Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Kevin Pelton, Killing It

There’s no doubt that I’ve been a fan of Kevin Pelton’s work over the years. But recently he’s written a bunch of articles that would be of interest to this site. The first is Knick related, as Pelton looked at New York’s recent success.

The most surprising change is in terms of the Knicks’ pace. The coach once known for his “:07 Seconds or Less” philosophy is now practicing something more akin to “:15 Seconds or Less.” Through the end of November, New York was playing at the league’s third-fastest pace. Since then, the Knicks have been more deliberate than the average team, playing old-fashioned track meets only against running teams like Indiana and Phoenix. D’Antoni slowed things down when the Suns traded for Shaquille O’Neal, but even that adjustment was nowhere near this extreme.

Almost as much as the fast pace, poor rebounding–especially on the offensive glass–had been a D’Antoni trademark, and New York was no exception early this season. Only the Golden State Warriors have rebounded fewer of their own misses than the Knicks in November (21.4 percent). Since the end of that month, New York is up to a 25.3 percent offensive rebound rate, which is within shouting distance of league average. The Knicks are rebounding better on the defensive end too, making use of a big starting lineup (6’8″ Wilson Chandler, once groomed for the Shawn Marion role in D’Antoni’s lineup, is now nominally the two-guard) that assists anchor David Lee on the glass by committee.

The changes reflect a level of flexibility from D’Antoni that is probably surprising even to his admirers (count me in that category). In his inside account of the 2005-06 Suns that gave D’Antoni’s style its name, :07 Seconds or Less, author Jack McCallum shows the coach regularly reacting to trouble by going ever smaller and searching for more offense. While that mentality was appropriate for D’Antoni’s Phoenix team, it wasn’t working for the Knicks, so he has instead gone the other way by moving non-shooter Jared Jeffries into the starting lineup in the name of improved defense and more length.

In back to back articles Pelton inspects the D-League, first producing statistical translations, then applying his methods to find gems in the rough. He describes the 6-7 undersized power forward and aptly named Diamon Simpson as DeJuan Blair without the efficient scoring, while tabbing 6-11 Greg Stiemsma a late bloomer. Pelton also goes down the laundry list of team needs and lists players that would suite the bill. He also gives a shot out to the D-League blog on Draft Express, where I unearthed this article on Morris Almond. Draft Express calls Almond the D-League’s best prospect, but adds a side note to the talented scorer:

The biggest concern about Almond from an NBA perspective is what he will be able to contribute when he’s not scoring, as he ranks amongst the worst passers in the league, and watching him play, is clearly always looking for his own shot. Data from Synergy Sports Technology also suggests Almond isn’t nearly as good of a scorer coming off screens as he is spotting up, and this could limit his effectiveness in a role as a 3-point shooter in the NBA.

49 comments on “Kevin Pelton, Killing It

  1. TDM

    Mike:

    Interesting take on the Knicks, but changing to a 15 second or less game plan seems to go against the ‘stubborn’ reputation that D’Antoni has.

    I’m not sure if the change of pace is the reason, but I found it interesting to learn that, according to Prosportsdaily.com, the Knicks are #1 in 3 point % defense. I tried to find another site that lists this stat, but could not. Could this be true? Defending the 3 was one of the biggest weaknesses in the Knick’s D in past seasons.

  2. Mike Kurylo Post author

    TDM one other thought – it’s easy to label someone as “stubborn” and I would think most professional coaches would fall into this label. But perhaps a person can be stubborn in one aspect but not another. Even one day and not the next. It might be easy for D’Antoni to change his philosophy with say how quickly to setup the offense, but not so much with how he addresses playing time issues with his roster.

  3. IMissWillis

    I know I’m getting ahead of myself, but in light of the the Knicks’ turnaround, the 6th – 8th seed is not out of the question. If the top 5 seeds remain the same, I propose we would want the 7th. While a first round matchup with the Cavs would be epic from a media perspective, we would most likely be crushed. And with our struggles against Orlando, we would lose handily although probably not as bad as if we were playing the Cavs. This leaves Boston; a team we always play tough and would have beaten last time if not for a poorly defended Garnett overtime winner. Granted that all these teams better than us, I think we have the best chance of taking a series from the Celtics. Familiarity from the division and oft-injured stars? We could definitely give Boston a run for their money if current trends continue.

