2010 Poll: Who Will Win the West?

Los Angeles Lakers (Vegas odds to win title: 5:2)
Unlike the East, the West has one clear favorite. Since trading for Pau Gasol, the Lakers have appeared in two straight Finals winning it all last year. Not content to let it ride, Los Angeles upgraded from Trevor Ariza to Ron Artest. This would be a gamble for most teams considering the Queensbridge native’s history, but Phil Jackson has always been able to keep individual personalities from ruining a team.

San Antonio Spurs (6:1)
In an attempt to keep up with the Lakers, the Spurs bolstered their roster in the off season. San Antonio added Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess which should give them a stronger rotation. But ultimately the Spurs will only go as far as their top 3. Last year the team suffered injuries to Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, and if they lose either of them (or Tony Parker) they’ll fall short of any title hopes.

Denver Nuggets (8:1)
The conventional wisdom is that teams that finish strong are likely to have a momentum that continues to the next season. This seems logical since many great teams go through phases of success before winning a title. However there’s little evidence to support that claim, and many teams just get lucky in a playoff series. The 2009 Denver Nuggets will probably avoid the fate of the 2007 Warriors or the 2008 Hornets, as they are likely to see the second round in 2010. However I think Vegas is way too kind to their odds, and I would bet against them to make the Western Conference Finals, nevertheless win a championship.

Last year per-minute stud Chris Andersen had a monstrous playoffs, however over the last 3 years each of the Denver bigs (Andersen, Nene, and Martin) has missed nearly the whole year due to injury. And while the other teams in the conference improved this summer Denver merely tread water, losing Kleiza and adding Ty Lawson. Unless they get another playoff boost from a great per-minute shot blocking/rebounder buried on the bench, they’re not likely going to be able to compete against the Lakers for Western supremacy.

The Field (starting at 10:1)
According to Vegas, the Trailblazers rank 6th in the West, however Portland deserves a higher ranking. They had the West’s second highest expected winning percentage last year (68.4%), which correlates well with winning percentage the year after. Portland also had the NBA’s best offense powered by their fantastic rebounding. The Blazers return with their rotation in tact plus Andre Miller. Although not the ideal fit for the team, Miller provides an upgrade over Bayless & Blake. They’re much better than their 12:1 odds would indicate.

Ahead of Portland are Dallas and Utah at 10:1. The Mavericks added Shawn Marion, Drew Gooden, and Tim Thomas. Marion’s production slipped in Miami and Toronto, and Dallas is hoping that their offensive scheme will better fit his talents. Meanwhile the Jazz matched the offer sheet for Paul Millsap, and are hoping that they can collectively stay healthy. Finally the New Orleans Hornets swapped Chandler for Emeka Okafor, which could make them relevant in the West again.

{democracy:36}

Ariza or Chandler

Alan Hahn wrote an interesting blog about whether the Trevor Ariza trade or the Eddy Curry trade hurt the Knicks more. Although Ariza has grown to be a starter for the Western favorite Lakers, Hahn says the traded draft picks for Curry were more damaging to the franchise. Throw in that Curry’s contract still hampers the team (and could cost them either Lee or Robinson) and it’s a no-brainer. But on the Ariza side Hahn adds:

Try not to dwell on what might’ve been, Fixers. Look instead at Wilson Chandler, who is very similar to Ariza but already possesses the jump shot Ariza has had to work to achieve, and understand why we make the point here at the Fix that the franchise needs to surround Wil and Danilo Gallinari with the right kind of veterans, the right kind of atmosphere.

