2009 Report Card: Donnie Walsh

It was with fanfare befitting a peaceful transfer of power from despotism to enlightenment that Donnie Walsh inherited Isiah Thomas’ job as New York Knicks president of basketball operations in the spring of 2008.  But as with so many European monarchs, African generals, and Spinal Tap drummers before him, the excitement surrounding Walsh’s arrival soon gave way, at least in part, to the grim realization that the pitfalls of previous years had not all departed with his predecessor.  An impossible cap situation, a meddling owner, and a frequently unmotivated core of players were all holdovers from the Isiah era which Walsh has been forced to address, with varying degrees of success.

Walsh’s first Knicks team finished with a record of 32-50, worse than three of the five Knicks squads that Isiah oversaw.  But Walsh’s job was never about 2009 and, unlike Isiah, he immediately proved willing to accept that short term failure was a necessary and acceptable side effect of true progress.  To this end, it is undeniable that the poker-faced Bronx native has moved a dysfunctional franchise in the right direction, but his advances have not come without missteps.  That these mistakes have come with little popular backlash is cause for gratitude to Isiah – critics of Walsh would be far more vocal had his hiring not come on the heels of such unmitigated failure.

If Walsh’s patience and indecipherability are his greatest qualities in negotiation, they may also be his best assets in avoiding the kind of criticism that is typicaly heaped upon New York pro sports executives by media and fans.  His stern demeanor and unshakable calm suggest to observers, even at moments of seeming misjudgment, that he knows more about the situation than they do and so deserves their trust.  A move-by-move analysis of Walsh’s Knicks tenure reveals a well-reasoned overall plan that has been tarnished by some truly baffling decisions.  With the belief that the moves a general manager doesn’t make are as important as the moves he does make, I offer this chronological assessment of Walsh’s first season-plus on the job:

May 10, 2008: In his first, and thus far best, major move as Knicks president, Walsh signed Phoenix Suns coach Mike D’Antoni to a 4-year, $24 million contract.  D’Antoni’s hiring has resonated with fans (seen in the sense of pride that came with a prized coaching commodity choosing the Knicks over a handful of other suitors, as well as the entertaining brand of basketball to which they are treated each night), Knicks players (seen in the career years put up by David Lee, Al Harrington, Nate Robinson, Wilson Chandler, and, for the first 50 games, Chris Duhon), and players around the league (D’Antoni’s relationship with soon-to-be-max-contract-signers LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Kobe Bryant may prove to be his most important asset as the Knicks’ coach).

Grade: A, and if LeBron’s affection for D’Antoni leads him to New York, it becomes an A-plus.

Draft Night, 2008: With the sixth pick, Walsh chose Danilo Gallinari, whose struggles with back trouble and flashes of promise have both been well-chronicled on this and other sites.  While the jury remains out on Gallo, we have a better idea about some of the guys Walsh could have taken.  Of the lottery picks remaining on the board at #6, Eric Gordon (chosen 7th, 14.98 rookie PER), Brook Lopez (chosen 10th, 17.94 rookie PER), and Anthony Randolph (chosen 14th, 16.94 rookie PER and an absolute monster of a summer league) have looked the most promising thus far.

However, simply lining Gallo up against these three doesn’t quite create a proper lens for evaluating Walsh’s choice.  Looking back through Chad Ford’s archives reminds us that Gordon and Joe Alexander (chosen  8th, 10.19 rookie PER) were the two most likely Knicks picks had they passed on Gallinari, and the early returns suggest that Walsh may have dodged a bullet by passing on Alexander’s unique, but extremely raw, skill set.

Grade: C-plus.  We all love Gallo and it’s tempting to give Walsh an incomplete here.  It’s also probably unfair to criticize Walsh for passing on Lopez and Randolph, as the former was universally regarded as low on upside and the latter as a potential bust.  Still, it’s impossible to ignore how well Gordon, Randolph, and Lopez would all fit into D’Antoni’s system, and one would be hard pressed to find a non-Knicks fan who would put an unproven 21-year-old who already has back problems on the same level as any of these three.  I think there are decent odds Gallinari will prove this grade wrong but at the moment this looks like an OK, but not great, pick.

July 4, 2008: Walsh signed former Bulls PG Chris Duhon to a 2 year contract at the full mid-level ($12 million).  The price tag here looks high now, given the lower salaries being handed out this offseason and the incredibly frustrating second half to Duhon’s 2008-09 season.  Still, the Knicks have never minded paying out  luxury tax dollars and Walsh brought in a point guard who generally stays out of his own way and makes his teammates better on the offensive end.  If Duhon’s ability to create easy baskets can turn Curry into a tradable commodity this season (it’s a long shot, but hey, a guy can hope), it becomes a great signing.  Until then, Duhon is a player who doesn’t set his team back on the court, creates reps for a young core in need of development, and doesn’t set the franchise back in its hunt for prime talent in 2010.  Pretty good move for the mid-level in a lackluster free agent summer.