  4. TDM

    I wouldn’t say 6th through 8th seed is too unreasonable given the way the Knicks are playing now. However, one injury, and that optimism goes down the drain. For example, Gallinari is nursing an aching shoulder and is probable for tonight. Given D’Antoni’s tight rotations, the Knicks depth has not been really tested.

  5. Frank O.

    I, too, read Pelton’s article. Someone on the site posted the link. It was very insightful.

    I just want to note that there were some who criticized me roundly for saying that my eyeballs were telling me the Knicks defense was notably improved over this run through December and early January.
    I think individual defensive stats tend not to be so revealing in assessing a players overall play.
    But I have now read stories saying the Knicks defense ranked 10th overall in the NBA for the month of December, a huge improvement from being at the near bottom in November.
    The three point defensive stat is interesting. But again there appear to be a lot of variables that could drive why teams are shooting worse against the Knicks lately from 3pt. In addition to better perimeter D from guys like JJ, there could be a succession of teams with poor perimeter shooters. It could reflect the fact that the Knicks’ interior defense has been so porous in the past that teams are trying to take the ball inside more. It could be the Knicks’ good fortune that some of the leagues 3 pt shooters simply were cold against the Knicks. It also could be the pace. For example, if your defense is caught in transition, that’s a good time for a pull up, wide open 3. If you’re slowing down, there is less likelihood you would be caught off guard.
    I’m sure some of that noise could be eliminated, or perhaps the noise already was eliminated and I’m simply not aware.

    But I’m beginning to feel pretty good about this Knicks team. Offensively and defensively they are playing well together. I would not be surprised if the Knicks got all the way to the sixth seed.
    I think these next nine games or so will be decisive in determining how good the Knicks have become.
    They match up well with Charlotte. I can’t wait to see how that game goes.

  6. mase

    tdm,
    some random thoughts:
    if we trade jeffries or chandler, I think our playoff chances go down the drain… i think we could afford to lose Hughes and harrington in the regular season and still make it but they are probably our best post-season players because of experience. if we could land t-mac for those 2 guys and he can stay healthy, i think we can take the Cavs to 7 games!

  7. Frank O.

    What’s clear is the Knicks face seven straight winnable games. They could be at .500 or so at the end of it.
    What a turn around that would be.

  8. Frank O.

    Mase:
    I just don’t see t-mac as good for this team. I’m not even sure he’ll be that good when he comes back.

  9. Frank O.

    Mase:
    But I agree losing Jeffries would knock the knicks out of playoff contention. Losing Chandler and Jeffries would be worse.

  10. Thomas B.

    Well there is “stubborn” and then there is stupid. Stubborn stops where stupid keeps going. D’Antoni is not stupid. After trying numerous ways to get the SSOL to work he finally realized the the players are not there so he changed the approach. I think he stuck with it far too long–hence the stubborness–but he did make adjustments to the players and their own ability. In that way D’Antoni is not stupid.

    For example, D’Antoni kept Nate on the bench far longer than he should. I think it was good to make the point but Nate is too talented to leave on the bench. D’Antoni got a pass on it since the Knicks played 5 games over .500–or thereabouts–during NateGate. Then Hughes’ struggles proved to be more than a slump. Hughes had an eFG of 38% in December and a woeful 6.25% (1-16 FG/FGA with 0-5 on threes) in the four games before the end of Nategate. The two games prior to that we each 3-10 efforts. The only player on the team allowed to shoot that poorly and keep playing is Duhon, and since Hughes isnt Duhon, and since D’Antoni is stubborn rather than stupid, he sat Hughes and unchained Nate.

    D’Antoni is still stubborn, but is not stupid.

  11. mase

    i think t-mac is ideal for d’antoni because he is a big SF with range who can take over a game , teams have to respect his ability to take and hit the big shot. he is better than any SF we have by a lot…how do you not see that? d’antoni play’s a squad of SF’s right now with …chandler- gallo-harrington-jeffries-hughes.
    t-mac would fit in perfectly imo!

  12. mase

    cont’d
    the biggest thing we are lacking in NY is a superstar, hence the 2010 plan…bringing t-mac, if he can still play, solves that dilemma…its a no-brainer to me but the Rockets will probably want Gallo and we ain’t doing that.

