Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Is Marbury a Loser?

Stephon Marbury has the skills, stats, and salary of a star. Nonetheless, he is perceived by many to be a loser. This greater perception of Marbury-As-Loser is likely formed in part by a constellation of subsidiary perceptions, such as the perception that Marbury is selfish (especially if you are a point guard purist), the perception that he has a poor attitude (especially if you consider wearing a towel on one’s head to be an indicator of poor attitude), and the perception that he is a poor teammate (especially if you’re into the tabloids). Probably the biggest factor in his losing rep, though, is just the fact that in his 10 seasons in the NBA, Marbury’s teams have finished in the lottery 6 times and have never won more than 45 games. In the 4 seasons where Marbury’s teams qualified for the playoffs, they failed to advance past the first round.

All else being equal, that history of futility at the team level could be construed as pretty damning. In fact, it comes off worse than just that. Jason Kidd and Steve Nash both managed to immediately elevate teams that faltered with Marbury just a season before, making it seem as if the team success was there for the taking all along, just waiting for a competent point guard to unleash it. Likewise, the fact that Marbury’s spotty team success has been distributed over four tours of duty in four different cities makes it seem as if the losing is a trend more readily attributable to the player than to his various teams.

However, closer inspection of Marbury’s career reveals numerous counterpoints to the above lines of reasoning. A thorough, season-by-season laundry list of objections one could raise to the traditional Marbury-As-Loser argument has recently been compiled by Dax-Devlon Ross. The Reader’s Digest version is that more often than not, Marbury’s teams have been either awful in terms of raw talent, or ravaged by injury, or both.

Points similar to those Ross enumerates have been raised in various Internet discussions on the Knicks ever since Marbury was traded to New York, but historically the skeptics have remained unconvinced. The bottom line, they insist, is that Marbury has failed to get it done. What is more, they claim, is that even those stats that do seem to reflect well on Marbury are misleading. Marbury’s 20 and 8 are nothing but numbers, empty stats that serve to promote the ego rather than team success. Sure, Marbury can ring up the scoreboard, but in the end his numbers do not translate into a tangible, on-court impact that really helps his teams win. Or so it is claimed.

What is nice is that these sorts of arguments needn’t be as indirect and unresolved as they sometimes seem fated to be. We don’t need to be satisfied with circumstantial evidence or received wisdom in this case.

How do we directly measure a player’s impact on his team’s success? The most straightforward measure is the player’s raw plus/minus statistics, which is a measure of the team’s point differential while a player is on the court vs. the team’s point differential while the player is off the court. But these plus/minus stats are not optimal for isolating the true impact of a given player, since they are subject to several influences beyond the player’s control. Consider, for instance, that you could hold a player’s impact on the court constant but change his plus/minus numbers drastically by changing the quality of his substitute, or by changing the quality of opposition he normally faces, or by changing the quality of teammates he normally plays with. For instance, TJ Ford would probably have a better plus/minus if his backup were Moochie Norris rather than Jose Calderon.

A more sophisticated measure of a player’s impact on his team’s success is adjusted plus/minus. The idea behind adjusted plus/minus is that we use statistical methods to remove the variation in a player’s plus/minus data that results from the other 9 players who happened to be on the court during his various court appearances. In essence, this removes the confounds alluded to above and gives us a pure measure of how much better (or worse) a player makes his team. (More on adjusted plus/minus methodology here and here.)

The major drawback to the adjusted plus/minus numbers is their scarcity. Unadjusted plus/minus numbers are only readily available starting from the 2002-03 season, which is presumably the season when the online game logs necessary for calculating plus/minus stats became available. And then there is the matter of calculating adjusted plus/minus from those rawer stats; thus far, no NBA stats site out there has made it a matter of course to fully integrate adjusted plus/minus numbers into its databases.

Fortunately, David Lewin recently crunched the adjusted plus/minus numbers for the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons in a series of articles for 82games.com. The results of the analysis would seem to turn the popular conception of Marbury on its head.

In the 2004-05 season, Marbury?s first full season in New York, the Knicks tallied a disappointing 33-49 record. Adding insult to injury, Marbury was roundly criticized after a torrid stretch of play in December inspired him to proclaim himself “the best point guard in the NBA.” The comment offended on two fronts. First, it was perceived as a politically incorrect kind of comment to make. (Things have apparently changed since the days of Muhammad Ali.) Second, it was regarded as a laughable claim at best. Sure, Marbury averaged 21.7 ppg and 8.1 apg, and even finished the season with a career second-best 21.9 PER? but those were empty numbers belonging to a loser. His team was no good, he didn?t make his teammates better on offense, and he didn?t play defense.

Marbury?s proclamation may still be regarded as non-PC, but in light of the adjusted plus/minus data, entertaining its truth value doesn?t seem quite so absurd. According to Lewin?s numbers, Marbury was 4th in the league in the 04-05 season in adjusted plus/minus at +12.4 points per 100 possessions, behind only Paul Pierce, Tim Duncan, and Elton Brand.

The simple conclusion to draw from this is that the Knicks’ struggles during the 04-05 season came in spite of, rather than because of, Marbury’s play. In fact, Marbury’s positive influence on the court was strong enough to rank among the league’s best. Therefore? in line with Ross?s arguments? if one were inclined to assign blame for the Knicks disappointing record that season, one would more properly distribute that blame among Marbury?s lackluster teammates, and possibly his coach.

The 2005-06 season is regarded as a down season for Marbury and his Knicks, as Larry Brown rode into town and… well, you know the rest. Marbury averaged career lows in points and assists per 40 minutes (17.9 and 7.0) and his 16.5 PER was his worst since his first two years in the league. His team stumbled to a bitterly disappointing 23-59 season. Marbury?s stock in adjusted plus/minus slipped as well, but he still posted a quite strong +7.57 points per 100 possessions. As with the prior season, Marbury was one of the few bright lights on an otherwise struggling team. It would be difficult to pin the losing aura of the 05-06 season on Marbury?s lapel since he was one of the few forces driving positive, winning play for the team.

Taking the weighted average of adjusted plus/minus over the 04-05 and 05-06 seasons, Lewin found Marbury to rank 8th in the league overall at +10.47 points per 100 possessions. By way of comparison, Nash (+8.47) and Kidd (+8.27) ranked 16th and 17th, respectively.

At this point, one can imagine the familiar response arising: those are just empty numbers; they don?t capture what the players are really doing on the court. But of course, adjusted plus/minus stats are designed exactly for the purpose of measuring a player?s net impact on his team?s success, rather than measuring milestones like points scored and assists recorded that may or may not contribute to a winning effort. It is logically possible for a player to average 20 ppg and 8 apg but still not help his team win. However, it is not possible for a player to rank exceptionally well on adjusted plus/minus but still not help his team win.

If one insists that Marbury is a sieve on defense, it must be the case that he is just that much better on offense. If one insists that Marbury is selfish and does not make his teammates better, it must be the case that Marbury?s style of play is nonetheless extremely effective at the team level, making the style critiques a moot point. If one insists that Marbury has still not been putting his teams over the top, one would seem to be criticizing Marbury for not being the best player in the league. In the end, it is not clear exactly how Marbury has helped his teams play better in recent seasons, but that he has helped them play better seems indisputable.

