Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Looking To Last Year For Answers

At the start of the season, it was expected that the Knicks would improve on their 32-50 record from the prior year. However the team is under performing and is on pace to win 28 games. With the team failing to meet even their own low standards, it’d be nice to pinpoint exactly what’s going wrong. A good starting place would be to compare this team to last year’s using four factor statistics.

Year       EFF  eFG%  TO% REB% FTFG
2009 Off 108.1  50.3 14.7 24.4 21.0
2010 Off 106.4  50.5 14.9 23.2 19.3

Year       EFF  eFG%  TO% REB% FTFG
2009 Def 110.8  52.0 14.9 27.3 21.5 
2010 Def 109.8  51.7 15.6 27.7 21.2

Oddly New York is a little better defensively than they were last year. The change is due to an uptick in turnovers, and perhaps a minor improvement in shooting percentage allowed. On the other hand the offense has clearly regressed, with more than a point and a half decline per 100 possessions. While the shooting percentage and turnovers are just about the same, rebounding and free throws have fallen considerably.

Grabbing rebounds and drawing fouls are two specialties of David Lee. Compared to last year, Lee’s oreb/36 has slid from 3.3 to a mediocre 2.6 and his fta/36 has gone from 4.2 to 3.8. Perhaps his role in this year’s offense is one of the reasons for the decline, because D’Antoni tends to start the half court offense with Lee on the perimeter orchestrating. This has increased David’s assist numbers (from 2.2 to 3.4 ast/36) but it seems to come at the expense of his other strengths. The typical counterargument for this is that having the Knicks keep the opposing center on the perimeter opens up the middle for the rest of the team. However the team stats contradict such an assertion, with the shooting percentage staying level and the number of fouls in the paint decreasing.

Lee isn’t the only offender in recovering his team’s misses. Gallinari has been inserted into the starting lineup, and he’s only pulling 0.8 oreb/36 which is feeble for a 6-10 player. And one of last year’s New York’s best glass cleaners, Nate Robinson (1.6 oreb/36) was benched earlier in the season and now has been traded away. Even Jeffries’ 3.5 oreb/36 was marginalized to 2.4 oreb/36, a sign that it was a fundamental change in the team’s philosophy that contributed to this decline.

But it’s New York’s free throws that might be hurting them the most. One culprit is Chris Duhon whose production has dipped from 2.6 fta/36 to a pitiful 1.7 fta/36. Duhon has been benched in favor of Rodriguez, however this problem might not have been addressed as Sergio is no threat in the paint either (2.2 fta/36). And again Nate Robinson was a big help here, but his numbers saw a huge decline in 2010 (4.8 to 2.7 fta/36).

If I had to build a narrative based on this data, I’d say that the fault lies in a combination of the roster and plan put together by the coaching staff. Perhaps David Lee has become more of a complete player this year, but looking at the results from a team level you have to question the cost. His game has been slowly been pulled away from the basket (his offensive rebounding per minute numbers have dropped every year since 2007) and perhaps in the course of rounding his game out the pendulum has swung too far in that direction. Similarly Nate Robinson was marginalized in an attempt to transform him from a shooting guard into a point guard.

One perspective on the team was that Lee’s unidimensional game and Nate’s out of control play as attributes holding the team back. Well those problems were addressed, and the team has only gotten worse. In D’Antoni’s defense the Knick roster isn’t exactly brimming with talent, but a good coach find his player’s strengths and his strategy adheres to those attributes. New York’s coach appears to be too unbending in his philosophy, and looking at the history of the team’s guards in his tenure shows a mismanagement of talent. Marbury, Richardson, Hughes, and Robinson have all been run out of town. Meanwhile Duhon has stuck around much longer than he should have, and Toney Douglas is still on the fringe of the rotation. D’Antoni is known as being a great offensive point guard in his career, but he’s failed to turn that into anything tangible so far.

59 comments on “Looking To Last Year For Answers

  1. Thomas B.

    Nice work.

    Two Questions:

    1) How much of this is Al Harrington’s fault? As talented as he is, I really don’t like the way the team plays when he is on the court. The ball movement dies the moment he touches the ball. I dont know the team doesnt crash the boards the moment they see Al with the ball. Jumpshot or spin move, that ball is going up. I think the regression in Lee correlates to the increased role of harrignton in the offense.

    2) Can McGrady contribute something to fix this? T-Mac is a strong enough passer to take over for Lee as the play maker. That will bring Lee closer to the paint.

  2. Mike Kurylo Post author

    1 – Good question. Harrington is one of the few Knicks whose fta/36 actually went up (Gallo is another). He’s a mediocre offensive rebounder, so the answer is no in this case. He’s not helping, but he’s not much of the cause either. You could blame D’Antoni for going uber small on the front court and not playing a traditional center, but that’s hard to pin on Al.

    2a. McGrady does draw a lot of contact, but you have to take this in the light of what New York has lost. The loss of Robinson, the decline of Lee, and the addition of Eddie House (not a get to the line kinda guy) and the net gain is probably zero or minor at best. And he doesn’t get many misses either (which is sad – because he was really good at this early in his career).

    2b. I don’t see D’Antoni putting Lee back closer to the hoop more often. He seems to love his playmaking ability on the perimeter.

  3. Mike Kurylo Post author

    You know I could have sworn that some time ago in another thread I noted that the Knicks really need someone that can slash to the hoop. It just occurred to me that would probably help this team in both areas.

