Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Nominee: Worst NBA Article of 2005

(Thanks to TrueHoop for the link. While Henry & I might disagree on Stephon Marbury’s worth, his site is easily one of the best places on the web to keep up with everything going on in the NBA.)

In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t really written much this summer. It’s not that I needed some rest from a long NBA season. Nor is there something going on with my life that requires I take an extended break from one of my favorite pastimes. It’s just that there’s really nothing to write about. OK so maybe there are a few things going on in the league, but I have no interest in speculating where Shareef Abdur-Rahim lands or what Michael Jordan’s friends do on a golf course. While I’m not a professional writer, I take pride with what goes on my site, and try to put up the best material with the limited time my free time affords.

On the other hand, not being a paid writer may have its advantages. For example, I don’t have a boss (editor, manager, CEO or whatever) suggesting that I write about a certain topic. Nor am I obligated to write when the creative juices aren’t flowing in order to feed my family (which is a tad bit smaller than the Sprewell clan). I can only imagine that one of those two scenarios is what led Charley Rosen to write this piece on the most overrated players in history, instead of it being of his own volition.

Rosen starts his piece of with: “The numbers are misleading, and so is the hype. The truth is that too many ‘good’ players are wrongly celebrated as being all-time greats. To set the record straight, here’s an alphabetical list of the most overrated NBA players ever.” The only thing that would make me cringe more than that first sentence, would be to hear that they’re turning Diff’rent Strokes into a movie. It’s not as much that Rosen brushes away any statistical analysis, but rather that he puts it on the same level as “hype”. Real statistical analysis starts by asking a question and using the information available to answer it. Hype is emotional excitement that occurs after the fact, and is the antithesis of numerical analysis. Even the terms “overrated” and “underrated” lack any kind of validity. Whether someone is overrated or underrated relies heavily on the individual’s opinion. For example, if you thought that Shaq was going to be twice as good as Wilt Chamberlain, then he was overrated. Ironically, the same player can be underrated by some and overrated by others (Steve Nash comes to mind).

Some of the players that made Rosen’s list of most overrated of all time are Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, David Robinson, and Patrick Ewing. Throw in Bird & Laettner, and you have the entire front court of the original Dream Team. Charles Barkley, who starts off the list, is called a “a chronic underachiever” by Rosen. Yes, the same Barkley who, despite being at least an inch shorter than his listed 6’6 and gave up nearly half a foot to his competition, made the All Star Team 11 times at power forward. Meanwhile, according to Charley, Karl Malone will only make the Hall of Fame because of two reasons “John Stockton and longevity.” Going by that logic, had the Jazz taken Terry Catledge with the 13th pick instead, maybe he would have been a two time MVP and the #2 man on the all time points scored list.

Of David Robinson, Rosen says “This guy was a cream puff. He could come from the weak-side to block shots, but he couldn’t guard his own man. He could rebound, but rarely in a crowd. He could score, but only on foul-line jumpers, or only if a defender bought a head fake after he drove his left hand into the middle. He couldn’t pass or handle. He couldn’t stand his ground in the paint.” The “cream puff” was All-Defensive 8 times, and ranks 6th all time in blocked shots. Since Robinson’s rookie year, only 12 other players have had more rebounds per minute. He won the Defensive Player of the Year, led the league in free throws 3 straight years, and won an MVP, all before Tim Duncan arrived.

However it’s Rosen’s inclusion of Ewing that really got my goat. If you thought that coming out of Georgetown that Ewing was going to be the next Kareem, then yeah he was overrated. But look at what Rosen has to say about him: “Had he played out of the spotlight in someplace like Orlando or Salt Lake City, Ewing would be remembered as a jump-shooting center who worked hard. Period.”

My friends, Sam Perkins was a jump-shooting center who worked hard. While it’s true that Ewing could bury the jumper, he was more than just an overachieving outside threat. Ewing frequently scored from the paint, something that his 50.5 eFG% and 1.11 PSA will atest to.

Rosen continues: “In truth, he couldn’t handle, pass, move laterally, and do anything worthwhile when an important game was on the line. Moreover, his dim apprehension of what the game was all about precluded any thoughts of being unselfish. Except for the early days of the Mets and the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York sports fans rarely hitch their devotion to a loser like Ewing.”

While I won’t lie and say that Ewing was a fantastic passer and never turned the ball over, the author is clearly cherry picking abilities here. Notice he used the same attributes of not being able to dribble or pass for both Robinson and Ewing. That’s because most centers aren’t known for their ability to run the point. In fact, Patrick’s per 48 minute points (29.3 to 29.2), turnovers (4.2 to 4.0), free throws made (6.4 to 5.9), offensive rebounds (3.3 to 4.4), eFG%( 50.4 to 51.2), and PSA (1.11 to 1.11) are comparable to another contemporary left off the list, Hakeem Olajuwon. Rosen uses a technique he must have learned at the Daily Oklahoman writing school, lowering himself to insulting Ewing by describing him as selfish, dim, and a loser.

Ewing never won any MVP awards, nor did he ever win a championship. However he was the centerpiece on two of the top 5 defensive teams of all times (according to Dean Oliver). During his prime, Ewing had 10 straight seasons where he missed 5 or less games and over that decade, the second highest minute getters on his teams each year were: Gerald Wilkins, Johnny Newman, (an aging) Kiki Vandeweghe, John Starks, Anthony Mason, and Allan Houston (for one year). If #33 was a loser, it was more because of his colleagues than himself. In fact Ewing might have had that championship ring, if not for one of his teammates missing 16 shots one June night. If Patrick was selfish he might have blasted Starks for the game 7 Finals loss. He might have whined about the Knicks never giving him a decent second option on offense. He might have forced his team to trade him, as so many athletes looking at their own best interests do. Instead he stayed for 15 seasons, only asking to leave after the Garden crowd not so politely asked him first.