Grade: B.

November 21, 2008: Walsh put on his Kevin Pritchard hat for a day and swung two trades that cleared up $27 million in 2010 cap room.  In sending Zach Randolph to the Clippers and Jamal Crawford to the Warriors in exchange for a useful forward in Al Harrington, a useless forward in Tim Thomas, and a soon-to-retire combo guard in Cuttino Mobley, Walsh dismantled the slim playoff hopes of what was then an above-.500 team.  More importantly, however, he overhauled the team’s long term cap position, picked up a trade chip in Mobley’s tax-free contract, and rid the team of two shoot-first players who were almost certainly stunting the development of their younger, more promising counterparts.   A complete no-brainer.

Grade: A-minus.  It’s a move any good GM would have made if it was available but, what can I say, it’s a good career move to succeed Isiah.

February 19, 2009: An unstoppable force (the Bulls’ desire to trade Larry Hughes) met an immovable object (Jerome James’ contract) and the unstoppable force won as the Knicks flipped James and Tim Thomas for Hughes.  Largely seen as a garbage for garbage deal, the move was supposed to make the Knicks slightly better in the short run without helping or hurting their long-term cap situation and, mainly, sparing their fans the nightly sight of James smiling and joking around on the end of the bench during 20-point losses.  A mostly useless move in the long run and maybe a net negative, as Hughes took some minute that would likely have gone to Nate and Chandler otherwise.  Hughes also brought back some of the poor shot selection and general grumpiness that had mostly departed with Crawford and Stephon Marbury, respectively.  In the end, the trade’s impact, positive or negative, was minimal and we stopped having to listen to Jerome James jokes.

Grade: C (in a one-credit class with little effect on overall GPA).

Trade Deadline, 2009: The Knicks engaged in a well-chronicled negotiation with the Sacramento Kings, who asked for Nate Robinson and Jared Jeffries in exchange for Kenny Thomas’ soon-to-expire contract.  With the Knicks still loosely in playoff contention, Walsh turned down the offer and chose not to rid himself of the nearly $7 million committed to Jeffries in 2010.  A puzzling, disturbingly Isiah-esque move whose questionability has been compounded by the complete disinterest that Walsh has displayed in re-signing Nate this offseason.  If Robinson is truly so expendable, and it’s likely he is, then why endanger the future for only a few months of his services?  This inaction made little sense at the time and makes even less sense now.

Grade: D-minus.

2009 Draft, Lead-up: Another instance in which Walsh seemed to contradict his general mission statement of financial flexibility, as he reportedly rejected an offer of the #5 pick and some expiring contracts for Wilson Chandler, Jeffries, and Hughes.  This rumor always seemed a bit sketchy from the Wizards’ side, but if this offer was truly on the table, I can’t imagine Walsh’s resistance to it.  Trading Jeffries is a desirable goal, Hughes has no long-term value, and Chandler, while a promising young player, is more likely than not to become an effective wing who is generally indistinguishable from any number of other small forwards in the league.  The negligible , if even existent, talent drop off from Chandler to the #5 pick in the draft (which turned out to be Ricky Rubio, though no one would have guessed it at the time) seemed a small price to pay for the disposal of a considerable financial obstacle.

Grade: D.  It’s worth noting that a few different versions of this trade were bouncing around during draft week, some of which would have been less of a windfall for the Knicks.  None of them, however, seemed particularly logical to reject as the Wizards displayed genuine interest in both Jeffries and Hughes.

Draft Night, 2009: Walsh played the hand he was dealt at #8, picking Jordan Hill after watching Rubio and Stephen Curry disappear in rapid succession.  An uninspiring, but far from disastrous, summer league performance has left Hill as a general mystery to Knicks fans at this point, but he’s big and athletic and he got enough numbers in college (although his FG% leaves something to be desired, considering his layup-and-dunk-heavy shot selection) to suggest that he’ll be a useful role player at the worst.  Walsh’s bigger coup on draft night was the effective purchase of Toney Douglas’s draft rights from the Lakers, just the kind of low-risk, solid-upside maneuver that the Knicks never seem to make.  If Douglas develops into a serviceable back-up point guard with a jump shot and an above average defensive skill set, which seems likely, this pick is a success.