  4. Nick C.

    I appreciate the effort you put into this, but it seems like a lot of these turn into excuses to praise Nate Robinson’s and/or back handedly I”I told you” so to anyone who criticized Lee for being too one dimensional rather than answering the original question.

  5. ess-dog

    Great points Mike,
    I do think Lee has become more ‘finesse’ at the expense of his rugged boarding. I don’t have any proof, but one could say that this is reminiscent of what has become of Stoudamire’s game – although he is not the passer Lee is, he has taken his game away from the basket more and more. Is this coach D’s fault? Hard to say. I think both Lee and Amare know that padding point and assist numbers and becoming a “go to guy” will affect what kind of contract you get.
    The fact is, with so many contract year guys, it’s hard to build a cohesive team. Especially now that we flipped half the team. That’s why MD really needs to play returning players the most. Hopefully Douglas has played himself into some more minutes.
    Also, I think we are more effective with Chandler at the 2 and Gallo at the 3. Or we could now try TMac at the 2 and have Chandler come off the bench. Chandler should be that slasher you desire, Mike, but he needs to attack more. Maybe Bender and Lee at the 4 and 5?

  6. Caleb

    I totally agree on the personnel factors, but I think you are missing the extent to which this is a strategic decision — coaching players to run back on defense instead of crashing the boards. The 2004-2005 Phoenix team was 22nd in the NBA in offensive rebounding (rate) but the next three teams never ranked higher than 28th. Of course, it wasn’t a great rebounding team in the first place – but their defensive board numbers were close to average in two of those years.

    “…it seems like a lot of these turn into excuses to praise Nate Robinson’s and/or back handedly I”I told you” so to anyone who criticized Lee for being too one dimensional”

    True! But then, this breakdown suggests that Nate fans and pre-2009-2010 Lee backers were on to something…

    You also have to give some blame to the player – as Dave Berri (and ess-dog!) never hesitate to point out, guys who score get paid. It’s not hard to see this as Lee deciding to put his individual scoring numbers ahead of effort on the boards, not to mention defense.

    Otherwise, this pretty much sums up the depressing aspects of D’Antoni rule – inflexibility with personnel, and holding grudges (in the case of Nate).

    if looking for optimism…

    Going back to Phoenix, I can think of two personnel moves that I would call creative. One was playing Stoudemire at center — a lot of coaches would have left him at the 4 and Marion at the 3, left Johnson or Richardson on the bench, and put Steven Hunter or some total 7-foot stiff at enter. Instead, D’Antoni adjusted so he could to put his top 5 players on the floor. It only seems less radical now, because a lot of teams have followed suit and are playing smaller lineups with 6’8 or 6’9 centers.

    Second – Shaq. Whether you think it was Kerr or Mike D. who deserves the credit (blame?) for that trade, D’Antoni was bold in how he used Shaq – basically, as a rebounder and low-post presence. I think Shaq’s shot attempts were about half what they were in Miami, or under Terry Porter. D’Antoni left Stoudemire as the #1 option. Was this smart? I don’t know — but it was definitely unconventional. And, whatever the reason, the Suns didn’t really collapse until the following year, when Porter switched their roles and went the conventional route of feeding Shaq…

    Otherwise, D’Antoni seems to be very predictable – and not necessarily in a good way.

    Not that he’s a bad coach — on the plus side, his teams seem well-prepared, not needing much direction from the sideline, and if you look at the numbers (factoring in rate) most of his players have had career years.

    Unfortunately, even the best NBA coaches have a relatively small effect – and the Knicks’ current roster sucks. You can only do so much.

    A bad coach, on the other hand, can do a lot more damage…. i.e. by not knowing who the best players are, and playing scrubs, instead. I’m looking at you, Eddy Curry.

  7. rrude

    When the team started 1-9, I thought, the team just doesn’t have enough talent.

    When they won a few games around Xmas, I thought, D’Antoni is doing a great job.

    When they went back to losing, I thought, the team doesn’t have enough talent. (It’s apparent Mike agrees because he’s basically said eff you to the players who have been here a while and is now playing new guys as much as possible.)

    The few moments when McGrady has played well, you see what we have been missing for years. A player who makes shots, good decisions and looks like an NBA starter. (It’s too bad Tracy is damaged goods.)

    We can argue all we want about the relative merits of Lee and Robinson, but at the end of the day, I don’t think either guy is more than a role player on a championship team. A bit of hyperbole, but it feels like we haven’t had a legit NBA starter on the team in four years.

    I don’t love D’Antoni, and I question whether or not in this situation he has put winning above personal disdain for certain players. (If we aren’t going to win much anyway, I guess you can indulge yourself). But I can’t honestly say this team was talented enough to win more than five or so games more than they have.

    I’m more concerned about Walsh’s (and the organization as a whole) ability to identify talent. Sure, we have a lot of room to maneuver now, but these guys have not shown to me they can pick the winners from the losers out of the crowd.

  8. Mike Kurylo Post author

    Nick C. – I agree. The problem is I was specifically trying to *not* write one of those articles. I was just thinking about how bad the team has been and decided to look at the four factors to see what was up. I figured I’d look at the team numbers first, then look at the individual numbers to see who was/wasn’t contributing. Honestly I thought it was going to be the defense that was going to let the team down…

    In any case I’d like to hear an alternate take on the results of the data. I’m hard pressed to find something different.

