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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Some Plays Count: Stephon Marbury & David Lee 11/11/07 (Part II)

In the last installment, I looked at a recorded version of the Knicks’ game against Miami on Sunday in order to get a better understanding of the team. Today I’m going to look at David Lee’s play in the first quarter. Due to Zach Randolph’s absence, Lee started but was removed only a few minutes into the game. From a layman’s perspective this might have seemed justified because his man Udonis Haslem scored 10 points on a perfect 5-5 shooting. Isiah Thomas sent Malik Rose, whose strength lies on the defensive end, to the scorer’s table just 7 minutes into the game. Since I was curious what Lee did that earned him a quick hook, I’m only going to look at the plays that are significant to this event.

10:40 [NYK 6-0]
Lee Slam Dunk Shot: Made (2 PTS)
Assist: Marbury (1 AST)

The Heat get distracted as Quentin Richarson fumbles the ball, but recovers it. Lee slips past his defender under the hoop and raises his hands. Marbury hits Lee with a pass, and David dunks the ball for an easy 2 points.

10:12
Davis Layup Shot: Missed Block: Lee (1 BLK)

Miami has the ball and attempts a pick & roll with Davis & Haslem. The pick & roll (especially with Haslem) will be a staple of the Heat offense all night long. Lee switches on the play, follows Davis to the hoop and blocks his shot attempt.

10:05
Crawford Turnover:Lost Ball (1 TO) Steal:Hardaway (1 ST)
9:59 [MIA 2-6]
Haslem Driving Dunk Shot: Made (2 PTS)
Assist: Hardaway (1 AST)

Crawford losses the ball as the Knicks bring it up, and Lee picks up Jason Williams in transition to slow the Miami fast break. Unfortunately nobody picks up Lee’s man Haslem, and Hardaway finds him for an easy score.

9:34
Lee Turnover:Lane Violation (1 TO)

This one speaks for itself. Lee steps into the lane too early on a Curry foul shot attempt, and the Knicks lose a point. This is a foolish mental lapse on Lee’s part.

9:20
Davis 3pt Shot: Missed
9:18
Lee Rebound (Off:0 Def:1)

David Lee is one of three Knicks that has to guard against Jason Williams’ incursion into the lane. Williams kicks the ball out to Ricky Davis who misses an open three. Lee grabs the miss.

8:48 [MIA 5-8]
Williams 3pt Shot: Made (3 PTS)

Another pick & roll by Miami. This time Crawford is on Jason Williams, and the pick is set by Haslem. Crawford is so far behind on the pick, that Williams is at the free throw line while Jamal is still behind the three point line. Lee does a good job picking up Williams and forces him to the baseline, preventing him from getting in the lane. Crawford recovers, and Lee leaves to cover Haslem. However with Crawford on him, Williams creates some space for himself and sinks a three pointer.

8:25
Lee Layup Shot: Missed

On the next series, Lee goes baseline against Haslem, but he misses the reverse layup. The Knick announcers state that it was a “nice move” despite the negative outcome.

8:17
Marbury Foul:Shooting (1 PF)
Williams Free Throw 1 of 2 missed
8:17 [MIA 6-8]
Williams Free Throw 2 of 2 (4 PTS)

Miami runs the pick & roll again, this time Marbury is on Jason Williams. Lee gives Stephon room to go under the pick. Despite being in a position where he should be able to defend the inside, Marbury is unable to prevent Williams from getting to the hoop. Marbury fouls Williams, who converts one of two.

7:45 [MIA 8-8]
Haslem Jump Shot: Made (4 PTS)
Assist: Williams (1 AST)

The Knicks miss a shot, and Miami is in transition. Quentin Richardson is playing center field, making sure no one gets an easy bucket. Marbury takes Richardson’s man, Ricky Davis. Suddenly Davis drives to the hoop towards Richardson with Marbury trailing. With two defenders on him, he kicks it out to Marbury’s man, Jason Williams. Lee rotates over, and Williams hits Lee’s man Haslem for an open jumper.

7:27
Lee Turnover:Bad Pass (2 TO) Steal:Hardaway (2 ST)

Richardson is posting Hardaway, and Lee tries to get Quentin the ball. Penny jumps in front and intercepts the pass. Miami tries to take advantage of the opportunity…

7:21
Davis Layup Shot: Missed
7:20
Lee Rebound (Off:0 Def:2)

…but Davis misses the shot and Lee grabs the miss.

7:01
[MIA 10-10]
Haslem Jump Shot: Made (6 PTS)
Assist: Williams (2 AST)

Jason Williams blows past Marbury on a Shaq pick & roll. Lee helps out on this play, and Haslem is wide open. Williams hits Haslem, who nails the open 12 footer.

6:24
O’Neal Layup Shot: Missed
Haslem Rebound (Off:1 Def:1)
6:21 [MIA 12-12]
Haslem Hook Shot: Made (8 PTS)

Shaq has the ball in the post and Lee double teams to assist Curry. Lee flails his arms as Shaq comes towards him, but O’Neal misses the shot. Looking at the replay, two things occur here. First is that Lee is shocked for a moment that he isn’t called for a foul on the play. It looks like he intended to foul Shaq to force him to convert from the charity stripe. This moment of hesitation may have cost him the rebound. Haslem beat Lee to the ball and puts it back for another score. The second thing is that Eddy Curry could have had the rebound. After Shaq misses the shot, Curry who is less than 6 feet from the hoop runs towards the offensive end, instead of trying to rebound the ball.

5:22
Lee Jump Shot: Missed

David Lee misses an open jumper. Lee had the ball by himself on the baseline, but Shaq was under the hoop conceding the shot, not allowing Lee to get closer.

4:58
Malik Rose seen sitting at the scorer’s table waiting to check in.

4:25
O’Neal Jump Shot: Missed
Lee Rebound (Off:0 Def:3)

Shaq misses, and Lee grabs the rebound.

3:41 [MIA 18-14]
Haslem Jump Shot: Made (10 PTS)
Assist: Williams (3 AST)

Williams and Haslem again run the pick & roll. Williams goes through it to his left, then back to his right. Marbury is unable to stay with Williams, and Lee helps out picking him up at the foul line. Williams passes the ball behind his back to Haslem, and Haslem buries his 5th shot. In this play, Lee was hampered by Marbury who ran into him trying to get Haslem, preventing him from getting to Udonis.