  13. Frank O.

    Mase:
    Here’s what I see: he’s a volume shooter who hit only about 42 percent of his shots in the last full year of basketball he played in 07-08. That Jamal Crawford country only with more shots taken.
    In that year, he shot only 68 percent from the line which is abysmal for a guy like him.
    His TS% from that year was 48.7 and his eFG% was 45.2. Those are pretty shitty numbers for a volume shooter. His usage% was 30.4.

    Sounds to me like a flow killer.

    As a small forward, he got 5 rebounds per 36. His 5.7 assists per 36 was pretty decent.
    He played only 35 games last year and only six this year.

    What I see is a guy whose best years are way behind him…IMHO not a superstar anymore.

    Not sure I would call him better than Gallo this year.
    Gallo’s TS% this year is 60.1 and his eFG% is 56.
    He’s shooting 43% from the field and about 41% from 3pt.
    He gets 5.7 rebounds per 36, although he’s not an assist guy.
    He’s also has become pretty effective as a defender.

    McGrady feels like a move Isiah would have made gambling that McGrady might become what he once was.

  14. mase

    frank,
    good points!
    its hard to argue with those stats but I’ll try, he is definately on the down side of his career no question…would a chance to make a playoff run under d’antoni in Ny resurrect his stardom?
    thats the gamble.

    Its safe to say that any player who comes in contact with D’antoni’s system will improve his numbers dramatically.
    .. is he a flow killer? not sure i agree because of the d’antoni factor. i dont think he would let him disrupt the offense, its either mike’s way or the pine, and i think t-mac would buy in to it because its player friendly and he is a good player.

    my question, is he marginally better than chandler/harrington and what would we have to trade that would entice the Rockets
    (also, it would hurt to lose jeffries…i can’t believe i’m saying that)

    i love his assist #’s. that to me is the reson i think he would thrive under coach mike…you can run pick and rolls through him and lee with gallo as the kickout all day and no one in the east could defend it!

    lastly, its not an isiah move, if he had 4 years left on his contract i would agree but this is a final year.

  15. IMissWillis

    TDM- Completely agree that Bayless or Fernandez would soften the blow this year. Think the article said there’s a 2 mill discrepancy so the Blazers would have to throw in someone else. I just think that when it comes to long term options, we would have to pull the trigger.

  16. Nick C.

    Can T-Mac even play? and considering how he reacted to not getting minutes at Houston I don’t see him as a “good camper”, but more like someone that wants it to be all about him. His time has come and gone so if you want him a a straight salary dump maybe but to suit up well no.

  17. Frank O.

    Mase:
    Agreed on your last point on my Isiah comment and the years involved…my comment was more fixated on the player rather than the duration of the contract…

    Not so sure D’Antoni can make T-mac into something he hasn’t been his whole career. I’m also not convinced T-mac sees himself as anything but T-MAX. :)

    I have to admit, I would hate to part with Chandler for a 1 year rental.
    His play of late has been much better.
    His shooting percentage and shot selection has improved pretty radically.
    He has greatly reduced his 3pt shots and increased his attacks of the hoop. His blocks are up.
    Generally, he’s playing better ball.

    And it appears D’Antoni and his staff are targeting his weakness and teaching him how to play better.

  18. Frank O.

    Nick C.
    You posted your note just before mine, but it seems as if we agree about T-MAX’s view of himself…:)

  19. SeeWhyDee77

    I think that we shouldn’t trade Jeffries. But-becuz we problee can’t move or get Curry to opt out, trading JJ is pretty much inevitable. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t get value in return. If POR really wants JJ then we hafta ask for Bayless or Fernandez as well as Blake. But, if we do that then we problee hafta add someone like Nate in-especially if they agree to send Bayless. How about JJ and our trade exception from the Richardson trade for Fernandez & Blake? A trade like that would help, but it would definitely push Hughes into irrelevance-so we’d hafta buy him out or find a package that works with Hughes included that brings us T Mac. And no-we should not in any way trade Harrington in a deal for T Mac. Al produces for us and we have no clue as to what T Mac is gonna be able to do for us. I think DW should push as hard as he can to send Curry to POR instead of JJ since they need size so bad. Besides Curry fits better in POR than in Houston. Even with Oden or Pryzbilla-they still need a low post scorer becuz McMillan prefers to play at a slower pace. But if we hafta take back Blake & Fernandez in return for JJ as a consolation for not bein able to do away with Curry, then I won’t complain. The only problem is it will only help our cap by about 4 mil, and I don’t know if thas gonna be enuf.