No matter how you feel about Ewing, you have to admit that my assessment of the man was a bit more fair. So why did Rosen feel the need to do such a hack job on him, and a dozen NBA greats? Maybe it’s the summer heat, or the pressure of paying that air-conditioner burdened electric bill. Charley’s article comes almost a year after Frank Hughes’ stinker of 2004, which makes me glad that I take a little time off in the summer.

76 comments on “Nominee: Worst NBA Article of 2005

  1. karakash

    Right on point, i don’t know how a guy like Rosen still has a job. I wrote the same thing on my blog, u can check it out…although u won’t understand a thing:)…it’s on macedonian…read ya

  2. dave

    sports commentators commit acts of rhethoric. sometimes they’re quite insightful, like bill simmons or the late ralph wiley. guys like rosen and peter vescey just get off on trying to pick a fight.

    analysts analyze. they basically start with a question and try to answer it.

    always remember the difference between the two.

  3. Kevin Broom

    I sent Rosen an email awhile back when he wrote another article trashing Ewing. The part that puzzles me is his attacks on Ewing’s defense. As KB points out, Ewing was the center for some of the league’s best defenses — and center is kind of an important defensive position. It’s fine to knock him for not passing a lot, I guess, though Ewing may have been doing exactly what his coaches wanted from him.

    My problem with Rosen’s attacks on Ewing is that they’re so extreme. It’s like Ewing slept with Rosen’s daughter or something.

  4. tomverve

    Yep, Rosen makes Mitch Lawrence look like Dave D’Allesandro. Rosen could write an article on the NBA’s all time top 50 and make them sound no better than Layden’s Knicks. In fact, that might make an interesting article. Barkley would be Rosen’s Weatherspoon. Drexler would be Rosen’s Shamdon. Cousy would be Rosen’s Eisley, etc.

    Apparently Rosen evaluates players in terms of two categories: Gods Amongst Men Whose Feet I Wish I Could Perpetually Kiss (Jordan, Phil Jackson) and Utter Human Waste Who Can’t Dribble And Should Be Erased From Existence (everyone else).

  5. Scott Carefoot

    Charley’s hooked up to an I.V. drip of Haterade. His articles aren’t worth the pixels that form their letters. I’d like to lock him in a room with Scoop Jackson, and only the one who comes out alive is allowed to keep writing.

    I try not to dignify b.s. columns like this with any kind of response. In the early years of my blog, I used to get all riled up about how the local media treats the Raptors (case in point) but now I know better. I ignore bad behavior.

  6. Kareem

    Rosen is clearly on some level insane. Look at his list of all time greats that has Dave DeBusschere like #3 or something.

    However, I see what he’s getting at with some of the guys. Really, I think the bigger problem is that he can’t explain himself properly. My friends and I always used to talk about who was the better player: Robinson, Ewing, or Olajuwon before any of them started making noise in the playoffs. To us, it was really clear that Hakeem was the best, Ewing second, and Robinson a distant third. I would say, after watching their entire careers, this ranking remains. When even children, using simple observation, can tell something is wrong and that Big Dave is not a go to player on a championship team, well… It’s the same with Marbury and many other “great” players and I think is what Rosen is getting at. Unfortunatly, he does an awfull job explaining his opinions.

    Basically, Rosen writes some really great articles when he can just tell stories or gets very specific about breaking down technical elements of the game. He can also write some of the worst (although not on the Hughes, Sean Deverny level) where he’s giving insane opinion based rants without any explanation.

  7. Eddie

    Yeah, Rosen is indeed awful and this is incredibly bad even by his standards. Does anyone remember the article he wrote where he said LeBron James (I’m paraphrasing here) “would never be anything more than an average player” in part because of “a shaky behind his back dribble going from left to right”? God. I love it when he says that without Tim Duncan the Admiral “would be lost at sea”. OK, he never won a championship without TD but I’d say Robinson did alright for himself before Duncan came into his life. And what has this guy got against Ewing and Malone? Some of his attacks on them (not just in this column) are way overboard.

  8. Greebo

    Man, watch out when you criticize Charley Rosen. I hear he once coached a CBA team or something. So you know the dude knows hoops backwards and forwards. Plus, he’s friends with Phil Jackson. So there.

    Rosen plays himself everytime he writes a sentence. A totally worthless voice of sports journalism, in my opinion. Dissing Patrick is but the latest example. Like Dre, “when you dis Patrick, you dis yourself, buster.”

  9. Kevin Broom

    I’d need some real convincing to thing that Ewing was superior to David Robinson.

    The Spurs went 28-54, 31-51, and 21-61 in the 3 seasons before Robinson arrived. Winning % over those three seasons was .325. When Robinson got there, they went from 21-61 to 56-26 and went to the 2nd round of the playoffs. Until the season he got hurt and they sucked enough to get Duncan, they went a collective 383-191 — at .667 winning percentage.

    No question there were some playoff disappointments, including 3 first round ousters. But Robinson still looks like a great player to me.