3:22
Lee Layup Shot: Missed
3:21 [NYK 16-18]
Curry Putback Layup Shot: Made (8 PTS)

Marbury & Curry run their own pick & roll. Marbury passes to Curry, who is quickly double teamed. Curry then hits Lee who is picked up by Shaq. Lee can’t make the layup, but Curry is there to clean up the mess.

3:11
Lee Substitution replaced by Rose

Looking back at Haslem’s perfect 5-5 stretch against Lee, 2 were in transition, 2 were on pick & roll plays, and one was due to an offensive rebound. However it’s hard to single out Lee as the culprit for these plays. For the transition baskets, Lee made sure he was back on defense, but had to cover someone else’s man. Similarly with the pick & roll, Lee had to defend the guard on the Haslem buckets.

While Lee didn’t have a good offensive start, his defense was at least adequate. Looking at these plays it’s clear that the Knicks’ defensive problems stem from more than just one player. It’s easy to point to the guards as the root of the cause, but New York’s defensive woes may go further than that. Take the pick & roll. I don’t recall the last time the Knicks “hedged” (where the forward steps out to slow down the guard) under Isiah Thomas. It’s funny because the hedge was a staple of the past Knick teams. In fact I can’t even think about Kurt Thomas without thinking how good he was at slowing down guards on the pick & roll. In fact they seem to do one of two things. Either the guard goes under, or the guard goes over and tries to catch up with his man. Unfortunately neither tactic seems particularly effective. The Knicks inability to come up with any way to slow down the pick & roll might be the fault of their players. But it might also be the fault of the coaching staff, who has been unable to put together an adequate defense.

62 comments on “Some Plays Count: Stephon Marbury & David Lee 11/11/07 (Part II)

  1. Nick

    I think if David Lee starts at power forward, and his man scores 40 points on 20/20 shooting, you guys would still make excuses for him!!

    “Yes, while his man shot 100% from the field, Lee has 3 deflections, a blocked shot, and drew 2 offensive fouls, which if you do the math, per 48 minutes, Lee’s playing like a hall of famer. Can’t understand why Isiah’s not starting him.”

  2. Timmayyy

    Yeah, I have to agree with Nick (though I’ve been a stalwart Lee fan thus far):

    He hasn’t been doing much lately.

  3. Islamatron

    Could it just be that D.Lee is still out of shape from the injury and 7 stright minute is what It thought was the max Lee could give effectively?

  4. Dan Panorama

    I think Lee might be playing as if he wants to be traded. Think Vince in Toronto. And really, who could blame him this week at least?

  5. Nick

    “I think Lee might be playing as if he wants to be traded. Think Vince in Toronto. And really, who could blame him this week at least?”

    I don’t know about that.

    When Vince Carter did that he was already a highly paid, established superstar. David Lee is a role player, so I don’t know how much sense it would make for him to do that, when all he’s doing is lowering his trade value, especially considering he’s still on his rookie contract.

  6. Santana

    Lee is a good player, but can you honestly see him holding his own against top level talent for 40+? Not the elite, but the very good like Boozer, Rasheed, Odom,…man, Aldridge would likely go 20 and 15 if Lee guarded him all night.

    The only reason he gets the numbers he does is because he’s paired use the useless piece of lard Curry. DLee is never going to be better than Zbo, simply bc the kid can’t develop a 10ft jumper. Until that happens, Lee should stay on the bench and and provide energy. For all the talk we heard about Lee being a “gym rat”, where the f**k is the bulk? the leanness?

    What I’m trying to say is:
    -If we had a real center (defensive minded and fit), Lee’s numbers will look half as pretty
    -And even if we did, Zbo can hit a jumper, Lee can’t
    -Too weak for PFs, too slow for SFs…good for getting rebounds Curry is too lazy to fight for
    -Should be packaged with Steph or Curry for 1st round picks and matching contracts. Fire Isiah and his staff. Bring Ewing to develop newly drafted big men and hire Abdul-Jabber, a calm level headed person with morals, to coach and help with the transition. btw, im assuming some kind of eminent domain by Stern. I’ll keep hoping.

  7. Nick

    “not this season.”

    Try watching some games Jon. Z-Bo may not have Lee’s FG%, but that’s because he scores from everywhere on the court not just on putbacks and layups.

  8. Ben R

    Zach Randolph is worse than both Lee and Curry this year. In fact it is not even close.

    Curry has been our best big man this year, his turnovers are way down and he has a TS% of over 60%. Add to that the fact that Curry has shot well from the free throw line in the last three games and rebounded very well in the last two.

    Lee even with a couple of bad games is still shooting a higher TS% than Randolph, has a much higher assist rate a much lower turnover rate and while his rebound rate is not quite as good it is still very high.

    Everytime Randolph touches the ball I groan, he is a black hole who has fallen in love with the 20 foot jumper. He shoots the most shots yet has a lower TS% than every player on the Knicks except, Richardson, Collins, Rose and Jeffries. He is scoring the exact same amount of points per 40 as Curry while having to take 6 more shots to do it.

    If we trade one of our big men I prey it is Randolph and not Lee or Curry.

  9. Nick

    I have a feeling none of you guys bother to actually WATCH games and are all just a bunch of accountants obsessed with numbers.

    To say that David Lee is having a better year than Zach Randolph is absurd.

  10. jon abbey

    can someone look up Randolph’s percentage on outside jumpers this year for my deluded friend Nick? I have watched the games, and I can tell you, it ain’t good.

  11. Owen

    Nick – I am a bit obsessed with numbers, it’s true.

    But I think Ben has a good point.

    The Knicks last year, with all their injuries, with Channing Frye, etc, had a ts% of 53.94. Zach Randolph has a ts% of 45% so far this year.

    Do you really think Randolph is helping the Knicks by scoring at an efficiency level 9% lower than what the Knicks managed as a team without him last year?

    He is a good rebounder though…

  12. Ben R

    Have you watched the games, going purely by what I have seen, Lee has struggled but Randolph has been horrible. He keeps jacking up fadeaway 20 foot jumpers. That is a terrible shot, even if it goes in, which in Randolphs case is about a third of the time. I am not saying Randoph isn’t talented of course he is but he has fallen in love with his jumper which is something you do not want your big man to do. He also dominates the ball.

    It seems clear to me watching the games that Curry has been the best Knick so far this season. He is the only player that has been able to stay effiecient in every Knick game thus far.

