Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Real Point Guards

Unfortunately for Knick fans there’s little to say this Monday morning. With the trade deadline passed, talking trades is nearly pointless until the season ends. There probably won’t be any major changes until the offseason, because if Isiah Thomas lasted this long he’ll finish off the season as the Knick head coach. As for on the court action, there isn’t much to watch. While I’d love to see what Balkman, Chandler, and Morris can do with real playing time, Isiah seems intent on letting them rot on the bench. There’s such a lack of creativity from the coaching side that when Randolph was unable to play Thomas chose the rail thin Jeffries to start at power forward. There’s really nothing to say about that move without expletives.

So with no reason to watch the Knicks, I’ve started to turn my attention to the rest of the NBA. I caught parts of two games this weekend: Hornets vs. Jazz and Mavs vs. Lakers. There’s one thing that really stuck out at my about both teams, the defensive play of two point guards.

Watching Jason Kidd and Chris Paul play reminded me on why both are considered to be among the best point guards in the game. It wasn’t so much their offensive game, but watching them on defense was a treat. Kidd’s assignment for some critical plays in the game was Kobe Bryant. And although Kobe blew past him at least once, Kidd was able to harass him off the ball. With a few ticks in regulation and the game tied, the Lakers tried to inbound the ball to Kobe, but Kidd was able to deflect it to force overtime. Additionally the former Net was active on the glass grabbing 6 rebounds, 5 on the defensive end. Although Kidd is no longer able to play great man defense, he contributed with ball denial and rebounding.

As for Chris Paul there was one play that stood out in my head. Paul and his man were isolated on one side of the court. The Hornets guard made sure to stand in a position where he could see his player and the rest of the court. As the Jazz guard held the ball and the play was developing, Paul was constantly turning his head from his man to the rest of the players behind him. Despite standing in the same spot, Paul was playing excellent defense by preparing for what might occur.

These plays were a joy to watch, because the Knick guards in the Isiah era have been particularly lacking on the defense. I couldn’t imagine Crawford, Marbury, or Robinson being as active and aware on defense as Paul or Kidd were. As for rebounding, only Nate Robinson likes to clean the glass. The last time Crawford had 6 or more rebounds was in December of last year. And this despite playing nearly 42 minutes a night. I think watching players like Kidd and Paul are the reason why I find myself wanting to see more playing time for guards like Mardy Collins and Frank Williams. It’s not because I think Collins and Williams are/were particularly valuable (that’s especially true in Collins’ case), but because they bring an element that has been missing in New York for some time.

33 comments on “Real Point Guards

  1. Alec

    I love the Frank Williams reference. Growing up Charlie Ward was always one of my favorite Knicks. He just went out and got the job down. I doubt he ever scored 30 in a game or ever had 15 assists, but he brought so much to the table.

  2. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    Yeah Alec – one of the things that the Isiah era has taught me about the Knicks is that a player’s defensive contributions is certainly one of the most underrated aspects of the NBA. I guess after a decade of defensive dominance (90s Knicks), I took that for granted.

  3. TDM

    I watched the Lakers/Mavs game as well. Its amazing how a true point guard like Kidd can help a dud like Dampier put up all-star numbers (even considering he fouled out after 31 minutes of play). Curry played his best ball last year when Craw was consistently able to find him under the basket. However, they have not been able to establish that type of game this year.

    I know I’ve seen Arroyo’s name thrown around alot as being targeted by the Knicks this summer. Are there any other obtainable guards that could play the point in the manner that suits the Knicks needs? Chris Duhon seems like he’s out in Chicago with the addition of Hughes. Jose Calderon is a restricted free agent I believe. So is Louis Williams in Philadephia, but he seems to be more of a scorer than fascilitator.

  4. David Crockett

    The funky thing about Paul is that he played *ZERO* defense in college. I saw a lot of Wake games during his tenure. He was the most efficient offensive college player I’d seen since Tim Duncan, but he played absolutely no defense. It’s weird to see a player turn it on the minute he gets to the pros.

    So much of playing defense is just want to and tenacity. As much as I love Nate, and to my mind he’s been a bright spot, I’m frustrated that he’s not a better position defender and doesn’t get more steals.

  5. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    David – I could be wrong about Paul – but he looked good for about the half game I saw him. I’ll have to keep that in mind going forward. But at least I know he’s a good rebounding guard.

