there have also been more versatile but equally dominant 7 footers in the league and a few promising busts drafted very high. It’s a case of which came first, the chicken or the egg. Is KG an athletic freak and not a 5 because of the rule changes? Would be have been as effective in a different era or was his timing just perfect? The first has a somewhat obvious answer I think, although the exact relationship between talent, NBA rules, and style of play that dominates the league is far more complicated I would say. The second is impossible to answer with too much certainty.

    Bynum, Yao, Przybilla/Oden, etc. are not dominant, but they’re doing alright for their respective talent levels (besides Oden, due to injuries and Yao less so due to injuries).

  22. Ted Nelson

    “I would argue that players like Oden, Yao, Marc Gasol, Dampier, Bogut, Gray, Hibbert, etc would be even more useful players ten years ago and Yao and Oden (if they were healthier) would have possibly been some of the greatest center’s ever before the rule changes.”

    I would agree with the first part, but not the second.
    -I think those players might have been more valuable. Most of them are still quite valuable today, though.
    -Yao was compared to Brad Daugherty mostly as a draft prospect. He’s ginormous and awkward. No one compares him to Hakeem defensively or Shaq offensively. One could also argue that bigger, more physical Cs would have pushed him around. I think he’s done pretty well for his talent, but maybe I’m wrong.
    -Oden may one day live to be one of the greatest Cs if he can stay/get healthy, or you could still say he could have had he never had an injury problem. He probably would have been just as injury prone were he born earlier anyway.

    “As for many of the other players you pointed out they are much thinner and more agile than the typical 1990’s center and while good in today’s NBA would not have been strong enough to play with many of the 1990’s centers. We have gone from big bodies with good footwork; Ewing, Robinson, Shaq, to tall bodies with great agility; Howard, Biedrins, Bynum.”

    Again, I agree with the first part and not the second.
    -Guys like Chandler, Dalembert, etc. may have been PFs in the 90s. Even well built guys who are a little shorter like Nene and Horford would have been PFs.
    -However… Bynum & Yao, these are not big bodies with good footwork? They are both bigger than Ewing or Robinson or Hakeem. B-R has Bynum listed at 45 lbs more than Ewing, 30 more than Hakeem, and 50 lbs more than Robinson. Yao is 7-5. Howard is a big beast with good footwork who also has great agility. He breaks any mold I’ve seen, but since he takes only 13% jumpers, seems fair to call him a 5. Howard is listed as 6-11, 240 on B-R. He outweighs Ewing and Robinson whenever those weights were taken. So, the current group is possibly bigger than the 90s group.

    “The game has changed and the traditional back to the basket center is not nearly as useful.”

    All the teams that are winning championships have big traditional centers of some sort. Bynum, Perkins, Shaq, some would argue Duncan… The game has changed, but I don’t think physically dominant bigmen are less important. The Bulls ran off 6 championships in the 90s and Bill Cartwright was their best 5 ever. Solid, but hardly dominant.

  23. Ted Nelson

    As a Knicks fan, I long for a traditional C and cannot agree that they’re obsolete. The top 7 defenses in the league: Bobcats, Magic, Bucks, Celtics, Lakers, Cavs. Their centers: Chandler/Mohammed/Ratliff, Howard (Gortat 13 mpg), Bogut, Perkins, Bynum/Gasol, Shaq/Z, Jermaine O’Neal. You can call them traditional centers or not. They’ve evolved, but they’re all big and they all defend. Watching David Lee struggle out of position gets old.

  24. Ted Nelson

    Of the bottom 7 defenses, only Brook Lopez can be considered a true C and he slid in the draft due to concerns about lateral quickness/defense. (Raps = Bargnani, Warriors = no one most of the season, T-Wolves = 2 PFs… they were actively excited to get Darko, Pistons = semi-retired Ben Wallace, Knicks = Lee, Nets = Lopez.)
    Of course I don’t think that team defense is perfectly correlated with the talent of your starting C, but there’s a trend.

  25. BigBlueAL

    Ewing in the mid-90′s was usually always listed at 7 ft 240 lbs I believe which sounds about right but watching him in the late 80′s and into the early 90′s I would think he was close to 20 lbs lighter. Ewing I would say up until around 1993 was actually a VERY athletic big man who was one of the quickest Centers in the league. Hard to believe because by the 1994-1995 season he really had slown down but you go back and look at his games during the Pitino era and his career season under Stu Jackson in the 1989-1990 season you would be shocked at seeing how quick and athletic he was both in the half-court and especially in running the fastbreak.

    I got old enough and started really following the Knicks during Pat Riley’s 1st season with the Knicks so I really only knew the physical, half-court Knick teams but I have downloaded and seen many Knick games like I mentioned from the few years prior to that and I myself was shocked at watching Ewing play and how good he really was before his knees started slowing him down some.

  26. TDM

    Speaking of the center position, and in consideration of the fact that Mobley has been waived, are there any other prospects that the Knicks could sign from the D-League to test out for the remainder of the season?