    As for defense Randolph has been laughable. Againse Orlando he would cheat off Turkaglu, Lewis and Garrity every time and they were constantly wide open from the three, when he was guarding them. He loses his man alot which forces other to rotate to help.

  13. Owen

    Jon – The 82games numbers are a bit wonky. they say Randolph has shot 44.2 for the year, when in fact he has shot 41.1. But fwiw, the stats say 58% of his shots are jumpers, and he has shot 33% on those…

  14. Frank

    ZBO has not had good shooting numbers this year but I am far more willing to give him a pass than David Lee because of 2 reasons:

    1) we have a lot more history to look back on with ZBo and we know that overall he’ll end up shooting a TS% of low-mid 50s. I can feel comfortable thinking his poor shooting so far is due to a new environment and small sample size. We have very little to base David Lee’s stats on other than 1.5 seasons.

    2) David Lee NEEDS to shoot TS 60% in order to be even acceptable on the offensive end. The guy shoots the vast majority of his shots from within 2 feet. If he can’t shoot a TS% of 60 shooting from 2 feet (and being an excellent free throw shooter) then something is VERY wrong.

  15. Nick

    “David Lee NEEDS to shoot TS 60% in order to be even acceptable on the offensive end. The guy shoots the vast majority of his shots from within 2 feet. If he can?t shoot a TS% of 60 shooting from 2 feet (and being an excellent free throw shooter) then something is VERY wrong.”

    Thank you Frank.

    All this talk of Zach Randolph becoming obsessed with jumpers is crazy. He’s taking more jumpers because he HAS TO. it’s a spacing thing with him and Curry. You can blame Isiah for that, not Zach.

    David Lee is not and will never be a better basketball player than Zach Randolph. Randolph is a proven 20 and 10 guy, who can score against any big man in the NBA.

    David Lee is a hustle guy. He’s a good rebounder, and shoots a high % because all he does is score on putbacks and dunks.

    He’s a better free throw shooter than Randolph, but doesn’t get to the line nearly as much.

    Numbers don’t always tell the whole story Owen. If that was the case then I guess that Eddy Curry was our best 3 pt shooter last year because he shot 100%.

  16. caleb

    “Z-Bo may not have Lee?s FG%, but that?s because he scores from everywhere on the court not just on putbacks and layups.”

    “DLee is never going to be better than Zbo, simply bc the kid can?t develop a 10ft jumper.”

    ?David Lee NEEDS to shoot TS 60% in order to be even acceptable on the offensive end. The guy shoots the vast majority of his shots from within 2 feet. If he can?t shoot a TS% of 60 shooting from 2 feet (and being an excellent free throw shooter) then something is VERY wrong.?

    WTF… He needs to defend his honor by shooting from further away? It’s unfair to the other team to shoot from so close to the basket? To be as good as Randolph, he needs to take harder shots even if most of them don’t go in?

    Even though we all agree he looks a bit awkward, and slightly off this year, DL is still shooting over 50 percent and is 17th in the league in rebounding (rate). That’s a bad stretch for him, but not most players.

    And who started this notion that he’s a defensive liability? The Knicks are 4 points better (per 48) when he’s on the court; last year 82games had him in the 74th percentile defensively; to the subjective eye he looks solid unless he’s chasing smaller players on the perimeter. He’s not KG on the defensive end, but he’s not Zach Randolph, either.

    p.s.
    “this talk of Zach Randolph becoming obsessed with jumpers is crazy. He?s taking more jumpers because he HAS TO. it?s a spacing thing with him and Curry. You can blame Isiah for that, not Zach.”

    That’s probably true. But Zach has only had an above-average TS% for a power forward, two out of all his seasons in the league. So he’s never been anything special there – at this point I should probably concede my bet to Owen that he would crack 54% this year.

  17. caleb

    p.s. my bad, he’s only shooting 45%, with TS 51.7%, but he’s been over 60 the last two years so I don’t think it’s likely to stay there.

  18. Nick

    “WTF? He needs to defend his honor by shooting from further away? It?s unfair to the other team to shoot from so close to the basket? To be as good as Randolph, he needs to take harder shots even if most of them don?t go in?”

    No he needs to shoot from further away to become a more complete basketball player. Why do you think he’s spent the last 2 summers working on his shot?

    Why do you think Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Rasheed Wallace, and Dirk Nowitzki bothered to learn to shoot “harder” shots? To make it fair for the rest of the league?

    When Lee learns to make these “hard” shots, maybe defenders would start paying attention to him on the perimeter, and it would set up a slashing game for him, or maybe give Curry or Randolph more room to operate in the box if he can draw his man outside the paint.

  19. Nick

    P.S. Let’s add Elton Brand, David West, La Marcus Aldridge, Josh Smith, Amare Stoudemire, Drew Gooden, Yao Ming, Antawn Jamison, and Jermaine O’Neal to the list of big men, who in the interest of fairness to those guarding them, take these hard shots that Lee, even though he took 500 of em a day this summer, still can’t make.

  20. caleb

    The point is: DL scores at right around the rate of an average power forward, while using fewer posessions. (he also doesn’t turn it over) This makes him an above-average offensive player. (even with a couple of terrible games this year).

    Who knows – maybe he COULD make 1/3 of his jumpers — but unlike Randolph he is smart enough not to take those low-percentage shots (usually). It doesn’t make sense to praise Randolph for taking jumpers, even if he gets closer to his career average instead of the numbers he’s put up the first six games.

  21. Nick

    P.P.S. Marcus Camby and Antonio Mc Dyess are “hard” shot makers as well. Did you see how much more effective Mikki Moore was last year, after going against his instincts, and learning to make “hard” shots?

  22. caleb

    “P.S. Let?s add Elton Brand, David West, La Marcus Aldridge, Josh Smith, Amare Stoudemire, Drew Gooden, Yao Ming, Antawn Jamison, and Jermaine O?Neal to the list of big men, who in the interest of fairness to those guarding them, take these hard shots that Lee, even though he took 500 of em a day this summer, still can?t make.”

    The point isn’t that he wouldn’t be BETTER with a steady jumper, it’s that even without a jumper he finds ways to score (and pass), which make him a solid offensive player.