  6. Thomas B.

    I agree that Collins does bring some elements that the Knicks need, namely defense and rebounding. It is difficult to watch Collins run the offense though. I remember Frank Williams (was he moved in the Crawford deal?) but I do not recall seeing him play very much. We do need a point but outside of the draft, I see no way for us to get one. We have the mid level exception but that has not worked out well for the team.

    I was hoping that someone on KB might write an article on the mid-level exception (MLE). I would like to know if you think the MLE is a good thing. I think the MLE, as currently used, is bad for basketball.

    I think the MLE often forces teams to overpay for a marginal player. Most teams give the max that they can offer under the MLE and the teams end up locking a player into a 5-year contract. However, if you have overpaid to get this player, and the player is only marginal, then you make it very difficult to move the player if things do not work out. For example, take Jerome James (please).

    Prior to signing his Knick contract in 2005, James had career averages of 4.42 ppg, 3.18 rbs, and 2.6 fouls in 13.2 minutes per game. His career 40 mpg average when he signed his Knick contract: 13.3 ppg, 9.5 rbs, and 7.8 fouls. At James’ career foul rate of 1 foul every 5 minutes; James could never play more than 30 minutes a game before fouling out. Not that his five-year career average of 13.2 mpg (or his conditioning) gave any of us reason to think he could stay on the court for 30 minutes.

    In 2002, Seattle signed James to a three year 13.4 million dollar deal. Over the three years of that deal, he averaged 5 ppg, 3.5 rbs, and 3.2 fouls in 15.5 mpg. According to 82games.com, a player with those numbers should be paid less well below 1 million per year (fair salary of 1.1 million over three years). Therefore, James banked 12.3 million dollars more than he was worth. Thanks to the Knicks’ MLE, James has “earned” only .39 million of the 16.4 million he has been paid thus far. Based on James career numbers, his inability to live up the contract should come as no surprise. Even though James was grossly overpaid relative to his production, the redeeming feature for Seattle was that the contract was only 3 years. It is much easier to move, or eat, a 3-year 13.4 million deal than it is to move or eat a 5 year 30 million dollar deal.

    The way I see it, the MLE will get you two kinds of players 1) career marginal players who need tremendous increases in production to live up to the deal (James, Jefferies), and 2) players that fill a niche but are one dimensional (Tim Thomas, Vlad Radmanovic).

    The MLE was put in place to help teams without cap room get players. However, the MLE makes things even more difficult for a capped out team by sticking them with an overpaid marginal player for 5 years. To move that player you need to take back a deal that is less favorable than the one you currently own. This does not help the team get back under the cap.

    I think this can be fixed by having the MLE mirror the rookie contract scale. The MLE max should be 4 years with the fourth year at the team option. If the team likes the player and wants to keep him, the player should have his bird rights after the third year with the team. If the player does not work out, the team can dump him after the third year. I would be very happy if we could send James packing at the end of this season.

  7. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    Thomas – Had Isiah offered James a 2 or 3 year deal at $5M per, he would have jumped at the offer. Even that would have been overpaying him, but it would have been much better than the 6 year deal he was given. The same with Jared Jeffries (Jeffries might have needed 3-4 years, but you get the point).

    My thought on the MLE is that only the bad teams use it stupidly. Look at a team like the Spurs. They have Nearly $40M locked up in their top 3, but after those three, next year they’re only on the books for $4M (Bowen). They haven’t been rushing to sign every Jerome, Jared, and Harry for the max of the MLE.

  8. Greene

    I have been talking recently on this blog about how I think that Isiah will remain as coach and president into next season. I would like to make another prediction. I believe that Isiah (who unbelieveably will be in charge of the draft) will draft (with a top 5 pick) Eric Gordon from Indiana. It would be very Isiah-like to draft a guy from IU just because he is from IU just like he likes to acquire guys from Chicago just because they are from Chicago. It is inane. I have watched IU 5 or so times this year and think that Gordon is somewhat over-rated and that he is ultimately a shoot first PG because he would be undersized to play SG in the NBA. So since Mike K referenced that the only thing we have now is post season trades and the draft. I would like to be the first to point out that this situation has an excellent chance of getting worse. Rose (Memphis), Beasley (KU), Love (UCLA), maybe even Mayo (USC), Augustin (Texas) are just a few picks that I would rather have than Gordon. Inerested in people’s thoughts.

  9. Thomas B.

    Mike K.

