To the Knicks
Tracy McGrady – $22.8 million left, expires in 2010
Sergio Rodriguez -$1.6M, expires in 2010 (team option for $2.3M in 2011)
Zach: Kevin Martin was in a lose-lose situation once we saw a glimpse into just what Tyreke Evans could be (November 7th road win in Utah). Martin was going to have to comeback perfectly and he certainly didn’t do so. Upon his return, he struggled with his own scoring at a time in which the Kings were starting to collapse. Martin’s greatest strength has always been getting to the line for easy points and this year he’s only been getting there seven times per game (7.2 fta/36). While seven free throw attempts seems like a lot for most players, it’s the lowest total he’s averaged in four years. That’s what Kevin Martin does; he scores easy points. He finds open spots on the floor, runs off of high screens perfectly and tosses up that funny looking jump shot. You expect it to clank off the side of the backboard because of the shooting motion. Instead, it usually rips through the net as part of the quietest most efficient 25 points per game you’ll see on a nightly basis. He struggled to do that this year on Tyreke Evans’ team. It turned into a treasonous act in the minds of some Kings fans who probably never thought he’d actually be traded.
The evolution of Carl’s offensive repertoire has been startling. He came into the league as merely a garbageman, using his extreme athleticism to hang around the basket for easy openings off of passes from Tracy McGrady. But his athleticism has declined since that rookie season as he re-aggravated a serious injury from college. While he is still athletic, he no longer appears freakish like he once did. In his second year, Landry showed off an ability to face up and take his man off the dribble and developed a deadly mid-range jumper. Due to his size, we thought this would be the extent of his capabilities. The real surprise has come this year as Carl is now a very effective post scorer, showing off an arsenal of fadeaway jumpers and hooks off of either block. He has struggled against fronting and double teams in recent weeks but it is unclear whether this is merely due to unfamiliarity with these new approaches.
Rahat: Overall, he looked bad. However, this was quite some time ago. It’s anyone’s guess right now if the struggles were due to permanent physical regression or rust/the natural readjustment after surgery. He was still surprisingly effective as an individual defender, never really getting beat laterally. (This was pretty odd as he seemed to have little to no explosion offensively.) The problem for us was that this Rockets team wins through pace and hustle. McGrady was too slow to keep up on the break and made little effort to help defensively – that wasn’t going to cut it here. It’s tough to say whether he will help the Knicks because there is the possibility that he was able to work off more of the rust during his latest hiatus. I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. His days as a frontline star are over, but I think he can still be a factor, situationally.
Rahat: I’m not completely familiar with the Knicks’ offense so I can only assess McGrady’s capabilities. Primarily what he brings, contrary to popular belief, is passing. For McGrady, the passing will always be there – he’s the best passing wing this league has ever seen, rivaled only by James. It was remarkable to see that even in his regressed state, he could still effectively create plays for his teammates. Just absolutely remarkable. He can hold the ball at the key, in stationary position, and blindly hit cutters without needing to actually beat his man off the dribble. He also never makes mistakes. It’s never been mentioned, but as far as court IQ, he’s in the league’s top 99th percentile.
As for the rest of his game:
He can still create space for his jumper because he is so incredibly skilled/coordinated: he uses a jab step-left to free himself for his pet shot at the elbow. Unfortunately, he is not a good shooter (TS% of .487% in his last healthy season; bottom 5th in league) so this is not an aspect of his game one’s offense would want to feature.
Interestingly, while most of his shots come in motion off his own dribble, he might actually be a far better set shooter. He looked very good on the few set shots he took last year, but he rarely attempts them. We will also need to see how much lift he has on his shot upon return, because for McGrady, that is crucial. He has looked flat in recent years and that has contributed to his drastic decline.
Moving on, McGrady struggles scoring off the catch/curl/cut. In fact, he is the antithesis of a “willing cutter.” To be effective, he has to have the ball in his hands.
1. Scoring inside – even when healthy, scoring inside has been Tracy McGrady’s achilles heel since I have been following him. Hard to believe because we all remember the dunks from his younger days. As he has aged, most likely out of fear, he just simply avoids driving to the basket at all costs. This includes the 4th quarter of Game 7’s with opponents in the penalty. If you look at my game analysis during his return, he did valiantly try to drive to the hole on certain occasions, much more aggressively than in years past, most likely in hopes of assuaging the concerns of watching eyes. The problem was that he simply did not have even a modicum of explosion. As I said earlier, that could possibly change as the leg builds strength, but his fear of contact will not. Even moreso than help defense, inside scoring is the last thing one can hope to expect from Tracy McGrady.
2. Playing point guard – At this point in Tracy’s career,based on what I saw in those games, I think he can only be effective in this league as a point guard. He doesn’t shoot well enough to justify a role at the ‘2.’ If he’s on the court, to offset some of the negatives, you want to be utilizing his passing for a net gain. So I could see him as sort of an extreme-new-age version of Ron Harper (of Chicago Bulls three-peat fame) going forward.
There’s two problems: 1) I’m still not sure it would work unless it was Fratello’s Cavs. Tracy won’t push the pace. For this reason, you could use him off the bench, but I don’t see it happening as a starter. 2) He doesn’t have a prayer against 1’s defensively. You would need to mask that by pairing him with a 2 capable of taking those duties. In his return, I never saw him get beat laterally, but this was in defending bulky small forwards. It won’t work against NBA point guards.
Mike: The Knicks defensive schemes have a lot of switching, so individual match-ups don’t matter as much. However New York just traded three guys that could have played alongside McGrady well. Jared Jeffries, Nate Robinson, and Larry Hughes all could have guarded the point guard position, allowing T-Mac to run the offense while defending a wing. Additionally Jeffries/Hughes would have given New York a lengthy lineup, while Nate Robinson could have been inserted alongside T-Mac as a shooting guard and be freed of trying to play point.
Mike: Jeffries has exactly one skill on the offensive side – rebounding. Earlier I said Chris Duhon is the worst NBA scorer in the paint I ever witnessed, well Jeffries is a close second. It’s baffling at 6-11 how many shots from point blank he’ll miss. Throw in the turnovers and he’s not a zero but rather a complete negative on that side of the court. Jeffries does seem to know this and often will pass up open opportunities, but I think the coaching staff is encouraging him to take open shots & drives. He’s been doing more of that this year, but without much success.
I know I’m in the minority with my opinion, and perhaps I’m more optimistic on the Knicks chances of grabbing a top free agent without this move. I’m not against moving Jeffries, obviously, I’m just against the cost. Here’s one final thing for Knick fans to consider: what does the team do with McGrady if he’s a good fit for D’Antoni’s offense? Do the Knicks consider re-signing him in the summer considering McGrady’s injury history? How much, or rather how little, will McGrady take to stay? Lots of things to keep New Yorkers buzzing while the other half of the league is in the playoffs.