    That’s not to knock Ewing, who I respect a great deal. http://www.realgm.com/src_goaltending/23/20020920/ewing_was_great_no_matter_what_was_expected/

    I’m just curious as to why some would consider Robinson a distant third to Hakeem and Ewing. I’m willing to be convinced otherwise, but I consider Ewing to be a notch below the other two.

  10. McDaddy11

    You can hate Sir.Chrarles for the way he acts outside of court, but on the court he was great, I never liked the guy, but I dont think we will ever see player like that, size, quickness, ballhandlin, shoot, passing ability, heart. Just watch western finals game vs. Sonics I think no.6 its all there, he played the whole game, no rest, had a triple double. These journalists today they can write down whatever they want no damn respect, what did this Rosen guy ever did, please if someone can tall me that I would be very happy. And for Ewing who was one of the greatest fighters in NBA history, wtf with that. I felt in love with the knicks when I first saw that warrior aproach, x-man, Oak, C.Smith, Mase, Starks and Ewing as a center, they ruled, just because Joradan played in the same time they didnt won the championship.And Ewing played the post game just as well as Hakeem did, I know cause I have some games on tapes, and luck had lot to to with 94 finals, maybe it was faith. The eastern conference was very hard in those years, and Jordan got back, so championship never went to N.Y. But he was a great center, how many guys today is in the league who can play like he did? Great fighter, leader, player, period. Maybe he could say some bad thing about P.Jackoson, he is overrated, we will see him this year, with this funny lookin lakers.

  11. Kareem

    Kevin,

    Our feeling that Robinson was a distant third came exclusivly through observation. ALthough I would never say that Robinson was not a great player, there were some factors that led us to think he was worse than Ewing and Olajuwon far before he started shitting the bed in the playoffs.

    The main one was that he had minimal basketball fundamentals, and NO go to move. These are not the end all and be all of basketabll, but when you get into a tight spot or need a bucket, the players who are traditionally the most reliable are guys who have a repeatable move that can produce a shot.

    David didn’t have that at the time, and really never did. He would either pop that square-up 15 footer or awkwardly lower his shoulder and go into the lane. Most of his points, as we saw it, were a product of his superior size and athleticism and came through the flow of the game, either on put backs, fast breaks, etc. Kinda like how Ced Ceballos used to get his hoops.

    This is not a good thing for a go to player in the playoffs or in tight, half-court, situations. Viewing the 3 centers in this light, Olajuwon was supreme, Ewing was passable, and Robinson was the worst.

    Turns out, this ended up holding true when you look at how the guys did in the playoffs. Olajuwon was one of the greatest, Ewing somewhat kept up his performance, and Robinson fell off a cliff.

    If you gave me one guy to put together a great regular season, or destroy the Clippers, it might be Big Dave… but if it’s about taking over when the game changes to half-court, playoff basketball, give me someone who understands the game with a repeatable go to move, ala Duncan, Olajuwon, Bird, Jordan, etc.

    KAJ

  12. Kevin Broom

    Interesting. I’m still not convinced :), but it’s an interesting line of reasoning. The big thing with Ewing — I was always disappointed that the Knicks could never get him that high quality sidekick.

  13. KnickerBlogger Post author

    You were disappointed? I had him & Mattingly to root for during those years. The Knicks couldn’t find another scorer, and the Yankees kept trading away their pitching prospects. I’m still upset that Donnie didn’t stay around one more year to get that ring. He could have been a decent pinch hitter & I wonder if he could have played a few games in LF over Luis Polonia?

  14. James

    Whoever said ignore bad behaviour is absolutely right. That’s what Rosen’s sort of article deserves.

    What really gets my goat is when I have friends who ask my questions like “Why haven’t the Knicks fired Isiah Thomas yet?”. Knock Isiah or love him, it’s hard to argue that the Knicks are WORSE off than in the Layden era. But this is simplifying too – perhaps it’s better to say that Isiah has improved the Knicks at around (or slightly better than) the level to which he should realistically have been expected to improve them.

    Point is, this is lost on the joe average Knicks fan (or general basketball fan). They read their Rosen articles (and watch similar on espn etc) and get the impression that Isiah is a floundering, trade-happy semi-moron.

    I can ignore bad behaviour, but most people don’t KNOW that they’re reading bad behaviour.

  15. Kareem

    “…and get the impression that Isiah is a floundering, trade-happy semi-moron.”

    I honestly wasn’t aware there was another opinion on this subject.

  16. Ted

    Ya it’s not like he’s brought in a bunch of young talent, one of the league’s best PGs, and one of the best coaches in the history of the game and put a team that was starting Howard Eisley in position to make the playoffs for the second time in three years.

    Oh, what? he has?

  17. McDaddy11

    He should hire me as a scout for Europe, and fire whoever is doin that job for them. I.Thomas if you are reading this please call me.

  18. Kareem

    Ya it’s not like he tied his fortunes to a point gaurd that’s been traded 3 times, with a max contract until 09 when he’s 32, while losing draft picks and talented young players in the process (oh, and did I also mention taking on Penny Hardaway’s max contract to do so)… traded Keith Van Horn for the hellaciously overpaid Tim Thomas… gave Kurt Thomas a 4 year 30 million dollar deal and then traded him for another overpaid joker in Q Richardson… took on Malik Rose and Mo Taylor to ensure a logjam of shitty PFs, signed Vin Baker, gave away Nazr Mohammed, and basically put the team into assured mediocrity/sub par play for the forseeable future unless Larry Brown can bail them out.