    The guys you listed are mostly excellent offensive players, although it’s easy to see that someone like Josh Smith would be better if they never took another long jumper again. Same with O’Neal – he’s terrific because he blocks 3 1/2 shots a game and runs the court like a small forward; he’s an impact player in spite of his offense, not because of it.

    If we were picking rosters from scratch, from that list I’d take DL over Gooden, West or Jamison… Smith & Aldridge get the nod for potential but they’re not great players, yet.

  23. Nick

    In all seriousness Caleb, why do you think all the players I listed shoot from the perimeter? Do you think they like shooting lower percentage shots? Don’t you think they know that if they just scored on putbacks they’d shoot a higher percentage?

    Or maybe they think that it’s because if they’re an inside/outside threat they’d be tougher to guard.

    FYI, again don’t let the numbers mislead you. D Lee doesn’t turn the ball over because it’s rarely in his hands. It’s hard to turn the ball over on a putback or dunk.

  24. caleb

    “Did you see how much more effective Mikki Moore was last year, after going against his instincts, and learning to make ?hard? shots?”

    Mikki Moore was a well below-average NBAplayer last year, right in line with the rest of his career. His per-minute stats didn’t budge; he just played more.

    David Lee is easily more productive than Antonio McDyess, and Marcus Camby – like O’Neal – is a great player because he’s a big-time rebounder and one of the best-shot blockers in the league – that he has a mediocre jumpshot is irrelevant.

  25. Alec

    Like everyone in this forum, I like Lee. He is a good glue guy that will develop into a starter, but never a star. If the right trade comes along, I don’t know why we wouldn’t give him away. To me, only All-NBA team players she be untradeable. At the same time, the Knicks should not give him way for peanuts.

  26. caleb

    “D Lee doesn?t turn the ball over because it?s rarely in his hands.”

    Total turnovers aside, his TO *rate* of 7.2 (percent of posessions) this year ranks 11th of 90 NBA power forwards. Last year the rate was 12.0, about average, though better than Randolph.

    “maybe they think that it?s because if they?re an inside/outside threat they?d be tougher to guard.”

    They might THINK this…

    Look, I’m not a strict Berri disciple who believes a team can be successful with no shot “creators”… but think of it this way: League-wide, average production is around 1.1 points per shot. If you’re shooting 15-20 foot jumpers, that means you need to make 55 percent to break even. Shoot a lot of those… and make 33 percent, like Randolph… is a losing strategy.

    Somehow, without taking or making jumpers, David Lee has found enough shots this year to score 13.1 points/40 minutes — just slightly below average for a power forward, and with a usage rate of just 14.4 – touching the ball barely half as often as Randolph. All those posessions David Lee is NOT using, can be used by the guards, or Curry, or whoever.

  27. Owen

    Nick – Not sure if you have Basketball on Paper, but the author, Dean Oliver makes a similar argument to the one you are making, see “the difficulty theory.”

    My perspective is always this. You can’t begin to be considered a great offensive player unless you score above the league average true shooting percentage. The league average ts% was 54.14 last year. Randolph posted a ts% of 53.7%, which was the second highest mark of his career.

    I am all for spacing, but Curry was a very effective scorer last year from the field without Randolph. He shot 60%. If you want to give Randolph and his 33% midrange shooting credit for the extra 2.8% Curry has tacked on so far this season, that is fine with me. But it seems to me like a lot of chewing for very little meat.

    At the end of the day, ask yourself, do you want your power forward shooting jump shots at a rate lower that what your guards offer, or do you want him near the hoop canning shots at a very efficient rate, like, say, David Lee? IMHO, Lee’s offensive game is much closer to the ideal than Randolph’s, at least for a power forward. It would be great if he scored at an above average rate, but I hope he does by taking shots in the post.

    The simple fact is that it’s very difficult to shoot a mid range jump shot efficiently. It’s much easier to be efficient from outside the 3 pt line than just inside it, where Randolph is spending all his time. While being able to hit a mid range jumper seems to be a sine qua non for being considered a “complete player,” in the case of Randolph I would say his propensity to take these glamorous shots is actually the major flaw in his game, a flaw which seems to have been exacerbated this year by playing next to Curry.

  28. Nick

    “David Lee is easily more productive than Antonio McDyess”

    You’re right. David Lee is currently better than Mc Dyess is after 2 major knee surgeries, but in his prime, no way.

    You didn’t answer my question Caleb? Why do you think all these bigs are wasting their time shooting jumpers? Why do you think D Lee himself wasted the past 2 summers working on his shooting?

    “Marcus Camby – like O?Neal – is a great player because he?s a big-time rebounder and one of the best-shot blockers in the league – that he has a mediocre jumpshot is irrelevant.”

    See that’s just crazy talk. Camby’s perimeter game opens up the paint for guys like Iverson and Melo to slash to the basket.

    Dude, I think you need to watch more basketball and rely less on stats for your arguments.

    FYI David West is a better all around basketball player than David Lee. He’s averaging something like 18 pts, 8 rebs, 1 stl, and 1 blk per game. Plus he’s an inside-outside threat. West also hd back to back games with 5 assits.

  29. caleb

    “See that?s just crazy talk. Camby?s perimeter game opens up the paint for guys like Iverson and Melo to slash to the basket.”

    Have you compared Iverson’s stats with and without Camby? Or is it just obvious to the naked eye how much better the big MC has made him?

  30. Nick

    “Have you compared Iverson?s stats with and without Camby? Or is it just obvious to the naked eye how much better the big MC has made him?”

    I don’t need to look up the stats. I have NBA League Pass and I DVR alot of games. If you have it, check out some New Orleans games. This kid David West is a stud, as is Tyson Chandler.

    Re: Zach Randolph’s perimeter game. Don’t you think since Randolph is at least a threat to shoot from say 17 feet, a guy like Camby, Garnett, or Stoudemire would have to come out and guard him? Wouldn’t this take the big men I just named out of the paint, thus making it easier for a guy like Curry to score in the paint, or a guy like Steph, Jamal, or Nate to take it to the hole without fear of having their shot blocked by a PF/C??

    “touching the ball barely half as often as Randolph.”

    Again, compare what Lee does with the ball when he gets it to what Randolph does. Lee usually dunks it, puts it back for a layup, or passes it out of the high post. Randolph creates off the dribble, by either taking a jab step and shooting, or drives the ball to the paint with a running hook, etc.

    Who’s more likely to turn the ball over? Randolph of course. BUT who’s also more likely to score the ball or draw a foul? Randolph.

