## Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Friday, June 22, 2018

# One More Nail In the Anti-Per Minute Argument’s Coffin?

One of the core tenets of basketball statistical analysis is the usage of per minute stats. When compared to per game stats, per minute stats are highly valuable in the evaluation of individuals. This is because per minute stats puts players of varying playing time on the same level. Using per game stats, starters will always dwarf bench players due to the extended time they get to accumulate various stats. Meanwhile per-minute stats allows to compare players independent of minutes, allowing for a more even approach in player evaluation.

Recently a debate has come up on the validity and usefulness of per minute stats. I’ve quoted the main parts below, but even abbreviated it’s a long read. If you have the time, I suggest reading it now so the rest of this article will make more sense. For those on a limited time constraint, a quicker summary is here:

Hollinger & Kubatko: “Hey per minute stats are a great way to evaluate players! In fact we’ve done a few studies and it seems that a player’s per minute stats increase slightly when they get more minutes. At the worst we can conclude that they should stay relatively the same.”

FreeDarko: “Per minute stats won’t stay the same if a player gets more minutes, because there is a division between greater and lesser players. A player that only gets 10-25 minutes per game is playing against lesser caliber players. Hence when that player sees an increase in playing time, he’s playing against steeper competition, so his stats should decrease.”

Tom Ziller: “That’s not true. Here is every 10-25 minute player in the last 10 years that saw an increase in minutes. Most of them (70%) saw an increase in per-minute production. To discount any of this data being from young players getting better as they age, I looked at 8+ year vets, and saw that about the same ratio of players increased (69%).

Brian M.: “Tom, the problem with all this data is a causality vs. correlation issue. It’s possible that these players saw more minutes first then improved. But it’s also possible that these players improved first which allowed their coach to play them more minutes.”

Brian’s case is a good one. To use an analogy, imagine I come across a person who calls himself Merlin Appleseed. He claims that just by touching apples he can magically make them taste better. He opens up a box of apples saying that he never touched any of them. He picks out 10, and imbues them with his magic. He asks me to taste each of them. I find all of them to be delicious. He says “here’s the same box I got my apples from. Now I want you to take 10 at random while blindfolded. You can compare them to my magic apples. I bet mine taste better.” I do just as he asks, and indeed my random set of apples are less tasty than his. So does Merlin Appleseed have magical power?

Maybe. Unfortunately this test wouldn’t be able to confirm or deny his magical power. Since Merlin gets to choose his apples, he might be selecting the best ones! To test Merlin’s abilities I would need something to gauge how good his apples are expected to taste. One way to do this would be to find comparable apples that have the same color, size, blemishes, etc. Then I can compare the taste of his apples to my apples. If Merlin’s has the magical powers he claims, then his apples will taste better than my apples.

Similarly with Tom’s study, Brian is saying that by selecting players who have seen an increase in minutes we might be choosing the best apples. This is because players who improve on a per minute basis could be given more playing time by their coaches. Therefore to show whether or not these players have improved, I need to find how good they’re expected to be. Then I can compare their actual performance to their expected performance. If FreeDarko’s theory is true, that role players should decrease their per minute production with more minutes, then they should perform worse than their expected values.

To separate the control group from the test group, I’ll only use players with an even numbered age for the control, and odd numbered ages for the test group. Since this study is intended for role players, which was defined by Ziller, I limited my control group to player seasons where:
* The player age was an even number.
* The player appeared in 41 games or more.
* The season was 1981 or greater.
* The player averaged 10-25 mpg.

Now I can calculate the expected production of the players in my group, by looking at per minute production (PER) over playing time (mpg).

Just as expected, the graph tends to go from the bottom left (low production = low minutes) to the top right (high production = high minutes). That is players who receive more minutes are more productive. From the 1840 player-seasons in my data, I’m able to calculate the expected PER based on mpg (PER = .2158*mpg + 8.2941). So if a player averaged 10 mpg, you would expect his PER to be 10.45. This equation is represented by the red line on the graph.

Now that our control group is defined, I need to create the test group. Again this group was defined by Ziller as role players who saw an increase in minutes. I selected player seasons where:
* The player’s age was an odd number.
* The player appeared in 41 games or more.
* The season was 1981 or greater.
* The player averaged 10-25 mpg the year before.
* The player increased his mpg by 5+ from the year before.