  27. nicos

    At the risk of being a total homer- While Ewing’s knee problems aren’t at the “what if” level of Walton’s feet I think people forget he had his knees scoped after each of his first two seasons and every few years there after. I think he’d have been close to if not better than Hakeem if it weren’t for the knee issues. Early in his career he had a nearly unstoppable turnaround baseline jumper- by the early 90′s he couldn’t even get that shot off without getting it blocked because his lift was just gone. To his credit, he worked around it and became a terrific face-up shooter and I think as his mobility decreased he also worked to become a better positional rebounder. Watch some film of him a Georgetown- he’s so athletic he’s hardly recognizable.

  28. BigBlueAL

    Doc Rivers said Nate will play tonight but will be out of rotation again starting tomorrow. For sure Nate will go off for 20 pts tonight now.

  29. nicos

    Brian- Very Cool! And one more what if- Arvydas Sabonis might have been have been better than anyone on this list- he was already way past his prime by the time he arrived in the NBA (and he was still pretty good then).

  30. Z

    Whoa. The only thing weirder than seeing Earl Barron with 13 points and 8 rebounds in the first half is the fact that D’Antoni actually moved Lee to Power Forward!

  31. Z

    “Earl Barron and Duhon started tonight. Isn’t that one of the signs of the apocalypse?”

    Barron didn’t only start. He’s also leading the team in minutes!

  32. TDM

    “Barron didn’t only start. He’s also leading the team in minutes!”

    That settles it — I’m stocking up on canned goods and moving the wife and kids into the fallout shelter tonight. Good luck to you all.

  33. Brian Cronin

    Ugh – I turned down tickets to this game (in favor of Monday’s game against Washington) because I figured that they would lose.

    Oh well, I’ll accept the annoyance in exchange for the win.

  34. Brian Cronin

    My wife is giving me some guff right now (and I’m sure I’ll hear it from the people who offered us the seats), but hey, I’ll take the win.

  35. rayhed

    I cannot understand why D’antoni refuses to have his players foul at the end of the game on the last play… They easily coulda fouled rondo and put him on the line for two (while the knicks were up 3). Knicks happened to win this one, but it seems like they’ve fucked up in this regard a few times under dantoni

  36. TDM

    Horrible night shooting for Lee, Walker and Toney. Fortunately, Boston only hit 63% from the free throw line or we might be looking at a different result.

  37. SJK

    I only watched the 4th quarter, was Earl Barron’s line as legit as it looks? I know it’s only one game, but if the knicks get a legitimate center so they can move DLee to PF, will there be more wins like this?

  38. BigBlueAL

    The best part is Im checking Twitter to read all the stuff I missed while I was gone and everybody just ripping Marc Berman because he was all pissed that Nate didnt get any big response at all and even complained because Oakley got a loud ovation and Nate didnt!!!! You have got to be kidding me, even the other Knick beat writers were basically mocking Berman.

    Im telling you I cant for the life of me understand how this man still has a job covering this team. He is obsessed with Marbury, takes shots left and right at D’Antoni and now is obsessed with Nate. Unbelievable.

  39. nicos

    Barron bringing back memories of Eddie Lee Wilkins!! Gallo huge in the second half and credit where credit is due, Duhon played well- a huge block on Perkins, a big steal late and ran the offense well.

  40. Brian Cronin

    I cannot understand why D’antoni refuses to have his players foul at the end of the game on the last play… They easily coulda fouled rondo and put him on the line for two (while the knicks were up 3). Knicks happened to win this one, but it seems like they’ve fucked up in this regard a few times under dantoni

    The Celtics out-screwed=up the Knicks on that last position.

    Not even getting a shot off? Seriously, Celtics?

  41. TDM

    Congrats to Gallo – career high in points tonight (previously 30).

    Barron more than doubled his career high in rebounds (previously 8).

  42. BigBlueAL

    Yeah I was yelling to foul Rondo too but once he picked up his dribble and Lee swarmed him I was like forget that dont foul they wont get a shot off.

    Oh also I just noticed this from Berman, he said the Celtic fans put Knick fans to shame because Eddie House got a thunderous ovation in his return to Boston and Nate got nothing. Just wow. Fact is neither player should get crap from their former fans but at least you know Eddie House did have a small part in you know the Celtics winning a freakin championship!!!!

  43. daaarn

    Although I doubt the Knicks can run the table on their remaining games, I’m pulling for them to overtake Indiana in the standings and takeover the 10 spot in the East, if only to worsen their draft position just a little bit more.

  44. daaarn

    Just read the Game Notes and it mentioned the Knicks just waived Mobley for luxury tax reasons. My question is, why didn’t they just do this earlier? Granted, w/ Dantoni’s limited rotation it probably wouldn’t have mattered who we picked up to fill the roster spot anyway, but you never know.

  45. massive

    i think tonight is proof that David Lee is more effective at the 5. but i think its a lot better to have a real center, defensive or not.

  46. BigBlueAL

    Berman also said that Barron’s numbers tonight puts David Lee’s monster numbers into a little bit more perspective. Sorry to keep bringing this idiot up but honestly I would rather have almost anyone who posts here cover the Knicks than this guy. Although admittedly like a moron I keep reading what he writes….