  9. d-mar

    Mike – hard to argue with your analysis from a numbers standpoint, but what I see in a lot of these recent losses is a complete inability to get a stop in the 4th quarter. If you look at 2 recent losses to OKC and Memphis, we were giving up relatively easy baskets in crunch time (Durant’s shots notwithstanding) We also have no one to give the ball to when we need a basket except Harrington – enuf said.

    One thing I find really discouraging is this string of home losses; even really bad teams find a way to put up a W on their home court once in a while. Knick fans who still go to games deserve a lot better.

  10. Caleb

    Mike, have you done any sort of breakdown for the first, say, 40 games, compared to the last 20?

    Just watching, you get the sense of a team that’s going through the motions. Which isn’t surprising, when everyone knows that with 3 or 4 exceptions (at most) they are not coming back next year. This is a team of renters, not owners.

    But if anything you would expect that to show up at the defensive end, first. Is it true that the defense has gotten worse, as the season has gone on.. ?

  11. Nick C.

    Mike I don’t know that you can interpret the numbers any other way. I looked and Q-Rich is the only main rotation player missing, and now Nate. Could he be the key? Mostly that’s a jest but w/o doing any research he seemd to rebound well for a 2G.

  12. Thomas B.

    @4 Nick C.

    I sort of had that thought initially as well. But once I realized this wasnt another snark heavy article (see David Lee for All-Star and The Dark Horse MVP), I read this as an examination of D’Antoni. Read this article along side the D’Antoni Rules and I think you’ll see what I mean. Thankful for one D’Antoni rule: You are either in or out. Right now Duhon is out and win or lose I’m glad.

    To use a tired phrase, D’Antoni is putting square players into round holes.

    rrude made a good point about the 1-9 start–I forgot about that. I’d love to compare that with the current 1-9 stretch.

  13. Thomas B.

    Furthermore, this should act as a preview for Donnie Walsh should he fail to get the type of players that fit D’Antoni’s style. D’Antoni does not seem able to adjust to the strengths of his players. Rather, he requires players that best suit his style.

    So what free agents best suit his style?

  14. BigBlueAL

    Difference between last season and this season offensively is simple, last season at least Duhon played good for half the season and just bad for the other half. This season he has played beyond awful for the entire season.

    I still believe though that as long as T-Mac plays the entire rest of the season the Knicks will make a little run towards the end of the season and maybe match last season’s win total.

  15. d-mar

    In fantasy land, the Knicks come out tonight and spank Cleveland, with all the keepers for next year playing out of their minds and impressing the hell out of LeBron.

    In the real world, Cavs 110 Knicks 90 with Harrington piling up 30 points and 0 assists and LeBron putting up an effortless 40, 15 and 10.

  16. rrude

    As far as the rebounding numbers go, this year we have 4 guys on the perimeter with one player cutting through almost every set in the halfcourt. There’s rarely someone there to get an offensive board (D’Antoni’s system seems predicated on making initial shots).

    Plus we can’t deny in the paint, so the opponent shoots a larger percentage from in close, they are often bigger and more athletic and we don’t get to the defensive boards as easily. DLee’s rebounding his first couple years frequently came from swooping in from the weak side. Now he tends to be the defender getting exploited in the middle.

    I also think the awfulness of our guard play probably contributes to the negative numbers across the board. Just one example, FTA. If most of our shots are predictable heaves from guys like Al, the defensive team is always in good position and just has to hold their ground. A better PG sets up his man and puts the D in a bad position where they have to foul or allow a basket.

    Regarding Gallo, I get the feeling he was told to develop his defense and let his O come later. I think he’s been surprisingly good as a defender (and almost as bad lately on offense) and he doesn’t force up too many bad shots. He needs some serious off-season conditioning and maybe a hypnotist to help him forget all the losing. I still have faith he’s going to be a real player in three years.

  17. Caleb

    Forgot that Q was here last year – warts and all, he is a pretty spectacular rebounder from the guard spot. Q & Nate was probably the best rebounding guard combo in the league, aside from maybe Jason Kidd + whoever.

    Still – as Mike points out, O-rebounding numbers are down for pretty much everyone. I think it is part personnel, part motivation but also part strategic trade-off (fewer boards but fewer fast breaks for the other team).

  18. Owen

    Good piece. Not much to add.

    Like what I am seeing from Bill Walker tonight and this Lebron guy is also pretty good…

  19. Robert Silverman

    I normally loathe it when Clyde/Breen say the Nix “lack energy.”

    But tonight, I’ll make an exception — they look utterly lifeless out there.

    (Except Bill “Sky” Walker)

  20. Robert Silverman

    How is that a “Clear path” foul? Walker was in front of West?

    Come on refs! The LeBrons don’t need any help from you guys. The Nix are playing like a crap sandwich all by themselves

  21. David Crockett

    Walker moves well without the ball. I hadn’t seen him play much. So I didn’t know what he did.

    Does Anderson Varajao *ever* get called for running through people for boards?

  22. David Crockett

    Oh, and Eddie House is horrendous.

    When D’Antoni inevitably starts crying about having a bigger say in personnel, let’s all remember (from what I read at least) that Eddie House is the guy he pushed to get.