In a final draft night move, Walsh acquired Darko Milicic from the Grizzlies by sending Quentin Richardson off on the first leg of his summer-long tour of NBA mediocrity.  Another low-risk move that might suit D’Antoni’s system well.  Given what he had to work with, a sound if unspectacular draft night for Walsh.

Grade: B-plus for draft night in a vacuum.  However, if you consider that Walsh could have had Rubio or Curry at five had he made the Wizards trade, it’s a C-minus.

Free Agency, 2009: I don’t know.  Do you?  I think Walsh was right not to pay for Iverson.  I would have loved a year or two of Nash at the mid-level, but I get the feeling that was never as close to a reality as we all were hoping.

If Walsh wins his ongoing staring contest with Ramon Sessions (17.65 PER, 23 years old) and signs him for two years at a low 2010 cap number, it will be a way better long-term move than signing Jason Kidd (16.95 PER, 36 years old) would have been, as the Knicks will acquire a young, affordable point guard who can defer to his teammates and can wait until after the Knicks make their big free agent splash to receive his long-term payout.

Additionally, Walsh has done well not to give in to unrealistic demands by either Lee or Robinson in a depressed market, but until their situations are resolved (ideally with Nate walking or taking a cheap one-year deal and Lee staying on for something near the mid-level), it’s hard to get a read on Walsh’s current plan or his level of confidence in the LeBron/Wade/Bosh sweepstakes next offseason.

Grade: Incomplete.

All told, Walsh’s tenure got off to a promising start but has suffered from several moments of seeming hesitance to take the final plunge and commit to any one comprehensive strategy.  Walsh has clearly leaned toward building for the future at the expense of the present, which is a welcome change from the Isiah era, but his unwillingness to part with anyone of value as a pot-sweetener in the unloading of bad contracts has stunted the Knicks progress toward an ideal 2010 cap situation.  As it stands, the team has a top-flight coach and more young talent and long-term financial flexibility than anyone could have realistically expected 16 months ago.  But one worries that Walsh has hedged his bets a bit too much and will fall short of a free agent jackpot next summer.

Overall Grade: B

2009 Report Card: Chris Wilcox

The Knicks acquired Chris Wilcox in February in exchange for a barely used Malik Rose. It seemed that Wilcox was going to play center and push the undersized David Lee back to power forward, but instead Wilcox spelled Lee at center. Looking at his most frequent 5-man units from 82games, Lee doesn’t appear in any of them.

Watching Wilcox play, gave me a new appreciation of Lee. Both players have a similar style, but Wilcox lags behind in multiple areas. He was less efficient when it comes to inside scoring, and he was less able to stretch the offense. According to 82games, 80% of his attempts were inside. If the knock on Lee is his desire to stay near the hoop, then Wilcox must be tethered to it. And despite playing with the same support cast, David out rebounds Chris by a far margin. Wilcox’s one saving grace is his adequate block rate.

Name Jump eFG Inside eFG Inside % reb/36 to/36 ast/36 blk/36
Wilcox 35.0 57.3 80% 8.9 2.2 1.5 0.9
Lee 35.2 64.1 68% 12.1 1.9 2.2 0.3

Even though New York is still short on big men, they decided not to keep Wilcox for 2010. Newly acquired Darko Milicic and Eddy Curry are likely to take any minutes that would have gone to Wilcox. I guess the Knicks have filled their quota of lottery center busts.

Report Card (5 point scale):
Offense: 2
Defense: 2
Teamwork: 2
Rootability: 1
Performance/Expectations: 2

Grade: D F I was going to give Wilcox a D, until I remembered this. If I recall correctly, he did this more than once as a Knick.

Similarity Scores:

.000 Chris Wilcox 2009 TOT 13.2 .517 .496 15.3 3.3 9.5 1.6 0.9 0.5 2.6
.024 Pat Cummings 1983 DAL 14.6 .526 .493 15.8 3.5 10.4 2.2 0.9 0.5 2.5
.032 Rick Robey 1982 BOS 11.0 .511 .493 13.8 3.5 9.0 2.1 0.8 0.4 2.8
.033 Marc Jackson 2001 GSW 16.1 .534 .471 16.2 3.0 9.2 1.5 0.9 0.7 2.4
.045 Mike Jackson 1976 VIR 13.2 .549 .499 15.8 3.4 9.8 1.8 0.7 0.5 3.1
.046 Jason Caffey 2000 GSW 12.4 .515 .479 14.2 3.2 8.0 2.0 1.0 0.3 2.8
.054 Kenny Carr 1982 TOT 14.7 .543 .504 16.7 3.1 9.9 1.6 1.2 0.4 2.8
.061 Kenny Thomas 2004 PHI 15.9 .527 .469 13.4 3.5 10.0 1.5 1.1 0.4 2.3
.071 Armen Gilliam 1991 TOT 15.5 .542 .487 16.9 3.0 8.1 1.4 0.9 0.7 2.4
.073 Dwight Jones 1979 HOU 10.9 .505 .458 13.6 3.3 9.7 1.7 1.0 0.8 3.0