Since I have the expected values based on mpg, all that is left is to compare their actual production to the control group. In our test group 185 players did better than their expected PER, while 177 did worse. On average each player gained 0.17 PER. This is a tiny gain, not enough to show that players increase production with more minutes. However it clearly shows that they didn’t decline and at least matched the predicted PER.

Another way to see how our prediction did is to calculate the regression (trendline) of this group, and compare it to the expected equation. The red line in the graph below shows the regression of PER/MPG for our control group.

* Control: PER = .2158*mpg + 8.2941
* Test: PER = .2185*mpg + 8.3917

The test group, which has both the higher slope and y-intercept, will slightly outperform the control group. But not by much. The average player who saw 40 mpg, will see a .20 increase in PER, which is negligible. In other words, the test group has neither exceeded nor fallen short of our expectations, but rather has met them.

In the end what does this prove? Specifically this study removes the correlation between the role player group and players that saw extra minutes due to improvement. It debunks the thought that there is some kind of division between per minute stats, where the per minute stats of high minute players are more a representation of actual talent than those who play few minutes per game. But combined with the past works of Hollinger, Kubakto, and Ziller, among others, it makes an overall stronger statement. Players who receive 10 or more minutes per game are likely to keep the same per minute stats no matter what the increase in playing time is. Therefore per minute stats remains far superior to per game stats in terms of comparing and evaluating players.

EXTRAS:

• “It’s a pretty simple concept, but one that has largely escaped most NBA front offices: The idea that what a player does on a per-minute basis is far more important than his per-game stats. The latter tend to be influenced more by playing time than by quality of play, yet remain the most common metric of player performance.” — John Hollinger
• The great thing about this study is that I can perform it again, this time using the “odd” aged players as the control and the “even” aged players as the test group. This time the prediction equation was PER = .2039*mpg + 8.4439. And again our test players slightly outperformed the average. This time 192 did better than their expected PER, while only 161 did worse. On average each player gained 0.23 PER.
• This article doesn’t mean that every player that has good per minute stats should see more playing time. It’s very clear that basketball stats don’t capture a player’s total ability. A player that does well on a per minute basis may have other flaws, such as poor defense, which prevent him from contributing more. This also isn’t an endorsement for any single per minute ranking system, like PER, WOW, etc. There are flaws in each of these in addition to being unable to account for attributes not captured in box scores.

Back in 2005, I wrote an article outlining some of the pioneers in per minute research.

In the 2002 Pro Basketball Prospectus John Hollinger asked and answered the question ?Do players do better with more minutes?? For every Washington player, Hollinger looked at each game and separated the stats on whether or not he played more than 15 minutes. He found that when players played more than 15 minutes, they performed significantly better than when they played less. To check his work, he used a control group of 10 random players, and each one of those improved significantly as well.

The knock on Hollinger?s study is the small sample size, containing less than 25 guys from only one season. Enter Justin Kubatko, the site administrator of the NBA?s best historical stat page www.basketball-reference.com. Earlier this week Justin decided to re-examine the theory using a bigger sample size. Taking players from 1978-2004, he identified 465 that played at least a half season and saw a 50% increase in minutes the year after. Three out of four players saw an increase in their numbers as they gained more minutes, although the average increase was small (+1.5 PER).

Two independent studies have shown that NBA players get better when they get more minutes. A conservative interpretation is that per-minute numbers are universal regardless of playing time. So if a player averages 18 points per 40 minutes, he?ll do about that regardless of how many minutes he plays. A more liberal summary would say that underused players will see an improvement in their per-minute numbers if given more court time. A player that only averages 20 minutes a game is likely to be a little bit better if given 35. So the straight dope is per minute stats are a fantastic way to evaluate NBA players.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that it assumes the homogeneity of court time. It assumes that if a player scored 20 points in 20 minutes, he would also score 40 points in 40 minutes. That there will by systematic differences between these two situations is almost too obvious to point out. It’s the difference between sharing the ball with Jordan Farmar while being guarded by Kenny Thomas, and sharing the ball with Kobe Bryant while being guarded by Ron Artest.

Insofar as the problem here is one of rotation, small-scale adjustments in minutes played shouldn’t create major distortions (it isn’t unrealistic to think that if Tim Duncan played 5 extra minutes per game, his per-minute production, as influenced by the level defense he’d face, would basically be the same). But when PER catapults bench players into the starting five (or vice-versa), be on the look-out for inflation. Call this the Silverbird-Shoals Hypothesis, or the THEOREM OF INTERTEMPORAL HETEROGENEITY (TOIH).