    HOORAY ISIAH!!! YOU HAVE MORE MONEY AND RESOURCES TO WORK WITH THAN ANY OTHER TEAM AND BY SHELLING OUT THE MOST CASH YOU GOT A MERCENARY COACH WHO WILL ALWAYS GO TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER!!! HOORAY!!!

  19. Ted

    This team has a lot to prove, but at least wait to see if it pans out before bashing Zeke. Would you have rather seen him start from scratch? How long would that have taken? Look at the teams that have gone burn the earth and see how it worked out. It’s safer to take the Jerry West Grizz road and build a solid team with solid players instead of hoping that All-NBA first teamer falls in your lap then mix in the Donnie Walsh ride your old star (Marbury in this case Miller in Walsh’s) while acquiring and grooming new ones rebuild while in the playoffs method.

    In terms of Zeke’s deals:
    Marbury is one of the best PGs in the league and there’s a good chance Isiah had no choice in trading for him. He took on a lot of salary (he also moved Eisley’s bad contract in the process) and gave up some young guys/picks to get it done, but he also turned spare parts into the best player the Knicks have had in 20 years not named Ewing.

    Tim Thomas is garbage, but he comes off the books after this year, Van Horn’s no Larry Bird, and Nazr was acquired in that deal as well.

    Was KT really traded for Q or was it Q and Nate Robinson? And is Q really that bad? Or is it that Kurt Thomas was the low post force the Knicks needed to win games? Because as far as I can tell both are good players but neither is great. Yes Kurt was a good rebounder, but Q is also a good rebounder for his position plus Q can shoot the three and actually has a better post game than Kurt who was most effective as a spot up jump shooter.

    Was Nazr really given away or was he traded for a character guy who is overpayed (worth noting that Nazr was a free agent and would have undoubtedly been overpayed by the Knicks after the season or really given away) but plays decent D and was a top reserve on two championship teams. Oh ya, and there were those two first rounders. If David Lee or the other pick is better than Nazr (a career backup) it’s a good deal. If they’re both as good or better and Rose leads the team in the locker room than it’s a great deal.

    Was it so outrageous to take a low cost chance that a former All-Star, Baker, would gain back some of his talent? And while Taylor’s contract is bad, basketball wise I’ll take him for Baker and Moochie any day.

    You didn’t seem to mention that Isiah took a mid second round pick and got a guy who outperformed half the guys taken in the lotto as a rookie. Or that he acquired two extra firsts this year. Or how bad this team was when he got here. Or that his bosses will hear nothing of youth movements but he somehow snuck a youth movement right under their noses. Or that the Knicks have made the playoffs one of his two years here while still rebuilding.

    If you’re not happy the Knicks got a Hall of Fame coach I don’t know why you’re wasting your time on this site. And I don’t think that a very good PG and a bunch of young players, some of whom look ready to break out or contribute right away, and a few decent vets really assures anything. Could they be mediocre? yes. could they suck? yes. but could they compete for home court? If the Bulls got home court after their start and with 4 rookies, Othella Harrington, and Antonio Davis in their rotation and with Jason Kidd at 32 (the age at which you think Marbury will be too old to do anything) and with Carter an injury/attitude risk and Marc Jackson (whom Rosenbaum has as the second worst defensive center in the league last year. Granted having Dalembert replace him probably wasn’t good for the old +/- but he will be teaming with the second worst PF, Cliff Robinson, at times net year) instead of SAR, why not?

  20. Gabe

    Kurt Thomas’ average Rbs/40 over the last 3 years: 10.6. Q-Rich’s average Rbs/40 over the same period: 7.3.

    Considering that Thomas is a PF and Q is a SG, I’m not that worried. The one stinger from losing Kurt is the nice pick-and-roll that he would run with Marbury.

    As for Rosen, he’s really grasping for something with that article, but I guess controversy=ratings!

  21. Ricky

    As Ted alludes to, a major problem with judging GMs is the tendency to look at things too narrowly. For example if you criticize a trade that brings in a player most of the time it’s not logical to criticize one that sends him away. I don’t agree with every move Isiah has made (don’t get me started on Jerome James for 5 years) but overall I think he’s performed well at his job which is to take what he’s given and build toward a winning team. Looking at the big picture in several aspects confirms this.

    Roster
    In 2003 our roster consisted of Mutombo/Kurt/KVH/Houston/Eisley/Shandon/Othella/Weatherspoon/Sweetney/McDyess’ knee/Doleac/Frank Williams/Maciej/Slavko/Ward. This year will likely be Jerome James/Sweetney/TT/Q/Marb/Crawford/Nate/Malik/Maurice/Houston’s knees/Penny/Ariza/Frye/Sundov/Lee/Butler. Of course we could have 500 separate debates about how each player compares to every other, but as a whole, I think this year’s team is much better. More talent, fewer fatsos. Isiah’s shown he can draft well, trade highly undesirable players (Clarence Weatherspoon with 3 years left!) for better players (although still bad contracts). The average age of this team is 2 years younger than the 2003 team was at the time. Not only is that a significant number but it’s amplified by two things. Three of the players pulling the average up now (TT/Penny/Allan) will likely be gone by year’s end and 2 of them definitely will). The young guys on the 2003 team we can–thanks to hindsight being 20/20–say didn’t amount to anything whereas the young guys on this team have definite potential.

