Not So Sweet N Low

I apologize for my last “whatever it was – it wasn’t a column” thing I posted earlier today. In many aspects of life, inaction is better than doing something half-assed. And make no mistake, I would have spent another hour on last night’s “post” to bring it up to half-assed. So in today’s installment I continue with my favorite topic.

When Nazr Mohammed was traded to the Spurs, one reason I thought it was a good move because it meant more playing time for underused Mike Sweetney. In the comments section of that article the following conversation transpired:

Matt (Bulls Blog): “And are you comfortable with Sweetney at Center, or do you think this will only hurt his development. Minutes are good, but if he’s playing them out of position I’m not sure how much that will lengthen his learning process.”

Me: “He’s been playing at center all year. I think I’ve mentioned it before, that it may be the reason he looked better last year than this. Right now at least he’s getting major minutes, so I’m happy. I would have been happier if the Knicks got a 7 footer instead of 2 PFs – even a bad center would have forced the other team to use their PF to defend Sweetney.”

In the time since, Sweetney has inherited the starter’s role. These days he’s playing center almost exclusively, because the Knicks don’t have any other options. His stats pre & post trade:

Trade      Min      eFG      PSA      P/40      R/40
Post 22.5 0.52 1.10 15.4 11.1
Pre 17.9 0.53 1.21 18.1 11.2

Sadly, he’s only seen a minor increase in minutes. However what’s even more depressing is that his per minute scoring is significantly down. Thanks to the blackout by MSG/Time Warner I can’t comment on this from an observational standpoint, therefore I’ll have to use a statistical slant. Oddly his eFG is just about the same, so that’s not the issue. Let’s take a look at a few more numbers, shall we?

Trade     OR/40    FT/FG    FGA/40    PF/40
Post 5.0 .22 12.1 6.5
Pre 4.2 .50 11.6 5.8

The one number that sticks out like a sore thumb is the ratio of free throws made to field goals attempted. Sweetney’s pre-trade FT/FG number of .50 was excellent. The only qualifier with a FT/FG higher than .50 was Corey Maggette who’s at the free throw line so often his sneakers are imprinted in the Staples Center floor. On the other hand, Sweetney’s FT/FG of .22 as the starting center is in Mo-Pete territory.

Another red flag is Sweetney’s rising fouls per minute. However it makes sense that his PF/40 would raise with the more time he spends at center. Consider that last year, the Knicks had Nazr and Deke so that Big Mike could play the 4 more often than center. Earlier this year he could play along side Nazr, but since the trade he’s been the main #5. With that in mind, look at the following data:

4.6 – 2004 with Dikembe/Nazr as the Knicks primary centers.
5.8 – 2005 pre-trade with only Nazr as the other center.
6.5 – 2005 post-trade with Sweetney as the main center.

It’s very likely that he’s getting in foul trouble because he’s forced to guard bigger players.

It’s sad that the Knicks traded away a player using up 28 minutes per game, and only 5 of those trickle down to their best young player. What’s even worse is that he’s not playing well because he’s the center by default everytime he steps on the court. Unfortunately the situation seems to be locked until next year. The Knicks don’t seem willing to put Kurt, Malik, Maurice or Jerome at center, for Sweet-N-Low’s benefit. I’m not exactly sure that Sweetney playing out of position will hamper his long term development, but he’s certainly not in a role that is allowing him growth.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).