2009 Report Card: Jared Jeffries

It’s hard to believe that Jared Jeffries averaged a half a game’s worth of minutes (23.4 mpg) for the Knicks last year. It’s hard to blame D’Antoni because Jeffries was able to defend multiple positions, and the Knicks have been short on defenders at every position. Prior to the season start, D’Antoni wanted Jeffries to play center, but that never materialized. At some point during the season, the Knicks used the 6-11 forward to cover fast point guards. The idea worked for a short while, as Jeffries’ combination of length and quickness was able to disrupt the rhythm of smaller players. However it was short lived as eventually they just sped past him to the basket.

Other than defensive versatility, Jeffries doesn’t bring anything else to the table other than offensive rebounding (3.5 oreb/36). He doesn’t block a lot of shots or rebound well enough for a 6-11 guy. His scoring is dreadful, both in volume (8.1 pts/36) and efficiency (ts% 47.3%). By the way, if you hear rumors that Jeffries is working on his jumpshot this offseason, don’t get excited. Last year reports came in that Jeffries practicing his jumper, and he shot 26.9% on them, almost identical to the 26.7% the year before. New York could use to move Jeffries this season because it would give the team an extra $6.9M in free space next summer, but even D’Antoni’s offense can’t make Jeffries look good.

Report Card (5 point scale):
Offense: 1
Defense: 3
Teamwork: 2
Rootability: 1
Performance/Expectations: 1

Grade: F

Similarity Scores:

.000 Jared Jeffries 2009 NYK 9.4 .473 .441 8.1 3.5 6.3 2.2 1.3 0.9 1.8
.067 Joel Kramer 1983 PHO 8.8 .459 .423 8.0 3.2 6.9 2.9 1.2 0.5 1.7
.077 Danny Vranes 1986 SEA 7.8 .475 .461 6.9 2.6 6.4 1.6 1.4 0.7 1.3
.096 Reggie King 1985 SEA 6.9 .477 .423 7.0 1.8 5.1 2.2 1.2 0.5 1.8
.112 Keith Askins 1995 MIA 12.3 .493 .442 9.7 3.6 8.3 1.6 1.5 0.7 1.1
.113 Eduardo Najera 2004 DAL 11.5 .483 .451 8.8 3.3 7.8 1.2 1.7 0.9 1.4
.124 Mark Madsen 2003 LAL 9.3 .458 .423 8.0 4.0 7.3 1.8 0.7 0.9 1.2
.137 Johnny Baum 1974 TOT 11.6 .480 .450 12.1 2.4 5.9 1.8 1.1 0.5 1.4
.142 Jaren Jackson 1995 PHI 8.7 .446 .397 9.8 2.5 5.9 2.7 1.3 0.7 2.4
.144 Jabari Smith 2005 NJN 8.4 .482 .422 9.2 1.6 6.2 2.1 1.4 0.8 2.2
.145 E.C. Coleman 1978 GSW 9.1 .493 .475 9.3 2.3 7.5 2.0 1.3 0.5 1.9

Looking at the year column on this list, there aren’t a lot of players of Jeffries’ mold these days. Perhaps the almighty dollar has taught youngsters that developing scoring (at least in volume) is more important than other abilities. Or perhaps this list shows us that if you’re really tall, you contribute almost nothing and still be in the NBA. The difference between Jared Jeffries and Eduardo Najera or Mark Madsen is that they were fortunate enough to play on good teams. Had the Knicks been a great team in the last 5 years, trading Jeffries probably wouldn’t be as difficult.

And I’ll end with a quote from 2002:

Question: Is there a player in the NBA right now who you can compare your game to?

Jeffries: I’d say Danny Manning, a Dirk Nowitzki-type. I’m 6-11, so there are a lot of different things I can do as far as handling the ball and shooting, passing.

2009 Report Card: Al Harrington

Historically New York has had good luck with getting malcontents from Golden State. Back in 1999, the Knicks traded for Latrell Sprewell who was suspended by the Warriors for choking Coach P.J. Carlesimo. Spre’s strong defense helped New York reach the Finals that year. Nearly 10 years later, Golden State shipped another unhappy player to Gotham. Although the 2009 Knicks weren’t nearly as successful as their 1999 squad, the team benefited from Harrington’s presence.