  23. latke

    Look, I’m not LeBron’s biggest fan, but watching tonight feels like watching a Jordan era bulls game. The Knicks are actually not playing that badly, but ALL the Cavs seem incredibly sharp. You have Leon Powe coming in and doing some decent damage. Varejao is making all kinds of crazy backcuts and finishing, West too. Defensively, they’re all over. These guys have raised their intensity level in a way that I haven’t seen a team do since Jordan’s teammates.

    You know how sometimes you watch a game and you feel like based on how the two teams are playing one team should be winning by a lot more than it is? Despite being up 27 I get that sense from the Cavs. I don’t think this knicks team on its best night could beat the cavs on their worst.

    We were down 20 at the half last time against the Cavs and we made a game of it. How about down 27?

  24. Kikuchiyo

    I am really starting to feel like a sucker for wasting any more time even thinking about this Knicks team. No jokes from me tonight. I don’t expect them to beat the Cavs in Cleveland, but I do expect some effort. This is a disgrace, the kind of game that leaves a stink on anyone involved with it.

  25. Owen

    Chandler had some sort of family emergency…

    The Knicks do look horrible. It is unspeakably ugly…

  26. d-mar

    As optimistic as I’d like to be, it is really hard to imagine LeBron wanting to leave the team he’s on to come and join this pathetic bunch, even with the possibility of a second FA, the bright lights of NYC, D’Antoni, etc. How would he justify it? It’s all about winning? I just don’t see it happening any more, even if for some reason the Cavs flame out in the playoffs.

  27. ess-dog

    Thank god I missed this game. Did anyone play well? It looks like Bill Walker at least did something. Douglas finally had some assists? Gallo’s line looked fairly ugly. That #4 pick in the draft next year would’ve been pretty sweet. At least we’ve learned a lesson from Isaiah: NEVER trade your first round- oh wait -shit.
    I’m starting to think we’ll have to settle for whoever doesn’t join miami next year: Stoudamire or Bosh. Also, I would start recruiting Carmelo now.
    Also, would anyone out there consider Gallo for Rubio? If that’s even possible…

  28. nicos

    Small silver lining- over the last 2 games Douglas with 13 pts 9 assists, 0 turnovers in 31 minutes. Can’t say he looks that much more comfortable running the offense though. And while we didn’t get a first round pick for Nate, it looks like Walker is a legitimate mid to late first round type of guy. Great hops, looks like his shot might wind up okay from distance, need to see a lot more in the way of ball handling & passing but if he keeps playing like this I’d be very surprised if the Knicks didn’t pick up his option.

    I’d do Gallo for Rubio (though I very much doubt Kahn would). I think Gallo & Chandler are both best at the three so one of them is probably going to go. I’d rather it be Chandler as I think his ceiling’s lower and he’s a year closer to getting a decent contract, but if they can get much better value for Gallo, then I don’t have a problem moving him. The problem is I think the Knicks would be lucky to get a late lottery pick for either one at the moment (let alone someone like Rubio).

  29. The Honorable Cock Jowles

    Walker has been very bad in all regards except ts%.

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/w/walkebi01.html

    Here’s a stat for you:

    In 296 career minutes, Walker has two blocks.

    Two blocks.

    He also has as many personal fouls (63) as rebounds (39), assists (17), and steals (7) combined.

    That’s how it’s possible that he has a 9.8 PER with a .629 TS%. Are we really placing any kind of hope upon the shoulders of Bill Walker?

  30. BigBlueAL

    Just saw D’Antoni’s post-game press conference and someone asked him if going through all this losing is worth it and he said we will see next season.

    He is either going to re-sign during the off-season if they strike out with everybody or he is going to coach his ass off like crazy next season to prove a point and try to rescue his reputation. I really think if they put together a good team hopefully that D’Antoni will show how good a coach he really is. At least for his sake I hope so because there are times I actually feel sorry for him when watching his post-game press conferences.

  31. nicos

    296 career minutes aren’t enough to judge anyone (any more than 1 decent game is)- that’s less than 9 games at 36mpg. He’s got nice size/athleticism at the 2. His shot needs a ton of work- his release is slooww and while with my 25 yr old tv it’s difficult to pick up the rotation, I’m guessing that ain’t great either. He hasn’t handled the ball a whole lot but he had two traveling calls at the top of the key with no one guarding him against Memphis so it’s pretty clear that needs work too. He’s a project but what would you expect from a guy who’s played so few minutes. Like I said, he’s the equivalent of a guy that you’d pick somewhere in the 20s and hope he pans out- I’m not sure you could have gotten a whole lot more for Nate (this year anyway). He’s a back of the rotation guy now but he could be better and at least he gives you something to watch for the rest of the season.

  32. TDM

    Today, I listened to the Rome and Colin Cowherd on the radio. Both were mercilessly bagging on the Knicks and saying that there is zero chance of LBJ coming to New York in the summer. After last night’s game, I have to agree.

    Best line: “The King is not going to want to come to the castle if it doesn’t have any furniture in it.”

    Also, anyone see that LeBron has filed with the league to change his number from 23 to 6? That surely will fire up Bulls fans and feed into Chicago as a possible destination.

    Furthermore, compare what NY did last night against Cleveland to what the Clippers did to the Jazz, and you can see Los Angeles as a serious contender for LeBron this summer. The LA/UT game wasn’t as close as it appeared by the final score, and arguably, the Clips best player wasn’t even in uniform. They have all the pieces and the cap-space to attract a superstar of LBJ’s caliber. Not to mention having Kobe and LeBron competing under the same roof for different teams would create one of the best rivalries. The only hurdle for the Clips, IMO, is Donald Sterling.

