[Today's entry comes to us from David Crockett, Ph.D, an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of South Carolina, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
The problem last night heading down the stretch was not benching Allan Houston, rather it was benching Mike Sweetney.
The box score from last night for both players says all you really need to hear. Sweetney must see more minutes, even at the expense of Kurt Thomas.
NAME....... MIN FG FT O-REB AST PF PTS
K. Thomas.. 34 7-11 0-0 3-8 3 3 14
M. Sweetney 17 6-7 2-2 1-7 1 2 14
In half the minutes Sweetney matched Thomas’s production in virtually every category. Perhaps more importantly than what is reflected in the simple box score is the fact that Sweetney scores the bulk of his points in the painted area (65%) while Thomas, an accomplished mid-range shooter, gets most of his fgs on 15-18 foot jumpshots (89%).
I picked up the game in the 3rd when the Knicks had a sizable lead, 8 points if I recall. When Sweetney was in the game the Wizards had a difficult time matching up with him physically. With Thomas in the game the Wizards appeared to the naked eye to be the much more physical front line. I mention this because of the game’s ending. On the final Knick possession Wilkins designed a nice play to get Mohammad a shot deep in the post. Had that play been designed with Sweetney rather than Thomas rebounding from the weakside I suspect the outcome would have been a putback or a trip to the free throw line for Sweetney. Kurt Thomas could not finish inside over Jared Jeffries once he got the rebound. Five years ago, maybe even three years ago, Thomas puts the tip back or gets to the line easily. He isn’t that player anymore.
I should mention that once again Marbury had what appeared to be a poor floor game. The two turnovers he is charged with mask how poorly he ran the team down the stretch. He simply does not operate well against zone defenses. He was able to penetrate late, getting a basket and a disputed non-goaltending call. However, of the team’s last 10 offensive possessions certainly 6 or 7 of them were quite poor. That isn’t solely the point guard’s responsibility but it’s mostly his responsibility.
Dave, it’s great to hear someone else say that Sweetney should be getting more minutes. I took some slack when I suggested that the numbers show that Kurt has lost a step defensively. However since seeing that data, my eyes have shown it to be true.
One criticism of the data was that Kurt faced the best PFs in the league against Garnett, Nowitzki, Duncan and Brand which inflated his numbers. Since then he’s been torched by ‘Toine (36pts), Okafor (20), Nailon (17) and Jamison who had 8 offensive boards in addition to his 25 points. Mind you they are good offensive players, but shouldn’t Kurt be holding this second tier of NBA PFs under their per game average?
The second argument was that Thomas was inundated with penetrators that made his stats look worse. That next game against Atlanta, I recorded the number of times that Walker could shimmy his way back up the court due to being the recipient of a distracted Thomas, and I can say that not more than 6 of his 36 points were scored that way. Game after game power forwards come out against New York with better scoring numbers than they came in. According to 82games.com Thomas is the Knicks’ PF 2/3 of the time, and opposing PFs have a PER of 19 against New York, 3 more than the next position. If Kurt isn’t a good defensive player, then it’s hard to see why he’s getting double the minutes of an offensively superior player.
As for Marbury, I don’t think he’s the only one to blame for the Knicks inability to beat the zone. For years the NBA has turned into a 2 or 3 man offense with the rest of the team standing around watching. To beat the zone you want the exact opposite, lots of motion and penetration with the proper spacing. Marbury can help with a few forays to the hoop, but the zone can morph itself to take away this kind of attack. So in my eyes, it’s the coaching & the 4 other guys on the court that are at fault. Maybe NBA players have gotten used to taking a few plays off on offense when their number isn’t called. Maybe the Knicks haven’t practiced enough against the zone. David, here’s where you might be right about Sweetney’s inside presence. Maybe his ability to draw a double team in the post can help open things up on the perimeter. I’m really not sure exactly which of these will best help the Knicks against the zone, but right something has to change, because things can’t be any worse.