  47. Ted Nelson

    How motivated is Barron to get back in the league? If Eddy Curry had to drive around the country in a bus and make $30,000/year he’d probably also try to be an NBA player…
    On another note, he clearly justified it tonight, but who signs a guy from the d-league and makes him their leading minute getter? Barron has a sweet stroke and maybe he’s legitimately improved, but I doubt he keeps hitting so many Js: he was 6-8 outside the paint (2-5 inside, only 1 FTA). THe rebounding is as much of a surprise, but after averaging 11.6 reb/36 in the D-League this season maybe he’s improved there. Two games of good rebounding.

    What’s impressive from Gallo is that he only took 4 3s and only made 1. He entered the season taking like 66% 3s, so great to see how he’s expanding his game at the NBA level.

    “Berman also said that Barron’s numbers tonight puts David Lee’s monster numbers into a little bit more perspective.”

    Definitely don’t get that one… Lee also played in this game and didn’t put up monster numbers. I guess that means Lee is about half as good as Earl Barron… totally logical. I don’t read Berman ever, but what an idiot.

    “i think tonight is proof that David Lee is more effective at the 5.”

    One game is proof of nothing, it’s like saying Northern Iowa is clearly a more talented team than Kansas because they beat them or the Knicks are clearly better than the Celtics because they beat them. Lee played at the 4 for several seasons and his TS% was not 38% (as it was tonight), it was over 60%.

  48. Robert Silverman

    Lee’s outside jumper wasn’t falling at all tonight and he missed a bunch of chances at the rim that he usually nails. If he makes just three of those shots, he’s at his usual 20 – 11 – 5 assists.

    And Berman’s a liar, plain and simple. A big, fat (that’s not a personal jab. He’s a big fat guy) liar.

    Why does he still have a job? B/c he works for Rupert Murdoch, plain and simple

  49. BigBlueAL

    Lee did make that huge basket at the end powering a layup in over KG off a pass from Duhon off a PNR of course. Total props for Duhon acting like a pro, also made a huge block and steal on Pierce late in the game (actually the block was on Perkins I think).

  50. Z

    “Barron bringing back memories of Eddie Lee Wilkins!”

    Funny. When I turned the game on and got my first glimpse of Barron I said to the guy I was with “I feel like I’m watching Eddie Lee Wilkins again”. Glad I’m not the only one :)

    “who signs a guy from the d-league and makes him their leading minute getter?”

    HAHAHA. D’Antoni does make for a fascinating character study, doesn’t he?…

  51. Robert Silverman

    “who signs a guy from the d-league and makes him their leading minute getter?”

    Don Nelson.

    Look, Barron was playing really well and he’s one of three guys over 6’5″ who were able to go tonight. Who’d you have given more minutes to – JR Giddens? Sergio?

  52. nicos

    I actually thought tonight was proof that Lee is better at the 4. He was actually a plus defensively, he got his hands on several passes inside and was fairly effective helping in the paint. Usually when we play the Celtics, Perkins pins Lee so deep he’s completely useless. The only time the Knicks really got hurt inside was when there were switches (like Gallo on Garnett which didn’t work out too well). Lee did miss a bunch of jumpers but they were the same open looks he’s been nailing for most of the season (though his jumper has seemed a little off lately- maybe late season fatigue). His inside misses might have had something to do with the fact that the Celtics boast three pretty good interior defenders rather than the fact he was playing the 4 rather than the 5.

    As for Barron- Yes it’s almost certain he won’t continue to go 6 for 8 on open jumpers and I’d say at least half of his rebounds were the result of hustle against a Celtics team that really didn’t look very interested tonight. That said, he’s a 7 footer who can knock down an open jumper and is willing to compete on the glass- it’s hard to see why someone didn’t take a shot on him earlier in the year.

  53. TDM

    I seem to recall Barron having a few solid games for the Heat when Shaq went down for his usual 20 game hiatus, but nothing like what we saw tonight. Hell, I don’t think he ever put up numbers like that in the D-League.

    On another note, anyone see the stat line for Shawn Livingston tonight? It seriously looked like that guy would never play at a high level again, but he’s had a few really solid games for the Wiz.

  54. SeeWhyDee77

    Barron may be a passable back up 5 on this roster, but we shouldn’t look forward to any consistent play close to las nite. The one great thing about Barron is the fact that he is a big body that has stayed on the floor. Problem is, every newcomer to a D’Antoni team expects their offensive numbers to go up and thas all they seem to focus on. Barron is a decent jump shooter for a big..he problee won’t lose that ability unless he stops shooting altogether. But if he can be smart and selfless enough to bring our roster what it needs..or rather focus on that 1st..then he may be a keeper. He’s played for Riley disciples so I know he’s familiar with the mantra of defense and rebounding. Apart from that, his presence did make Lee look like a better defender, if only slightly. Regardless of who plays the 4 for us next season, we still need serviceable centers-real centers. Not 6’10″ guys who masquerade as centers (Amare, Bosh). If we can find one who can give us 20-25 solid minutes a night on defense in the paint then that would make life much easier for the team. I know-i’m captain obvious lol. But so many people are caught up in the free agency thing and don’t seem to be givin any thought to really building a team. Basketball is still basketball-u can’t jus put the 5 best players on the floor-u still need to find the right combination. And if ur best 5 are 6’8-ish or shorter (except for Gallinari) and can’t play any kind of interior D, then u r doomed to fail.