    I really hope that I’m wrong and that Donnie is able to swing a deal (or already has). But, as each loss piles up, I’m losing hope.

  33. Doug Chu

    Donald Sterling is an insurmountable hurdle, TDM. As long as the Clips are financially profitable, he doesn’t give two shits about winning basketball games.

  34. ess-dog

    Well, one way to look at this is to consider how things could play out. Let’s say Lebron stays. Fine. And let’s say Wade most likely stays. Chicago is like a 5% chance – if even. What do you do if you’re Bosh? Clearly, going to Miami makes the most sense in terms of winning (plus I mean, is he really going to continue to play in Canada? no.) They have the cap space and a pretty good core led by Beasley. Now if you’re Lebron, that’s not real exciting news- you basically stand pat and Miami becomes the team to beat. So maybe he teams up with Bosh elsewhere, somewhere better than Miami, maybe somewhere he can also get TMac on the cheap…
    Really the best way for the top 3 to ASSURE (to the best of their ability) a dominant team, is to team up with one or both of the other two, in a place where they don’t really have to take less than the max.
    Hey, that’s all we have, so I’m clinging to it.
    And is it me, or does Bill Walker already seem like a more confident and fluid player than Chandler? I know, I know it’s only one good game… but a little silver lining.

  35. The Honorable Cock Jowles

    http://www.wagesofwins.com/Miami530910.html

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/b/beaslmi01.html

    Beasley may appear to be good, but he’s below average in most statistical respects. If playing next to Beasley is a motivating factor in Bosh’s decision, he might want to hire a new agent — perhaps one that isn’t wowed by scoring volume, particularly when a player posts terrible numbers in the AST, STL, and BLK categories.

    And with all due respect, TDM, Jim Rome and Colin Cowherd are blathering morons. If they didn’t have outlandish opinions, they wouldn’t make big money, so in a way, I can’t blame them for being stupid. Like many of the talking heads on ESPN, again, they’re paid to be stupid on a national stage.

    LeBron will not make a decision based on a ravaged Knicks lineup, 60% of which will likely not return next season. Especially if Bosh (and perhaps Camby? Ben Wallace [who is having a monstrous year]) come to NYC next season, what would LeBron have to worry about? Toney Douglas appears to be a serviceable defensive PG, Danilo would benefit greatly from LBJ’s ability to drive to the paint, and anyone else doesn’t matter. Lebron + Bosh + three slightly above average players = a top 3 seed in the East. One terrible game from a team that won’t be around next season won’t change Nike’s ability to throw him a Jordan-like, multiyear deal next season.

  36. d-mar

    I think we have to hope for a Cavs flameout in the playoffs, or at least not making the Finals. Then LeBron can evaluate: is he better off with his current cast, or with a lineup of Bosh (for arguments sake) Chandler Gallinari and maybe Rodriguez? Of course, we have no idea who fills out the rest of the roster.

    I’m a lot less hopeful now than I was a few months ago, the Knicks are starting to take on that “joke franchise” aura, and our young core isn’t exactly tearing it up lately. I think we’d have zero chance if there was only cap room for LBJ, our best hope is the 2 max FA scenario with him being one of them.

  37. Ted Nelson

    “I appreciate the effort you put into this, but it seems like a lot of these turn into excuses to praise Nate Robinson’s and/or back handedly I”I told you” so to anyone who criticized Lee for being too one dimensional rather than answering the original question.”

    How would you answer the question, then?

    “The fact is, with so many contract year guys, it’s hard to build a cohesive team. Especially now that we flipped half the team. That’s why MD really needs to play returning players the most. Hopefully Douglas has played himself into some more minutes.”

    I don’t think that’s a fact at all. And who would you play? Eddy Curry is the only player guaranteed to be here who is not playing. Bill Walker is getting tons of burn to see what he’s got.

    “So what free agents best suit his style?”

    At some point you ask what coach best fits the team’s style… coaching is a LOT easier to come by in the NBA than talent.

    “Difference between last season and this season offensively is simple, last season at least Duhon played good for half the season and just bad for the other half.”

    You’d think that would show up in eFG%, though, since Duhon’s main struggle has been shooting the ball. If anything, you might think Duhon’s numerous misses (plus Jeffries’ since he was actually playing this season) would create more offensive rebounds.

    latke, re 26, what do you expect from those guys? All those guys have done that without LeBron (except Varajao, who has never played without LeBron but has done this for a few years). This is a talented team and well coached team. Every time the Knicks came up the court in transition there were 4 Cavs in great position. For all the crap Brown takes, he is an excellent defensive coach. LeBron is amazing, but Leon Powe was just as good in Boston (a lot of people on this site had him pegged as the bargain FA of last offseason). Mo Williams was about as good in Milwaukee. Delonte West has been the same guy in Cleveland he’s been on his career. LeBron is the best player in the NBA and it undoubtedly makes winning easier to play with him, but I wouldn’t overdo the effect he has on his teammates. Despite popular belief, Ferry has brought in some talent and Brown can coach.

  38. Ted Nelson

    “it feels like we haven’t had a legit NBA starter on the team in four years.”

    Yeah, that All-Star on the team is not an NBA starter… they’re a bad team, but that’s ridiculous. Zach Randolph was also an All-Star this season and started for the Knicks within the past 4 years.