    I’ll gladly take Zach’s 23 and 10 over whatever Lee had last year any day. The fact that Zach did it in the West, where he had to play Garnett, Boozer, Amare, Camby, Dirk, and Yao 4 times a year, makes his numbers even more impressive.

    The fact that he did it in Portland, more often than not facing triple teams because Aldridge and Roy missed a good chunk of the season, makes it even more impressive.

    That’s also probably why he shot a lower percentage than Lee.

  31. Owen

    “In all seriousness Caleb, why do you think all the players I listed shoot from the perimeter? Do you think they like shooting lower percentage shots? Don?t you think they know that if they just scored on putbacks they?d shoot a higher percentage?

    Or maybe they think that it?s because if they?re an inside/outside threat they?d be tougher to guard.”

    It’s an interesting question Nick. I am a fairly strict disciple of Berri. When he analyzed the salaries of NBA players, he found they were most influenced by just one stat: points scored. Crucially, that is points scored basically without respect for shooting efficiency. The message sent to players by NBA decisionmakers is, we will pay you for how many points you score, and we won’t look at your scoring efficiency, or your turnovers. Other stats are statistically significant, like rebounding totals, and age and height, but the biggest factor BY FAR raw scoring.

    There have been a lot of arguments about the WOW and the efficacy of their Wins Produced metric, here and elsewhere. But no one anywhere has disputed this finding from the book, which is in fact completely consistent with what everyone else has found when they looked at the same question.

    So, given this fact, how are supposed to play as an interior player? It’s more difficult to score as an interior player. You either have to generate your own offense like Lee, have someone like Nash help you with the task (which few people have), or be able to score in the post. Also, there seems to be consensus that there are a lot more big bodies in the NBA today and that the physical talent has narrowed a bit. A lot of people seem to agree that post scoring has become much more difficult as the level of physical talent (some foreign) defending the paint has increased. (think Desangana Diop, Fabricio Oberto, Eduardo Najera, etc)

    So two facts,

    the incentive to score more, efficiency be damned:
    the increasing difficulty of doing so in the paint,

    My view is that the reason all those guys want to shoot outside jump shots is because they understand that if they can increase their raw scoring, even by shooting inefficiently from the outside, they will be paid more than they would if they played in a way that was more conducive to their team’s success.

    That is the theory at least, I think it’s a pretty good one. A very major question for the future of the Knicks is how Lee will respond to these incentives and constraints.

  32. Nick

    See I don’t agree with that at all, Owen. Obviously in any sport, the guys who produce the most, are rewarded with the most money, but to say that their sole ambition to get better is money..there’s no way anyone can prove that.

    A guy like Kevin Garnett’s been one of the highest paid players in the league for a long time now, and seems to be getting better with age.

    A guy like him or any other superstar for that matter makes whatever they make because not only do they produce, but they produce under pressure, and they put asses in seats.

    Guys like David Lee don’t make superstar money because they’re not superstars. When the game is on the line, you know you can give the ball to your star: Tim Duncan, Lebron, Carmelo, Iverson, Garnett, Ray Allen, Wade, etc, and more often than not they’re going to produce. Not only that but these guys are pften the focus of the opposing squad’s defense, which is why guys like them may not always APPEAR to be as efficient as a David Lee, who scores most of his points while uncontested.

    When was the last time David Lee faced a double or triple team?

  33. Nick

    Owen that theory can only be taken seriously during contract years. Guys like Tim Thomas and Jerome James immediately come to mind.

  34. Z

    Not to get Frank O. excited or anything, but Pete V. is pretty sure Isiah’s getting fired before the game tonight.

  35. jon abbey

    I also have League Pass and watch plenty of non-Knicks games, as well as wasting my time with our heroes. I’m not as strong a Lee lover as some here, but I believe that if Lee and Zach were both on rookie contracts and you asked all of the GMs in the league which one they’d like to add to their team, that a majority would choose Lee.

    I don’t think Zach is worthless, but I do think that there’s a reason that Portland couldn’t get anything more for him than Frye (who’s barely playing for them this year, even with no Oden) and the corpse of Francis. he may get 23 and 10, but he gives back a lot on the other end.

  36. Nick

    Jon,

    The only thing Zach Randolph has going against him is the off the court troubles. No way a GM in his right mind takes Lee over Randolph if they were both in their rookie deals AND Randolph had no baggage.

    The Lakers and Bulls were 2 teams that come to mind that wanted him last season, after failing to get Pau and Garnett.

    David Lee cannot and will never give you 23 and 10, especially not in the west, and he’s not exactly Marcus Camby on D. Randolph’s actually been better than advertised on D. He played Kevin Garnett extremely well in our preseason win at MSG. Had something like 5 stls that game (and no I didn’t look that up).

    Garnett himself said that Randolph was a good defender when he wanted to be, and so far this season the effort seems to be there.

  37. Ben R

    Also Zach does not help Curry as much as Lee. Last year when Lee was on the court Curry posted stats that are better than this year and better than with any other player last year.

    Curry with Lee last year:
    62.7% efg% +0.51% over his average, 25.1 points per 40 +3 points over his average.

    So everyone who argues that Lee makes Curry’s life harder because he does not jack up 20 shots a game is wrong. Curry has been at his best with Lee next to him for the last two seasons, he does not need anyone to help him space the floor from the PF position.

    Also Zach’s ability to hit the midrange jumper forces defenders to guard him on the perimeter, which means he needs to use their need to guard him close to his advantage by dribbling past them or passing to a teammate for an assist. By shooting a fadeaway midrange jumper that only connects a third of the time he is shooting the shot that the defense wants him to take, instead of fighting for a better one.

    This is bad shot selection. The reason why Camby’s midrange jumper makes him a better player is because he does not shoot it unless he is open, much like Haslem and lots of other big men with jumpers. This forces big men who often do not like guarding on the perimeter to leave the key therefore providing spacing and opportunities to attack the basket. If Camby started forcing 5 more jumpshots even though they were not open his effectiveness would plummit and the whole team would suffer.

    Lee is developing a midrange shot and there is no reason to believe that he won’t end up getting one, Camby’s shot was much worse for the first 5+ years of his career. When he does I prey he only uses it to keep defenses honest not fall in love with it like Randoph, JO or Rasheed and watch his effectiveness plummit because he stops attacking the basket.