    Salary
    In 2003, the payroll was 90mm with about 225 in future guaranteed contracts. The 2005 payroll is $120mm with about 240 in future guaranteed contracts (Using USA Today’s figures) Although the total $ value of contracts has increased, the average life of them is much shorter because TT/Penny/Houston are close to expiry. Like with players’ upside, we’re rebuilding so an eye toward the future is the key.

    Coach
    Don Chaney — Larry Brown.

    He hasn’t done an outstanding job, but Isiah brought the knicks a better all around roster, a brighter future, closer to financial flexibility and a vast improvement of coaches.

    While the jerk in me does miss chanting “Fire Chaney” along with the crowd, I’m glad not to see Othella Harrington and Clarence Weatherspoon bumping bellies in the paint trying to grab rebounds after Eisley missing another 18 foot jumper.

  22. dave

    boy,

    this is a pretty darn good discussion. i’m always inclined to go back to something former packer GM ron wolf once said in an interview. “if you bat .200 in this profession you’re pretty damned good.”

    i was hoping to pen a column on the question of isiah’s tenure with NY. the point was going to be that expectations of what was/is possible given where the team was when he took over will drive how you evaluate his performance.

    without having looked at all the necessary data (thanks for the summary ricky) i’d say that the knicks are marginally better off than they were when Zeke took over. however, that comes with some pretty substantial caveats. i never liked the decision strategically to build around marbury. in the salary cap era your stars and superstars must play at both ends. you must also take personality into account. people don’t have to love him but they should want to follow rather than strangle him. marbury is a far better offensive player than i’d thought when he came to NY. but he doesn’t defend nor does he inspire, and that’s a problem in your franchise player.

    most of isiah’s other moves i consider more or less lateral. not surprising. under the CBA it’s pretty difficult to get something for nothing. all you can really do is swap similarly talented players for those who fit your scheme best.

  23. Ted

    Ricky: One category I would add is athleticism. Of course athleticism means nothing if you can’t play the game, but it’s pretty hard to compete in such an athletic league when the only player on your team who dunks in games is Weatherspoon, no one even tries to penetrate, and the only guy who can block a shot is 40 (there may still be room for improvement in that department).

    You make a good point about salary. In the future if you let Penny and TT expire (a big if considering Isiah’s strategy so far) you’re right back where you started at 90 mill and as you resign young guys old contracts will continue to come off the books.

    I?m going to hold my judgment on what kind of a job Isiah?s done at least until the season. All these young guys could stink and Marbury could hate Larry Brown (and vice versa) or some of these young guys could break out and suddenly they?re fighting for the Atlantic crown and the 3 seed. Somewhere in between is more likely, but you never know: Last year the 3 and 4 seeds in the East (Boston and Chicago) both had rotations half full of first and second year players.

    Dave: Marginally better? I guess that?s a matter of opinion and we?ll have to wait until the season starts to know. The cap situation is worse and as far as the results on the court time will tell (there has already been one playoff trip). But this team was really bad: Eisley, Ward, Shandon Anderson, and Spoon were half the rotation. Not one of those players has managed to stick in a rotation since. The biggest improvement is that this team now has a future. And not a future of lottery picks and cap space a real tangible future with real live players that are actually on the roster. Time will tell whether those players develop and deliver, but given Isiah?s record in spotting young talent I?m optimistic.

    Building around Marbury was definitely a risk. The good news is that his previous two teams have gotten really good right after he left, so I?ll reserve my tickets for the finals in 2010. But seriously, if other players step up and as more players are acquired suddenly the team is less and less built around him. The best would be if another star of that caliber (or better) is acquired or develops. And it is possible that LB is the catalyst he needs to start winning in his late 20s in a similar manner to one time problem child Jason Kidd.
    If nothing else he definitely needs to pick up the D, as do most returning Knicks. Defense has got to be the biggest knock on Isiah?s tenure so far, but that should start to change under LB.

    It?s a little premature to label Zeke?s moves as ?lateral?. Many of the players he?s acquired are still young which means that if they develop those moves could be steals (and if not they could look really bad). With the CBA you can trade for equal players who fit your team better, but many teams have also had success by trading overvalued or over the hill veterans for a young player or a draft pick. Did Isiah get the right young players? I don’t know.

  24. Kareem

    Yeah, exactly what Dave said. Especially the part about tying your star to Starbury.

    Teddy boy, here’s where you and I most disagree:

    “The biggest improvement is that this team now has a future. And not a future of lottery picks and cap space a real tangible future with real live players that are actually on the roster.”

    For the Knicks, a team in the leagues biggest market, this is the kind of future I would want. If Isiah had simply blown the whole fucking thing up, taken his lumps, and cleared some cap space, the young players right now would be of higher quality, and there’d be cap room to get better veteran players.

    Is the team better now than under Layden? Of course. But what is that really saying? Isiah took a golden opportunity to start anew and turned a dreadfull team with no real hope into a below average one with minimal hope. He has just extended the losing/mediocrity when he could have bit the bullet and had the Knicks sitting pretty by the end of this year.

  25. Kareem

    By the way, sometimes I think these guys get their jobs by promising the quickest results possible: “This team isn’t that far off.”, “I’ve got a plan to turn things around in three years.” etc. and then when they don’t pan out, they resort to… “Well, it was a losing situation to begin with, we’ve made a lot of improvements, we need to show patience, etc.”