So, is Marbury a loser? Popular opinion may say yes, but at least in recent seasons, it turns out that popular opinion is wrong.

Caveats
Of course, as with any other statistic, the adjusted plus/minus data do not come without caveats. A basic caveat is that the data may be rather noisy. Adjusting for the influence of surrounding players means you must measure the influence of surrounding players, and in some instances this may result in small sample sizes and hence the final numbers may come with rather large degrees of statistical variance.

One effect this has is to throw rank orderings into doubt. If two players are close in terms of their mean adjusted plus/minus, but both data points come with considerable statistical variation, then we may not have a lot of faith that the player who ranks higher is really higher in any statistically meaningful sense. Still, in the end, the actual averages that we get are our best guesses as to who should rank higher than whom.

It is also worth noting that in Lewin?s 05-06 analysis, the Detroit Pistons had strange adjusted plus/minus numbers, which Lewin argues was an anomaly due to their extremely rigid substitution patterns. Lewin does not think that this kind of substitution effect significantly skews the data for other teams. Still, it is worth noting that these sorts of problems may occur with the data.

These sorts of caveats do not seem to matter much to the general conclusion made here regarding Marbury, however. For instance, although Marbury was the point guard with the best adjusted plus/minus in 04-05, we probably cannot say with great confidence that his adjusted plus/minus (+12.4 points per 100 possessions) is really statistically distinguishable from Jason Kidd?s adjusted plus/minus from that same season (+11.15 points per 100 possessions). Therefore, one should not take away from this the ironclad conclusion that Marbury was in fact the best point guard in the 04-05 season. But if one is just asking the much more general question of whether Marbury really helps his teams win or not, then the sheer magnitude of his adjusted plus/minus numbers would make it very difficult for someone to argue that, in spite of the data, he is still a “loser.” Even factoring in statistical uncertainty, Marbury comes out looking roses on this analysis.

One final point of interest is that Marbury?s overall strong play may be a recent development. Dan Rosenbaum conducted an adjusted plus/minus analysis on the 02-03 and 03-04 seasons for 82games.com. Although Rosenbaum?s methodology differs somewhat from Lewin?s, in Rosenbaum?s analysis Marbury comes out looking like an average, break-even player during the 02-03 and 03-04 seasons. It is unlikely that such a drastic difference can be chalked up to the relatively minor methodological differences employed in the two studies. Therefore, it may be the case that one or more of the traditional critiques of Marbury (e.g. gives everything back on defense) were in fact legitimate at one point, despite being false in more recent years. It is hard to make any strong conclusions regarding this, though, given the absence of consistent methodologies across seasons and the paucity of data before the 02-03 season.

76 comments on “Is Marbury a Loser?

  1. Sly Williams

    “Probably the biggest factor in his losing rep, though, is just the fact that in his 10 seasons in the NBA, Marbury?s teams have finished in the lottery 6 times and have never won more than 45 games. In the 4 seasons where Marbury?s teams qualified for the playoffs, they failed to advance past the first round.”

    Adding to this ‘loser’ label is that each of the 3 teams that Marbury left reached 50 wins in the 1st full season after he left: a tremendous increase from the prior season with Marbury. Of course their were other factors, but it is curious nonetheless.

    As for the adjusted plus/minus, I don’t see how a tool comparing players to others on their own team can be used to accurately compare with players on other teams, particularly when there is little within player correlation (the rating appears to be factored by team qualities as much or more than individual player).

  2. nykat

    I don’t think any stat can exemplify the effects of a poor attitude from a PG on team performance, the evidence is not tangible but it’s very real, it’s been precisely Marbury’s problem his whole career until Isiah got through to his thick skull.

  3. Seth

    I can’t speak for Marbury during the rest of his career, or for his season under Larry Brown, but this season Steph has been nothing but a warrior. He’s doing everything he can to lift up this injury-ravaged team, and doing so in an obviously intense amount of pain.

  4. jon abbey

    “loser” isn’t the word I’d use to describe Steph. he’s got remarkably low basketball IQ for a PG of his talents, but I remember him singlehandedly beating San Antonio in the first game of the playoffs a few years back, plus the amazing two man comeback with Iverson to win the All-Star Game for the East.

    clearly he’s not ever going to be the best player on a championship team, but that applies to every player in the league except for maybe 6-8 guys. can he be the starting PG on a title team if he’s the third or fourth best player on the team? also pretty unlikely, maybe he’s best suited to being an undersized SG with a real PG next to him, as someone suggested here yesterday.

    and I hate that he’s wearing $15 sneakers all season, that just can’t be helping his leg problems, but I’ve mentioned that here a few times already. great thing for the kids, that’s obvious, but I don’t think it’s the best thing for the team.

  5. Brian Maniscalco

    “As for the adjusted plus/minus, I don?t see how a tool comparing players to others on their own team can be used to accurately compare with players on other teams, particularly when there is little within player correlation (the rating appears to be factored by team qualities as much or more than individual player).”

    Sly, I think what you are describing here is more accurately applied to traditional plus/minus stats. Traditional plus/minus stats are modulated by substitution patterns, who you play against, etc. The idea behind adjusted plus/minus is that they give us a context-free measure of a player’s impact on his team’s success, controlling for the influence of the other 9 players on the court. Therefore, comparisons of adjusted plus/minus across teams are justified.

  6. Brian Maniscalco

    “I don?t think any stat can exemplify the effects of a poor attitude from a PG on team performance, the evidence is not tangible but it?s very real, it?s been precisely Marbury?s problem his whole career until Isiah got through to his thick skull.”

    nykat, adjusted plus/minus measures a player’s effect on his team’s point differential. If a player has some impact on a team that does not show up in point differential, it would seem as if it is not an effect that makes any difference one way or the other on the team’s quality of play.

    I suppose it is possible that a player’s attitude could be toxic enough that it affects his team whether he is on the court or not. This is perhaps an effect that would not show up in adjusted plus/minus, but intuitively I find the likelihood of such an effect existing to be low.

    Conversely, you claim that evidence for such an effect is “very real.” What then is that evidence? The standard arguments regarding the effect on Marbury’s teams improving following his absence will not fly because in each case, there are so many confounds (as detailed in Dax-Devlon Ross’s article). If a player could somehow have an overall effect on his team that does not depend on whether he is on the court or not, I believe such an effect could be discovered– but to find it you would need to be pretty clever.

  7. Owen

    I dont think its too difficult to conclude that Marbury is not a great player. Whether you look at his winning percentage or his stats, the story is the same. Despite his star power and the sneaker deal, which I love, he is average or below average as a basketball player. He is very far from being a star.

    His main failing is that he is a career 43% fg shooter. And he takes a ton of shots. This hurts his team a great deal. Nash is shooting 53% this year and is a 48% career shooter. Huge difference.

    Jason Kidd has an even lower career fg % than Marbury, but he takes less shots, scores less, and hurts his team less with his inefficient shooting.
    Kidd’s (huge) advantage over Marbury comes from rebounding, steals, and defense. Kidd rebounds like a small forward, he probably is the best rebounding pg in the history of the game. He has been an excellent defensive player. His assist to turnover is much better than marbury’s.