    Players like Randolph keep taking midrange shots because they are easy and they have so much confidence they believe that every shot will go in even if only a third actually do.

    By the way Lee gets the the free throw line at a higher rate than Randolph and always has.

  38. Ben R

    I do believe that Randolph has more talent than Lee, but Lee has a rare talent that so few NBA players seem to have, he plays within himself. Shooting when he is open, passing when he is not, rarely making a bad or selfish decision.

    Teams need a couple of players that can hit hard shots and run the offense through them. If we had none Randolph would be very valuable, but we already have Curry who is scoring the same number of points per 40 as Randolph on six less shots. We do not need Randolph to take 20 shos a game. If he took away 5 midrange shots and shot 15 shots per game his effectiveness would increase even if his shooting effeciency stayed the same.

  39. Owen

    Jon – Excellent point. In a few weeks NBA Babble will be up. You should be able to track your progress to that bottle of Cristal daily.

    Right now you seem much more likely of winning your bet with me than Caleb, who took the over on Randolph shooting 54%.

    Nick – Star players don’t put asses in seats. Well, they do on the road, but not in home arenas, which from the perspective of club finances is what matters. What puts fans in the seats is Wins. That was a finding of the WOW, one that no one has disputed. Star players do put asses in seats when they win games. But there are a lot of “star” players who don’t produce that many wins, arguably. Like Iverson. Philadelphia saw its home attendance decline when he was there as their winning percentage dropped.

    Kevin Garnett is one of the highest paid players in the league, and he deserves to be. He has been the most productive player in the league, easily, over the last five years. Over the last five years his Ts% has been about 55%. Of course, he has been a million times better than Randolph in every other area of the box score.

    Starbury is also one of the highest paid players in the league. However he doesn’t produce a lot of wins, and he hasn’t been very good for attendance in New York.

    Re “Obviously in any sport, the guys who produce the most, are rewarded with the most money,”

    I have to ask, other than watching games, how do you evaluate performance? It seems like the case you are making is that Randolph’s ability to score 23 points while shooting well below the league average rate and committing more turnovers than average, makes him a more valuable player than Lee. Since he generally has scored at a rate below what his team offered otherwise, how has he helped his team on offense. By “stretching the defense?”

  40. Frank

    Wow, I can’t believe… well I can’t believe a lot of things but here are a few:

    1) I finally found someone in Nick that I really do agree with. While the stats are important in judging player value and efficiency, it is almost impossible for stats to tell you the level of defender the player is playing against, how many double teams the person faces, etc. I think David Lee is great but in my mind he’s a great 25 minute/game guy for energy, putbacks etc. when he is surrounded by a lot of players who take attention away from him. The fact that Eddy Curry can shoot 60+% from the field while being double teamed constantly (not to mention hacked to death every night) is pretty amazing in my mind. And I will believe to my deathbed that the only reason Lee is so efficient is because people don’t pay attention to him. When they DO pay attention to him (a la in the Phoenix game when Balkman and Collins were on the floor with him and could be completely ignored on the offensive end), we all saw the results — 2/10 from the floor. Not so efficient.

    I’ll try this another way. What kind of stats do you think Lee would put up in, say, Minnesota in 40 minutes/game. I’ll start the bidding at 11 points, 10 rebounds, 45% from the field. Otherwise known as a VERY average to below average NBA power forward.

    2) another thing about stats — they tell you the raw data but don’t really tell you how you arrive at that data. This “turnovers per possession” stat is a great example of it — completely agree with Nick that Lee’s “possessions” count the same as Steve Nash’s “possessions” in the statbook but in reality they couldn’t be more different.

    And re: the discussion about mid-range jumpers– While it may be more efficient to shoot from the 3pt line and from 2 feet from the basket, if your entire offense was predicated on those two places I think the team would be very easy to defend. So in effect what I am saying is that the so-called “inefficient” mid-range game actually opens up the 3pt and inside game, making them more efficient. Think about it– if the defending team knew they only had to guard the post and the 3 pt line and could ignore everything in between, defense would be a LOT easier.

    3) I can’t believe how down people are on Zach Randolph. The guy is a monster who just hasn’t shot that well yet this year. But he is rebounding like a madman, and having watched him play many games when he was a blazer, he is close to unstoppable in the post despite being relatively unathletic, and has a decent, not great, mid-range game. 23 and 10 in the western conference playing against Duncan, Garnett, etc. is just amazing. I agree he is taking too many jumpers but I really do think that is a function of the adjustment to playing next to Curry — hopefully IT or whoever can figure out a way to maximize his talents.

    ANd Portland couldn’t get anything more for him because of perceived issues with his off-court personality and because he has 4 years left on his contract at a billion dollars/year, not because he can’t play basketball. Not to mention they wanted to let Aldridge and Oden play a lot of minutes.

    And one last thing:

    Owen wrote:

    “You either have to generate your own offense like Lee, have someone like Nash help you with the task (which few people have), or be able to score in the post.”

    Does Lee really “generate” his own offense? I guess, if offensive rebounds and putbacks count as “generating offense”. But I actually think most of Lee’s offense comes off of someone else’s offense, which I guess by definition is someone else’s generated offense, not his.

    Now again, I like David Lee and would like to keep him on the Knicks, but I grow more and more unconvinced of his god-like status on this board. He’s a limited player that looks great when other people hide his weaknesses.

  41. Owen

    And very good posts Ben – As is almost always the case, I completely agree with you. That bit about Lee and Curry, very strong point.

  42. Frank

    Just to expand on that last point.

    Every NBA team needs role players. San Antonio has Oberto and Bowen. Dallas has Diop and others. The Lakers in their recent heyday had Derek Fisher, Horry, etc. No one can dispute their value. But to elevate a role player to the level that Lee (and Balkman to some extent) has been elevated to on this board is like the tail wagging the dog. If you put a team of Diop, Horry, Lee, Bowen, and Fisher on the floor, all playing within their limits, they would get slaughtered by most Top 10 college teams. But if you mix Fisher and Horry with Kobe and Shaq, then you’ve got something.

    Now the key point is that you could put just about any 3 halfway effective role players next to Kobe and Shaq and they still win the NBA title. That is because the other teams will gameplan around the stars, leaving things open for the role players. The star players are the dog and the role players are the tail, and it will never be otherwise.