Like the player he was traded for, Jamal Crawford, Al Harrington’s most pronounced skill is shot creation. But unlike Crawford, Harrington actually is productive when scoring. Harrington’s true shooting percentage for the Knicks last year (55.5%) was 10 points better than Crawford’s best year in New York (54.5%) and 25 points higher than his career average with the team (52.9%). Last year he was just above his career average from three (2009: 36.2%, career: 35.9%), while attempting a career high nearly 7 per game (6.5 3pa/g, or 6.7 3pa/36). He can drive to the hoop and score from inside as well. Although not as skilled as Lee or Zach Randolph, Harrington is able to draw contact and score in traffic. Much like Eddy Curry, Harrington will continue with the ball towards the hoop no matter how many defenders follow. The difference between Harrington and Curry is that Al doesn’t bowl over defenders or lose the ball as often (2.3 to/36 to Curry’s 3.2).

Unfortunately Harrington doesn’t pass well. Many of Harrington’s passes seem to bounce off his recipient’s hands or are caught awkwardly losing momentum. I have two theories on his sharing woes. The first is that his passes are usually near the hoop with the other player close by, so that his passes are too fast for the short distance. The second is that Al passes so infrequently that his teammates don’t expect the ball to come to them. Perhaps it’s a bit of both, since the passes occur so close to the basket the receiving player is gearing up for a rebound. In any case it’s something to watch for in 2010.

As for the rest of his game, Harrington is a poor rebounder for his size and a below average defender. To put into perspective how bad Harrington’s rebounding is, David Lee nearly doubled his rebounds per minute (12.1 reb/36 to 6.4 reb/36) despite both players standing 6-9. Harrington’s blocked shot rate (0.3 blk/36) was also poor.

Overall he was and will be a good fit for Coach D’Antoni’s offense. Harrington’s multifaceted and efficient scoring was a refreshing fit, considering the person he was traded for (Jamal Crawford) and the person whose minutes he inherited (Zach Randolph). But ultimately the lacking elements of his game make him unworthy of a large contract or a starting role. He’d be a fine bench player for the mid level, but considering the Knicks’ monetary crunch for 2010 and Harrington’s current salary ($8.5M) I don’t see many scenarios that would keep Harrington in New York after this year.

Report Card (5 point scale):
Offense: 4
Defense: 2
Teamwork: 1
Rootability: 3
Performance/Expectations: 4

Grade: B

Similarity Scores:

.000 Al Harrington 2009 TOT 15.9 .547 .509 20.8 1.4 6.4 1.4 1.2 0.3 2.3
.040 Josh Howard 2009 DAL 17.0 .532 .488 20.3 1.3 5.7 1.8 1.2 0.6 1.9
.073 Nate Williams 1979 GSW 14.7 .542 .501 18.6 1.9 5.7 1.7 1.5 0.1 2.6
.075 Jamaal Wilkes 1982 LAL 16.5 .554 .525 21.5 1.9 4.9 1.8 1.1 0.3 2.0
.081 Keith Van Horn 2004 TOT 17.8 .564 .506 17.9 2.3 7.7 1.8 1.0 0.5 2.6
.086 Wayman Tisdale 1993 SAC 15.7 .540 .509 19.9 2.0 7.9 1.7 0.8 0.7 1.8
.092 Cedric Ceballos 1998 TOT 19.3 .560 .517 19.5 2.7 8.0 2.2 1.2 0.6 2.6
.096 Lamond Murray 2002 CLE 16.7 .534 .487 18.3 1.3 5.8 2.4 1.1 0.7 2.2
.111 Corliss Williamson 2002 DET 20.0 .567 .511 22.5 2.5 6.8 2.0 1.0 0.6 2.9
.113 Richard Jefferson 2009 MIL 15.4 .554 .487 19.7 0.7 4.6 2.4 0.8 0.2 2.0
.123 Chris Crawford 2004 ATL 15.8 .544 .495 17.0 1.7 5.2 1.3 1.1 0.6 1.6
.128 George McCloud 1996 DAL 15.9 .543 .514 18.9 1.5 4.8 2.7 1.4 0.5 2.1

2009 Report Card: David Lee

After 3 years of coming off the bench, David Lee finally earned a starting spot in 2009. Lee started 74 of 81 games (D’Antoni toyed with a Randolph/Chandler front court in November), 19 more than in his 3 previous seasons combined. On the court, Lee expanded his repertoire showing some new moves in the low and mid post while adding a jump shot. This, along with being emphasized in the offense with pick and rolls, allowed his pts/36 to increase to a career high of 16.5. However it’s not necessarily the scoring increase that elevated Lee from reserve to starter. KnickerBlogger readers and stat savvy fans understood that for a few years David Lee has been the most productive of the Knick front court players.