    “I don’t think either guy is more than a role player on a championship team.”

    There’s a huge difference between being one of the best players on a championship team and an NBA starter. 2, 3, or 4 of the starters on a championship team are usually role players themselves.

    “I’m more concerned about Walsh’s (and the organization as a whole) ability to identify talent. Sure, we have a lot of room to maneuver now, but these guys have not shown to me they can pick the winners from the losers out of the crowd.”

    Yeah, 20 years of playoff teams in Indiana… a strong draft record… re-building on the fly without missing the playoffs… respected around the league… Plenty of reasons to question Donnie Walsh. You might need to actually look at Donnie Walsh’s resume before questioning him and praising D’Antoni after a few playoff trips with an uber-talented team that fit his coaching style beautifully.

  39. Ted Nelson

    “In 296 career minutes, Walker has two blocks.

    Two blocks.”

    He’s also lucky if he’s 6-5. He’s a wing player. Best case he’s Raja Bell who can get to the basket (and probably shoots worse, unless his shot improves miraculously). Bell averages 0.2 blk/36 on his career. I still don’t expect too much from Walker and think it’s likely he’s in Europe in 2 or 3 years, but he’s better than I expected. Something interesting to watch. He’s done a lot more relative to expectations than the bigger acquisitions: Sergio and T-Mac. Eddie House is THE WORST, by the way. When his shot doesn’t fall he is possibly the worst player in the NBA (well, at least he doesn’t turn it over… and I suppose Jerome James and Eddy Curry are still technically in the NBA). Why in the world does D’Antoni play him at the point, but refused to play Nate there? He shoots the ball just as much as Nate, but isn’t as strong a playmaker. He is literally incapable of running the offense.

  40. Ben R

    Looking at Cleveland they have put a solid group of players around LeBron.

    PG – Mo Williams, Delonte West
    SG – Anthony Parker, Daniel Gibson
    SF – Antawn Jamison, Jamario Moon
    PF – Anderson Varejao, Leon Powe
    C – Shaquille O’Neal, J.J. Hickson

    There is ten solid rotation players without LeBron. Great balance of skills as well. That team still wins 40+ games and is at least a 7-8 seed in the East.

    If LeBron leaves Cleveland it is not the fault of Ferry he has built a good team and quietly they have gotten younger, only three of those eleven are over 30 and only four over 27. Take away the best player on every team in the NBA and I would put Cleveland in the top 5.

    No matter how good we finish out the season our team will not be as promising as Cleveland’s. That is not why he comes here if he does. The reason he comes is we are New York. It’s great we have D’Antoni, and great if Gallo and Chandler finish strong, etc but the only reason he leaves a good team with solid coaching in Cleveland is because he wants to be somewhere else.

  41. kaine

    The cavs are so old. and not so deep when you consider lakers,magic,mavs.

    if lebron catches a cold , they are lottery-bound.

    I still don’t see them winning it all. great regular season team, but PO are a different sport.

  42. BigBlueAL

    Looking at Curry and Evans as they become by far the 2 best rookies this season I just cant help but feel more frustration at the Knicks bad luck. Obviously everyone knows the Knicks wanted Curry but Walsh always said Evans was the best player in the draft and of course dont forget Rubio too. Evans wasnt going to drop to the Knicks but it looked for sure like either Rubio or Curry were but of course they didnt,

    Even in the 2008 draft, it was widely reported that Westbrook was the Knicks top choice but of course OKC drafted him and he too is becoming one helluva player. At least we drafted Gallo who despite his putrid offense lately really has shocked me by how good defensively he has become. Its to the point where I hope the other team tries to go one-on-one at Gallo because I have 100% confidence he will force a miss and if not at least he actually tries to guard his man and stays with him even if he gets beat and tries to actually block the shot which on this team is a rarity to see. Plus he draws charges on the man he is guarding which is tough to do period and he is the only player on this team who does it.

  43. Roadking

    I think there is a reasonable basis to have confidence in Donnie, based primarily on the reasons set forth Ted Nelson at #44. If you look at those teams, I think they were also reasonably balanced in terms of strengths/limitations. As I’ve said a few times, I am troubled by the Coach’s apparent personnel style and basketball philosophy. Not to nitpick, but I would like to hear him fall on his sword, at least a little, and admit that maybe he could make some changes to improve the team. With this crew, during a rebuilding year, you can’t expect miracles. What you can expect is something better than what we’re seeing. As a coach, part of this is on him. As a leader, I’d like to see him take some responsibility directly. Pointing fingers at individual players and exiling them is probably not the best way to squeeze out loyalty and talent. IMO, his personnel style is not likely to induce a player to over-achieve. Perhaps it causes the opposite reaction in some players. My other concern has to do with fitting players into a system. As Ted Nelson notes at 43, it’s much easier to find a coach than to find NBA talent. In some ways, these issues concern me as much as next year’s free agent crop, particularly if we don’t land LBJ.

  44. iserp

    Well, i think that Cavs without Lebron are still a 50 win team (this season). They have quality players; and although they are a bit old, they are still quite effective. And some young players with lots of energy. Obviously the window of that team is much smaller than the lakers (without trades). Lebron is really good, but sometimes people get too carried on saying that his supporting cast wouldn’t reach the playoffs. I mean, they have 4 guys who have been all stars. I’d like to know about any season of a team with 4 all-star guys that hasn’t reached the playoffs (even if they’re really old)

    And I’d say that Lakers without Kobe are about a 55 win team. Although before the Gasol trade, Pau was soft and just a good center on a really bad team; Bynum was injury prone; Odom wasn’t good enough; and Artest was a liability wherever he was.