    “Only bad teams use the MLE stupidly.”

    That is a good point. I guess you can’t save a management group from itself no matter how many restrictions you try. Whether it be draft pick management (T-wolves), player retention (Clippers), or salary cap management (Knicks), bad management will find away to screw things up.

  10. Ben R

    I would also like to see more Collins. He has been a total wreck this season and his jumpshot is horrible but he is a very good defender and rebounder.

    If he can get his turnovers down he would not be a bad facilitator off the bench. He had very few turnovers in college so it seems like he should be able to get them under control.

    I would give him the rest of the year playing 20 minutes or so to see if he can get some confidence and lower those turnovers. If he can then he is a good project to keep and try and improve his shooting.

    If he cannot get his turnovers down then we just need to cut him loose because his defense and rebounding are rendered useless when he creates offense for the other team with his turnovers.

  11. o_boogie

    Greene,

    with the knicks projected to get the 5th pick in the draft, the best available player would be eric gordon. it doesnt necessarily fit our needs, when our needs are a pg or center, but good teams always take the best available player. if we took kevin love or dj augustin at 5, we would lose immense valueas they are both projected late lottery. someone who needs a sg would be willing to take the 5th pick off our hands and give us a pick in that range. for example, lets say the team with the 12 pick wanted gordon, we could trade the 5th pick/a bad contract/2nd round pick for the 12th pick/cap relief or the 12th pick/a future 1st rd pick.

    personally i would be happy with eric gordon. i watched him play and he is an incredible talent. he reminds me a lil bit of mitch richmond. but im just praying that we move up in the lottery and can acquire derrick rose or michael beasley.

    everyone claims isiah has a knack for drafting and evaluating talent. however i am not sold on him. passing up andrew bynum was a big blunder.

  12. njhoops

    Mike K. – everything you said makes me believe we should do anything and everything to get Derrick Rose in the draft. You gotta have a great PG to go anywhere in this league (Paul, D. Williams, Roy, etc.) and they can truly change the fortunes of a team pretty quickly. If we have to give up players to move up in the draft, so be it. Get Rose, maybe Artest, and we can at least begin to change the mentality of this sorry bunch.

  13. Thomas B.

    Ben R.,

    I agree. That is probably the right plan for Collins. We saw some good things from him at the end of last season. He had three or four near triple double games last year. At the time, I was thinking he might be a poor man’s Jason Kidd (very poor man, like “The Waltons” poor).

    I think his knee injury may have set him back and I dont think he was ready when Isiah decided to dump Step. That whole Steph phase out was so poorly planned. If removing Steph was the plan, then why not an approach that mirrors the Eddy Curry approach. Let Steph start but give Collins the lion’s share of minutes. Once Thomas threw down the guantlet, there was no turning back.

    Thomas is too proud and stubborn to admit he messed it up. So now he uses Steph as the scapegoat of the season. First it was Wilkens, then Brown, then the injuries, then the Steph. Will he ever take responsibility for his contribution to this mess?

  14. Mo

    Paul must’ve been named to the ACC’s All-Defensive team because of his steals then. But yeah, his defense is pretty good. Not great but good. People think he can’t defend because of his size but Assist. Coach Darrell Walker said he’s strong as hell.

  15. Greene

    Just looked at the remaining schedule and it is so soft. Just imagine if these guys were hovering around .500 now they would have had a real shot at 45 wins. Anyway enough of that. Because I like to prognosticate on this blog I am going to say that not only will the Knicks retain Isiah and draft Eric Gordon (in any position 3-7) but that they will win 10 more games this year. Of course this is bad news as well because we should be playing Chandler and Morris and tanking like Riley will eventually do with Miami.

    If this was 2 years ago Isiah would have brought on Artest. Now that he is gun shy (or under mandate to not make moves) he is not going to do it which is funny because he is exactly the type of guy we need. He would see bringing NY back to respectability as a great opportunity to make something great happen for the city(as oppposed to Marbury who only cared about himself). I think Artest would work out well for the MLE on a 3 year deal. Would he take it? Would you want him?

  16. Owen

    I should have added that Paul is a very rare point guard in that he averages more steals than turnovers, which means you are getting his assists for free.