  43. Owen

    “The fact that Eddy Curry can shoot 60+% from the field while being double teamed constantly (not to mention hacked to death every night) is pretty amazing in my mind.”

    Though a little less amazing given he was second in the league in turnovers…

    “What kind of stats do you think Lee would put up in, say, Minnesota in 40 minutes/game.”

    18 points, 12 rebounds, 58% ts%, 2.9 turnovers

    “So in effect what I am saying is that the so-called ?inefficient? mid-range game actually opens up the 3pt and inside game, making them more efficient.”

    Where is Ted Nelson when I need him. He would say something like, long ago there was this thing called the motion offense…

    “He is close to unstoppable in the post despite being relatively unathletic, and has a decent, not great, mid-range game. 23 and 10 in the western conference”

    I agree his rebounding has been great, although part of that is that he has missed so many shots there have been a lot of rebounds available. And while I think it’s wonderful that he is an unstoppable post scorer, he hasn’t been doing much of that lately, because he is on the court with Curry.

    I think Randolph is a good player, but from the moment the trade was announced this is exactly the scenario I envisioned. Curry in the post. Randolph not in the post. Randolph shooting a lot of jumpshots, very inefficiently. Bottom line, a ts% of 45% is not a recipe for winning basketball games.

    “Does Lee really ?generate? his own offense”

    How to distribute credit on a baskeball court is a perennial, thorny problem. I am of the opinion Lee gets less credit than he deserves. While the ability to take a lot of shots at a low percentage is not in his skill set, he seems to have a unique ability to generate a fair number of very high percentage shots. He does this better than almost any player in the NBA. He basically is like Marion without the three point shooting.

    How valuable is the ability to be in the right place at the right time, which is what it boils down to? I think its very valuable. I would much rather start with that, and tack on a jump shot, then hope that a streaky midrange jump shooter will develop a knack for scoring “easy” baskets.

    Everyone looks at Randolph and Lee. They say, I can imagine Randolph being one of the best players in the NBA. I have seen him hit jumpshots. He can do that. And If he can just learn to hit them almost as often as say Kobe, well suddenly you have an amazing force.

    It’s more difficult to imagine how Lee will improve.

    Of course the truth is that Lee is already as good as he needs to be, and that Randolph is as good as he will ever be, imho…

  44. Nick

    Frank my man, you deserve a standing ovation.

    I like Lee as well, but I’d love to see how he does in the west vs. the best big men in the league, while facing a double/triple team. I agree he’s probably a double double guy, but also will probably shoot somewhere in the low 40′s from the field….if he doesn’t foul out of every game!!

    Daniel Gibson is not a great shooter, but he looks like one in cleveland cuz he’s always wide open. David Lee is a good rebounder, but playing next to guys like Eddy Curry and Channing Frye the past 2 looks like Dennis Rodman.

    It’s no surprise that since Randolph arrived his rebounding numbers, have taken a hit.

  45. Frank

    Owen –

    “I am of the opinion Lee gets less credit than he deserves. While the ability to take a lot of shots at a low percentage is not in his skill set, he seems to have a unique ability to generate a fair number of very high percentage shots. He does this better than almost any player in the NBA. He basically is like Marion without the three point shooting.

    How valuable is the ability to be in the right place at the right time, which is what it boils down to? I think its very valuable. I would much rather start with that, and tack on a jump shot, then hope that a streaky midrange jump shooter will develop a knack for scoring ?easy? baskets.”

    Well, I must agree with you wholeheartedly. Lee really does have an uncanny knack of being around the ball, sort of like Zach Thomas or other great middle linebackers always seem drawn to the ballcarrier or the football. I’m a Lee fan, and I really think his effort and tenacity are good for the team’s morale and for the fans also. He is a good fit on this team because of the other high-volume shooters who often can either pass off to him under the basket or miss shots that he can rebound. That being said, I really am troubled by his inability to finish in traffic this year, and really have no good reason for it. He also seems to be getting out-jumped for rebounds, which never seemed to be an issue last year. Do you think he’s just out of shape (ie got lazy over the offseason) or might it be that this severe ankle sprain has really decreased his explosiveness?

    Must disagree with you on one point though — Marion is a far superior player in almost every aspect. Shoots better, is faster, finishes better, and is in another galaxy defensively (although some of how great he looks is due to Nash). And I’d argue that he’s a better rebounder too based on how he basically just abused Lee when they were matched up together. Marion is one guy I would just LOVE to see on the Knicks.

  46. Owen

    “Daniel Gibson is not a great shooter, but he looks like one in cleveland cuz he?s always wide open.”

    Actually, he is a good shooter. He was a 55.6 true shooter last year. That is more than good. That was in fact the best on the team.

    He may be open a lot in Cleveland, but there are a lot of other guys who are equally open, and they are not shooting better than him.

    It was also his first year in the league. I could understand you saying he isn’t a good shooter if he had been a bad shooter somewhere else, then suddenly improved. But so far, I think you have to give the guy some credit….

  47. Nick

    “Star players don?t put asses in seats. Well, they do on the road, but not in home arenas, which from the perspective of club finances is what matters.”

    Are you kidding? LeBron James in Celeveland, Shaq in Miami, are examples that the opposite is true.

    When Portland drafted Greg Oden, their season ticket numbers went through the roof. Boston acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and they presold all 41 games this year before the season started.

  48. Owen

    “I really am troubled by his inability to finish in traffic this year”

    While I agree with Caleb that Lee has played well so far, though not as well as last year, just off my own observation I agree with that. He hasn’t been as good. It seemed like every single time he took it to the hoop last year he either scored or got fouled. This year, he looks like he lacks punch.

    I will say this about stats. They tell you how productive a player has been. But they don’t tell you why. And they don’t give you perfect certainty about how they will perform in the future.

    We will know a lot more about Lee 40 games in. If at that point he has a ts% of 51%, I won’t be afraid to admit his game has dropped off a lot and perhaps revise my estimation of him. You can’t take away what he did last year though.

    “Must disagree with you on one point though ? Marion is a far superior player in almost every aspect.”

    No need to disagree here. I think Marion is the better player also. I would trade Lee for Marion heads up fo’ sho’.