    And yes, that is probably what Dave Berri at the WOW thinks about him too…

  8. Brian Maniscalco

    Owen, critiques on Marbury have traditionally been of the form “in spite of X and Y stats, his impact on the game is not great.” Your current argument takes the form “because of X and Y stats, his impact on the game is not great.”

    This argumentation is rather loose because it assumes some correlation between some set of traditional box score stats and a player’s impact on the game. Such correlations may or may not hold, precisely because box score stats are only an incomplete snapshot of the game. (For instance, a box score will not tell you how much a player draws defensive attention and so helps creates openings for teammates.) This is what makes the traditional critique of Marbury tenable– the idea that box score stats are in themselves not sufficient to deduce a player’s overall impact on the court.

    But adjusted plus/minus is not a proxy for the thing we want to measure (how much a player helps his team play well); it’s a *direct* measure. You can argue that there is some flaw in the methodology of that direct measurement, but you can’t really argue that the direct measure is invalidated because it is inconsistent with some indirect measure. That is like concluding from a weather report saying there is 10% chance of rain that it is not in fact raining, despite the fact that your hand gets wet when you stick it out the window.

  9. Owen

    Brian-

    Caveat to everything I am about to say. I am a big Wages of Wins guy, pedantically so according to some on this board. So that is where the following is coming from.

    I would say in response to the above, its pretty simple. The traditional critique you cite is wrong. Marbury is a below average player because of his box score statistics, not in spite of them. The traditional critique which presumes that his career statistics tell a positive story, which must be explained away, is misguided. A 43% career shooter who takes lots of shot doesnt help a team. Generally he hurts his team a great deal, with few exceptions. Jason Kidd is one such exception, largely due to the fact that he is averaging eight rebounds per game this year, or one more than Eddy Curry. The general rule though is that to be an effective point guard you have to shoot a much higher percentage than that. Jason Terry for instance shoots 48.5%. Nash, as I mentioned shoots 53% this year.

    So if the conventional wisdom says that box score statistics show Marbury is a great player, then it is wrong.

    I am not that up on adjusted plus/minus. What you seem to be saying in your piece is that the numbers show that Marbury, during two seasons in which the Knicks went 56-108, was the eighth best player in the league, and was better than the MvP of both those seasons. I dont really understand the ins and outs of how adjusted +/- is calculated, but that just doesnt seem right to me.
    Certainly its interesting that the numbers come up that way, but one would think that a team with the eighth best player in the league would win more games.

  10. Brian Maniscalco

    Owen, I don’t think the point is so much that one argues for or against Marbury’s box score stats implying a good floor impact. The point is that one argues for the existence of such an implication (in whatever direction) in the first place. And the easy critique of that approach is that box score stats only tell part of the story. So it seems more expedient to try to tackle these things directly rather than to continue to try to do so indirectly.

    As for the adjusted plus/minus rankings in Lewin’s articles– as I mentioned, take the *rankings* with a grain of salt. Lewin did not provide standard errors of his adjusted plus/minus numbers, but from Rosenbaum’s work these seem to usually be in the neighborhood of about 3 points per 100 possessions. This means that the difference in adjusted plus/minus over the 04-05 and 05-06 seasons between Marbury (~10.5) and Nash/Kidd (~8.3) is not likely to be statistically significant. So if you come away from this thinking that the data clearly says that Marbury has been “better” than Nash over the past two seasons, you are mistaken.

    What the data *does* firmly support is the stance that Marbury has been a highly effective player the past two seasons, among the upper echelons in terms of overall play in fact, *in spite of* his teams’ losing records. We can safely make this claim because, in spite of whatever statistical uncertainty might exist, Marbury’s adjusted plus/minus is so high that it must be significantly greater than zero.

    In fact, assuming the data is normally distributed and assuming the standard error of Marbury’s adjusted plus/minus is 3 points per 100 possessions, the 95% condfidence interval for his adjusted plus/minus would be between +4.6 and +16.4 points per 100 possession better than the average NBA player. So while we can’t say that the data strongly supports the conclusion that (say) Marbury has been better than Nash the past two seasons, we can say that the data strongly supports the idea that Marbury has been much better (at least around 5 points per 100 possessions better, and probably more) than the average NBA player.

  11. Owen

    Well Brian, interesting comment and interesting piece. I didnt realize originally you were the author.

    I am amazed that there is a method that shows Steph was one of the best players in the league the last two seasons. All I can say is that the best players in the league win games, and the Knicks havent done that much of that this season. I guess it is possible, I would have to think more about how the system is set up. It certainly provides a stark contrast to the WOW method, which rated Steph as well below average last year. I dont think he has been terrible the past two years, but I struggle to believe he has been excellent. But i get it, that is what the numbers say.

    If I had to say who the best players on the knicks were I would say Lee, Balkman, Richardson, and Francis. When I go to 82games this years table seems to confirm that finding more or less, at least for net differential. I dont quite know what the roland rating is though.

    I also noticed that Eddy Curry REALLY doesnt come out well in the numbers you ueed. What do you make of that?

  12. Nick

    A few Points
    1-Someone mentioned was low basketball IQ. In the closing minutes just in the past month there have been far more decisions and plays he has made that invited questions rather than praise.

    2-Is it just me or does anyone else bothered by putting Steph 19.9 – 7.9 in the same category as Oscar Robertson 25.7 – 9.5. The 20-8 number is always used in his favor when really Steph prboably should be put in the same category as guys 17-7 – 20-8 which would put him in a class of many rather than the class of one of the 10 best players to wear a uniform.

    3-Finally, the making a team or player better/worse. Once or twice I can buy an explanation. But every time and usually huge improvements the year after he is gone is more than coincidence. Here in NY he has come to the derided “Layden Knicks” and the teams records have stayed stagnant in the 35-38 win range with the exception of the Larry Brown year. His presence cannot even improve the record over that of a team run by Charlie Ward and Harold Eisley. What about Eddy Curry? Once Jamal went out it was widely surmised that only Jamal could get it to him effectively. Here’s a guy who’s being touted as a great point guard and he cannot effectively feed the post?

    He’s a very good player, who really is trying finally this season. I’m not sure he should get a pat on the back for doing something he should have been doing all along. Loser is too strong a word, but he’s a lot closer to the “A-Rod” than the “Jeter” style of player.

  13. Caleb

    We could only wish he was close to the playing level of the 2005 American League MVP.

    Very interesting workup, Brian… I think it says a lot about how far basketball has to go, in terms of producing numbers we can really trust.

    My gut and my eyes tell me that Marbury has never been a superstar level guy but is a good player, though on the decline due to turning 30 and lingering knee problems.

  14. Nick

    You know what I mean “A-Rod”, rightly or wrongly, is synonomous for a guy who puts up great numbers but who comes up short when it matters, whereas Jeter is considered to be clutch and much better than his numbers.

  15. Christopher

    Interesting. I’m doubtful whenever I hear the media and fans bashing a good player for being a “loser,” because it usually amounts to blaming the best player for his lousy team’s lack of success. I had no idea Marbury’s adjusted +/- has been this good in recent seasons.