Enter Sactown Royalty’s Tom Ziller, to refute Free Darko’s theory.

Shoals and Silverbird are arguing that because low-minutes high-PER guys typically play against fellow bench players, their PER is higher than it would be if they played starter minutes. They aren’t arguing (as some surmised) that PER is useless, just that it is prone to inflation. The argument, from seemingly everyone on the ‘anti per-minute statistics’ side, is that if you increase a player’s minutes, his efficiency will suffer.

There’s a problem with this oft-repeated claim: It’s not true.

Thanks to the data-collection efforts of Ballhype’s own Jason Gurney, I’m going to try to ensure this claim never gets stated as fact ever again. Using seasons from 1997-98 to the present, we identified all players whom played at least 45 games in two consecutive seasons and whom saw their minutes per game increase by at least five minutes from the first season to the second. The players must have played between 10 and 25 minutes per game in the first season, to ensure we were not dealing with either folks who went from none-to-some playing time or superstar candidates who took over an offense and thus got a minutes boost. This is aimed at roleplayers whose role becomes more prominent — exactly the candidate FD’s Theorem of Intertemporal Heterogeneity implies will suffer from increased minutes.

Since I seem to express myself more clearly via Photoshop, here is the result of our mini-study.

No, increased minutes do not seem to lead to decreased efficiency. In fact, the data indicates increased minutes lead to… increased efficiency. More than 70% of the players in the study (there were 251 in total) saw their PER (which is, by definition, a per-minute summary statistic) increase with the increase in minutes. Players whose minutes per game increased by five saw an average change of +1.38 in their PER. The correlation between increased minutes and change in PER in this data set was +0.20.

One step further: Players who had at least five years of experience including their first-season in this study and got the requisite 5-minute increase (106 such players) saw an average change of +1.26 in their PER. It’s not just young kids who happen to improving and getting more minutes all at the same time — vets who get more minutes typically see their per-minute production rise. A full 67% of these players so positive changes in PER with the increased minutes. (And this answers one of Carter’s concerns with existing studies.) Let’s bump this up to players who had at least eight years of experience going into their minutes increase; we had 52 such cases. The average change in PER: +1.31. Of these players, 69% saw their PER increase with more minutes.

Case closed right? Well not if Brian M. has something to say about it.

Imagine we wanted to test the relationship between duration of exercise and reports of fatigue. We have two experimental conditions, one group jogs for 10 minutes and the other for 30 minutes. We predict that the group that jogs 30 minutes will report more fatigue.

But we must assign people to the two groups randomly in order for the data to have any bearing on the hypothesis. If we systematically assign people who are in better shape to the 30 minute jogging condition, we may find that in fact, if anything, people report less fatigue with longer durations of exercise. But the study is flawed in a fundamental way and so the data don?t tell us much of anything. At most what the results of this poor experiment tell us is that the effect of exercise duration on reported fatigue is not so strong that it overrides the differences in health between the two groups. But that is a really limited conclusion, especially if we don?t even have means to quantify how much the two groups differed in health to begin with.

## 45 comments on “One More Nail In the Anti-Per Minute Argument’s Coffin?”

1. Mike

Per minute stats are a poor measure often. Ofcourse a guy will be able to play harder in his 4th minute than his 40th minute.

Per minute stats dont take in to account fatigue and trying to avoid fouling out of games.

Reserves who only play 5-10 minutes a game against reserve players have a huge edge over guys playing 30-40 minutes against other teams starters.

Isnt there a law of diminishing returns?

If a guy can do 30 pushups in 1 minute does that mean he can do 900 pushups in 30 minutes?

Of course not!

2. Brian M

I think this is a step in the right direction though there are some ways the analysis could be improved.

One issue is that a better control group for the role players who saw an increase in minutes in season would be that same group of players, from the prior season. This would provide a control group better matched for physical characteristics, style of play, etc., all factors which may affect the relationship between mpg and PER.

A more crucial issue is that the hypothesis we’re looking at specifically makes a continuous prediction– the more you increase a player’s minutes, the more his PER should drop. But in this analysis we do not know how much each player’s mpg increased by. So we can only get a rather coarse grained test of the hypothesis rather than a more precise and exacting one. This also means that the intended control for a minutes played/PER confound due to coaches playing better players more is only a control in a coarse sense rather than a fine grained sense.