  26. Adam

    Guys – loving the review of the Isiah as GM argument. Enough to actually tap out a few words for the first time here! On this one, I lean toward the side of Isiah having done a decent job. Knicks bashing is a favoured hobby of a whole host of media outlets, and Isiah has been a favourite whipping boy for a long time. It’s easy, and it’s fun – but is it fair? Not so sure.

    I think it just comes down to being realistic about what could be achieved in the time he has had. On the Marbury point – nobody was offering Shaquille for the injured Antonio McDyess and spare parts at the time. Tim Duncan wasn’t being shopped. KG wasn’t on the market. Getting Marbury gave the Knicks a local name that would at least provide interest in the club for some long suffering fans.

    Rather than go through arguments like the above for each move he has made – let me just say that each of his moves can be deconstructed or defended pretty much as you guys have done above.

    If I have a complaint with Isiah’s moves, it has been that he has shown a complete disregard for long term financial management. He takes inflated contracts for extended periods, and my concern is that by doing so, we eventually reach a point where the contract can’t be moved. Example – in terms of talent, Taylor for Baker and Norris is a huge upgrade. But – we are locked in at good money for extra years now – how easily can Taylor’s contract be moved? And can we use him? Because if we aren’t using him, and we can’t trade him – it’s no kind of upgrade at all.

    All in all, I think Isiah’s foundation trade for Marbury will prove to be solid, if you don’t think it has been already. Signing Brown was the best move that could be made this year. He has drafted well, shown some genuine creativity in making trades – and also displayed the ability to take some risks. All good things. Along the way, he has made some moves that make you scratch your head. He has given chances to guys who didn’t pan out. And the finances are a shambles. You take the good with the bad.

    Count my vote in the pro isiah column.

    But look – when he pulls the trigger on the trade that brings LeBron James to NYC in 2007 all this argument ends on the spot.

    Haha.

  27. James

    First time writing here, but I had to speak up and out in agreement with the “Starbury” problem. I dearly want to believe in homegrown Steph’s ability both as a leader and an inspiration to his teammates, but he just hasn’t gotten it yet. And whichever poster mentioned the lack of D is spot on in my book.

    If you think back to Ward on our contending nyk teams you knock a lot (no shot, turnovers, couldn’t create) but he played as hard as he could every night and took no plays off. No matter how the rest of team (or his knees) was doing. He was an inspiration, and though he was really not my fave player on the team, I always rooted for him b/c he gave his all, mentally, emotionally and physically.

    By contrast, I can’t even watch Steph some nights. His body language when things got down, his inability to keep a level head at the end of games (he took some jumpers-in Sacramento was one i think- that looked like his name was Jamal wityh shot clock down to 23), and above all his inability to fight THROUGH A SCREEN, just left me weak and tired.

    So how could he be a floor general? A leader? True LB might make a difference, if anyone can, but I think getting him when we could have had a lot more cap flexibility in the summer of 03 was a mistake. I hope he proves me wrong.

    2 quick notes:
    pro Isiah – Do you remember when everyone was begging to get Frank Williams more playing time b/c we were excited about him and he was at least a rookie who we hadn’t seen miss 1,000 jumpers a la Eisley and Mr. Ward? Think Nate is a little bit of an improvement?

    no Isiah- after picking up D-less Steph, we pair him in the backcourt with Jamal Crawfor, who ought to change his name.

    Sorry for the long and somewhat ramblig post. I’ll edit any future ones much more thoroughly.

  28. KnickerBlogger Post author

    I guess I just need not to write for a few days to get a few lurkers to come out of the closet (no pun intended). Any more out there that want to voice their opinion? It’s always good to know what Knick-nation is thinking.

  29. Ted

    James: I agree that heart is important. Just don?t try telling the stats are the only thing that matters crowd. Steph definitely has a terrible attitude. He is very competitive, I think he just doesn’t know what it takes to win. That seems to be a problem with a lot of “one and done”s and “preps to pro”s.

    Kareem: Whether or not it would have been smarter to gut the team is a whole nother discussion. The Dolans didn?t give Isiah the job so he could start anew. So in evaluating the job Thomas has done you have to take into account that the job he was assigned was to keep the seats full and stay competitive while rebuilding in the shortest possible time period.

    My personal opinion is that you can build a really good or a really bad team either way. But the Knicks were in a really bad cap situation to start with. So they wouldn?t have been a player on the free agent market for several years (I haven?t taken the time to figure out when exactly) and then what are you getting? Most free agents are overpaid and unwanted (at least at that price) on their old team. Steve Nash was a great pick up last year, but by the end of his deal he?s ancient and he wouldn?t have had such a big impact if the Suns hadn?t already had Amare, Marion, and Joe Johnson. (Totally irrelevant, but at the same time as signing Nash was huge, clearing enough room to get Q was probably a mistake. In a couple years they?re going to be sorry that they effectively gave up the chance to draft Deng and Nate Robinson for an aging Kurt Thomas.) If the Knicks gutted they would have high draft picks and all it takes is one Tim Duncan to make you a contender for a decade. True, but the median #1 overall pick between ?94 and ?04 was Kenyon Martin or Elton Brand, so you?re about as likely to end up with Kandi as TD at #1 overall.

    None of this really matters because if you’re giving Thomas three years to rebuild (?I?ve got a plan to turn things around in three years.?)then maybe you should hold off because it’s only been a year and a half.