  55. Ted Nelson

    “Look, Barron was playing really well and he’s one of three guys over 6?5? who were able to go tonight. Who’d you have given more minutes to – JR Giddens? Sergio?”

    I said he justified it. More than anything it’s an indictment of the Knicks roster.
    I guess you could say that D’Antoni had the “great” “bigman” Jared Jeffries at the time, but the one negative I would put out there is that Hill never played 44 minutes. He never even played 20 minutes in a game, topping out at 19:40. Hill has a similar game to Barron in some ways, and will almost definitely go down as the better player. Would have been really nice to see what the Knicks could have done with two decent sized players on the court when the season actually mattered. The inconsistent leash length D’Antoni gives different players can be really maddening.
    So, part of the surprise for me was “whoa Knicks are so bad that Earl Barron was their best player for a game” and part of it was “D’Antoni gets a career 3rd stringer from the D-League and that’s what prompts him to play a normal line-up and realize that the only reason he got away with small-ball in Phoenix is because they had such a talent advantage over 90% of the league.”

    And as Z says, “D’Antoni does make for a fascinating character study, doesn’t he?…”

    The Don Nelson comparison is actually worrying to me.

  56. Ted Nelson

    SeeWhyDee77,

    I agree that the Knicks could really use a defensive upgrade inside. Also agree that there’s a 90% chance that Barron is a back-up at best. Good chance he’s back in the D-League next season. The one season he got extended run for the Heat he stunk big-time. He always had the stroke, but not the consistency. He always had the size/athleticism, but not the rebounding numbers. I am hoping some time riding around on buses for $30,000/year made him realize how sweet the NBA is and work to improve his game, but it’s just not that likely he’ll be an average NBA bigman.

    There’s a balance. You do want to put the 5 most talented players out there, but you also want a balanced line-up that complements each other.

    Using Amare as an example of someone you don’t want at C and then saying you can’t win that way is odd: D’Antoni himself consistently won 60 games with Amare himself at the 5. Having an interior defender of some kind would really be ideal, but a huge talent upgrade this offseason is the most important thing. You can balance out the roster later. People here have been thinking pretty hard about how the Knicks can get a 5, though. It gets covered in a lot of threads.

  57. stratomatic

    This off topic and goes back a few weeks, but I thought it was noteworthy.

    I saw a report that suggested that Toronto has basically DARED Bosh to leave without doing a sign and trade. They think there is no chance he’ll do that because he would leave too much money on the table by just walking. So whoever gets him is probably going to have to have assets and matching salaries to send back. The report also said that Toronto is NOT interested in Lee.

    There was a report that suggested Dallas could be in the Lebron sweepstakes because they have a large contract coming off the books, have the assets that could swing a sign and trade, and Lebron would be able to get the full max, benefit from some tax advantages in Texas, and get to play in the new stadium several times a year.

    This is the issue I brought up a couple of months ago.

    IMO no team is going to simply allow their superstar to walk unless they want to cut payroll. Few supertars are going to leave a ton of money on the table if they have the option of doing a sign and trade (assuming they want to leave) and getting a lot more money.

    That means that in order to compete for some of these guys, a team may actually have to have the assets to send back.

    Where does that leave the Knicks as an already totally gutted team?

    Of course, this doesn’t even begin to address the probability that some of these players are unhappy enough with their current circumstances that they actually want to leave.

  58. Brian Cronin

    Again, stratomatic, yes, teams usually end up doing sign and trades, but that’s only after the player has determined to sign with the other team no matter what, so his old team has the option of either getting something for themselves or nothing.

    And if the team is not willing to do it, then the player has signed anyways (Shaquille O’Neal is a good example).

    No player in the history of the NBA has ever not signed a deal because his team couldn’t work out a sign and trade with the team he’s signing with (granted, this is because pretty much every team realizes it is in their best interest to do so).

    It’s not an issue, despite whatever “reports” say that Toronto is thinking.

    That doesn’t mean that a team like Dallas would not be an option for Lebron (there’s no way Lebron goes to Dallas, but a team like) Dallas), it just means that they only become a player if Lebron makes it clear that he’s going to play for some other team next year no matter what – which sure doesn’t seem to be how Lebron is viewing things.

    It’s not “I hate Cleveland and I will play for anyone but Cleveland” but rather “I’d like to play for Team X that can sign me outright,” with the Knicks hoping that they are that Team X (but likely it not being any team and he just re-signs with Cleveland).

    Let’s say that Lebron actually did want to play in Dallas. What would his leverage be there exactly? “Hey, Cleveland, make a sign and trade with Dallas so I can play there! Yes, I can’t sign there for anything but the veteran’s minimum (Dallas doesn’t even have the mid-level open, do they?), but, well…I’ll do it! Just watch me!”

    Sign and trades come from the leverage of a player saying he will sign with the other team no matter what, not from this Dallas scenario.

  59. Ted Nelson

    stratomatic,

    The difference between the two contracts isn’t really that much. For the first five years of the deal it’s a $4 million difference, $800,000 per year. The extra year is what adds value to the contract, so if you resign another max deal at that point you’re fine. That extra year probably has the most value for Wade, since he’s the oldest and most injury prone. Maybe also for Bosh since he’s less obviously a max player. If you’re LeBron you hope you’re still worth another max deal; although, he too could insure himself against injury with the extra year.