    I was just making a comparison about their offensive style and shot selection. A lot of Marion’s points come in transition, on back cuts, on follows, and on dumps from Nash. I have him on my fantasy team and try to watch him as much as possible. (not sure how those two things are connected). He also shoots the three of course. However, he doesn’t take many mid range jump shots. Why shoot from 19 feet to score 2, when you can step back a few feet and score 3? Add in a few drives to the basket which Lee doesnt have also. But basically my point is that Marion is not a give me the ball, isolate, watch me score kind of player. He gets his points in the flow.

    I think if you give Lee enough time he will figure out how to play Marion at least as well as anyone else. Marion is probably the best defender in the NBA, you have to take that into account. And Lee was playing out of position on the perimeter somewhat.

    Also, one more point. People talk about people destroying Lee on defense. Maybe that happens. I personally thought Lee did the best job of anyone on Howard. I also don’t think Carmelo really would enjoy guarding Lee on the offensive end. Tracking Lee, keeping a body on him, is really really difficult. Lee is not physically exceptional. But in my view, he is simply the best frontcourt player in the NBA at moving around the court, with or without the ball. He is in the best possible position more than any player I can remember.

    Nick – Read the book if you like, see what you think. The finding is not that “star” players don’t put fans in seats. True stars win games, so they do put asses in seats in that way. But it’s the winning that counts, not their celebrity. And that is a useful distinction because there are players who are considered stars who don’t fill arenas when their teams dont win. Like Allan Houston for instance.

    Also, I wonder what the seat situation would be like in Miami without DWade.

  49. Ben R

    Why is everyone saying since Lee cannot play like Randolph he is worse. I do not think that Lee could be the primary option on a team and be very successful. What he can be is what he was last year the best low usage player in the entire league.

    Teams need low usage players and high usage ones. Lee probably cannot be a great high usage player but he already is an amazing low usage one.

    Randolph on the other hand probably cannot be a great low usage player or his effieciency would have improved and his usage would have decreased when paired with better offensive players in New York. Instead he is taking almost as many shots as in Portland and actually converting them at a lower rate.

    So while putting Lee on a team with a bunch of low usage players would not work very well, putting Randolph on a team with a bunch of high usage players would not work either.

    Who would have been better playing PF on those LA teams with Shaq and Kobe, Lee or Randolph, I think the answer is pretty clear.

    So who is better, one of the best low usage players in the league (Lee) or an average high usage player (Randolph). I think the low usage player in Lee. No matter what team Lee was on he would make them better by being their best low usage player. Randolph on the other hand would only help teams that have poor high usage players.

    Different players on the court all have different roles, from Kobe to Bowen. While Randolph’s role is more important to success than Lee’s he fills his role much less efficiently.

    So since we have someone (Curry) filling Randolphs role much better than him we have no need for him to take 20+ shots a game. He is taking shots away from more efficient players.

  50. Owen

    Ben – Hmmm, yes, you are on fire. Very nice post.

    At the end of the day there a lot players in the NBA who are trying to fill the role Lee plays, call it the “low usage energy forward.” Guys like Biedrins, Varejao, Hayes, Millsap, Turiaf, Oberto, Thomas, Evans, Garbajosa, Hermann etc. It’s a long list. None of them do it anywhere near as well as Lee.

  51. Frank

    wow Ben R. I am speechless. Great post. Must agree with just about everything you said, although I think Randolph is better than “an average high usage player”. No matter how you cut it, 23 and 10 in the Western Conference is an achievement that must be acknowledged. 20/10 players in the NBA last year? Garnett, Boozer, Duncan, and Zach. Nice company. And while he is not shooting well this year, his rebounding has been tremendous, so at least he is helping out the team that way. He is actually leading the NBA in rebounds, tied with Howard, has more than Garnett or Camby.

  52. Ben R

    Last year I would agree that he was above average, but so far this year he has been far from even average. He has actually fluxuated from better than average high usage player, like last year to well below average high usage player like year before last and this year. So overall I was saying average. If we were getting the 54% TS% player like he was last year we would probably 4-3 or maybe even better.

    The thing is we have a year in year out much higher than average high usage player in Curry, (who is having a career year thus far) so Randolph even at his best would not be as good on offense as Curry.

    So in my opinion since a team needs one high usage big man and one low usage one, I think Curry fills the role of high usage one better than Randolph and Lee obviously fills the role of low usage player better than either one.

  53. Ben R

    Thanks for the compliment by the way, I love this site I think the discussions are amazing. Some of the best, if not the best basketball discussions I have found.

  54. Owen

    Per 48

    Garnett TS% 54.6% TO 3.3 REB 15.6
    Boozer TS% 58.8% TO 3.6 Reb 16.3
    Duncan TS% 57.9% TO 2.9 Reb 14.9
    Zach TS 53.7% To 4.3 Reb 13.6

    The all averaged more than four assists. Zach was at 2.9. And he is obviously the worst defender, though Boozer is not close far behind.

    Zach however did score more points, per 48, than any of them, so he has that going for him. 23-10 has a nice ring to it, even in not all 20-10′s are created equal.

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/fc/pcm.cgi?req=1&cum=0&p1=boozeca01&y1=2007&p2=duncati01&y2=2007&p3=garneke01&y3=2007&p4=randoza01&y4=2007

  55. Z

    Jon– I tried to stick that in there earlier, but folks were kind of into debating Randolph v. Lee…

    Let the Herb Williams era begin (continue after a two year hiatus)…

    p.s.– where is Frank O.? I thought he’d be over the moon with Petey V.’s gossip.

  56. jon abbey

    also, maybe this is old news to many of you, but I’d highly recommend watching this team on delay via DVR if possible. you can start it 45 minutes or an hour after game time, and still see the end live, a much more condensed period of suckitude.

  57. Owen

    Very interesting. Esp.

    “A couple Knick players and at least one staff member get the distinct impression Thomas wants to be fired and is going to extremes (I offer for evidence the bizarrely stained, even for Isiah, Stephon Marbury misadventure) to give Dolan no other choice.

    “Since Thomas’ reputation is unredeemable and the players appear unreachable the gameplan – regardless whether it’s conscious or subconscious – may very well be to get emotional relief, distance himself and his family from pervasive ridicule, take the severance and burrow deep.

    If true, as usual Thomas is so inept he can’t even get himself fired.”

  58. Frank O.

    Z:
    Bit me.:)
    Putting my son to sleep, I crashed.
    Just read it.
    Vecsey’s not my favorite columnist. I pick up sarcasm in it.
    Hard to get jazzed about anything with the Knicks right now.

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