    I think the fact that someone has won, or hasn’t won a ring changes a lot the perception one has. So if Lebron stays in Cleveland and wins 3 rings, we will talk about how good Varejao is. If Lebron leaves and Cleveland is 50 win team, no one will care about Varejao (the same way no one cared about Odom when he was in Miami)

  45. d-mar

    “Well, i think that Cavs without Lebron are still a 50 win team (this season). ”

    50 wins? I would say they’re a bubble team for the playoffs at best. Before we get carried away praising the Cavs supporting cast, let’s not forget the obvious – they’re all made into much better players with better stats because LeBron is on the court. I understand they’re playing defense at a high level, but without LeBron, who exactly would be their go-to guy? Shaq? Jamison? How many open shots do Mo Williams and Gibson get? They’d probably be about as good as the Bucks I would say, which is not that bad but not 50 wins either.

  46. iserp

    I meant the opposite, we’re getting carried away talking trash about Cavs supporting cast. 3 of them were all-stars without Lebron James, and Shaq is a HOF. And you could say that Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao are good role players at least. They haven’t won the ring with the current MVP, but that doesn’t mean that outside Lebron they are a horrible.

    I want to remind everyone that in 93-94, the Bulls won 55 games. That’s 2 games less than 92-93 with Jordan. The freaking GOAT added only 2 wins, but obviously, Lebron adds about 30….

    MJ and Lebron are difference makers, but they don’t reach 65+ wins if they don’t have a supporting cast that can get around 50. That’s why it is so important for NY to have spaces for 2 max FA; Lebron alone won’t get us farther than the 2nd round of the playoffs.

  47. iserp

    If Lebron bolts, next year can be a tough one for Clev; but because they will start rebuilding, let Z and Shaq go, trade anything of value for draft picks, and see an older Jamison finish his contract.

    When I said a 50 win team; i am supposing something like Lebron is injured till playoffs, and they try to do their best without him. Not Cavs in rebuilding mode (’99 Bulls also sucked)

  48. TheSportsWatcher

    I’m late on this, so perhaps this sounds out of context, but I cannot agree with even the slight notion that Lee has regressed this season, as it was suggested in the article and by the comments made by the author early on in the thread. Lee hasn’t regressed in any way except for his offensive rebounding percentage. But one cannot even suggest that his lack of offensive boards have affected his imprint on the Knicks game, given that his eFG% is the same and he is creating more opportunities for other players via his passing game.
    http://knicksdigest.thesportswatchers.com/2010/03/progression-of-david-lee.html

  49. Doug Chu

    iserp, I think your Bulls analogy is flawed because you’re not accounting for Scottie Pippen. There’s no Pippen analogue, no stellar all-NBA player on the Cavs to step up and be “the guy” in Lebron’s absence.

  50. rrude

    @44…no wonder you get in so many squabbles TN!

    [“it feels like we haven’t had a legit NBA starter on the team in four years.”

    Yeah, that All-Star on the team is not an NBA starter… they’re a bad team, but that’s ridiculous. Zach Randolph was also an All-Star this season and started for the Knicks within the past 4 years.]

    I did say it was hyperbole and used the word ‘feels’. Zach Randolph is clearly a legit NBA starter. ‘Starter’ to me by the way is someone who would start on a competitive team. Plenty of scrubs get to start on bad teams.

    [“I don’t think either guy is more than a role player on a championship team.”

    There’s a huge difference between being one of the best players on a championship team and an NBA starter. 2, 3, or 4 of the starters on a championship team are usually role players themselves.]

    I guess the point is Lee and Nate are not pieces you build around and as far as Lee’s All-Star bid goes, BFD. Plenty of flawed players have played in the AS games. Mo freaking Williams? Sorry, he’s not an All-Star on any other team, and Lee’s not an All-Star on a team where he’s not the best player.

    [“I’m more concerned about Walsh’s (and the organization as a whole) ability to identify talent. Sure, we have a lot of room to maneuver now, but these guys have not shown to me they can pick the winners from the losers out of the crowd.”

    Yeah, 20 years of playoff teams in Indiana… a strong draft record… re-building on the fly without missing the playoffs… respected around the league… Plenty of reasons to question Donnie Walsh. You might need to actually look at Donnie Walsh’s resume before questioning him and praising D’Antoni after a few playoff trips with an uber-talented team that fit his coaching style beautifully.]

    What have you done for me lately? His drafting with the Knicks has been questionable, and his signings–Duhon– have as well. I guess we don’t have to worry about his drafting since we don’t have any picks anyway! But I don’t see any particular reason to think he’s not going to overpay somebody mediocre this summer.

    Where did I praise D’Antoni? I think he’s been terrible, and it’s clear his coaching style is to have players that are good and make good decisions and get out of the way. He’s a disaster for a young/rebuilding team.

  51. Ted Nelson

    iserp,

    Good point in 50.

    “Although before the Gasol trade, Pau was soft and just a good center on a really bad team; Bynum was injury prone; Odom wasn’t good enough; and Artest was a liability wherever he was.”