  20. Frank O.

    hoopshype.com posted former Knick Pete Mickeal’s blog. It appears the Knicks are interested. Not sure if they were doing that when considering whether to carry Bender and Landry or if there is a decision coming down on Mobley’s retirement. Hahn noted this blog post and said Mickael apparently is playing very well and peaking late…

  21. iserp

    TDM, i don’t think Portland would agree to trade Bayless or Fernandez along Blake. They want to trade 1 of their PG, but trading 2 (Bayless and Blake) would leave only Andre Miller in that position, and that would be problematic for them. Bayless is still young and has lots of potential, Fernandez too. Portland has a promising squad, and knows that can be contenders if they’re patient and don’t throw all their young players for average ones. In the end, they’ll have to trade for a key player; but Jeffries is just a solution to the injury mess of this year, and Portland is looking way farther than that; they’ll hope that Oden and Przybilla are healthier next year, and then JJ isn’t worth as much as either Bayless or Fernandez.

    Personally, i think Blake for JJ is a fair trade. Blake is expiring and not a bad PG. JJ is playing really good lately, but in the preseason, most people were laughing at him and looking sad at his contract.
    And the improvement at the PG position will balance the loss of JJ. We’ll probably be worse after the trade, but unless you think JJ will be a key player in a championship team, i’d go with it.

  22. david

    Jeffries for Blake plus anyone (to fill the gap) would be a steal, so much so that I can’t imagine the Blazers will do it. Would we be worse this season if we made this trade? Probably, but only marginally. And we’re not going anywhere this season anyway (I mean, I’ve been enjoying the upswing as much as anyone, and we might get the 8 seed, but we’re not going anywhere important). And clearing Jeffries contract would be an amazing get for the off-season, allowing us to either resign Lee or get two big FAs.

    Btw, the trade clears if you add patty mills and Shavlik randolph. Not that it’s going to happen.

  23. Brian Cronin

    Yeah, I agree that Jeffries for Blake (and filler) would be such a steal that there’s no way that it would actually happen.

    Dump Jeffries salary and get a useful player? Insane.

  24. Brian Cronin

    Although, in 2014/15, Lamarcus Aldridge will make over $15 million dollars, so perhaps the Blazers are crazy enough to do this.

  25. tastycakes

    I’d trade Jared Jeffries for a stack of White Castle burgers, then feed them to Eddy Curry.

    Are you people kidding? I don’t care how good JJ has been, the cap space is the most important thing!

    Seriously, any trade that brings back a contract that expires this year is acceptable. Picks or young players on top would be a downright coup.

    So yes, Blake + Rudy would be a steal, but I doubt the Blazers would give up Rudy (or Bayless).

  26. david

    If anyone is a trade machine wizard, can you figure out a way we could throw something in — Jordan Hill, for instance — to make the trade more appetizing for the Blazers. I don’t think there’s a way.

    If people think Jeffries’s stock has gone up, what about Jeffries and Hill to OKC for D.J. White and Etan Thomas? They continue their run of stealing 1st rounders for cap space, and get a useful piece for an 8 seed run, and we get expiring deals….

  27. Brian Cronin

    Yeah, if the Blazers are crazy enough to take back JJ for Blake, it would be Blake plus filler, surely not Blake and Rudy (or Bayless).

  28. tastycakes

    JJ’s stock is definitely up, but he still has a bad contract. So I think a team like the Blazers — who probably don’t realistically think they have a shot at winning it all this year — is less likely to want to take that contract hit.

    I don’t think they would really mind losing Blake .. they’d like to free the space for Bayless. They’d have to really value JJ highly.

    I was working the trade machine and looking for ways to throw Jordan Hill in the mix, I certainly think throwing in a young player on the rookie scale would be amenable to many teams. If giving up Jordan Hill means we can re-sign David Lee and go after 2 max guys, I’d do that for sure.

  29. Brian Cronin

    Agreed. Hill is a “sweetener” I’d part with, if need be (of course, only for the right deal – I don’t know if I’d throw him into a JJ/Blake deal).