    Why not an MVP thread? Paul gets my vote…

  17. ben bow

    i have a great idea. Draft Eric Gordon in the first round, because personally he is amazing. draft kenny george in the second round. play a team of this

    1.nate(30)/jamal(10)
    2.jamal(20)/gordon(20)
    3.gordon(10)/balkman(30)
    4.lee(30)/KENNY GEORGE(10)
    5.curry(20)/randolf(10)/GEORGE(10)

    i know there’s all the talk about kenny george’s knees, and how slow he is, but worst case u use a second round pick on him. ive seen some highlights, and he pretty much just gets a ton of rebounds and blocks. he can get plenty of offensive rebounds, and he would be perfect on defense with curry. when curry is in, he would make up for his weak defense. gordon nate and jamal would make a great 3 man backcourt, all 3 with great range and jumpshots. we would run offense through curry, kick it to the 3 shooters on double teams. lee comes in for energy, balkman comes in for energy. curry wouldn’t have to play as much and randolf could take his place on offense. george would be a great compliment to him too. balkman would be great at getting rebounds and playing the defense we need. we would have a great scoring offense, and a decent defense.

  18. ben bow

    i have a great idea. Draft Eric Gordon in the first round, because personally he is amazing. draft kenny george in the second round. play a team of this

    1.nate(30)/jamal(10)
    2.jamal(20)/gordon(20)
    3.gordon(10)/balkman(30)
    4.lee(30)/KENNY GEORGE(10)
    5.curry(20)/randolf(10)/GEORGE(10)

    i know there’s all the talk about kenny george’s knees, and how slow he is, but worst case u use a second round pick on him. ive seen some highlights, and he pretty much just gets a ton of rebounds and blocks. he can get plenty of offensive rebounds, and he would be perfect on defense with curry. when curry is in, he would make up for his weak defense. gordon nate and jamal would make a great 3 man backcourt, all 3 with great range and jumpshots. we would run offense through curry, kick it to the 3 shooters on double teams. lee comes in for energy, balkman comes in for energy. curry wouldn’t have to play as much and randolf could take his place on offense. george would be a great compliment to him too. balkman would be great at getting rebounds and playing the defense we need. we would have a great scoring offense, and a decent defense.

  19. Spider Cider

    Ben Bow: You ever watched an NBA game, man? They’re 48 minutes long, you know.

  20. jon abbey

    “And Kevin Garnett gets my vote.”

    Boston kept winning when he was out, Cleveland is AWFUL without LeBron, and probably even more so now without Hughes.

  21. Owen

    “Boston kept winning when he was out, Cleveland is AWFUL without LeBron, and probably even more so now without Hughes.”

    Its going to be a very interesting MVP discusssion when it happens. The Celtics are 2.5 points better than the nearest team on defensive efficiency. That is pretty incredible.

    Lebron is great. But I anticipate making at least two arguments. One is that his numbers fall quite short of Magic Johnson’s. Apropos of nothing, but he just is not in the league of all-time greats yet IMHO that people seem to be ready to put him in. And that’s just an opinion, I will certainly have to think about it more, since his numbers, when adjusted for the faster pace played at in the 80′s might measure up.

    Second point. Anderson Varejao is clearly the most valuable player on the Cavs. They are 17-17 without him, and 17-9 with him. It’s indisputable.

    Lol….

    The Cavs did improve a lot though when he returned though, and his +/- is outstanding this year, though a lot of that might be the overlap of his missing games while Lebron was out….

  22. jon abbey

    we’re not talking about the Hall of Fame, we’re talking about MVP this year. not sure what Magic Johnson has to do with anything…

    and I love Varejao, and actually made a similar argument to that to my Cavs fan friend earlier this year. I think he’s dropped to third most important Cav behind Boobie, though.

    the problem with picking a MVP, same as every year, is that the playoffs are what really matters.

  23. Ted Nelson

    It would be interesting to see a complete list of MLE signings over the years. Detroit is one example of a team that’s used it pretty well: Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess, Nazr didn’t work out but looked like a good move at the time. There might be a sort of increasing returns thing for winning teams, although likely not as strong as with the veteran’s minimum…

  24. VaughnBoogie

    First of all, as a player, Isaiah was never a defensive stopper – that was Joe Dumars’ job. So Isaiah doesn’t know HOW to teach defense from the guard position. Secondly, this season’s starting rotation (when healthy) of Curry, Randolph, Richardson, Crawford, and Marbury is not exactly a solid defensive unit. Curry is averaging, what, less than one block per game? C’mon! At 7’0” tall?