As a consequence the failure to find an effect here doesn’t strongly imply that the hypothesis under question is false. It’s another piece of evidence (actually, maybe the first piece of good evidence) against the purported negative relationship between minutes played and efficiency, but there is still reasonable room for the skeptic to remain skeptical.

3. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

“Per minute stats are a poor measure often. Ofcourse a guy will be able to play harder in his 4th minute than his 40th minute.”

Mike, can you explain how Justin found that about 70% of players increased their per minute production and how Tom found that 70% of role players who saw 5+ mpg increase saw their production increase?

I can understand that intuitively this isn’t right, and it’s hard to understand that a player wouldn’t tire, but then again I’ve seen intuitive examples of the opposite as well. When I (used to) go to the park, I found that some guys could just play all day without getting tired. In the hot sun. No substitutions. No halftime. Game after game after game. These aren’t guys who spend their work week in a gym practicing basketball. They aren’t able to afford personal trainers in the offseason.

You have to imagine that NBA players have been doing nothing else but playing basketball their whole lives. Aren’t these people world class athletes to even get to this level? Don’t you think that 99% of all NBA players (everyone but Jerome James) can go 35 minutes 2 or 3 nights a week in a cool domed arena with substitutions, tv commercials, a halftime, an offseason of training, daily pracitices, etc.?

When put that way, it doesn’t seem to be all that improbable.

4. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

“A more crucial issue is that the hypothesis we?re looking at specifically makes a continuous prediction? the more you increase a player?s minutes, the more his PER should drop. But in this analysis we do not know how much each player?s mpg increased by.”

dPER = -0.0269*dmpg + 0.4318

dPER = the difference between actual PER and the expected PER.
dmpg = the change in mpg from the last season.

It does point negatively downward, but even then it’s only -0.10PER for an increase in 20mpg. In other words it’s negligible.

5. Owen

I can’t really comment on the math of your study, but it looks solid to me. Not my strength. But I would say again that Berri, in his own research, and using his own metric, found the same thing. Per minute production does not decline with increases in playing time, and there is fact a small positive impact, though Berri is quick to note that this may simply be a case of coaches recognizing player improvement, which is your point Brian.

I also totally agree that given the physical capabilities of NBA players, who are possibly the best all around athletes in the world, fitness isn’t the issue.

I think people often conflate changes in minutes and changes in role. I was re-reading BoP after reading your post, the section on skill curves. What I got from that is that if a player’s role stays the same but his minutes change, it’s very probable that his production will be pretty steady. Put David Lee out there for 40 minutes rather than 30, ask him to do the same thing he always does, and he basically would continue to do his thing, rebound and score efficiently. In general, that actually seems intuitive to me. If nothing else changes, why would a players performance change? How much of a difference does playing against backups really make. To me, as long as the guy has played

However, very often, with an increase in minutes, a player’s role changes, Oliver thinks it’s very possible for his production to decline if he is asked to do things he hasn’t been doing or really isn’t capable of doing. And I suppose I buy this, to an extent. Kobe’s production dropped off a lot when he was asked to be the primary ballhandler. Jamal Crawford defintely played better taking less shots. I don’t know, I can buy that.

And the truth is that it’s relatively uncommon for a players minutes to change and his role to stay exactly the same. It usually takes an injury or a departure for a player to increase his minutes without increasing his performance. And usually this involves a role change.

I also think that watching a guy be bad or mediocre for 35 minutes is agonizing, whereas its very bearable if he plays 10-15 minutes. A player’s production might be exactly the same, but the expectations we have of him changes and how we view him also.

Lol, don’t think I added much to the conversation.

If I were a Sixers fans I would be interested in this conversation with regard to Reggie Evans coming in. He should be a good data point. His per minute production was excellent this year, the WOW stuck a huge rating on him. Will be fascinating to see what he will do this year.

Alright…

6. mastermind

“Per minute stats are a poor measure often. Ofcourse a guy will be able to play harder in his 4th minute than his 40th minute.”

if i had to say ‘of course’ either way intuitively, i’d say ‘of course’ the guy will play harder in his 40th minute than his fourth. when guys first get on the court, there won’t usually be a great sense of urgency, and if someone knows he’s going to be out there all game, he would seemingly preserve some energy early on. 40th minutes are generally played by starters in crunch-time 4th quarter or o.t. situations, which seems like the time one would be trying the hardest.

