KnickerBlogger: When Steve Francis came into the league, his All Star game earned him the nickname “Franchise.” An alliteration on his last name, but Francis hardly deserves that moniker anymore. Along those lines, maybe we can find a few words to describe the Knick guard.
Fragile or Fractious?
The first thing that comes to my head when I think of Francis’ 2007 season is the winter break he took for the month of January. Depending on what you believe either Francis was tending to his knee tendinitis, he quit on the team, or the team asked him to go home. Whatever the reason truly was, Francis missed nearly half the season, which hurts his value.
Last year on the court, Francis had two major strengths. The first was his ability to get to the free throw line and convert. He was second on the team in free throw attempts per minute and third in TS%. Francis was best among the Knick guards in both categories. The second was his rebounding ability. Francis was second among Knick guards in per-minute rebounding, just behind Mardy Collins. This speaks well of Francis’ rebounding, since he gives up 3 inches to the taller Collins. At 6-3, Francis seemed willing to throw himself into the fray on both ends of the court.
No longer a top notch scorer, Francis has dropped nearly 6 points per 40 minutes from his career peak. Therefore his flaws were less tolerable. Francis fractured the Knick offense with his dominance of the ball. He dribbled frantically eating time off the clock, and lost the ball much too often for a guard. His 3.2 TO/40 was right along with stone handed defensive minded big men like Jerome James (3.4 TO/40) and Malik Rose (3.2 TO/40). Ironically this rate is among the best of his career, probably due to his decrease shot attempts which also hit a career low.
KnickerBlogger’s Grade: D+
Francis was traded to Portland in the Zach Randolph deal. It’s unknown at this time whether or not he’ll actually play for them. If Portland does buy him out, who knows where he’ll land.
Dave Crockett: Francis was the most vexing Knick for me personally, though reasonable fans are welcome to disagree. Knickerblogger mentions Francis’ ability to get to the line as one of the best on the team. He was actually 2nd in the league in FTA per 100 FGAs at 51. His 57% TS% was actually a career high–on a career low usage rate. I’d also add that Francis is a quality rebounder at guard–not Jason Kidd quality, but still quite good.
Unfortunately, with Stevie Frequent-Crossover, you get a lot of cloud with that silver lining. Mind you, I do not consider him a selfish player, and his career assist rate of 22.7 (which he topped this season) strongly suggests that he is not. Rather, his particular limitations make him an especially poor fit on this team–a far better fit for say, the Clippers. He’s perfect on isolation plays as a primary offensive option, but a lot of his assists come off his own scoring as opposed to setting up his teammates. He’s a notoriously poor decision-maker on the fastbreak, where he gets a lot of FTAs but frequently won’t pass to teammates for wide open layups. Additionally, he’s a turnover machine. His 06-07 turnover rate (14.2) was ghastly, which should come as no surprise since he’s been almost as turnover-prone as Eddy Curry throughout his career, and just about as bad a defender. I’m not sure I could say that Francis has earned a D. His strengths are so clear-cut but his negatives are magnified on this team. Also, given the team’s willingness to banish Penny Hardaway I’m inclined to give Francis the benefit of the doubt about his month off. Some of his “attitude problems” he’s either outgrown or have been exaggerated. Other than the typical quips about playing time I think he’s been a fairly solid citizen in New York. I think Francis could be a nice fit for a number of teams, just not at his current price. [Ed’s note: this was written before the trade – good foresight Dave!.] If the Knicks could find a taker for his gargantuan contract he’s probably a goner–and better off for it. However, I do not expect Daddy Warbucks to buy Francis out this summer.
Michael Zannettis: In the end, Francis sitting out games was one of the best things he did for the Knicks. That way he neither took away minutes from younger players, nor spent a lot of time proving to teams that he’s not as good as either he used to be, or we all thought he used to be. On that note, I wonder how much Portland plans to play him. Between Webster, Roy, Outlaw, Jack, and Rodriguez, that’s a lot of young backcourt talent that shouldn’t be shelved when the Blazer’s goal this season is to develop, not compete.
Brian Cronin: Francis is one of the best examples of how individual statistics in the NBA are difficult to integrate into the overall game, as someone like Francis can produce very respectable statistical numbers, but at the same time, not fit in with the rest of the team well at all. That’s where scouting becomes so important.
In any event, I probably would give him a D+, but yeah, this was not a good season for Francis.
What’s interesting to me to note is exactly where will Francis end up this season if Portland does, indeed, end up cutting him.
Cleveland showed interest in him last year, but I think that would be a terrible fit.
As would Miami (another team looking for a point guard).
Houston would have been interesting, but then they picked up Mike James. How about Detroit? Indiana, maybe? Milwaukee if Mo Williams doesn’t resign?
I think those three teams would probably be the best matches I can think of – Detroit/Indiana/Milwaukee.
Any team I’m missing?