    I know I?m coming across like I think Isiah Thomas is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I don?t (not unless the Knicks start winning anyway). I just constantly hear that he?s a total moron and has no idea what he?s doing. In reality he?s taken some (expensive) risks and I?m willing to have patience and see if they work out. If not throw him to the curb (or the Jazz?s bench) next to Layden.

  30. Kelly Dwyer

    Isiah defines his legacy this year. How he handles the Thomas and Hardaway contracts will pretty much make or break the team avis mon opinion.

    If he wastes those assets on more flavor of the month types (players that he thinks are hip enough for his team, like JC, Dampier, Richardson …), then he cancels out what was a damn good month of June for the Knicks.

  31. KnickerBlogger Post author

    Ted,

    I take a bit of offense to the “stats are everything” jab. Just because I put efficient scoring, defense, rebounding, getting to the foul line, taking care of the ball, forcing turnovers, getting your teammates involved, age, contract, potential, above heart, doesn’t mean I only use stats in my evaluations. If not for the MSG/Time Warner dispute, I would make a hearty wager that I saw more games than you last year. Even still I saw something like 60 + Knick games, and a bunch more nationally televised games, NJ Net games, and a whole bunch of playoff games.

    I know that the combination of the way the NBA keeps stats and the nature of the beast may not allow for a “stats only” analysis. However, I’m proud that I can use statistics to validate my claims, or show me things that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. No need to build a strawman of those that like an extra piece of information in their understanding of the game.

  32. Kevin Broom

    Would a player with more “heart” be more or less likely to post better statistics than a player with less “heart”? If heart is exhibited by things like effort, passion for the game, unselfishness — most of the time, the guy with more heart is going to put up better stats.

  33. Greebo

    I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again… as soon as Layden signed Houston to a 6-year, $100 Million contract, we ALL KNEW the Knicks were headed for six years of mediocrity. And you know what? We were right.

    There was nothing Zeke could have done about that… hell, there’s nothing Jerry West could have done about that. Huge contracts for overrated stars are the kiss of death for NBA teams these days. Osama Bin Layden screwed us over for years with that one.

    The team we had on the floor in 2003 has to be one of the worst excuses for a Knicks squad ever. Antonio McDyess going down just put an exclamation point on it. I mean, have you people forgotten Howard Eisley? Sure, Clarence and Othella and Charlie Ward played hard, so what? They were, for all intents and purposes, fairly useless.

    But then Zeke came in and brought in Stephon. He’s a work in progress, sure, but he’s a NEW YORK work in progress. And as a New Yorker and a Knicks fan, that means something to me. And the other changes Zeke has made have been in getting younger and bigger and more athletic. How is that bad? Okay, Crawford and Marbury might not be the best defenders, but now Zeke brings in Larry Brown, a New Yorker and the best coach in the league to teach them? That’s fantastic GM’ing in my book.

    The only worry is that they’re still the most expensive team in the league, but 1) They can afford to be the most expensive team in the league because they’re from New York, and 2) Most of that expense is tied up in Houston, Hardaway, and Titty Thomas, and those are coming off the books this year and next year. And since they can afford to be over the cap, they can send those expiring contracts to teams that have expensive superstars who are looking for salary cap room to rebuild.

    Look, I wasn’t expecting the Knicks to go far last year and I’m not expecting the Knicks to go very far this year. Until they get rid of Houston (and that’s next year, kids), THEY WILL BE MEDIOCRE. But Zeke has gotten them younger, drafted exceptionally well, and brought in the components to make their future much brighter. I think Zeke’s the tops. All you haters can step.

  34. Tony

    My vote for worst article in 2005 is Mike Kahn’s PG ranking piece. http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/story/3900858

    Either Kahn is not qualified to analyze the NBA or he is simply trying to gain readership by taking an off the wall stance.

    Kahn states Iverson “carried the talent- challenged Philadelphia Sixers into the playoffs…”
    This is hardly an amazing feat. They finished 43-39. The Atlantic Division is terrible and a 43-39 record is mediocrity.

    As great as he is….Iverson launched over 24 shots per game, led the league in turnovers, and shot only 42% from the field. These are not the numbers of a great point guard. These are the type of numbers I would expect from a pg on a .500 ballclub. Oh wait, that’s Philly!

  35. Kevin Broom

    Going by turnovers per game or turnovers per minute, Iverson was the league leader in turnovers. But, what happens when you look at turnovers as a percentage of possessions used? Well, among PGs, Iverson falls to the bottom of the list among the league’s top 10 PGs in turnovers per 48 minutes last season (all players got at least 500 total minutes).

    PLAYER TOV/USG
    Livingston 20.2%
    Lopez 19.0%
    Telfair 18.1%
    Watson 18.0%
    Nash 17.2%
    Mo.Williams 16.9%
    Francis 15.9%
    Tinsley 15.7%
    Wade 14.8%
    Iverson 13.1%

    I’m going to look next at other high usage players and see how Iverson compares to those guys in the turnover department.

  36. Kevin Broom

    Okay — here’s the look at turnovers per possession rates for the league’s top 15 possession users last season:

    PLAYER TOV/USG
    Vince 8.3%
    Ray Allen 8.4%
    McGrady 8.6%
    Duncan 8.6%
    Jermaine 10.5%
    LeBron 10.7%
    Webber 11.3%
    Baron 11.7%
    Shaq 12.0%
    Carmelo 12.8%
    Iverson 13.1%
    Kobe 13.3%
    Gordon 13.3%
    Wade 14.8%
    Francis 15.9%

    This list is from best to worst. Iverson is toward the bottom, but ranks as good or better than other high usage guards.