7. Brian M

Mike– just out of curiosity, what does the dPER / dmpg relationship look like if you only include guys who increased minutes by 10mpg? by 15 mpg?

The way to really crush a hypothesis is to go out of your way and really try hard to find evidence for it and still find nothing. If there is still no negative relationship b/t dPER and dmpg for larger minute differentials, I think the hypothesis here would really be hurting. At least when PER is considered the dependent variable.

8. Mr. Black

Me see problem with this me think. Me no see how this study control for the quality of oppossing players.

Me think that 10-15 MPG player come off bench and he play against other bench player. Me that that most bench player not as good as starter. Sure bench player number go up if play more, but do that mean numbers are against other teams best players or just more minutes against other team bench.

Me think study need control group. Me say study the PER of the other team’s players on floor while 10-15 MPG guy is playing. Then take same guy and compare him production against player with highest PER. What happen to study if PER of 10-15 player drop sharply when facing tougher competition? It show that 10-15 player good agaisnt garbage players but not so good against elite.

Furthermore, me thinks that stats should consider the PER of teammates on floor at same time. You think about this: If one good player on second team with three bad player and one average player, then good player more likely to get most touches and shots. Put same player next to 4 teammates with equal or higher PERs and that player may not still be focal point while on floor. That may mean fewer touches and a decreased ability to maintain or improve PER.

Me say many time before that me no understand numbers on chart but me know that statistical analysis require a control study. Me no see how this study be control. Me now close with universal truth: Malik Rose sucks.

9. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

?what does the dPER / dmpg relationship look like if you only include guys who increased minutes by 10mpg? 15mpg??

PER10 = -0.1627mpg + 2.4294
PER15 = -0.2359mpg + 3.7323

Granted our sample size dwindles here. Our PER10 has like 300 people, and PER15 only about 30-40 data points. At this point there does seems to be a decline, albeit small. For a 20min/g improvement in playing time, there’s a little less than 1 point PER decline.

So maybe both parties are right (although a statement like this requires further review). Maybe the proper summary is that there is a decline in production with a huge amount of minutes changed (about 1PER/20mpg), but it’s certainly not enough to make per minute stats useless.

In other words if Renaldo Balkman saw 35mpg, we should expect a tiny decrease in his stats from playing against better players, but that’ll be offset by his increase due to being only 23 years old. Or better yet, David Lee would have to average 49.8 min/g before he starts to significantly decline due to extra minutes.

Additionally I wonder what this study would be like if I used pts/40. Or something less volatile like reb/40, stl/40, and/or blk/40.

10. Brian Maniscalco

Mike, I think those reslts are still good evidence against the “PER drops with mpg” argument. A drop of 1 point in PER for an increase of nearly half a game of playing time demonstrates that this effect has no practical significance.

Additionally, by comparing actual PER to expected PER given minutes played, we are sort of tacitly assuming that a player at a given level of minutes should post a particular level of PER simply because that is the empirically established “going rate” set by coaches. If you’re good enough to play X mpg you must have merited it by posting a PER of Y.

But, this assumption may fail in the case of role players who see large increases in minutes. It is possible that these players see their minutes increased so much not because they have demonstrated that they merit it with better play, but because of some external factor that forced the coach to play the role player more minutes (e.g. injury, trade, etc.) If this is the case, then the expected PER will overestimate the level of PER the players should be at, making it seem as if they are underperforming relative to best expectations when in fact they aren’t.

Agreed that it would be interesting to look at other per-minute stats separately rather than PER as a whole. One difficulty for this study though is that it would be harder to come up with a reasonable control condition in which we could set expectations for per-minute rates as a function of minutes played.

i need to reread all of this just to make sure i understand it correctly, but Owen made a great point. Often when players see more minutes they simultaneously see a somewhat different role.

12. xduckshoex

I believe I saw a study which concluded that while PER stayed roughly the same with increased minutes, scoring generally went down while rebounds, blocks and steals went up. I’m just operating from memory and about to head to bed, I will search for it if I get the time tomorrow.

13. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

http://ballhype.com/story/the_paul_millsap_doctrine/

Looking at players who saw extra time due to team injuries…

And finally… PER: +2.38 on average, 15 improved, 2 declined.