    On a separate and unrelated note (I thought I would just ask since I’m already commenting) what’s up with your 2007 stats page? For a while now, the records displayed for all the teams have been all wrong.

  16. Brian Maniscalco

    “All I can say is that the best players in the league win games, and the Knicks havent done that much of that this season.”

    Players don’t win games, teams win games. That is to say, winning over the course of an 82 game season is a function of the overall quality of a 12 man roster and its coach. Even though it is true that individual players can have huge impacts on a team’s overall level of play, it is certainly not implausible that a great player could not win a lot of games due to circumstance or a poor supporting cast. Look at Kevin Garnett the past couple of years.

    “I also noticed that Eddy Curry REALLY doesnt come out well in the numbers you ueed. What do you make of that?”

    That is true– Curry’s adjusted plus/minus has been really bad the past couple of seasons. Of course, that’s not inconsistent with popular independent critiques of Curry’s game– that the beneficial effect of his scoring ability in the paint is offset by his penchant for turnovers, poor rebounding, and poor defense. It will be interesting to see if the perceived improvement in Curry’s game this season translates into a better adjusted plus/minus.

  17. Gabe

    I am pretty sure that Rosenbaum taught Lewin to do what Lewin did in a “nudge nudge, wink wink” kind of way, so their methods are basically the same.

    Owen – citing raw FG% and sluping WoW is laughable. Marbury’s career eFG% and TS% are both higher than Kidd’s. Same with PER. Kidd is a better rebounder and assists on a higher percentage of possessions used, that’s for sure, but Steph’s no slouch and neither of them are usually among the league leaders.

  18. Brian Maniscalco

    Nick:

    “Someone mentioned was low basketball IQ. In the closing minutes just in the past month there have been far more decisions and plays he has made that invited questions rather than praise.”

    Well, for one thing I wouldn’t trust the perception that Marbury has this “low basketball IQ” without solid, objective evidence to back it up. That sort of vaguely defined perception of a player is exactly the sort of thing that is subject to various kinds of biases of judgment.

    But for the moment, let’s assume that Marbury is indeed not very good in the closing minutes of tight games. That would clearly be a negative trait for a player to have, but the relative importance of this point must be weighed against the fact that, overall, Marbury has a strong positive effect on his team’s play. Without that strong overall play over the course of the game, those late game situations would not occur as much to begin with because the team would be worse off. On average, you are better off having the player who is very good over the course of the whole game but not great in late situations than you are having a player who isn’t great over the course of the whole game but is very good in late situations.

    “Finally, the making a team or player better/worse. Once or twice I can buy an explanation. But every time and usually huge improvements the year after he is gone is more than coincidence.”

    These effects are not attributable to coincidence in the first place, so your argument doesn’t seem to have much punch. To chalk the Suns’ and Nets’ improvements post-Marbury up to coincidence, we’d need to hold other factors that could influence team success constant. But in fact those factors have not been held constant, as is detailed in Ross’s article. You can’t chalk up the change in the Nets and Suns to Marbury’s departure because so many other things changed with those teams beyond Marbury’s departure.

  19. Nick

    The point of the article was to rebut or wonder why Marbury has the “loser” rep. End game is where many reputations are made rightly or wrongly. How many people on this and other websites bemoan the loss of Crawford because of his alleged propensity to score during crunch time. The Dallas game and one other recent game where he was shooting lights out but missed a three late instead of passing down low are examples of phenomenal play over 45 minutes and unsuccessful plays at the close of games. Hence the ARod v. Jeter comment.

  20. T-MART

    “On average, you are better off having the player who is very good over the course of the whole game but not great in late situations than you are having a player who isn?t great over the course of the whole game but is very good in late situations.”

    You are boiling your appraisement process of players down to an asseninely low common denominator of black and white here. I see that you have qualified your statement with ‘on average’, however it still cannot be reconciled with the success team’s have derived from the likes of Robert Horry, Claude Lemiuex, Jim Leyritz,etc etc. All players who ‘on average’, helped there teams just as or more then there teams top players in various crunth-time situations, despite not being even close to the best player on the team over-all. There are way too many examples of players like these for them to be labeled as exceptions to your ‘on average’ statement.

  21. Brian Maniscalco

    T-MART: Here’s how I’m thinking about it. All else being equal, would you rather have Horry on your team (great at hitting clutch shots) or Shaq (great over the course of the game, but undependable in the clutch because of poor foul shooting)?

    With Horry you might win a higher % of games that are close, but overall you will lose more. Games that are close with Horry would be blowout wins with Shaq (again, all else being equal); likewise, games that are close with Shaq would be blowout losses with Horry.

    This is obviously using an extreme example for the purpose of illustration and there could certainly be more ambiguous cases. But the general point stands– clutch ability only comes into play if you can get to those clutch situations to begin with.

    Of course Horry has been highly useful to a number of teams, but I never disputed that. If you tihnk about it, Horry’s clutch ability has historically been so useful precisely because he played with dominant players (Hakeem, Shaq, Duncan) who could help carry the team to those big moments to begin with. Teams can clearly benefit from having both players that can play great over a whole game and from having late game specialists, but if you had to pick just one kind of player to have on your team to the exclusion of the other, you would take the better overall player each time.

  22. Owen

    Brian – Is it true that teams win games? All 12 players and a coach? It seems to me that wins are driven usually by the presence of an elite player and a few good players around him, like a dwyane Wade Shaq, and Haslem, Dirk Nowitski and Howard, Steve Nash and Marion, Duncan Barry, Parker and Ginobili. I think if you start with four players like Terry, Nowitzki, Dampier, and Howard, you are going to have a good team pretty much no matter who else you put out there with them, or who is coaching them. If you have three players like Kidd, Jefferson, and Carter, and one of them gets hurt, you should notice that they dont win as many games without him. When you trade away a statistically bad player like Allen Iverson, and exchange him for a better player like Andre Miller, you should notice your wins increasing. When you lose your best player, David Lee, you should win fewer games than you would otherwise.

    Teams are for the most part simply the sum of their individual parts, and usually its just a few parts that really matter.

    Gabe – I think I made it pretty clear in a previous post that Fg% is not a strong point for Kidd, but that he more than makes up for it statistically by being one of the best rebounding true pg’s in NBA history. He is averaging eight rebounds per game this season, more than our starting center. Its very true that looking at one stat in isolation isnt very useful, but if you look at them all, it pretty clear how much better Kidd is then Marbury.

  23. Matthew

    Well, I agree that Marbury is not responsible for his teams shortcomings – my biggest pet peeve with the sports media is they all, and by that I mean ALL, equate individual achievement with team achievement, an obvious logical misstep. However, how are Marbury’s stats impressive? Inefficient scoring, poor ast/to ratio, doorman on defense.

    Given his inefficient play and his large contract, it does become very difficult to build a successful team with him as a member.

  24. Dan Panorama

    I agree with Owen on the team business – except for the 04 Pistons, virtually every championship team has been built around a monster franchise player, usually one of the best of all time and often two. The rest are compliments to them. Wade, Shaq, Duncan, Kobe, Olajuwon, Jordan, Isiah Thomas, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson were on every championship team of the last 25 years or so minus the 04 Pistons. I don’t care how good your chemistry is – 5 players who get along great don’t make up for a team’s best individual player.

