Sweetney, Kurt Thomas, and Feedback

A few weeks ago, I added a link for comments to my webpage to get some feedback from my readers. I really wasn’t sure what to expect. At that time I was blogging in a vacuum, only getting feedback by email, and for the most part people won’t email you unless:

* You really really pissed them off.
* They really really agree with you.
* They want you to link to their blog/fan page/message board/scalper site.
* They want to sell you all-natural pills that will make your breasts bigger.

The first two are always welcome, the third is tolerated, and as for the last, I have no desire to look like Robert Paulson from Fight Club. Since adding the ability for my visitors to interact with myself and each other, I’ve received a lot of good comments like this one:

Jim K. wrote:
I dunno, this season I haven’t been as impressed with Sweetney as I was his rookie session. He plays with enthusiasm (or is it reckless abandon?) and puts up some nice stats (although his rebounding per minute is down from last year), but his defense seems nonexistent to me. As the Knicks are so bad, I guess he should get more minutes, but I don’t see Sweetney being a more than a 20 minute a night guy…I think Ariza has more of a case, just cuz Tim Thomas is so erratic, but Kurt Thomas is probably the Knicks most reliable vet, knows how to run the plays and actually defends his man in a reasonable fashion. Maybe shift Kurt back to center, start Sweetney, have Mohammed come off the bench, and hope Thomas has the energy to cover Sweetney’s defensive mistakes?

If you’re a regular here, you know I don’t hold Kurt Thomas’ defense in high esteem. The way I see it, Crazy Eyes’ good defensive ability is by reputation only. Thomas is at his best when defending in the post, but even then he’s not going to intimidate and shutdown his man. As for the rest of his defensive game, Kurt is just awful at stopping PFs that can operate from outside, nor does he bail his teammates out with great shot blocking ability.

As for Mike Sweetney, defense is one area where he has improved from last year, but that’s just a nice way to say he doesn’t get lost on switched assignments as often as he used to. He’s similar to Thomas, in that he’s not a great defender in any area. In Sweetney’s defense (no pun intended), he’s usually undersized in his matchup (more on this later). If Kurt Thomas was a current or former All Defensive Team member, I wouldn’t be upset with the frontcourt rotation. However, Thomas is not good enough defensively to warrant keeping a much better offensive player in Sweetney on the bench for 30 minutes a game.

And make no mistake, “Sweet ‘N Low” is the better offensive player. Jim noticed Kurt sets up the offense better, as Sweetney has regressed in running the pick & roll. It seems like he gets whistled for an illegal pick every other time the Knicks run it with him. But take a look at the per 40 minute stats below:

NAME....  PTS.  eFG%  PSA  REB.  OREB  BLK  TO.  PF. 
K.Thomas  12.5  47%   1.0  11.0  2.2  1.1  1.4  4.1
Sweetney  18.0  52%   1.2  10.9  4.0  1.2  3.2  5.7

Just as Jim said, Kurt Thomas is the more reliable of the two. He turns the ball over and fouls less frequently, but Sweetney has him flat out beat offensively. He’s an excellent offensive rebounder (OREB), shoots at a higher percentage (eFG%), gets to the line more often (PSA), and can take a heavier load of the offense (PTS/40). In tonight’s game against the Bucks, when Sweetney was in the post, he was getting double & triple teamed, but he still ended up with 18 points and 9 boards in only 22 minutes. Kurt had 16 & 10, but in double the time. Given those minutes, Sweetney would have put up some eye-popping numbers.

If I think Mike Sweetney is worth 30 minutes a night, and Jim thinks he’s worth 20, then maybe his solution of starting him along side Kurt Thomas is a good compromise. In fact I would prefer Jim’s solution to have Kurt play the five, because when they’re on the court together, Mike usually covers the opposing team’s center. According to 82games.com, Sweetney plays center 80% of his time, and rarely if ever is on the court at the same time as center Nazr Mohammed. This is a far cry from last year, where he played more than half his time at the four. Maybe Jim’s observation of Sweetney’s decline in play this year is due to the 6’8″ power forward being forced into duty against taller players?

Unlike the NHL, I’d agree to a compromise under one last condition. Kurt Thomas is averaging 37 minutes per game, 5 more than he did each of the last two years. Take 5 of those minutes & give it to Sweetney at PF along the first team offense. In tonight’s game, Milwaukee continuously double teamed “Big Mike”, because he played with the second unit of Norris, Hardaway, Jerome Williams, and Kurt Thomas. With no other inside presence and 3 bricklayers on the outside, the Bucks sent squadron after squadron into the post. With those extra minutes and the other team forced to respect the Knicks that can actually score, I’d like to see what Sweetney can do against the power forwards of the league.

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Mike Kurylo

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