Let’s take a closer look at what we have here. Shooting percentages, rebounding — these tend to stay equal regardless of minutes. It’s actually remarkable how level the shooting percentages stayed — all but two of the cases stayed within 10 points of the low-minute rates. Rebounds had a bit more variance — Alonzo Mourning got a big boost from the starting role while Mikki Moore’s boarding suffered. Steals and blocks took a hit from more minutes, which makes sense: starters are better ball-handlers on the whole, and steals/blocks are so few already they’ll be more susceptible to wild variation. A common thread among the anti-Millsap population is the argument players like him — so-called ‘energy guys’ — would foul out if they played 30-40 minutes. Well, when minutes increase, foul rate goes down substantially. Scoring rate surprisingly (based on TOIH) jumps, as does PER. The majority of players perform better when they get their minutes in bigger chunks… despite the evidence they should perform worse given the apparent but possibly overstated disparity in opposition skill level. To me, that says per-minute statistics are a good indication of a player’s true talent level and decidedly not nonsense.

14. Caleb

“I believe I saw a study which concluded that while PER stayed roughly the same with increased minutes, scoring generally went down while rebounds, blocks and steals went up. I?m just operating from memory and about to head to bed, I will search for it if I get the time tomorrow.”

That’s counterintuitive – I’d have guessed that increased minutes and a more prominent role would mean more shots and more scoring, if anything. Would love to see what you turn up.

15. Frank O.

The trial may not directly be relevant to this string or any other right now, but the fact that Isiah is tied up in court means he isn’t working on packages to land a guy like Kirilenko, which would be a nice defensive boost on the Knicks front line if they could get him. 2.3 blocks per, 16.9 ppg.
The dude would be worth sending away Curry and Balkman

16. Z

I think Isiah’s testimony has been his videotaped deposition, so as long as he’s not reading the paper or the internet saying how much of an asshole he is, he shouldn’t be so distracted that he can’t call other GMs.

That said, sinced Kirilenko is definitively available and his max contract rules out most teams other than the Knicks, would we want him? His game plummeted last year in a revamped Jazz system, but he played well this summer. He brings a lot of what Randolph and Curry don’t bring, but would eat Lee’s minutes up at SF. Would fans want to bring him in? If given the choice of Kirilenko or Artest for the same marginal package, who would we rather take?

I know this has nothing to do with nails in the anti-per minute argument, but since Frank O. brought it up, I thought it was relevant to respond. Feel free to delete or move this post wherever you feel it belongs.

17. jon abbey

I’ll believe Isiah packaging black players to land a white player when I see it, I’m not holding my breath there. and Randolph is going to be your starting center then? dunno if I like that.

18. Renaldo Balkman's Agent

“I?ll believe Isiah packaging black players to land a white player when I see it, I?m not holding my breath there.”

What makes you think Isiah doesn’t like (expletive) white people?

19. Jersey J

What makes AK so good? People said they would prefer him over Curry or Zach. Thats a joke.

AK isn’t better then most forwards in the game. He had a good couple of years but he not great

20. Matthew

Jersey J: Even someone who believe in per-game stats should be impressed with Kirilenko’s 05-06 statline of 15/8/4 and 1.5 steals, 3.2 blocks on 56% true shooting percentage.

21. JK47

Kirilenko is a nasty defensive player who fills up the boxscore with blocks and steals. At his best he’s far better than the defensively indifferent Randolph and the passive Curry, but I’m sure Isiah has no interest because Kirilenko actually likes to block a shot once in a while. That fact alone will keep you off the Knicks.

22. jon abbey

“What makes AK so good? ”

he’s white, that’s all we care about here. our ideal team would be 12 midget albinos, but we’ll settle for Lee and AK.

23. jon abbey

“honest”=”sarcastic”.

Kirilenko has his issues, and his contract is MASSIVE, but he can singlehandedly disrupt the other team’s offense like no perimeter player in the league. Artest and Bowen focus more on their own men, AK47 manages to get in the passing lanes incessantly with his McHale-like arms. he was huge in Utah’s run to the conference finals this year, especially against GS.

24. Mike N

I’d rather have AK than Artest since he’s not insane and potentially better…but he did not play well last year after moving to SF to make room for Boozer. And we’ve got plenty of power forwards. I’d rather stick with Balkman and see what we’ve got. Unless IT wants to unload Randolph…not that Utah would want him.