Much like his draftmate Nate Robinson, the expanded role exposed a flaw in Lee’s game: his defense. Lee’s block shot rate hit the lowest of his career (0.3 blk/36) and was similar to that of another notoriously bad defender in Zach Randolph. Granted in Lee’s defense, Coach D’Antoni played him as an undersized center (6-9), but even at PF, Lee’s help defense is sub par. Ideally the Knicks (or whoever signs Lee) will want to pair him with a center that can turn back some shots.

Overall Lee had a typically good season. He provided efficient scoring with excellent rebounding, and didn’t eat up too many possessions. He silenced his critics who said the half court set would stall with Lee in the mix. D’Antoni frequently featured Lee with pick & rolls, and the New York offense increased to the middle of the pack (17th, 108.1 pts/poss). Lee was 4th among Knick regulars in points per minutes, so talk about him being a garbage man is unfounded. There are a lot of players in the NBA with the ability to create a shot in isolation, but too often they do so at the high cost of missed shots, turnovers, and a lack of fundamentals. Thank goodness David Lee isn’t one of those players.

Report Card (5 point scale):
Offense: 5
Defense: 2
Teamwork: 5
Rootability: 5
Performance/Expectations: 4

Grade: B+

Similarity Scores:

.000 David Lee 2009 NYK 19.0 .590 .549 16.5 3.3 12.1 2.2 1.0 0.3 1.9
.095 Jerome Whitehead 1982 SDC 16.7 .599 .559 16.2 3.8 10.8 1.7 0.8 0.7 2.3
.115 Loy Vaught 1994 LAC 16.0 .566 .537 14.9 3.7 11.2 1.3 1.3 0.4 1.6
.116 A.C. Green 1989 LAL 17.8 .594 .532 15.6 3.7 10.6 1.5 1.3 0.8 1.7
.134 Michael Cage 1987 LAC 17.1 .579 .521 15.5 4.4 11.4 1.6 1.2 0.8 2.1
.161 Chris Wilcox 2008 SEA 16.3 .554 .524 17.1 2.6 9.0 1.5 1.0 0.7 2.1
.162 Tyrone Hill 1994 CLE 18.4 .590 .543 15.0 4.6 12.4 1.1 1.3 0.9 1.9
.166 Tom Owens 1975 TOT 19.4 .565 .527 16.9 4.0 12.3 2.8 0.5 1.1 2.1
.166 Brad Daugherty 1991 CLE 19.9 .583 .524 20.1 2.2 10.1 3.1 0.9 0.6 2.6
.166 Kenny Carr 1981 CLE 17.0 .560 .511 16.9 3.6 11.5 2.6 1.0 0.6 3.2
.174 Calvin Natt 1982 POR 19.0 .622 .577 18.4 2.7 8.5 2.1 0.9 0.5 1.9

For Knick fans that envision David Lee as a borderline All Star (including his agent), this has to be a disappointing list of comparable players. But overall this isn’t such a bad list to be in. The top 4 players (Wilcox is still active) were all in the league for 11+ seasons, with Green & Cage banging until their late 30s. And there is one other ray of hope: Lee outclasses most of these players.

At his current age (25), Lee has already become a league leader in his key strengths (rebounding & scoring percentage). In the two seasons he’s had enough minutes to qualify for league leaders, Lee has been in the top 10 in fg% twice, and in his first season as a starter he was in the top 5 in both offensive and defensive rebounds. By the age of 25 Cage was in the top 5 in offensive rebounding once and Vaught was among the top 10 in field goal percentage. Other than these two instances, none of Lee’s other top 5 comparable players accomplished either of these goals by the same age.

So what to make of this list? Clearly Lee’s defensive inefficiencies put him in a lower tier of players. To use a food analogy, this group of players are the hamburgers of the league. They’re not something that you’d necessarily look to build around, but if you were deprived of them, you’d feel something was missing. There aren’t many White Castle sliders (Wilcox?, Carr?) and there are some Jackson Hole Wyoming savory burgers (Green, Cage, Daugherty). And although David Lee is still a hamburger, he’s made of Kobe beef.

2009 Report Card: Eddy Curry

When the Knicks acquired Eddy Curry, he was supposed to be the future of the franchise. Although there were signs that he would never reach that level of play (namely every stat but fg% and pts/36), his size and flashes of scoring lead many to believe in his potential.