  25. Owen

    The pistons were a great collection of very good players, they were all above average. I would say that Ben Wallace actually came somewhat close to being a franchise player for a few years there, although not in the traditional sense of a dominant scorer. Also, Billups is pretty good as well, a very underappreciated player I think.

    KG is the exception to this rule. He has been statistically extraordinary for many years, but he has never had anything like a supporting cast. Put him on a team with Ginobli, Parker, and Barry, or with Bryant, or Wade and he wins a few easy. The guy has played with Trenton Hassell for too many years.

  26. Brian Maniscalco

    Owen, of course it is true that some players matter much more than others. My point, mirroring Matthew, is that you can’t equate an individual player’s quality with his team’s success. Even in your discussion you mention that “a few” players are needed before you really have a winning establishment, and you seem to concede that there can be counterexamples to the “great players win games” idea like Garnett. The idea is that Marbury has been in a similar position to Garnett for most of his career.

    Matthew– the adjusted plus/minus stats are direct evidence against the claim that Marbury is not an effective player.

  27. Owen

    I think its possible to make the “lack of a supporting cast” case for Garnett. His numbers are there. The wins are there too. His teams have consistently won forty + games. With Marbury, I dont see the evidence, other than the adjusted +/- that you posted about. It’s an interesting case you make, as I said before, but I just dont see any other evidence that Marbury is a marquee player in disguise. The wins just arent there. I think if he were truly an impact player you would see it reflected more consistently in the win column.

    Dave Berri has an excellent post on Garnett.

    http://dberri.wordpress.com/2006/05/28/the-tragedy-of-kevin-garnett/

    He says that KG has been the best player in the NBA over theD past four seasons. He has produced roughly 25-30 wins every season. And he has been surrounded by the least productive teammates in the NBA.

    Starbury’s presence on the floor helps the Knicks but not that much. This is a small sample size, but the Knicks were 5-17 without him, 18-42 with him last year. So clearly he was an improvement over the alternatives. His impact is a net positive, unlike Curry’s. But his impact in terms of winning games is still pretty marginal overall. You take Garnett out of the Minnesota lineup and and I think its pretty clear they are a 20 win team.

    My biggest take away from reading the Wages of Wins blog all year is that players like Starbury, and point guards in general, just dont win that many games. Teams led by guys who take a lot of shots at a low fg% are never going to be successful. Winning teams in the NBA are generally led by outstanding frontcourt players. Or they are led by shooting guards with high fg%, like Wade, Johnson, or Jordan who are big and athletic enough to operate close to the basket. Jordan was one of the best post up players of all time. Johnson averaged over 50% from the field for his career. These players who shoot higher percentages, and/or do other things well, like rebound at a very high rate, block shots, play defense, commit few turnovers, they win games. A team built around a guy who shoots fifty percent or more from the field is almost always going to be better than one built around a guy who shoots 43%.

    And Marbury shoots 43% from the field and does nothing else well, unlike Kidd. If he can find a way to average 20 points per game and shoot 50%, or increase his rebounding rate by five rebounds per game, I think we win fifty games next year. But nothing he has done in the past suggests he is capable of doing that.

    Of course, the Knicks do technically have an offense built around a low post presence who shoots 58% percent from the field. Unfortunately, everything else Curry does is so bad that it doesnt matter.

  28. Dan Panorama

    That’s one of the reasons Nash is such a big deal as a PG – he shoots 53% (!) and a lot of that is from beyond the arc and around the perimeter. I don’t know what the record FG% is for a starting point guard but I have to imagine he’s somewhere in the neighborhood.

  29. Brian Maniscalco

    Owen, sorry to beat a dead horse here, but to say that “Marbury shoots 43% from the field and does nothing else well” is clearly false. We know that he must be doing some things well, as his net impact on his team’s success has been quite positive the last couple of years. It is an open question to what extent the contributions Marbury has made to team success are directly reflected by existing box-score style stats. But what is clear is that when you sum up the influence of everything Marbury does on the court, be it measured in traditional stats or not, the outcome is very good.

  30. Owen

    Brian –

    I have been throwing around the 43% career number, but Marbury actually shot .462 in 2004-5. Everything he did that season was an improvement on his career averages. It was probably his best year as a pro and I agree it was wasted on a bad team. I admit it isn’t farfetched that he was one of the better players in the league that year. But I really doubt he was even in the top ten. I just have a hard time believing Marbury has ever had anything approaching the impact of a Nash, Kidd, Garnett, Nowitski or Duncan. If he was capable of it, I suspect the knicks would have won more than 33 games that year.

  31. jon abbey

    first player in the league this year to score 1000 points in the paint? that would be Owen’s hero, Eddy Curry, Stoudemire is second with 918.

    I can’t wait to see Balkman and a healthy Lee playing together, both are very high on my alltime favorite Knicks list already.

  32. Matthew

    Brian:

    That’s simply not true. All the stat shows is that the Knicks are worse when Marbury is in the game. You are throwing in that this reflects on Marbury as doing something good. Just want to be clear here, it’s not fair to throw your interpretation into a stat like that.

    This is one of the reasons I’ve never liked +/-. From a team perspective, isn’t the goal to be consistently good, no matter who’s in the game? I know that’s an unachievable goal, but nevertheless, you shouldn’t be proud that, for example, the Cavs fall apart when James takes a few minutes to rest.

    You say this stat shows a player’s value. I say it shows a team’s dependency.

  33. xduckshoex

    Matthew: why would a team be dependent on a player who was not valuable?

    Yes, an ideal team concept would rely on 12 equally important players to get the job done, but such a team has never existed and if it did it will likely consist of 12 mediocre players. On a basketball team, all parts are not going to be equal, so teams are going lean on their better players more than the rest.

  34. Brian Maniscalco

    Matthew, you must have missed the explanation of the adjusted plus/minus methodology in the post. The critique you offer is a quite valid critique of raw, unadjusted plus/minus stats. But adjusted plus/minus is a different animal. I suggest reading Rosenbaum’s and Lewin’s descriptions of adjusted plus/minus in the two articles on 82games.com that I linked to in the original post.

  35. Brian Maniscalco

    Owen, I found these numbers surprising when I first discovered them as well. I would not have guessed that Marbury would have performed that well on adjusted +/-. But what is the point of considering statistical perspectives on basketball if we only accept those statistical pictures that are in agreement with our gut feelings? In that case you may as well stick with the gut feelings and not bother with the stats.

    Besides– again– I do not think one should take from all this the conclusion that Marbury was a top 10 player the past 2 years. As I have previously argued, there are enough qualifications to be made that one should not take the rank ordering of the top however-many as a hard and fast list of the “best” players over the past 2 seasons. That is not the most useful and conceptually sound way to approach this data.