    The best defensive lineup for the Knicks right now (with their current roster) would be David Lee, Balkman, Jeffries, Crawford, and Nate Robinson. Maybe insert Malik Rose for some beef in the middle. I would definitely put Curry and Randolph on the bench and make them earn their minutes by playing defense. Also, Q. Richardson is a straight-up hacker. Any monkey can score a few points in an NBA game. The best players and the best teams also play defense, on every possession, night in and night out.

    So, what is wrong with Isaiah? Well, he only knows how to win one way: with thuggery and intimidation. The current Knicks are way too sweet and soft to intimidate anybody. I don’t think Eddy Curry can even guard Sylvia Fowles, a 6’6″ beast of a post player for the Louisiana State women’s team.

    Finally, why didn’t the Knicks go after Ron Artest, a true New Yorker who would DEFINITELY play great defense? Or Paul Gasol? Or Drew Gooden? Or Joe Smith? Or Wally Scerbiak (another reliable scorer)”? The reason: Isaiah doesn’t really want to win in New York. This is not Detroit or Chicago, so why should Isaiah care, even though it is his job to care?

    Maybe he’s still bitter about Bernard King always busting Kelly Tripucka’s butt.

    I didn’t want to say this, but I can finally admit to myself and the rest of the Knicks universe that ISAIAH THOMAS HAS TO GO!!!!!! (Mark Aguirre too)!!!! Can we please get a real NBA coach on our bench? Hey, isn’t that Jeff Van Gundy guy still available?

    Peace,

    Vaughn Boogie

  25. L.A.

    The MVP discussion is a good one this year.

    The top three have to be Garnett, James and Bryant. On the outside looking in are Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. The later two may get it one day but this is not their time.

    As for Garnett, he got it once, and everyone knows he is in the weak east playing with 2 all-stars – so no.

    LeBron certainly deserves it, but is his defense and passing on par with Kobe? Not yet.

    I have to give it to Bryant. He never got it and he has a body of work over 10 years that is incredible. I see him play a lot and he really is a unique talent. He can go for 50 any night but most nights he tries to keep his teamates involved. He was more selfish earlier in his career but now he seems to gets what it takes to win with players who are not on his level. His window is closing as well which adds to the sympathy vote. If the voters can get past the Denver trial and the Lakers keeps rolling – in my opinion it’s Bryant for MVP.

  26. Johnny Twisto

    “I can finally admit to myself and the rest of the Knicks universe that ISAIAH THOMAS HAS TO GO!!!!!!”

    Congratulations, you’re only four years late. Let us know when Bill Clinton gets reelected.

  27. VaughnBoogie

    Gee, Mr. “Johnny Twisto,” that was almost funny. You should be a TV writer.

    You and many others may think I’m “late” in admitting that Isaiah should leave the Knicks, but actually, I never felt that way before now. You see, unlike you and many other Knick “fans,” I don’t believe the coach always has to be the scapegoat. I’ve never been in favor of the Steinbrenneresque mindset that a coach should be fired if he doesn’t win. As much as I would love to see the Knicks win another championship, I don’t measure the success of the team by that standard alone. After all, Isaiah has done a decent job of bringing young talent to New York through trades, the draft, and free agency. He certainly has a knack for developing young talent. And he takes chances on guys few other coaches and GMs would even sneeze at.

    Not only that, the Knicks, for the most part, have been competitive during the Isaiah era.
    So give me a break for not jumping on the “Fire Isaiah” bandwagon until now (or don’t give me a break, tough guy, I don’t care). I possess certain qualities rarely found in fleeting fans like you: patience, pride, and faith in my team.

  28. chase

    in more insignificant news, add me to the list of people that threw in the towel on Marbury. not that he’s a horrible person but the game changed and he hasn’t adjusted well. i reference Rafer Alston of the Rockets as a guard more inclined (or at least expected) to be a me player whose actually turning out to be more & more of a we player. maybe Isiah’s to blame for being too much of a friend and not a coach when it mattered most for the team. he’s a better coach than he is a gm. Indiana never sucked when he was their coach. he’s better at one high exposure task than he is at two. i think Marbury, Richardson and James are the main trades he would give back if he could … especially Marbury though. it hurts to say that cause i really think he could’ve assisted his teams as much as he’s assisted millions with “his” product. just venting a little … i still hope he finishes blossoming on the court before retiring. end.

Comments are closed.