If you wanted to guess which Knick guard will gain the most under D’Antoni, it should be Nate Robinson. The diminutive guard was thought of as a novelty by his last two coaches, and Robinson has struggled to find court time. Over his 3 years he’s averaged only 23.0 minutes per game. But D’Antoni sees Robinson differently from the previous regimes, and was even quoted saying “I love the guy.” One of the knocks on Robinson is his maturity, but it seems that coach D’Antoni is willing to work on this issue. For instance Nate argues with officials too frequently, and D’Antoni tries to intervene either by distracting him with instructions or talking to the official on his behalf.
If the Knicks are willing to give Robinson more playing time then they might be pleasantly surprised with the results. A look at both Robinson and Crawford’s per game stats appear to show Crawford as a superior player. However when looking at their per minute stats, they are nearly identical with two exceptions. Robinson has higher per 36-minute rebounding (4.2 to 2.3) and fouls (3.6 to 1.6). The fouls are an indicator of Robinson’s immaturity, since the 5-9 guard foolishly tries to block shots (he has grand total of 8 blocks in 4783 minutes). On the other hand getting a Crawford-esque player who rebounds for a fraction of the cost would be a boon for the Knicks. It’s not far fetched to expect Nate to get 30 minutes per game this year.
A month ago, many NBA pundits (including this one) thought Stephon Marbury would be wearing another team’s uniform by now. However Knicks President Donnie Walsh publicly stated he doesn’t like to buy out players, and kept Marbury on the roster. Of course this gave Peter Vescey the greatest thrill of his life, being able to call out Newsday’s Alan Hahn for wrongly reporting the story a week before. For those not familiar with New York Newspapers, that’s like Ted Stevens calling John Ford immoral for accepting bribes. Anyway the team didn’t change their plan of making Chris Duhon the starter and Marbury will come off the bench. Stephon has been a starter his whole career (812 of 823 games), so this is new territory for both him & the team.
If Marbury can accept his role on the team, it would be a boost to the Knicks. His talent has never been questioned, just his commitment to winning. Marbury’s production over the last 3 years (average PER: 15.2) has tailed off from his peak years ’99-’05 (average PER 20.7), but he’s still a threat to go to the hoop and finish with his right hand. Even in an off year, Stephon took 36% of his shots from “inside”. And Marbury is able to knock down the three (career 3P% as a Knick: 34.8%). Of course with Marbury it’s always worth mentioning that Mr. Hyde is lurking around the corner. But if he can contribute off the bench for a full season without a major incident (on or off the court), consider it a big plus for Walsh and D’Antoni for keeping him around.
Last and least is Mardy Collins. At 6’6 the Temple alum is the Knicks best perimeter defender and a strong rebounder. Unfortunately that’s about all the former Owl is good at. Over his career he’s been a miserable shooter (TS%: 41.7%, eFG%: 38.3%, FT%: 26.6%, FT%: 59.2%) and not great at running the offense (4.4 AST/36, 2.9 TO/36). In the three point era, only 5 players have played more than 1400 minutes by the age of 24 with a TS% lower than 42.0%: DeSagana Diop, Mark Macon, Junior Harrington, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, and Mardy Collins. That’s not a good group for an aspiring point guard to be in. It goes without saying that Collins will have to be a more efficient scorer to continue playing professional basketball.