    You have a god point about perceptions. These were all popular views, but largely stretches. The Lakers already had, I believe, the best record in the NBA that season before Pau arrived (maybe not right when he got there, but shortly before hand I remember them having it). Bynum went down, which might have hurt them had Pau not arrived. They were already a really good team though. It was a great trade, but you’re right that this trade and the ring only brought to light people’s misconceptions.

    Gasol was the best player on a Memphis team that won 50, 45, and 49 games over a 3 year span. They were the 2nd best defense in the NBA in 05-06 and the 5th best defense in 04-05. The media just called him soft because he’s from Europe.

    Bynum is still only 22. He was in his 20 yr old season when Pau arrived.

    Odom has largely been the same player since he left the Clippers. His rebounding and scoring efficiency have fluctuated, but overall he hasn’t been any better since the Pau trade.

    Artest is definitely a liability, but he’s held it together long enough in previous seasons to win DPOY and 60 games. He still hasn’t won a ring, and if the Cavs beat the Lakers in the finals I’m sure he’ll be “the reason why” according to the media.

    “I want to remind everyone that in 93-94, the Bulls won 55 games. That’s 2 games less than 92-93 with Jordan. The freaking GOAT added only 2 wins, but obviously, Lebron adds about 30….

    MJ and Lebron are difference makers, but they don’t reach 65+ wins if they don’t have a supporting cast that can get around 50. That’s why it is so important for NY to have spaces for 2 max FA; Lebron alone won’t get us farther than the 2nd round of the playoffs.”

    Very good points.

    d-mar,

    “they’re all made into much better players with better stats because LeBron is on the court.”

    This is just not true. Shaq’s stats are down this season. Williams had a similar season his last season in Milwaukee. Moon, Parker, Powe, etc., etc.

    “without LeBron, who exactly would be their go-to guy? Shaq? Jamison?”

    Shaq, Jamison, and Mo Williams isn’t a bad trifecta (Jamison is brand new, of course… sort of like moving Z’s talent to another position, though). They have some useful role players offensively in Parker and Gibson (spot-up shooters) and Varajao (low volume but decently efficient). Moon too to a lesser extent. Hickson is producing. They are the #3 offense with LeBron, without him I don’t think they’d be much worse than league average. It also depends if in this mock situation you just take away LeBron or give them a league average wing player in his stead.

  52. Ted Nelson

    rrude,

    I just can’t agree with your assertion that David Lee is not an NBA starter. That is a really ridiculous statement to me. If anything I would say he’s a lot better on a team where he’s not the best player: he moves well off the ball and has always scored efficiently before becoming a featured scorer, plus he’s a beast on the boards.
    We very well might get to see what he can do somewhere else next season…

    “Plenty of flawed players have played in the AS games.”

    How many guys have played in an All-Star game who were not NBA starters? (At least in their prime years even if they got a ridiculous AI type of legacy vote-in.) I didn’t agree with Mo Williams being an All-Star, but he’s a solid starting PG if you’re looking for a bit of a scoring point who is not a great playmaker. Similar to Mike Bibby, I would say: http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&p1=willima01&y1=2010&p2=bibbymi01&y2=2010
    I also didn’t agree with Rose making the All-Star game this season… not that he’s not talented enough, but that his production wasn’t there for the whole season up till that point. However, a friend pointed out to me that there just aren’t many very good PGs in the East. Williams also benefit from that, as did Jameer Nelson.

    “What have you done for me lately? His drafting with the Knicks has been questionable, and his signings–Duhon– have as well. I guess we don’t have to worry about his drafting since we don’t have any picks anyway! But I don’t see any particular reason to think he’s not going to overpay somebody mediocre this summer.”

    Lately he’s been trying to get under the cap for 2010, and he’s done it. The only draft pick I would deem questionable is Hill. And even Hill has plenty of promise (a chance to be a solid NBA bigman, not huge upside). Gallo has at least one bigtime skill, and shows plenty of promise. A solid pick, I would say. Walsh couldn’t know his back would give out after a collision with a 450 lb man his rookie summer league. Douglas looks like a solid very late first round pick. There was definitely one better player on the board and probably a couple others, but that doesn’t make it a bad pick just not a great one. At that point in the draft your odds are like 50/50. Douglas at least looks better than Mardy Collins.

    Who knows what he’ll do this offseason, I think his track record of decades of success in the NBA is very relevant though. He’s the guy who called Tyreke Evans the 2nd best player in the draft behind Griffin. Started talking about Westbrook when everyone else thought he was a late lottery pick (besides Presti, obviously). Traded Dale Davis just before his decline for Jermaine O’Neal just before his ascent. Traded an overrated/overpaid Jalen Rose for young Artest and Brad Miller. Drafted the likes of Reggie Miller, Dale Davis, Antonio Davis (2nd round), Al Harrington (24th)… He’s not perfect and has made mistakes, but on the whole he’s made a lot of good calls and won a lot of games.

    The one thing about his history that does concern me is who he chooses to entrust with power… He hired Isiah as a coach and let him apparently push to draft Fred Jones, and he left Larry “white power” Bird to kill the Pacers by going after every white American guy in the NBA. D’Antoni seems to be more of the same. Every time I hear about D’Antoni thinking someone will fit so well in his system I just role my eyes. I don’t consider Duhon a terrible signing, but given what was known there was no reason to think he’d fit this system. Tyrus Thomas, Eddie House, Sergio, T-Mac…

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