    Speaking of “sweeteners” and Hill just had me flash back to Simmons basically comparing Gallo and Hill as equals, sweeteners-wise.

  30. IMissWillis

    David- OKC trade doesn’t work because Thomas was already traded from the Wolves so he can’t be moved until the summer.

    HOWEVER…

    JJ + Hill + Nate + Darko = T-Mac…

    Think that might be a win-win, except if Nate is a douche and blocks it of course.

  31. Brian Cronin

    If Nate is in the Knick rotation, there’s really no reason for him to accept a trade anywhere, as he’d lose his Bird Rights.

    And Bird Rights have value to everyone, even players signing relatively small contracts.

  32. david

    I think the most likely “sweetner” in a deal is Nate (or Nate and Hill), although not with the Blazers. Nate — a high efficiency player — gives teams that want to win now a useful piece and comes off the cap too.

    While we’re having fun…

    Hill, Nate Rob, Jeffries to Cleveland for Big Z (who we promise to cut)

    Hill, Nate Rob, Jeffries, Cuttino Mobley to Houston for T-Mac

    any others?

  33. IMissWillis

    I know… it’s just… I guess it’s nothing more than wishful thinking. Not sure how serious HOU was about getting all-star (present or future) level talent but Al, JJ & Darko also works. DW would take a lot of flak for totally tanking this season, but I think he’d probably do it and preach the 2010 philosophy (which we don’t even know is gonna work btw, but cap space is never a bad thing i guess).

  34. david

    I think nate would accept a trade if the team looked like it would keep him or he could win a championship (e.g. cavs(

  35. IMissWillis

    Only problem is that the Cavs have been pretty outspoken about their need for a floor-spacing four. JJ is only able to take up space on the offensive end and barring some minor deal, that’s who we’re gonna trade. Or heaven forbid someone’s dumb enough to take Curry

  36. Brian Cronin

    I think nate would accept a trade if the team looked like it would keep him or he could win a championship (e.g. cavs(

    Oh yeah, if he thinks he might have a future with the team he is traded to, I could see him allowing his Bird Rights to lapse, but if that is not the case (and it would not be the case for most of the teams looking to acquire him) then it is not worth it for him.

  37. Z

    “OKC trade doesn’t work because Thomas was already traded from the Wolves so he can’t be moved until the summer.”

    Thomas can be traded, just not back to the Wolves.

    And for those out there saying we shouldn’t trade JJ because it hurts our playoff chances, I implore them not to lose sight of the goal just because the 6ers, Bulls, and Wizards have underachieved. This season was all about showcasing JJ and Curry so that someone else would want them. I may have actually worked with one of them!!

    And now we suddenly want to have our cake instead of eating it?!?!

    Please, don’t compromise 2010, the chance at LeBron, the chance at Wade, the chance at re-signing David Lee(!), for nothing but the awesome opportunity of losing in the 1st round.

  38. d-mar

    “They match up well with Charlotte. I can’t wait to see how that game goes.”

    Frank O., I wish I could agree with you, but Wallace and Jackson are always Knick killers (although Wallace has been killing a lot of teams lately) Jackson looks like he is salivating when he plays us. Oh, and Felton somehow plays like an All Star vs. the Knicks. Not to say we can’t beat them, but there are a lot of other teams I think we match up better with.

    On another topic, I was thinking about Donnie not pulling the trigger on AI, and how in hindsight that was totally the right move. Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t make, right Isiah?

  39. Z

    *IT may have actually worked with one of them!!

    (I, definitely, have never worked with Jarred Jeffries or Eddy Curry:)

  40. rohank

    wtf: excerpt from Hollinger’s chat wrap from today:

    Danilo (NY)

    Can we all agree that I am NOT a “one-trick-pony?”
    John Hollinger
    (12:44 PM)

    What’s the other trick? He scores at a decent rate off his jump shot and shot fakes from his jump shot and is below average (at best) at everything else. Two-thirds of his shot attempts are 3s and he shoots under 50% inside the arc.

    Um. It’s called Defense, Hollinger…. Not to mention the improved rebounding that Gallo’s been showing recently.

  41. Brian Cronin

    Wow, that’s pretty irritating.

    Eventually Hollinger will come around, but it’s pretty disappointing to see how long it’s taking him.

Comments are closed.