  36. Andrew

    From what I can see, since Crawford was injured, Marbury just seems to be trying to score the ball. Offense has changed from Curry first to Marbury first and we are losing. Today, Marbury took 23 shots and Curry took only 7. Adding turnovers + shots, Marbury had 26 to 14 for Curry. Obviously, I am not in the huddle but since we switched to Marbury first he is putting up big numbers but we are losing. A lot seems to be Marbury getting tired in the 4th quarter, missing shots with long rebounds which lead to fast breaks for the other team.
    Have actually been enjoying Collins run the team but why he took 13 shots today is beyond me.
    If Curry takes a lot of shots, the other team gets in foul trouble, we get free throws and get back on defense.
    All in all agree that Marbury tried harder this season. He’s not a loser in my book, but is not a game changing franchise player either.
    Look at 76ers minus Iverson. Playing hard with defense. Think we could do well.

  37. Pao

    Marbury is putting up big numbers,and the Knicks are losing BUT we’re also down 3 starters. Lee, Q, and Crawford are out. I like the way Marbury’s been playing lately, he just needs more help out there. The Knicks really need to address the frontcourt positions, maybe trade Curry while he still has a lot of value. He’s a good low-post scorer but won’t give you much else. Seven rebounds and less than a block a game? Come on! Also get rid of both JJs, they really haven’t worked out. And then trade Francis and Nate. They should keep Lee, Q, Crawford, Marbury, Balkman. Jury’s still out on Frye, he took a step back this year.

  38. dave crockett

    Andrew –

    Right now, Curry is looking at 2 or 3 guys sitting in his lap when Collins, Jeffries, and/or Balkman are on the floor. So it’s no surprise that Curry’s shot attempts have declined. A big man can’t create space. He can only play in space. Right now there is very little open real estate for Curry. As you can see, this group struggles to break 90 points, and Marbury’s got to put up 25+ to even get that.

    Having said that, as Owen has pointed out time and time again, Curry’s got to make himself more of a presence on the boards. One of the best approaches to beating double and triple teams is to get touches outside halfcourt sets. You can do that on the offensive glass and/or by running.

    Curry doesn’t necessarily need to be a Dwight Howardesque rebounder but he really ought to be in the 9-10 rpg area. Honestly, I think if the Knicks ran more Curry’s rebound *rate* would increase.

    Collins is beginning to emerge into precisely what I thought: our best perimeter defender since Frank Williams and a solid floor general. He feeds the post so well. He’s so much better than Marbury and Francis at creating the right angle for the post feed it’s not even funny. I’m not surprised that teams now have more of a book on him and are making him shoot. He’ll have to make some adjustments.

  39. Matthew

    Brian –

    I read your entire post. You never addressed my criticism. And I’m aware of Rosenbaum’s study; I have been for years, since he posted them on his old website.

    The fact is that you are mixing in your analysis of the data with the data itself and pretending that they are one and the same. Since you don’t even attempt to explain what it is that Marbury is doing so well, that’s quite presumptuous of you.

  40. Brian Maniscalco

    Matthew, apologies if I misunderstood your point. Here is the statement I was responding to:

    “All the [adjusted +/-] stat shows is that the Knicks are worse when Marbury is [not] in the game. You are throwing in that this reflects on Marbury as doing something good.”

    If I understand you correctly, you are saying that Marbury’s high adjusted +/- does not necessarily reflect well on him; it could just be artificially inflated because the team around him was so poor, or the lineups that played while Marbury sat were so poor.

    That is the kind of critique one would direct at raw +/-, not adjusted +/-. The purpose of doing adjusted +/- in the first place is to control for the effect the other 9 players on the court have on an individual’s raw +/-. So, to appeal to some kind of confound in the data due to teammates’ play in this case seems to be a non-starter, as we have already controlled for that confound.

    On another reading of your statement, what you may be trying to say is that just because Marbury’s adjusted +/- is high, we cannot automatically attribute this effect to Marbury’s play per se. There may be some alternate explanation for why he has such a high adjusted +/-.

    But since we have already controlled for the effect of his teammates and the opposition, it is not clear that there is a viable alternate explanation. It certainly cannot be written off to chance– even the most pessimistic statistical interpretation of Marbury’s adjusted +/- over the past 2 seasons yields a firmly positive evaluation.

    Perhaps there is some flaw with the methodology itself– perhaps there is some artifact in the regression due to weird sampling issues, as Lewin found with the Pistons. But Lewin argues that such issues did not come into play with other teams’ data. Besides, in this 2 year sample Marbury played under 2 different coaches with different philosophies on what his role in the offense should be, and the makeup of the roster was significantly different across those 2 seasons. Despite those massive changes in team context, Marbury’s adjusted +/- remained comparable and quite strong across both seasons. So it is unlikely that his adjusted +/- is due to systematic sampling artifacts arising from the rotations he was part of, or for that matter the coaching system or type of teammates.

    Having considered those alternatives, I am at a loss for what else might explain Marbury’s strong adjusted +/- except for the fact that he simply played well. Can you make a positive case for why we should be skeptical that Marbury’s strong adjusted +/- implies that he has been a good player the past couple of seasons?

  41. Owen

    One thing I noticed about Curry last night was his relative inability to finish in traffic. He had the ball under the hoop a few times, and instead of just going up and flushing, like Shaq would do, he tried to lay it in. He got fouled both times, but he missed both times. He doesnt really have the pure athleticism of a great interior player, who you know will absolutely decimate the rim if he gets the ball under the basket. He doesnt get off two feet all that well.

    I thought Mardy was pretty mediocre last night. He played some good defense, but also got burned a bouple times on defense by backdoor cuts and committed a lot of fouls. One bucket on a backdoor by Korver especaily hurt us. Balkman gave Korver fits. Do you really think Collins plays better defense out on the perimeter than Balkman? I can’t really tell, but it looks to me so far like Balk is better.

    It may be too early to tell about Collins, but last night was a pretty bad game for him. 4-13 wih five turnovers.

    Its not just the rebounding with Curry, its also the turnovers. If the Knicks pushed the pace he definitely would collect more rebounds, statistics are somewhat a function of team pace after all, but it might mean more turnovers as well. He committed seven last night, which is pretty incredible. He dropped a great feed from Jeffries at the end there when we were down five.

    (BTW, I think Jeffries has really come on of late, he has been a fairly solid contributor, Another reason to be a bit more positive about next year. He may be a bit better.)

    I think we can hope that Curry will improve his rebounding a little bit, but the more likely hope is that finds a way to cut his turnovers. There seems to be good statistical reason to believe he can do that, although he will be doing it from a stratospherically high level. That would help the team.

  42. Nick

    I was a little surprised (or not) to see Jamal Crawford as the worst player by the adjusted plus minus two seasons ago and on the minus side of the ledger last year (as was everyone but Steph, Nate???? and Jackie Butler). Is there anywhere where this year’s numbers are kept?

  43. Caleb

    I am not sure where I missed the boat on Mardy Collins… offensively, he looks like one of the worst players in the league (can’t create a shot, 35% when he gets one off, a PG with almost more Tos than assists). You’d need to have the defensive impact of Dikembe Mutombo @1999 to not be a liability out there.

  44. Matt D

    Hey guys, I really recommend looking at this chart on 82games.com. It’s about 24-second violations, but it gives a breakdown of how turnovers occurred during the season. No surprise that the Knicks are near the top of many categories.