  37. Kareem

    Without knowing exactly what goes into those numbers I don’t want to say too much, but don’t all of the low percentage shots Iverson takes increase his usage and cut his TOV/USG percentage?

  38. Kevin Broom

    Iverson’s high volume shooting does increase usage. The above wasn’t intended as an “end all” stat, but another way of looking at turnovers. What the first list (the guard comparison) tells me is that Iverson is more likely to get a shot, a trip to the FT line, or an assist than the other guards on that list. Add in whether the shot goes in or not, and we’ve gone all the way back to offensive rating, basically.

    The 2nd list tells me that Iverson is less likely to get a shot, trip to the FT line or assist than other high usage players. Then add in the low percentage shots, and you get a guy with an offensive rating slightly below the league average last season.

  39. Tony

    Kevin,

    You make a valid point. Its true, Iverson plays more minutes and has the ball in his hands more than most point guards in the game. This would certainly contribute to his higher turnover totals.

    His high turnovers, however, do impact Philly’s high turnover per game average of 15.2 TO/gm. Perhaps, if he had the ball in his hands a little less this number would decrease.

    Philadelphia ranks in the top 5 and 6 respectively in Turnovers and Shots Attempted. They are 8th worst in team FG% at 43.7% and 10th in Team Assists.

    In short, Philly’s game parallel’s that of its point guard – certainly many strengths but far too many weaknesses.

  40. Kevin Broom

    Tony: I agree with you to a point. One thing to keep in mind when looking at per game numbers is the effect of Pace. Philly played at the league’s 2nd fastest pace last season behind only Phoenix.

    Looking at turnovers per possession, they were still pretty high — ranking 20th overall with turnovers on about 16.3% of their possessions.

    And, I’m not into a “defend Iverson” mode — he was the lead offensive player on the league’s 25th ranked offense last season. As you point out, that’s a reflection on him.

    One tough issue (that would take someone smarter than myself to answer) is what other options Philly had offensively. Of their regular players, only Korver and Igoudala had offensive ratings higher than Iverson, and both had very low usage rates. Could they have maintained with more possessions? I don’t know.

  41. Ted

    Knickerblogger,

    That was certainly not a jab at you. It was basically a joke, I just remember trying to argue that a player’s personality and character effected how good of a player they are and being told by a whole host of people that I was a moron.

  42. Tony

    Kevin –

    I suppose the major flaws with Philly begin with last year’s coaching staff, the personnel changes, and the overall inconsistent direction of the organization.

    Last year, there were some very solid players sitting on the bench not being used (Brian Skinner, Corliss Williamson, and Kenny Thomas). Plus, they had injuries and the Chris Webber trade to contend with.

    All things considered, you may be on to something suggesting Philly was short on offensive options. Even when they had them, they didn’t play them.

    And taking all this into consideration, your post appears quite valid; Iverson may not have been in the right situation to post lower turnovers and higher shooting percentages. He may have played as effective as possible.

    Still, as spectacular as Iverson may have played, it’s highly questionable whether starting a point guard who leads the league in shot attempts is a recipe for success. Sure, in stretches it can work, but I’m not sure its ever been a successful formula in the NBA.

    Consequently, I can only consider Iverson a brilliant player, not a great point guard.

  43. Kareem

    I will not consider Iverson a brilliant player and submit the idea that the reason Philly always seems to be short of offensive options is due to ‘ol Al.

    Or, in other words, when Iverson hijacks the offense by dominating the ball and taking all the shots (which then become low percentage ones), you are limiting the improvement the team and individuals can make.

    I just can’t see considering a guy that almost gaurentees that your offense will never rise above a certain level anything but a problem.

    As an aside, I actually think Philly is accidentaly on the right track. Dalembert, Korver, and Iguodola (sp) are all good complementary players who will make excellent pieces to a winning team someday. Put these kind of guys around a Tracy McGrady or Ray Allen in a couple of years and you’re on to something.

  44. Tony

    Kareem,

    There is a genious/brilliance in Iverson.
    Unfortunately, genious does not make him a champion or a team player.

    His lack of wisdom will keep his legacy right where it is: as a dominant individual player playing a team sport. And, he’s a career underachiever because of it.

    He has yet figure out how to make his teammates better. If he ever does, his game will be elevated to new heights. If he doesn’t, then Philly needs to acquire an all star calibur player to do it for him. Good luck.

  45. Kevin Broom

    I think there’s some real brilliance in Iverson’s play, yet he’s one of those guys that just puzzles me. His ability to get shots is astounding, but why keep on shooting on those stone cold nights? Why not find another way to contribute, such as creating openings for someone like Korver to get open looks? Or driving inside to draw and dish?

    One of my favorite basketball memories came a few years ago when I went up to Philly (I’m in the DC area) to catch a playoff game between Boston and Philly. Holy shit Iverson is quick. Somehow, his quickness and energy doesn’t fully convey on TV. Re-reading the article I wrote about that trip, I see that it was one of Iverson’s better games.

    http://www.realgm.com/src_goaltending/9/20020501/phillys_priceless_big_man/

    Still, I’ve always wondered about a guy like Iverson. When I played, I always tried to do what the coaches asked me to do. If they wanted me (at 6-2) to defend a 7-foot center, I did it the best I could. I’ve never understood why some guys are determined to “play their game” no matter what the coach wants.

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