In 2009 Eddy Curry had his most disappointing season, playing a grand total of 12 minutes and scoring only 5 points. Immediately after the season ended, Curry vowed to get in shape, and immediately began twittering about his work out regimen. In the weeks since, his private trainer “leaked” that Curry lost 30 pounds, and Eddy appeared before the Knicks brass at the summer league. It appears that Curry is doing what he does best. He appeals to the optimist in Knick fans, while producing almost nothing.

Report Card (5 point scale):
Offense: 1
Defense: 1
Teamwork: 1
Rootability: -87
Performance/Expectations: 1

Grade: F

Similarity Scores:

I’ve decided to look at his 2008 season, since he barely played in 2009.

.000 Eddy Curry 2008 NYK 15.0 .578 .546 18.4 2.6 6.5 0.8 0.3 0.7 3.0
.132 Craig Smith 2009 MIN 16.9 .599 .562 18.4 2.4 7.0 1.9 0.8 0.5 2.6
.161 Mike Jackson 1975 VIR 13.9 .584 .528 17.7 3.3 8.1 1.5 0.8 0.3 3.8
.171 Wayman Tisdale 1990 SAC 18.1 .565 .525 21.5 2.3 7.3 1.3 0.7 0.7 1.9
.172 Hakim Warrick 2008 MEM 16.2 .555 .512 17.5 2.5 7.3 1.1 0.7 0.6 1.7
.184 Armen Gilliam 1990 TOT 16.6 .565 .515 18.9 3.1 8.9 1.5 1.0 0.8 2.7
.184 Othella Harrington 1999 HOU 16.1 .559 .513 15.9 2.9 9.8 0.6 0.2 1.0 2.4
.185 Zan Tabak 1996 TOR 12.4 .554 .543 13.9 3.2 8.6 1.7 0.6 0.8 2.7
.196 Orlando Woolridge 1985 CHI 19.5 .608 .554 22.6 2.0 5.6 1.7 0.7 0.5 2.3
.198 Frank Card 1970 WSA 15.3 .556 .528 17.4 3.1 9.5 1.8     2.9
.198 Ike Diogu 2009 TOT 20.3 .611 .534 19.9 4.4 9.4 0.5 0.5 0.5 2.0

All of these players are 6-9 or shorter, except for 7 footer Zan Tabak. Curry is 6-11, but plays small due to his lack of rebounding & blocked shots. In this list Curry is the second worst rebounder, the worst passer, and second worst at coughing up the ball. There aren’t a lot of good players on this list, which speaks volumes for those aspects of Curry’s game. [And yes, Virginia had an ABA team.]

For fun I ran the similarity scores for Eddy Curry in 2005, his last year as a Bull. For irony’s sake I’ve included the 11th person. (Note Ike Diogu’s 2006’s season is the most similar to Curry, but I excluded it because in 2005 it wouldn’t have happened yet.) Not a whole lot of franchise centers here.

.000 Eddy Curry 2005 CHI 16.3 .583 .538 20.2 2.3 6.7 0.7 0.4 1.2 3.2
.132 Bill Cartwright 1980 NYK 17.9 .608 .547 20.4 2.2 8.3 1.9 0.5 1.2 2.5
.152 Lorenzo Charles 1986 ATL 11.5 .587 .557 16.1 1.7 5.1 1.1 0.3 0.8 2.4
.170 Tom Chambers 1982 SDC 15.0 .553 .525 18.7 2.8 7.5 2.0 0.8 0.6 3.0
.183 Rasheed Wallace 1997 POR 18.4 .588 .565 17.8 2.3 8.0 1.4 0.9 1.1 2.2
.184 Joe Barry Carroll 1981 GSW 16.4 .534 .491 19.1 3.4 9.4 1.4 0.6 1.5 3.0
.200 Tim McCormick 1985 SEA 14.7 .606 .557 16.5 3.3 9.0 1.8 0.4 0.7 2.6
.209 Gary Trent 1997 POR 16.8 .569 .536 16.6 2.9 8.0 1.6 0.9 0.7 2.4
.214 Eric White 1988 LAC 15.2 .597 .536 18.2 3.2 6.3 0.9 0.7 0.3 2.1
.222 Walter Berry 1987 TOT 16.8 .561 .531 22.7 3.1 7.0 2.4 0.9 0.9 3.5
.224 John Wallace 1997 NYK 13.0 .571 .521 14.9 2.3 7.1 1.7 1.0 1.1 3.5
.229 Mike Sweetney 2005 NYK 16.4 .592 .531 15.5 4.0 10.0 1.0 0.6 0.7 2.6

2009 Report Card: Danilo Gallinari

Gallinari’s first year in America was a comedy of errors. When the player New York reportedly coveted (Russell Westbrook) went one pick earlier, Gallinari was seemingly taken as Plan B. In his first preseason game Gallinari faced a 300+ lb behemoth in Robert “Tractor” Traylor, and promptly hurt his back. The youngster sat out the rest of preseason, but was ready when the season started. In the Knicks first game, D’Antoni played Gallo over Marbury prompting fans to inexplicably cheer for Stephon. After his second game, Gallinari’s back prevented him from playing until mid-January. The rookie played spot minutes for 2 months before calling it a season.