25. DS

Would Utah want ANY of our players? Maybe a combo of Balkman, Crawford (who may play under Sloan like he did under Brown) and Nate? I assume Lee would be off the table.

26. Ben R

Why go after Kirilenko, why not try to land Marion. He is a much better overall player and if Pheonix is looking to move him why not offer Randolph for him. Randolph has an almost identical contract to Kirilenko and would also give Pheonix more size which is something they are sorely lacking. I do not really believe that we will get either one but if we are going to speculate why not hope for Marion.

Also I would not trade Balkman for Kirilinko, I think Balkman has the potential to be better and is a much cheaper player. Last year per 40:

Balkman – age 23 – 3 yrs left on rookie contract
12.6 pts 11.1 rbs 1.7 ast 2.1 stl 1.7 blk 53.1 TS%

Kirilenko – age 26 – 4 yrs 63 mil left on contract
11.4 pts 6.4 rbs 3.9 ast 1.4 stl 2.8 blk 55.1 TS%

I do not see how Kirilenko would be that much of a long term upgrade over Balkman who I think has the potential to be an all-nba defensive player, and Balkman is a much much better rebounder. Kirilenko is a slightly below avewrage rebounder for a SF and Balkman was the best rebounding SF in the league last year.

27. retropkid

Back to the topic: And at the risk of repeating an earlier post, I would like to see a deep dive into the players who do not improve with playing time…what attributes can you correlate to that group?

28. Frank O.

Ben R.
I usually agree with your posts, but projecting performance based on Balkman’s stats last season is like buying penny stock. Way, way, to speculative.

Kirilenko’s last season was an anomoly. Boozer’s return put him in a funky position and he didn’t adjust well.

29. Owen

Ak 47 is a good example of a player who suffered when he was forced to change roles, which I think was the case last year. You wonder about Lee next year when you see something like that.

I don’t think you can say Balkman is a better player than AK. But considering what he is under contract for, I would agree that isn’t the best way to spend our money. And I semi seriously agree with Jon’s somewhat facetious remark (?) that Isaiah is unlikely to pick up a player who is not only white but foreign. Also, we need better interior defense, I don’t think ak can d up centers in this league, so I don’t see him helping us there.

I have to say, I am sort of surprised that per minute stats create so much fuss. To me, it seems pretty simple to say that they are the best way to evaluate players, and that in general players adjust fairly easily to increased minutes. There seem to other questions that would be more deserving of this kind of attention. Like, how about a study that uses PER to evaluate player consistency from year to year? This would seem to be much more significant thing to hash out.

On a totally separate note, I really love this Knicks Fan Faves feature. I think I have said it before. First off, they always win. Second, you get an opportunity to see Eddy Curry in the best possible light, they have his forty point Bucks game ringht now. Although there is a wonderful momnet where he goes up to try to block a shot, misses the block, but forces a miss, and the ball actually bounces off the rim and lands on his head, as he is still faced the other direction. Just hilarious stuff.

And Balkman has an awesome block on Patterson.

30. jon abbey

not facetious, I think Isiah is racist when it comes to white players, I argued that here a few times last season (well before any of this court testimony).

31. Mel

i find it funny people think Thomas a racist, there really is no basis for it at all, he has drafted, traded for and signed white players, is said to be interested in jared jordan even though he has a stocked roster 2 past the limit.

32. jon abbey

he drafted Lee at the insistence of others on the staff (I forget the specifics but I’m sure someone else here remembers), if it was solely up to him, I highly doubt he would have. what white players has he traded for (besides throw-ins like Dickau that he plans to dump as soon as possible anyway) or signed?

his racist opinions go back to his quotes about Bird when he was playing (‘if he was black, he’d be just another player’) and have come up again this week in court testimony. I don’t think it’s a huge issue because most of the time he happens to be right, white players are overhyped and overvalued in general, especially American white players. but I do think it’s true and Knicks fans should be aware of it.

33. mase

too bad isiah doesn’t like “white/international” players since that style of play is winning basketball, see Toronto Raptors, Spurs, Suns, etc.

34. Mel

I’ve heard quite abit about IT’s management style lately , i find it very hard to believe he was strong armed into selecting Lee. in fact I thought it was Thomas who kept such close ties with Donovan so he intimately knew what Lee was capable of .