    Interestingly, the type of turnover where NY was far and away the leader was offensive fouls (ahem, Curry).

    http://82games.com/random30.htm

  45. Larry A

    I loved this post because LOSER is so ambiguous it gets so many opinions. I don’t think Marbury is a loser. To me a loser is someone who wastes their talent and creates distractions which makes the team worse. Francis is an example. Lots of talent but complains wherever he goes. Another example from another team is Artest who pisses away his game with his distractions off the court.

    Marbury is a good player and seems to be a truly decent human being. He gave huge sums of money to help victims of hurricane Katrina. He is creating an alternative for kids with his sneekers. And on the court he has played hard for the Knicks and stayed commited to the city and team in spite of getting booed at times and playing in pain a lot of the time. To me these are not the marks of a loser.

    The worst thing that can really be said is that he is not a superstar in spite of some pretty good numbers. It is no surpirse that NJ and Phoenix did better with future hall of famers, Kidd and Nash but not everyone who is below hall of fame level is a loser. I hope this team gets better next year around him so he can be remembered for what he is…a good person and good player who needs a lot of other good players around him to win in the NBA.

  46. ?iginnte

    [hijack]

    Thoughts (unresearched) regarding Eddy Curry…

    Low post players can be roughly sorted into three categories: dunkers, shooters, and scorers. A dunker is excellent at putting the ball in the basket at any distance shorter than 10 feet or so (with jump-hooks, flip shots, floaters, layups and dunks); likewise they have problems scoring past that general range. A shooter excels at converting from the mid-range area of 18 to 8 feet (using spot-up, face-up, and /or turnaround jumpshots, possibly including skyhooks), and in turn they generally struggle to finish around the rim. A scorer combines both abilities, sometimes with a preference for one or the other, but regardless with great proficiency in each.

    All three types of player can help to distort the other team’s defensive plan, thereby making it harder for that team to stifle the offence. However, the key factors are in how much distortion they can offer, plus how consistently they can offer that distortion.

    By definition, scorers are by far the most flexible at adapting to whenever their defenders cut off a given option, thus they can distort a defence the most and with the most consistency. In turn, shooters offer less distortion, are less flexible in general, tend to shoot a lower percentage, draw fewer fouls and may grab fewer offensive rebounds than a scorer… yet still can contribute against any defence, since it is impossible to totally “take away” a good jumpshot.

    As such, the odd person out is therefore the dunker. Despite offering as much if not more defensive distortion, a higher percentage of makes, and more fouls drawn than a shooter, the dunker also can struggle more to contribute anything if the other team closes out the paint, since interior shots are inherently easier to challenge than outside shots. Moreover, a dunker usually slows down the pace of the team’s offence, clogs the available lanes, and can be prone to turnovers off bad passes and offensive fouls, thereby sometimes being as much a liability as a benefit to the team’s offence.

    Overall, most of the highly-regarded low post players in history do not suffer from being solely either a shooter or a dunker. Players like Ewing, Robinson, Olajuwon, Jabbar, Walton, McHale, Daugherty, K. Malone, Barkley, and others were all scorers who demonstrated at least a certain minimum amount of ability to cope with defensive adjustments. Whereas in the case of NBA dunkers, only players like O’Neal, Chamberlain, M. Malone, and Dawkins represent the exceptions whose lack of range didn’t totally impair their ability to contribute. Even then, it is notable that these players usually required extenuating circumstances in order to succeed (e.g. Chamberlain and O’Neal being stronger, bigger, and faster than 90% of their competition, and/or with both Chamberlain and O’Neal being exceptional passers for their position).

    With the above in mind, it is fair to say that Eddy Curry is primarily-to-exclusively used as a dunker. Unlike the exceptional dunkers mentioned above (and despite having hints of a passable set shot from about 12 to 18 feet), Curry is not blessed by the kind of extenuating factors that would let him adapt when his interior scoring is denied. Compounding this is the fact that he is not an instinctive rebounder (e.g. like Elton Brand or David Lee) who might chase after teammates’ misses. Nor is he a natural slasher / cutter (e.g. like Amar? Stoudemire) who might use movement to lure away and tire out his defender. The result is that he becomes nearly useless whenever the paint is inaccessible.

    All in all, Eddy Curry provides his team a tremendous benefit of defensive distortion, up to and until the defence adjusts… whereupon he becomes little more than a spectator at best and a ‘black hole’ at worst. It is possible that in time Curry may develop alternate skills to aid him in coping with stingy defenders. For the moment, his deficiencies suggest he is best used not as the hub of a team’s offence, but rather as a third option to throw variety into a scheme. A comparable player would be Wayman Tisdale, who built an NBA career with Indiana, Sacramento and Phoenix as a reliable 18 ppg, 6 rpg player, with a modest jumpshot and tricky interior moves useful as a change of pace from the main offence.

    [/hijack]

  47. Caleb

    We can debate whether Curry will ever improve, whether we should trade him while value is relatively high, etc…

    …but he is so bad at everything but low-post scoring, as long as he’s on the team you need to run virtually every play though him, or he’s a total loss.

    We could maximize his usefulness, whatever level it is, by finding pure shooters to make the defense pay for double-teaming. Our guards now are decent scorers, but not shooters (except Nate), and Lee & Balkman can’t shoot at all.

  48. Larry A

    Caleb, I think you hit the nail on the head. Basketball is a team game and requires complimentary players. A beast requires shooters and shooters who can’t create a shot need a beast in the middle to give them room.

    Since shooters in the NBA are easier to find then a replacement dominant big man, the Knicks should trade for shooters. R. Lewis would help. Maybe someone out of college.

  49. jon abbey

    “We could maximize his usefulness, whatever level it is, by finding pure shooters to make the defense pay for double-teaming. Our guards now are decent scorers, but not shooters (except Nate), and Lee & Balkman can?t shoot at all.”

    the problem is that since Lee’s been out, opposing teams have been doubling with the PF and our PFs aren’t taking advantage, opposing teams can’t do this with Lee in there because he’ll scoop even more boards than he already does. also, Q is a very solid 3 point shooter on the rare occasions that he’s healthy.

  50. Owen

    Do players succeed largely because of the players they are matched with on the court? Not so sure about that. It matters a little bit, but really not that much at all. I dont think for instance that Curry is suffering largely because he doesnt have a great guard to feed him or shooters to protect him. The Dude leads the league in offensive fouls and nearly in turnovers. Is that really because of bad feeding and shooting around him? Is that really going to change if Rashard Lewis were to show up in New York by some divine act of mercy?

    And is Rashard Lewis going to blossom because of Eddy Curry getting him open looks. I doubt it. He is already a really excellent player right now with Petro, Wilcox, and Collision manning the low block. Lewis has been pretty good for a few years, very consistently so. He shoots a high percentage for a wing player, (because he posts and drives effectively as well), he is excellent behind the arc, and great at the foul line. As a result he has a very high eFG% percentage given his net fg%. He does other things relatively well, his rebounding is solid for a small forward, he is 6’10 after all, and he commits very very few turnovers, which I know because I have him on my fantasy team. This is a pretty big strength. His defense is fine too. It all adds up to a very good player, not exceptional maybe, but definitely a high quality player.