I think it’s safe to say that Gallo’s rookie season is one he, the team, Knick fans, and perhaps all of Italy are hoping to forget. On the court the youngster appeared robotic at times, no doubt a result of his back injury. He didn’t have a full range of motion, almost as if the uniform guy put way too much starch in his jersey. Judging a 20 year old from 400 minutes isn’t very reliable but factor in a bad back, and it’s hard to separate Gallo’s attributes from his limitations due to injury. For instance his rebounding was extremely poor for a 6-10 forward, cleaning the glass at about the same rate (4.8 reb/36) as Nate Robinson (4.7 reb/36). He only blocked 4 shots all year (0.3 blk/36). But until he’s healthy for some serious minutes, we won’t know if these are areas that he needs to work on or if his back limited his production.

What we do know is that the kid can shoot, as Gallinari hit 44.4% of his threes and 96.3% of his ones. While it’s unlikely that he’ll keep his percentages that high for a full season, it’s likely that he’ll be an above average shooter over the course of his career. Gallo attempted to show his handle on the perimeter to mixed success. He definitely has some skill with the basketball and can go behind the back when needed, but he appears awkward when doing so. Save for his poor block rate, Danilo looked adequate defensively with above average lateral speed to and an eye for the ball (1.2 stl/36).

Using 400 injury-plagued minutes isn’t a good measure of any NBA player. For fun I decided to run my similarity scores for the 10 most comparable players. However due to the small sample size combined with Gallo’s youth, the first player is 2 standard deviations away (Julian Wright), and the second is 3 (C.J. Miles). I wouldn’t read too much into these.

.000 Danilo Gallinari 2009 NYK 13.4 .621 .576 14.9 1.1 4.8 1.3 1.2 0.3 1.3
.199 Julian Wright 2008 NOH 15.4 .581 .562 12.5 1.9 6.6 2.3 1.6 0.7 1.9
.220 C.J. Miles 2008 UTA 14.2 .574 .542 15.5 0.8 4.1 2.8 1.7 0.4 1.4
.241 Thaddeus Young 2009 PHI 15.3 .549 .524 16.0 1.9 5.3 1.2 1.4 0.3 1.6
.259 Mike Miller 2001 ORL 13.2 .541 .523 14.7 1.0 4.9 2.1 0.8 0.3 1.5
.289 Eric Gordon 2009 LAC 14.9 .593 .529 16.8 0.6 2.7 2.9 1.0 0.5 2.2
.296 Nicolas Batum 2009 POR 12.9 .555 .532 10.5 2.1 5.4 1.8 1.2 1.0 1.2
.303 Gerald Green 2006 BOS 13.1 .541 .500 16.1 1.0 3.9 1.7 1.3 0.4 2.1
.326 Rashard Lewis 2000 SEA 16.5 .543 .521 15.4 2.9 7.7 1.6 1.4 0.8 1.8
.345 Daniel Gibson 2007 CLE 9.4 .556 .537 10.1 1.0 3.4 2.5 0.8 0.3 1.6
.368 Adrian Dantley 1977 BUF 18.3 .601 .520 20.0 3.2 7.5 1.8 1.2 0.2  
.401 Mark Olberding 1977 SAS 14.2 .579 .503 15.8 3.0 8.3 2.2 1.1 0.5  

Just to expand things, I ran two queries from Basketball Reference to get some more similar players. The first of players 6-10 or taller who grabbed less than 5 rebounds per 36, and the second of players who hit 44% of their threes while attempting 6.0 or more per 36. The latter produced only 4 other players, the former 49, and surprisingly a lot fit Gallinari’s mold: Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, Peja Stojakovic, Brent Barry, Danny Ferry, and Cliff Robinson. Although the Knicks were probably hoping for more out of the #6 pick, it’s not a bad group to be in. Consider that the aforementioned players have been cogs on teams that have all made it to the Finals.

Report Card (5 point scale):
Offense: 4
Defense: 2
Teamwork: 4
Rootability: 5
Performance/Expectations: 2