Thomas’ comments about Bird wasn’t racist at all, he was backing a teammates and if anything he was saying the press was overhyping Bird because he was the same race as 95% of them, i remember the press at the time and they were talking about Bird as if he was destined to be the best ever , and it was short lived, within a matter of a few years Magic had ecliped him and if memeory serves me the previous year Bird had made a comment that pretty much said he thought Jordan was better than him (“God in Hightops”) He was among the best in the league in a very good time in the nba who was being hyped as more than that.

also remember I dont think Thomas believed Bird was better than him, so that extra hype probably bristled him a bit, professional jealosy at most, similar to what he felt at the hype Jordan got in his hometown, racism is a pretty big leap seeing as his best friend on those piston teams was Lambeer.

35. jon abbey

“i find it very hard to believe he was strong armed into selecting Lee.”

why? he was certainly strong-armed into trading for Francis, by Brown.

and I hate Larry Bird with the strength of a million suns, but not only did Magic never “eclipse” him, but he was hardly just another good player.

anyway, where there’s smoke, there’s generally fire, and there sure is a lot of smoke around Isiah’s opinions of white people as a race over the years.

36. Mel

with Larry Brown he was trying to appease a coach the knicks just put 50 million into less than 6 months earlier , trying to make a difficult situation work .

Who was he trying to appease with the selection of David Lee?

Herb Williams? Even if Herb was more than the coach in name only it would be extremely hard to believe he would do such a thing.

Jon Abbey you said he drafted Lee at the insistence of staff, Is it really plausible that any1 or grouping on the staff had that much pull when the staff was changed just a few months later and the entire time Thomas was looking to upgrade his coaching anyway ?

it just doesn’t seem logical that Thomas would feel coerced into drafting someone for people he was looking to replace for the most part….which of course later happened to be Larry Brown….whom last time I checked was not the same race as Herb the coach he replaced.

So basically I dont see the racism as you do.

37. jon abbey

I just remember reading the specifics a year or so later (here, I believe) and thinking “that makes a lot more sense, no way Isiah drafts a white guy on his own”. hopefully someone will repost the specifics, then maybe you’ll see what I mean.

and I’m not talking about coaches, I’m not saying Isiah hates all white people, I’m saying he’s exceedingly biased to the point of racism against their playing abilities. has there ever been even a single hint of him drafting or signing a European in his entire tenure here? I don’t remember a single one.

38. Mel

so drafting david lee isn’t enough , now you want to narrow your view to purely Euro’s as if they are the only white ball players who matter.

how about when he signed Bruno Sundov? whom he coached in indy, obviously he didn’t hate his playing ability , he also signed Skita right before last season but he didn’t make the team .

on the domestic front he has signed Paul miller in each of the last 2 seasons for the summer league team and last season gave him a make-good contract in training camp.

but wait because Zeke hires whites in his staff whenever he gives a non-black american a 2nd look it has to be someone else’s doing.

like I said this has no merit at all.

39. jon abbey

maybe you’re Isiah’s cousin or PR guy, but you have to be blind (not color-blind) not to see this. namedropping a couple of totally peripheral scrubs isn’t going to change my mind, sorry.

40. jon abbey

in fact, if the roster wasn’t so currently jammed, I wouldn’t be surprised if he added 1-2 white scrubs to avoid further racism charges, after the testimony in this trial has gone public. but since the roster is already too full, that’s not going to happen.

41. Mel

Also if Thomas is such a racist why do so many white people seem to like him ?

Dolan obviously does, as I mentioned before Bill Lambeer was his best friend on the team when he was a piston , the owner of the Pistons when he played for them was extremely friendly with him , to the point where people referred to thomas as his “son” ,at one point it was general knowledge that Davidson wanted Isiah to take over player personel when his playing days were over , a falling out with Isiah late in Thomas’ career prevented that though and eventually he settled on Dumars.

i mean really do you make it a habit to consort and be friends with racists ? it doesn’t seem normal to me that that this idea is so prevelant in the face of so much obvious proof against it.

He goes out his way to hire them , his prefernce of choice people whom he’s played with and know and that is probably why he hired kelly tribuka as a scout…he’s also hired numerous coaches and others at his stops in ny and toronto that he knew in his days as a piston, I dont think he was only sorting out the black ones…and yet the fandom creates this racism myth.

its been much publicized that he wanted lambeer for the head coaching job before he made his overtures to brown.

I dont think some people truly understand the difference between being a jerk and being a racist.