KnickerBlogger: When Marbury first arrived in New York, the Knicks’ offense centered around his pick & roll game. Stephon was never a top flight offensive talent, but was consistently good, a near All Star. However in 2006 Larry Brown insisted on stamping his brand of basketball on the offense and curtailed Marbury’s game. The Knick guard had career lows in assists and points (per 40 minutes), even lower than his rookie year as a 19 year old neophyte. Consequently Mabury’s PER dropped from a steady 20/21 to a pedestrian 16.5. Surely it seemed that Marbury’s decline in production was caused by Brown’s iron fist.
Going into the 2007 season Marbury should have reverted to his old form. Not only was he freed from Brown’s restrictive offense, but he would be playing for the former point guard that acquired him. Unfortunately for Coney Island’s brightest, Marbury’s numbers didn’t recover to his pre-Brown levels. Instead Stephon’s numbers declined for the second straight year, and again he set career lows in assists and points (per 40 minutes). Marbury’s drop in assists is alarming as his 5.9 AST/40 is sickly for a point guard. So what’s the deal? After 2 consecutive declining season is the Knick guard washed up?
My answer is ‘no’, or better yet ‘not exactly’. The Knick offense moved away from the pick & roll, Marbury’s bread & butter, to a more open offense. As last season began, Isiah installed “The Quick?”, an amalgamation of offenses. As described by coach Thomas, “The Quick?” was modular where the non-post players took turns running the point. So it’s not so much that Marbury became a worse player, but instead it’s the Knick offense diminished his role.
Last year Marbury was unable to dominate the ball as he was accustomed. To exacerbate the problem Marbury had to share the backcourt with another ball-happy guard in Steve Francis. More often than not, Marbury was a spectator watching his teammates run the offense. Often he had trouble feeding Eddy Curry in the post, and without constant possession of the ball his scoring declined. A master at the pick & roll, Marbury was mortal outside of that role.
On the other hand, Marbury’s shooting percentages improved from the reduced usage. His eFG% and TS% (48.0% and 53.9%) were above their career averages, and his 3P% (35.7%) was the highest of his career. He also turned the ball over less than ever (2.6 TO/40). As an added bonus he seemed to put an extra effort into the defensive side of the ball. Whether or not this actually improved his defense is debatable, as his numbers at 82games are awful. The Knicks were 5.4 points worse on defense with Marbury on the court, and point guards averaged a healthy PER of 17.4 with Steph on the floor. Marbury’s main weakness is his poor lateral speed as last year he absolutely got killed by quicker point guards. Still the effort was a departure from previous seasons where Marbury seemed disinterested on his own end of the court. There were times he took the tougher assignment by taking on the opposing SG, and on some nights he did a fair job. But as we learned from Jamal Crawford, the NBA is such that you need consistent production every night, and overall on the season Marbury’s defense was still below average.
KnickerBlogger’s Grade: C+
2008 Outlook: With Marbury entering his 30s, the Knicks will eventually need a new starting point guard. Stephon entered the league at the tender age of 19, and has been an iron man for most of his career. Combine his long tenure with his high minute per game average, and that’s a lot of wear and tear on his 6-2 frame. He has missed more games in the last 2 years (30) than he did in the 8 seasons prior (25). Marbury was never a good defender to begin with, and although he’s putting in more effort on the defensive end, he still gets beaten by inferior players.
One indication that Marbury still has life in those $15 shoes is that his free throw attempt per field goal attempt rate hasn’t declined. Aging players that have lost a step become less able to get to the hoop and draw contact. Since Marbury seems to still have his athleticism and has trouble setting up his teammates in Isiah’s offense, Zeke should put some more pick & roll plays into the 2008 Knicks playbook. This is especially true considering the acquisition of a second post player with a range on his jumper, in Zach Randolph. Looking at some of the other options at guard, namely Crawford and Collins, increasing Marbury’s shot attempts in the offense wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
At this stage of his career, Marbury is no longer the focal point of his team’s offense. However even with his reduced role, he is still an efficient scorer. One thing Isiah might try in 2008 is to reduce Marbury’s minutes per game. The Knicks aren’t suffering from a lack of depth as Nate Robinson earned MVP honors in summer league, and Mardy Collins is useful with his stout defensive presence. Since Marbury’s reduced role in his offense seemed to increase his defensive desire, a decrease in his minutes might invigorate Stephon and produce better defensive results on the court.
Brian Cronin – My strongest memory of Marbury from this past season is the stretch after Crawford and Lee went down that Marbury seemed like he determined that he had to score like crazy for the Knicks to have a chance at winning – so he just went out and did that, scoring 23, 34, 38 and 40 in his next four games, lending credence to the argument that Marbury was allowing his numbers to go down for the betterment of the team, which is nice to see from a player (and another reason why basketball statistics are so difficult – as Marbury’s numbers were worse than normal for the “betterment of the team”).
I think a C+ is fair. I was considering a B-, but yeah, that’s probably a BIT high. I wish Marbury would be able to find Curry in the paint more often, but at least, as Mike mentions, Randolph seems to be a good pick and roll partner for Marbury.
Oh, and Marbury also gave us one of the comedic high points of the past NBA year, so that’s something, right?