    Toronto is operating on the assumption that Bosh is gone next season one way or another, from what a friend heard from one of their top executives.

    If Bosh leaves they can’t do much better than Lee, who plays the same spot and replaces most or all of his production. Maybe Lee would even be better with Bargnani (their “franchise” “center”) since he plays more inside? The only better deals I see them getting are nothing but cap space (in which case they’re a lottery team that’s still capped out), a high pick (unlikely Bosh signs with a terrible team, but who knows), or an interior defender (don’t exactly grow on trees, but maybe). Not saying I’m dying for Bosh, but I think when push came to shove Toronto would take Lee if Bosh were hell-bent on coming to NYC. Especially if he only gets 8-10 mill per.

    Brian,

    “It’s not “I hate Cleveland and I will play for anyone but Cleveland” but rather “I’d like to play for Team X that can sign me outright,” with the Knicks hoping that they are that Team X (but likely it not being any team and he just re-signs with Cleveland).”

    Agreed.

    “Sign and trades come from the leverage of a player saying he will sign with the other team no matter what, not from this Dallas scenario.”

    He just has to say “sign-and-trade me to Dallas or I’m signing with NY/NJ/Chi/LAC/etc.” All the cap space out there and all the demand for LeBron is his leverage. He can do whatever he pleases this summer. I have no idea what LeBron thinks of Dallas.

    “teams usually end up doing sign and trades, but that’s only after the player has determined to sign with the other team no matter what, so his old team has the option of either getting something for themselves or nothing.”

    Unless you’re Isiah Thomas.

    “And if the team is not willing to do it, then the player has signed anyways (Shaquille O’Neal is a good example).”

    Shaq signed with the Lakers before there was a maximum salary. I don’t know if there are examples of this, but that’s not one.

  60. Ted Nelson

    I should also add at the top of #71 that those players might want the 6th year to insure against the next CBA.

    ess-dog,

    I don’t think 12 mill per for Lee would be overpaying based on the market. When you look at the deals signed last offseason 12 mill per for Lee would be a downright bargain (I’m commenting more on those deals than Lee’s value there). 12 per is the upper end of what I expect (10 to 12 per). If some team offered 14, 15 per or maxed him out I’d say they probably overpaid.
    I don’t know what his ACTUAL worth is, just saying I think that’s where the market for him might be based on last offseason and all the cap space out there this offseason.

  61. Brian Cronin

    Shaq signed with the Lakers before there was a maximum salary. I don’t know if there are examples of this, but that’s not one.

    Even then players could make more money signing with their old team, no? Years and percentage increase, I thought.

  62. TDM

    It looks like Bosh may be out for the rest of the season with broken bones in his face. Chicago is one game behind Toronto for the 8th seed. Toronto has to face Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit and NY. I have to think that if Chicago grabs the 8th spot, leaving Toronto as the odd-man-out, this decreases Toronto’s chances of retaining Bosh.

  63. Brian Cronin

    I’m no Harrington fan, but Harrington has had a pretty good year for the Knicks, so it’s not a good thing that he’s hurt if you want the Knicks to win these last few games.

  64. ess-dog

    I bet we win 4 of the next 5 without Harrington.

    I feel bad for him though. Puts a kink in his contract bid.

    The Bosh thing is interesting. I bet he ends up resigning with Toronto. Maybe Toronto makes a trade (Calderon? Bargnani?) to make him happy.

    I would prefer Lee at this point. And I agree Ted that he is worth 12 mil, I was just hoping that no one else thought that and maybe we could lock him up for a shade over 10 mil.

    What do you think the interest is in Ray Felton? I’m warming up to the idea of making a play for him. He’s young and improving. What does he command on the open market? 8? 9 mil? more?

  65. ess-dog

    Oops, and I put an average of 11 mil for the Manu deal, but it is an average of THIRTEEN MILLION. That could mean trouble for us this summer and possibly a hard decision on Lee.

  66. Ted Nelson

    “Even then players could make more money signing with their old team, no? Years and percentage increase, I thought.”

    Maybe an extra year, I have no idea, but increases wouldn’t really matter if there is no max. Jordan made 30 and 33 mill Shaq’s first two years with the Lakers, so maybe Shaq could have made more. I think his $120 mill over 7 years was the largest overall contract ever given to any athlete at that point. Could maybe have gotten more money if he took a series of shorter deals, though.

    “What do you think the interest is in Ray Felton?”

    I’m not a Felton fan at all. He’s an offensive disaster with career numbers not much better than Duhon’s numbers this season (better playmakers than Duhon). He’s a strong defender. For the Knicks to decide they want an all-D, no-O PG would be a real shock to me. If he went to Duke D’Antoni would probably be pining for him, though… kidding.
    I don’t know what he’s worth, but I would be hesitant to give him more than $5 mill per. I wouldn’t even give him 5, personally. His career TS% is .493 on an average usage rate… plus he turns it over too much. It’s offensive suicide to have him as your PG. Douglas is better offensively (though far less of a playmaker/”pure point” right now) and probably not much worse defensively if at all. He’s 6 foot flat, to top it off (5’11.5″ w.out shoes, 6’0.25″ with). There’s got to be D-League PG who gives you about as much on a minimum deal.
    Charlotte will probably overpay to keep him, which is a bit justifiable since they are a defensive team. He already turned down a lot of money, though, so we’ll see if he’s delusional or the team that signs him is.