    Eddy Curry might look a little bit better with Rashard Lewis out there with him. He might not have the ball in his hands quite as much. He might rack up a few more assists. And if Lewis comes here the Knicks would be definitely be a much improved team. But it wont be because of some special sort of synergy. Its not like Eddy Curry plus a good wing shooter is a 1+1=3 situation. The Knicks would be better simply because they added a great player. Lewis is good with or without Curry.

    Lewis might help Curry by keeping the double teams off him, but I am not sure how much this would really improve him. Would he rebound better? Would he stop committing so many turnovers? Would he commit fewer offensive fouls? Would his contribution, which I think is negative on the whole, suddenly become positive?

    Basketball players are very consistent in terms of the box score stats they produce. They peak around 28-30, and generally they offer very similar levels of production year over year, much more so anyway than in any other professional sport. They do so independently of their teammates. What Curry’s levels show after six years of sampling, as has been often discussed, is that he isn’t a very good player. Surround him with four good to great players, and you will still have a good team, but that will have very little to do with Curry.

    God damn, how did I end up writing another stupid Eddy Curry diatribe.

    What did he do to me? Sorry Jon.

    btw elginnte, I have never ever seen a passable 12-18 footer from Curry….

  51. Caleb

    Owen, I agree that a production depends more on a player’s innate ability, than on his teammates.

    But, I think the Knicks are an extreme case, because a) Curry is an extreme player, in many ways; and b) NYK is a horrible outside shooting team (26th in 3PT and only respectable in 2-poinsters despite Lee and Curry being among the league leaders).

    EC gets double-teamed a lot (both because he is one of the best low-post scorers in the league, and because he is a turnover machine)… Rashard Lewis, for example, would get a lot of open looks and I suspect would perform even better than he has.

    There are basically two ways to get good shots – 1) run a lot, off rebounds or turnovers
    2) Have a good low-post player surrounded by good shooters.

    Almost every player on the roster would fit a #1 team best. Unfortunately, the team is built around a poster boy for #2.

    If – except for Curry – we magically exchanged all our players for players of equal value but different abilities (i.e. pure shooters)… I bet we’d improve as much as 4 or 5 games.

    Much simpler – see if he’s tradeable.

  52. xduckshoex

    Thing is….Curry has to get the ball out of those double teams to the shooters without turning the ball over.

    I don’t really have faith in his ability to do that.

  53. Pao

    My Two Cents.. When Curry is having an off-night Offensively, What else can he give you? Defense and rebounding require hard work and dedication to be in great physical condition. I don’t think he has that.

  54. Nick

    “Thing is?.Curry has to get the ball out of those double teams to the shooters without turning the ball over.

    I don?t really have faith in his ability to do that.”

    Funny stuff and a point no one seems to notice. Watch Curry when he gets the ball. Does it ever come out and if so quickly? Very rarely. He could be surrounded by Bird, Gervin and anyone else you can name and it would make little difference. He either flips it up in a hurry or the shot clock goes down from the teens to the mid single digits before he moves.

    “the problem is that since Lee?s been out, opposing teams have been doubling with the PF and our PFs aren?t taking advantage” I’m not sure why either because Frye is often the PF and his one skill that is above mediocre is the 15 foot jump shot. In theory he should be unguarded at least at times. But as above even when every competent shooter was in Q, Crawford whoever I am hard pressed to recall many if any instnaces where the ball went in to Eddy, came back out and an open 3 or jumper resulted either from Eddy’s pass or the next pass.

  55. Pao

    Off the ball players like Balkman and Lee should be benefiting from a low post presence, they both move well without the ball. also spot up shooters like JC and Q. Does anyone here think Curry makes his teammates better?

  56. T-Mart

    “Does anyone here think Curry makes his teammates better?”

    Owen absolutely does, where have you been Pao.

  57. Caleb

    Worth pointing out… Curry does not have to make the pass himself, for an open player to benefit from his being double-teamed.

    Also, Crawford and Q are only average as long-distance shooters. With Phoenix Q led the league in TOTAL made (not percentage), only because he shot about 10 per game.

  58. Owen

    Isaiah’s summer project for Curry according to the Post is to develop a 15 footer, so he can work the elbow, draw the defense out, and drive the lane. I love the idea of Eddy Curry slashing to the hoop from the elbow.

    My precious little thesis gets skewered actually, apparently since Crawford went out Curry’s FG has gone from 59 to 50%. I dont really buy it, but still, definitely sticks a fork in my post.

    Here is the qoute:

    “Battered Stephon Marbury, now playing with a sore back, has been the Knicks’ lone perimeter threat and can’t do it all on his own. Curry has been erratic and turnover-prone, not getting the easy buckets from Crawford’s lobs. Curry’s shooting percentage has gone from 59.3 percent with Crawford to 50 percent in the games without.”

    http://www.nypost.com/seven/04062007/sports/knicks/curry_up_offense_knicks_marc_berman.htm

  59. jon abbey

    again, a lot of that is Lee being out also, the PF doubleteams weren’t happening when he was in there, and that’s what been really giving Curry major problems.

  60. Owen

    Crazy spam on this site.

    Nice little comeback this 3rd quarter. Given how much trouble Balkman just had shooting a layup, I wonder what his 18 footer will like. Love David Lee’s Willis Reed impression.

  61. Owen

    ..and a comedy of errors from Curry in the low post, throws the ball over half court, Robinson gets the To, then gives it away twice in the low block.

  62. Owen

    Another nice snapshot. Eddy Curry smiling on the bench after fouling out with an offensive foul.

    Nine turnovers!

  63. TC

    No, not a loser, but he obviously isn’t strategcially very savvy if he thinks he’s the best PG in the game. That’s how many people will think of him. I haven’t read this post but…..PLAY BALKMAN!!!!

  64. Pao

    Maybe if EC loses a few pounds and gets into serious shape he could be a better defender/rebounder. That way when the Knicks want to run he could still contribute by blocking shots, getting defensive boards and issuing the outlet pass that leads to the easy 2 of the break. He has got to do more things than just score.

  65. Dan Panorama

    That’s not fair to Curry since he was in great shape this season compared to last and losing more weight would probably take from his strength at this point.

  66. Gmal

    Why?

    Why can’t a 17 million a year pt guard learn how to lob to Curry?
    Why can’t Curry learn how to see and pass out of a double team?
    Why has it been proven that Balk and Lee both show that they should start yet Jeffries continues to rob them of valuable minutes?

    ??????????????????????????????

  67. IStillMissBernardKing

    The problem as I see is it is that Marbury is a great player and is paid the same as all the great players but lacks some of the qualities that other great players have (e.g. leadership skills, defensive prowess, and that intangible factor of always making the right play with the game on the line).

    There is undeniably something missing there that the other greats have. You could argue the same for Kevin Garnett I think too.

    It doesnt make him a loser, but if you spend that kind of cash on a player you are building your team around him and making a commitment that he is the “man”. And if the “man” is a guy that doesnt make the big play at the key moment or lacks leadership or that certain killer instinct, its likely the team will take on those characteristics as well.

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