Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Knicks Roster Analysis – Shooting Guards

I’m disappointed I have to bump down David’s excellent piece to post this. If you haven’t already read Part Two of his off-season preview, I suggest you scroll down and do so now. If you haven’t read my point guard analysis, that’s probably also worth reading before this post so that you understand what I’m doing here.

I’d like to take a second to discuss one thing David mentioned:

“In a pre-playoff article posted at NJ.com by the Newark Star-Ledger’s Dave D?Alessandro (whose link appears to have expired) Marbury talked unselfconsciously about taking his rest on defense to keep himself fresh throughout the game.”

Is this more common than you might think? I think so. Gary Payton never admitted as much, but watching him go from The Glove to a defensive liability, I think conserving his energy to play 40 minutes a game was a big part of the explanation. Frankly, it’s not a bad trade-off. Guys like Marbury and Payton are so far above the level of their backups (this was especially true in Seattle from 1999-2001) that the extra productivity just isn’t worth taking them off the court (or hurting their offense). Dean Oliver, as I understand it, actually tends to think teams ought to slack off more than they do. But that’s neither here nor there.

Allan Houston

Year    MPG   PPG   RPG  APG   TS%  Reb%  Pass   Off   Def  Win%  WARP  Value  Salary
01-02 37.8 20.4 3.3 2.5 .540 5.0 0.24 92.2 91.3 .498 5.9
02-03 37.9 22.5 2.8 2.7 .563 4.4 0.31 93.5 90.9 .546 9.5
03-04 36.0 18.5 2.4 2.0 .539 3.9 0.15 90.8 90.1 .484 3.1 $3.843 $17.53

Hollinger is fond of saying that Houston and former teammate Latrell Sprewell are the NBA’s most overrated players, but I’m not buying it. Overpaid yes, overrated no. Maybe Hollinger hasn’t spent as much time in his life reading message boards as I have, but there’s plenty of invective to go around for Houston, as if he was supposed to say “no, thanks” to Scott Layden’s offer. This is not a case where a player got a big contract and stopped working; other than last year’s injury, Houston is who he’s always been — I generally rate 2002-03 as the best season of his career — and that’s simply not all that good.

Houston has been a very good offensive player for a long time, and even last year, when he was way down, presumably due to chondromalacia in his left knee, he still rated well above average on the offensive end of the court. Still, you have to be a better offensive player than Houston to be particularly valuable without contributing much on defense or on the glass. Houston’s defensive statistics are actually pretty decent, but his reputation is as a sieve, and his knee problems surely won’t help that.

I have some experience with chondromalacia, having watched Sue Bird fight it for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm all of last season, and it bothered her tremendously. After having surgery, she has been a completely different player this season. Houston has supposedly ruled against surgery, but even a summer’s worth of rest should do wonders for him.

I’ve got to say, I was very impressed by Houston’s reaction to being exposed by the Knicks in yesterday’s Expansion Draft (needless to say, neither he nor any other Knicks were taken).

“I thought Isiah handled it in a classy way,” Houston’s agent, Bill Strickland, told the Post. “We were made aware of it and what his thinking is. Allan was fine and understanding why. He called ahead of time, explained the situation, showed a great deal of respect to Allan, who had a chance to chat with him directly.”

Contrast that with the Celtics’ Chucky Atkins, who has earned absolutely no right to complain about being exposed yet still said, “If they aren?t going to protect me, then I don?t want to be there,” he said. “If you?re going to leave me unprotected, that?s a slap in the face to me.” *Pause for laughter*

Anfernee Hardaway

Year    MPG   PPG   RPG  APG   TS%  Reb%  Pass   Off   Def  Win%  WARP  Value  Salary
01-02 30.8 12.0 4.4 4.1 .472 8.0 1.48 89.0 89.8 .489 4.6
02-03 30.7 10.6 4.4 4.1 .499 8.2 1.41 88.7 89.8 .487 3.2
03-04 27.6 9.2 3.8 2.3 .472 7.9 0.58 87.6 89.4 .456 2.5 $3.179 $14.63

Has any team in NBA history ever spent $30 million on a position before? That’s a rhetorical question, but I imagine the team to come closest was the 2000-01 Portland Trail Blazers with Shawn Kemp and Rasheed Wallace at power forward. Neither they nor the Knicks at the two got very good return on their investment.

It’s somewhat sad to think about what might have been with Hardaway’s career had he not suffered so many knee injuries. He was a superstar at 23 on a team that went to the NBA Finals, then Shaquille O’Neal left and it’s been one long comedown ever since for Hardaway.

As recently as the last couple of years, Hardaway still had some value, and he had a pretty good run as the Suns’ starter at the two when they went to the playoffs a season ago. By last year, he wasn’t even at that level anymore. Hardaway has contracted a bit of Ron Mercer disease — shooting a bunch of non-three jumpers. I did a quick calculation and found the percentage of shooting possessions (FGA + .44*FTA) players used on two-point shots. Obviously, big men typically use more; amongst shooting guards, Hardaway ranked seventh at 81%. It shouldn’t be a surprise that most of those guys aren’t very efficient (though Marquis Daniels and Rip Hamilton did manage to buck the trend).

Hardaway’s been a fine ballhandler since moving off the point, but for some reason his assist numbers tanked last season. That’s the biggest reason his offensive rating (and, thus, winning percentage) went down. Hardaway will probably rebound a little next season, but on the other hand, he’ll be 33 this summer, and that’s not exactly an age where guys improve much.

It makes me feel old to think that Hardaway probably only has a few more NBA seasons left in him. It still seems like yesterday he and Shaq were making Blue Chips and the Magic was playing Hardaway at the two to let him learn the ropes with Scott Skiles still at the point. And now Skiles is on his second coaching job. Time flies, doesn’t it?

I mentioned earlier the possibility of a buyout with Hardaway; now, to explain why it isn’t going to happen. The Knicks will hang on to Hardaway in the hopes that his ending contract can be dealt for something in 2005-06. Really, that’s not a bad idea; Hardaway is still above replacement level. It would be nice to see Williams get his minutes, however.

Kevin Pelton writes “Page 23″ for Hoopsworld.com on a semi-regular basis. He can be reached at kpelton@hoopsworld.com. Check back Friday for his analysis of the Knicks’ small forwards.

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