    “The Bosh thing is interesting. I bet he ends up resigning with Toronto. Maybe Toronto makes a trade (Calderon? Bargnani?) to make him happy.”

    I think he’s got the highest chance of being out of there of any of the big guys. At this point he’s probably even passed Boozer. Toronto has done nothing but try to make him happy and win now. They even signed Jarrett Jack because he’s Bosh’s best bud from Georgia Tech (which actually turned out to be the best basketball decision they made all offseason). As I’ve said, my buddy heard directly from a Raptors exec that they’d love to resign him, but they’re assuming he’s gone.

  67. Ted Nelson

    “Oops, and I put an average of 11 mil for the Manu deal, but it is an average of THIRTEEN MILLION. That could mean trouble for us this summer and possibly a hard decision on Lee.”

    He might have gotten the same or more on the market with all the cap space out there, but in a way SA owed him after underpaying him for years and they are capped out next season anyway so he had leverage in that it was either re-sign him or try to replace him with the MLE/draft (to remain a contender in the short-term they almost had to re-sign him). He certainly has been worth 13 mill per on his career, whether he will be into his mid-30s… I don’t know. (My guess is yes, or at least close.) Having a bounce-back year this year that breaks the downward trend of the past 3 seasons. He’s also a more complete player than Lee, playing strong defense. So, all and all I don’t know if this has a direct impact on Lee’s value. A bit probably: a sign that teams aren’t worried about the economy (not that they actually seemed to be last offseason) and one less top shelf player that teams with cap space could have tried to sign instead of Lee without taking away any available cap space.

  68. Brian Cronin

    If the Knicks open their Lee contract at $10 million, what is the highest overall value of the contract?

    It can get pretty darn high, right?

    So I’m not too worried there.

  69. Brian Cronin

    Okay, I could be off, but I think it’s about $81 for 6 years.

    That’s $13.5 million per year on average.

    I think Lee would take that, but maybe the Knicks would have to start at $11 million instead.

  70. Brian Cronin

    What the hell is Indiana doing?!?!

    You morons! You just went from the #4 pick to the #10 pick!!

  71. massive

    does anybody think D’Antoni gave Chris Duhon the same treatment he gave Nate earlier this season? He was regulated to the bench, now he’s back in the rotation, starting actually. He probably did, its just Nate Robinson is a higher-profile guy. And Gallo has really comes to play against top SFs recently. He played Carmelo with vigor and integrity, same for Paul Pierce as he dropped 31 on him last night. He has 15 against Granger and only took 1 shot from 3 point range, which me made. I hope he makes this a consistent part of his game, all that shooting doesn’t benefit as much.

  72. Ted Nelson

    I get 13.8875 per.

    Massive,

    I think he should have given Duhon the same treatment he gave Robinson a lot earlier in the season.

  73. d-mar

    Knickerblogger post April 2025:

    “How can any discussion of the greatest centers of the modern era not include Earl Barron?”

  74. Ted Nelson

    Exciting to see all these underclassmen declaring. Besides the ones the Knicks might actually be able to draft, more first round talent should push talent back to the Knicks picks.

  75. ess-dog

    I wonder if there’s any chance Alabi, Whiteside or Orton fall to us in the 2nd round? Or perhaps we trade up into the late 1st? I don’t see much in the way of point guards – a center project makes more sense to me. I would love to get Udoh from Baylor (he seems like a perfect D’Antoni guy) but I can’t see us moving up that high.

  76. Ted Nelson

    By the late 30s/early 40s I think you just have to take the best prospect available and not worry about need. I would say the same at any point in the draft, but by then there are only so many guys available who will ever make any impact in the NBA. Would be great if the best prospect also happened to be a defensive center. If all these underclassmen stay in there should still be some very intriguing guys on the board when the Knicks pick, but maybe not at real positions of need (not that we really know what the Knicks need until after free agency).

    I don’t see Whiteside falling to the 2nd with his size and athleticism… he’d almost have to get arrested or stink it up in workouts. Orton I could see falling since he didn’t actually play much at Kentucky, but that might not matter. Chad Ford thinks he’ll go 10-18… Alabi I don’t know. Teams do strange things on draft night, though, so one might very well fall.
    One C who will probably be there is Zoubek… I’ve never actually seen him play against someone his own size, but I can’t imagine it’s pretty or he’d be projected to go a lot higher. If the Knicks played the Warriors every night be could be a HOF center, though.
    Pittman might be there and be able to play 15 mpg or something… Not exactly a fit for D’Antoni though.

    As far as PG, Sherron Collins is still on the board when the Knicks pick on nbadraft.net and draftexpress.com. Maybe not your prototypical starting PG, but at the end of the day he might be the 2nd or 3rd best PG in this draft class. Depending on who else is on the board I would have no problem taking Collins.
    Should be a good, deep draft for shooting guards and combo-guards.

  77. TDM

    Assuming the Knicks don’t package their picks to trade up, I like shotblocker Jarvis Varnado and pg Greivis Vasquez. I like Whiteside Alabi but don’t there is any chance either will be there. Orton seems like too much of a gamble right now. It will be interesting to see how he does in predraft workouts.