In the broader view, having a young forward in Chandler does ease the loss of Ariza, especially when you consider that Francis’ contract (which turned into Randolph) is already freed up for 2010. However I disagree with Hahn’s notion that Chandler is “ahead” of Ariza at the same age. Compare their per-minute stats:

  Player G    MP   FGA  FG% 3PA  3P% FTA  FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV  PF  PTS  TS%
   Ariza 194 3659  9.7 .472 0.2 .160 4.6 .644 2.6 4.4 7.0 2.1 1.8 0.5 2.2 3.8 12.2 51.9
Chandler 117 3420 13.7 .433 3.6 .326 2.8 .762 1.4 4.7 6.0 2.1 0.9 1.0 1.7 3.5 15.1 50.8

Chandler does possess the jump shot that Ariza had to work on. At the same age, Ariza had no three point range at all. This year Trevor hit 31.9% of his threes, while not an ideal number, it is light years ahead of where he was 3 years ago. However Ariza’s rebounding, steals, and free throw attempts per minute dwarfs Chandler’s – all signs of better physical ability. In fact at the same age, Chandler’s ability to hit free throws and three point shots still doesn’t make him as efficient a shooter as Ariza, because of the imbalance in free throw attempts (at witnessed by their TS%).

The two are different sides of the same coin. Ariza was a slasher who had to develop an outside shot to become a more complete player. Meanwhile Chandler has an outside shot that took a few seasons for Ariza to develop, but to become a better overall player he needs to gain the ability to get to the line more often. In the paint Chandler often turns to spin moves and turn around jumpers instead of taking the ball to the hoop and drawing contact. But even if Chandler does gain this ability, he’ll still be a tad behind Ariza defensively. Trevor averaged 2.5 stl/36 this year, something that Chandler isn’t likely to ever do.

First Round Thoughts

Just opening this up for people to talk about the first round. I haven’t seen a lot of games, but I did catch a few good ones. I saw the Celtics lose in overtime, the Lakers crush the Jazz, and a bit of the Nuggets/Hornets. Of the few games I saw, it was interesting how many ex-Knicks (and potential ex-Knicks) were involved on winning teams: Trevor Ariza, Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas, Nene. It’s hard not to be a little bitter about it, at least for another year…

As for the upsets, the East looks like a one man race at this point. The Celtics clearly aren’t the same without Garnett. Orlando lost to the Sixers? OK so that’s more likely to be a fluke than not, but it does raise questions at this point about the Magic. And if you thought the Heat were a Wade explosion from potentially beating the Cavs…

KnickerBlogger Turns 5

This week marks the 5th anniversary of KnickerBlogger. When I started this venture, I didn’t imagine it would last this long. Five years ago, blogging was still in its infancy. There were less than 2 million blogs when KnickerBlogger came into existence. Just six months after, the number of blogs had doubled. Today it’s unknown how many blogs there are. One estimate is 200 million. Many of them are powered by individuals like myself.

More important than the number of blogs is the role they perform. Once derided by the mainstream media, just about every newspaper, magazine, and network hosts their own blog. They are now an essential part of the world’s information and entertainment. Blogs fill an important niche in the world. Previously the only avenue for the common man to voice his opinion was through those who held the keys to kingdom. Often his voice was not heard by the public. Blogs have taken the words of the everyman and projected them from the world’s tallest soap box.

Five years ago my goal with KnickerBlogger was to create a platform for those who felt their opinion was not represented in the mainstream. Judging by the other readers who come here to share their thoughts and my affiliation with True Hoop Network that allows me to bring these voices to the mainstream, it seems that I have succeeded. I can only wonder what KnickerBlogger will be in five more years.


To celebrate this anniversary, I’m announcing the KnickerBlogger Quinquennial Team. To assist in this matter, I’ve looked at the overall PER and the single season PER for that period.

Stephon Marbury, PG – As painful as it is to admit, Marbury has dominated the team in many ways during the lifespan of KnickerBlogger. As his career with the team comes nearer to it’s disappointing end, it’s hard to remember that he was a productive scorer early on. He has the highest single season PER (21.9 in 2005) as well as the highest PER (18.4) during the KnickerBlogger era. His defense was mediocre and his contract was suffocating, had the two been reversed he would have been a shoe in for the Hall of Fame.
Reserves: Chris Duhon, Nate Robinson, Frank Williams.

