KnickerBlogger: By the numbers, Quentin Richardson’s 2007 season wasn’t all that bad, especially when compared to his 2006 season. Richardson’s rebirth seems to be based on two stats: his rebounding and shooting percentages. Richardson posted the highest per-minute rebounding average of his career (8.7 REB/40), solely due to an increase in his defensive rebounds (7.1 DREB/40). This made him the Knicks third best rebounder last year, which is impressive for a 6-6 swingman. Additionally Richardson had his best shooting season as well. His eFG (50.7%) and TS% (53.2%) were the highest of his career, and his three point percentage (37.6%) was his second best. Quentin lacks the foot speed to beat opponents to the hoop, but he compliments his outside shooting with a post up game. Therefore Richardson doesn’t get a lot of free throws (3.0 FTA/40), and the few he gets aren’t converted at a high rate (69.2% FT%). To the eye Richardson is an average defender, and the Knicks were 1.8 points worse with him on the court. Although the +/- data may be due to the exploits of Renaldo Balkman being a fantastic defensive reserve, Richardson doesn’t look to be better than a solid defender.
Unfortunately there is one more stat of Richardson’s that catches the eye: games played. Over the last 5 years Richardson has surpassed 70 games just once, and as a Knick he has missed 60 games in 2 years. Richardson’s balky back shut him down in mid March. One thing that may have contributed to Richardson’s breakdown is the heavy minutes he played. Quentin averaged 33.1 minutes per game, which may be more than his body can tolerate.
KnickerBlogger’s Grade: Omitting Injury B, Considering Injury C
2008 Outlook: There are two issues to consider with Richardson going into 2008. The first is which position will he play? Let’s assume the Knicks keep Chandler, jettison Fred Jones, and stash Nichols in Europe. The Knicks are likely to have a surplus of small forwards and a dearth of shooting guards. If you take Richardson out of the equation at small forward you can easily divide 48 minutes by Renaldo Balkman, Wilson Chandler, Jared Jeffries, and David Lee. The Knicks will be fine at small forward without Richardson. Shooting guard is another story. The depth chart is Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson, and occasionally Marbury (assuming that Collins would play the point on offense with any other Knick guard). Even if the Knicks kept Fred Jones, there still isn’t quality depth there. So it makes sense to have Richardson primarily at shooting guard, instead of small forward. Which brings us to our next issue: How many minutes should Richardson play? Considering how much time he has missed, the Knicks would be smart to use the McDyess strategy with Richardson. That is play him sparingly between 20-24 minutes a game. If you took Richardson’s 1621 minutes last year & divided that among 82 games, you’d get 19.8 min/g. I’d much rather have Richardson available for 20 minutes a night for the entire season than have him miss 30+ games.
If you combine the two, Richardson should start the season as the backup shooting guard. In a way this makes a lot of sense. First, moving Richardson to guard will make Balkman the starter at forward. Balkman exceeded expectations last year and had an eye-popping summer league. Stat heads like Balkman due to his phenomenal non-shooting stats, while the casual fans relate to his underdog draft status combined with his blue collar game. Second, putting Q’s name on the shooting guard’s depth chart will drive youngsters like Crawford and Robinson to play better. Isiah can quickly substitute in Richardson for some “veteran leadership” when Crawford launches his patented “22 foot crossover off-balance jumper” or when Nate Robinson decides to play 1 on 5. Richardson’s no nonsense game can be instructional for the two neophytes.
Third, the risk to overplay Richardson will decrease if he’s coming off the pine. If Richardson starts, the temptation will be too great to play him major minutes. Fewer minutes will keep Quentin fresh and ideally, available for a majority of the season. Taught to be tough and confident at every level, most professional athletes don’t like to take a reduced role even to benefit their own health. Being a “player’s coach” Isiah should be able to sell this concept to Richardson. To the public Quentin would be seen as the veteran selflessly sacrificing his personal stats for the good of the team. But behind the cameras Isiah can tell Richardson that this move will allow him to avoid the crippling injuries that an overused and oft-injured professional athlete will suffer in their twilight years.
Dave Crockett: Add to all the stuff KB notes statistically that Q-Rich is easily the Knick least likely to do something stupid with the ball. As much as anything it was comforting to know that the worst you would get from Richardson is a forced shot, and even then he was as likely to run down his own miss as anyone save Lee and Balkman. In the Richardson report card KB gets at precisely what I think is the most critical dilemma facing the team (given its current construction) heading into the 07-08 season. The shooting guard situation is a real concern. Q-Rich has bolted past that point of no return where his usefulness is now largely a function of how his minutes are managed. Given what he brings to the table Q-Rich is probably most valuable playing alongside the other projected starters, particularly if paired with Balkman to allow for defensive cross-switches. But, as KB points out, Richardson would breakdown quickly on starter’s minutes so it makes sense in the abstract to bring him off the bench.
The not-so-abstract downside to benching Richardson is to weaken the starting unit considerably. Jamal Crawford, a worse defender, presumably supplants Q-Rich as the backcourt starter alongside Marbury. This leaves the Knicks (to my mind) overly-dependent on his ability to mature into a reliable starter. I should note that I’m a Crawford fan. I enjoy watching him play as much or more than any Knick but he is clearly not the kind of starting shooting guard this team needs (i.e., a decent defender with a low turnover rate, moderate usage rate, and a good 3pt shooter). Crawford is far better suited to an “instant offense” role coming off the bench and left on a short leash.
It’s unclear how concerned the brass is about the shooting guard situation. Unfortunately, even if they did the Knicks lack clear in-house options to alleviate such concerns (though I’d not rule out the possibility that Nichols might develop into a real option). Additionally, when Reggie Miller and Allan Houston are making comeback overtures that are drawing legitimate interest it’s safe to say the market lacks attractive options.