    Vasquez seems to be a hardworking guy with a knack for scoring and good court vision. He is a big pg – 6’5″ w/o shoes. Pulled out of last years draft. There are some concerns that he sometimes forces shots but that could have been because he was required to have such a high usage rate at Maryland.

  78. bob cook

    Regarding Earl Barron:
    (A) Did you all know his middle name is Duke?
    (B) I’m thinking he could be a useful bench guy next year. Criminey, the guy got 18 boards in a game. Remember when we were hyping Curry as a borderline all star? We would swoon if he got five bounds.
    (C) Anthony Mason came up from the minors. Lightning could strike twice. So did Starks. Thrice.
    (D) No more talk about Eddie Lee Wilkins. I’m still trying to get over my disappointment when I found out he was not Dominique’s brother but was more related to Sarah Lee.

  79. stratomatic

    Brian/Ted,

    I understand your points and agree. I’m just not so sure you can look to the past to help determine what’s going to happen this time. It really is different this time because of the potential for the new CBA to impact salaries long term and the circumstances of the players.

    You seem to be assuming that most/all FAs only consider playing for one other team besides their current one and most would be willing to take less than the max if a sign and trade can’t be worked out.

    That may be true of unhappy players, but these guys are not unhappy (other than perhaps Bosh). One or more of them might be willing to say yes to any of 2-3 teams (Bosh again) as long as they can get a MAX CONTRACT in a sign and trade and the team is a contender.

    The reason this is significant is that it’s also possible the current team could simply say “no” if a reasonable sign and trade can’t be worked out. That would force the player to either walk and take less money (something they don’t want to do in these marginal situations) or stay. It’s also possible that a team other than the Knicks could offer more and the player would say yes and go there instead.

    The obvious question is why any incumbant team would say no to a sign and trade and risk getting nothing?

    If the assets being offered are inferior to the cap space they’ll gain by allowing their star to leave, they would be better off saying “no”. (Perhaps in the past, teams usually said yes because the assets offered “were” superior to the alternative of nothing).

    For example, would a team be bettor off with the cap space or Eddy Curry? LMAO

    If we spiced it up, who could we add and how does that alter the prospect of the player even wanting to come here as opposed to staying where he is?

    If we refuse to spice it up and the team says no, will the player want to come here enough to give up the extra salary or will he consider another city?

    I concede that what I am describing may be a very low probability event, but IMO so is this situation.

    Most of these major FAs are already on very good teams and seem to be happy with their current organization (except for maybe Bosh). They are also probably going to want to lock in as many years as possible at the max because the new CBA could impact their future salaries. So these are going to be marginal choices. Few of these guys are actually anxious to get out of town. That all gives the incumbent teams some extra leverage.

    Specific to James, we’ve also never seen a player contemplating leaving his brand new mansion, home town, family, friends, etc… to see how that impacts his thinking and priorities.

    Anyway, I don’t think it’s a foolhardy exercise to consider what the Knicks could actually offer in multiple sign and trades and what the team would look like after that. That goes double because we want to sign more than one FA. We could offer Lee for one, but what do we have after that that anyone would say yes to and even if they did say yes, would the player still want to come?

    Anyway, it was a pleasant continuation to the discussion. Perhaps I am way overthinking it all, but I am very anxious to see what we can pull off and am very worried that we gutted the team so badly to get under the cap we no longer have the players and picks to pull off any sign and trades or attract any of these major free agents.

    Looking forward to July 1. Best of luck to us all. We may need it. ;-)

  80. Ted Nelson

    If the player is considering 2-3 teams, you have to figure one of them can work out a sign-and-trade. I don’t think you can say both that a player has multiple options and that if he’s determined to leave his team won’t be able to work out a s&t. Seems like a contradiction.
    Bosh may indeed be a market taker. He has to wait to see what the big 2 do (who still has cap space, do they want him to play with them). He has competition at the PF spot. Etc. He might say get me out of Toronto to anywhere I can make money and win. Don’t know.
    LeBron is THE market maker, though. He decides where LeBron James is going, and I don’t think Cleveland’s willingness to do a sign-and-trade will be the deciding factor. If he’s leaving, Cleveland might as well at least get a pick or young player for him (then they’d have room to sign a solid vet, I think, and could still be a solid playoff team).
    Wade has a lot of leverage to make Miami build a team he likes, so unless he wants to play with LeBron somewhere else (namely NY or NJ) or go home to Chicago I think he stays.
    By the time you get to anyone behind those 3 I would probably just assume keep Lee and build a solid team with good value guys. Maybe Boozer is better than Lee, but he’s older, more expensive, and has durability/attitude questions. Maybe Amare is a better fit, but again… expensive. Really, once you get passed LeBron I think it becomes a longer, more intricate rebuilding process. LeBron is the best player in the league which is worth a bunch of wins in-and-of-itself, but it also means players will be lining up to fill up the rest of the Knicks’ cap space and veterans will still be lining up once the cap space is gone for vet min deals. Something like Johnson/Wade + Bosh would also draw attention, but probably less than the “King of NY.”

    It’s a negotiation, so there’s no exact formula. The player can bluff and say “I’m leaving with or without the sign-and-trade,” even if he doesn’t mean it. Thereby forcing the team’s hand: get something for him or let him walk. The team can call his bluff or not. They risk that he’s not bluffing if they do. At some point if the team pisses the player off he may be 100% set on leaving, and at some point a team doesn’t want a disgruntled star (Toronto has experience in this with Vince Carter).
    The Cavs and Heat are unlikely to help LeBron and Wade leave town unless their hand is really forced. Toronto may or may not be more willing to help Bosh out: they want him, but assume he’s leaving. This offseason, though, there are so many teams with cap space that the players have an unusually high amount of leverage. They don’t need help to leave if that’s what they want to do. If they decide to leave at some point their old team realizes that getting Wilson Chandler at SF is better than losing LeBron straight up.

    “(Perhaps in the past, teams usually said yes because the assets offered “were” superior to the alternative of nothing)”

    You’re unlikely to take bloated contracts back, but luckily for the Knicks and other teams they’re already under the cap and don’t need to match salaries. They can offer young guys/picks and/or trade exceptions.
    NY sent bad contracts back (and took them back) in both the Crawford and Curry s&ts, but they had to since they were capped out.
    Seattle/OKC literally took nothing but a 2nd rounder and trade exception for Rashard Lewis in helping him out to get more $. Of course, they didn’t want him back.

    “If we spiced it up, who could we add and how does that alter the prospect of the player even wanting to come here as opposed to staying where he is?
    If we refuse to spice it up and the team says no, will the player want to come here enough to give up the extra salary or will he consider another city?”

    Basically the Knicks have Danilo, Douglas, Chandler, Walker, 2nd rounders, and first rounders starting in 2014. Then s&ts of Lee, Harrington, etc. Sign-and-trades are inherently one sided, and I think that any team forced into a sign-and-trade or willing to do one would take those players. The Knicks roster would be even more barren without those players, but if you get LeBron it’s really not an issue to me. If you don’t get LeBron you’re in a bad spot, but I can still see justifying the T-Mac deal as taking a chance at LeBron even though you missed.
    Obviously you don’t give up anything you don’t have to. If LeBron is willing to come straight up for the NYC/MSG/worldwide image thing–which is really the reason he’d come–don’t give up assets or pay him more than you have to. If he’s set on NYK, though, Cleveland would be wise to get a partial trade exception and asset(s) for him.

    “Most of these major FAs are already on very good teams and seem to be happy with their current organization (except for maybe Bosh). They are also probably going to want to lock in as many years as possible at the max because the new CBA could impact their future salaries.”

    Depends how things go this post-season. If Cleveland isn’t a Championship team this season, will they ever be? Certainly wouldn’t expect Shaq/Z/Jamison to get any better going forward. Anderson and Mo are pretty much at their peaks too, but could get a little better.
    I would really not call Miami or Toronto very good. Toronto is the worst defensive team in the NBA and might miss the playoffs in the East. Miami, on the other hand, has tons of cap space and Wade is probably loyal to them.

    I don’t think the Knicks have much chance at Wade, unless he and LeBron want to play together. Bosh the Knicks can get, but without LeBron or at least Johnson he’s not that attractive. So, to state the obvious, it really comes down to LeBron. The Knicks have a shot due to the global brand thing. Forbes just gave the Yankees $800 million in extra value for being the top team in NYC, or roughly the total value of the 2nd most valuable team. (The Yankee’s supposed value of $1.6 billion is about twice as much as the Red Sox, who are #2.) People can say whatever they want about shoe deals, but there is a very real value to playing in Manhattan. I’ve been hearing all this crap about Brooklyn, Manhattan… tomato, tomato… That’s BS (and I was born in Brooklyn and have never lived in Manhattan). Manhattan in NY. Unless you’re a hipster you don’t travel to NYC to see Brooklyn. Maybe LeBron and Jay-Z have some sort of plan for world domination, but choosing Brooklyn over Manhattan is a bad business decision.
    That doesn’t mean LeBron will leave Ohio. There is a good business case for doing so, though, and LeBron fancies himself a killer businessman. If the Knicks have a 10% shot at LeBron, you can maybe justify the T-Mac deal. Especially if they go out and build at least an eastern conference playoff team if they miss on LeBron.

  81. Ted Nelson

    Unfortunately don’t know anything about them. Will ask a couple of friends who might.

    I think the Knicks have to at least take a look at Zoubek. He’s certainly an NBA caliber rebounder. I’ve only seen him play against guys 6 inches shorter than him, so I don’t know how he’ll transition to the NBA. I guess the most obvious knocks are that he’s foul prone and not a scorer. He’s big, though, which in and of itself should be enough to get the Knicks attention. Then again, would D’Antoni ever play him? Probably not.
    It’s interesting because you could argue, on the one hand, that in a lesser program Zoubek would have been featured more or you could argue, on the other, that no one would have ever heard of him.

    Jerome Jordan is another 7 footer who could be on the board. Jordan actually led his team in scoring, but Tulsa is not Duke. Jordan’s got a good game, but I guess there are attitude questions. Plus he’s almost 24. Plenty of guys have come into the league at 24, 25 or older and done well, though. I think he could be a Jerome James caliber guy.

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