David Lee, PF – It may shock many to see Lee here, but those that have watched him play aren’t surprised that he’s been the second most productive Knick by PER standards over the last 5 years. Looking at things from a objective standpoint it’s hard to find a more deserving PF. Randolph’s PER is the same and his weaknesses are similar to Lee’s (blocked shots, defense). However, Lee has played 4000 more minutes while costing the team $10M less. After Randolph are Mike Sweetney and Kurt Thomas. Sweetney ate himself out of the league, and Thomas wasn’t nearly as productive on the offensive end. Of all the starters on this list, Lee is the one who is most likely to also appear on KnickerBlogger’s Decennial team as well.
Reserves: Zach Randolph, Kurt Thomas, Mike Sweetney.

Nazr Mohammed, C – Surprised it’s not Curry? Nazr played exactly 81 games for the Knicks in 2 seasons, and would rank 4th in Knicks PER over the KnickerBlogger era. Mohammed was a great offensive rebounder, pulling down 4.0/36 oreb/36. To put that in perspective that’s a higher rate than Lee’s career 3.6. During the Isiah era, Nazr was eventually replaced by Eddy Curry. Comparing the two, Nazr was outscored by Curry (19.2 to 13.7), but Curry did it with almost double the turnovers (3.5 to/36 to 2.0). Additionally Mohammed had nearly double the blocks (1.3 blk/36 to Curry’s 0.7), triple the steals (1.4 stl/36 to 0.4), and more rebounds (10.6 reb/36 to 7.4). With that in mind, it’s clear that Nazr deserves the nod here.
Reserves: Eddy Curry, Dikembe Mutombo.

Van Horn/Renaldo Balkman, SF Keith played only 47 games for New York, but he put up some good numbers while he was here. Van Horn was criticized for being a tweener that had trouble defending, but he rebounded well and scored efficiently. However Van Horn only played 1500 minutes for New York. That’s about as much as Al Harrington. If that’s too little for you, then Balkman is next on the PER list. Considering how PER doesn’t account well for defense, then it makes sense that he was probably unrepresented by his stats.

One note on Keith Van Horn: shortly after Isiah Thomas took over the team, he traded Keith Van Horn. At the time Van Horn was a popular player who had just been acquired that summer, so the trade felt hasty. Since then New York has suffered through instability at the small forward position, something I’ve called “the Curse of Keith Van Horn”. The list of small forwards since the Knicks jettisoned Van Horn: Anfernee Hardaway, DerMarr Johnson, Tim Thomas, Trevor Ariza, Shandon Anderson, Jerome Williams, Matt Barnes, Jalen Rose, Ime Udoka, Qyntel Woods, Jared Jeffries, Quentin Richardson, Renaldo Balkman, and Wilson Chandler. Hopefully the curse will be broken in 2010
Reserves: Tim Thomas, Junk Yard Dog.

Jamal Crawford, SG – The default pick, since there really haven’t been many other shooting guards in recent Knick history. Robinson is the only other one that merits any mention. Crawford can drive Golden State fans crazy for the next few years.
Reserves: Nate Robinson

Lenny Wilkens, Coach – I’d like to choose D’Antoni, but he’s only been around for a half season. Wilkens got the team to the playoffs until they tuned him out a year later. In retrospect that should have signified there was something wrong behind the scenes. In his latter years, Wilkens was an adequate coach, which says a lot about the coaches the Knicks have had over the last 5 years.

Most Minutes 5: Curry, Lee, Richardson, Crawford, Marbury
Least Minutes 5: Trybanski, Randolph Morris, Matt Barnes, Jamison Brewer, Jermaine Jackson

Best Defensive 5: Mutumbo, Kurt Thomas, Balkman, Ariza, Frank Williams
Worst Defensive 5: Curry, Randolph, Jalen Rose, Crawford, Marbury

Drafted 5: Frye, Lee, Balkman, Ariza, Nate
Toughest 5: Kurt Thomas, Balkman, Collins, Robinson, Frank Williams

Best Shooting 5: David Lee, Tim Thomas, Van Horn, Nate, Marbury
Worst Shooting 5: Bruno Sundov, Malik Rose, Balkman, Shanderson, Collins

All Name 5: Cezary Trybanski, Othella Harrington, Qyntel Woods, Anfernee Hardaway, Moochie Norris
Scrappiest 5: David Lee, Jerome Williams, Renaldo Balkman, Jermaine Jackson, Frank Williams

If I had to choose a Starting 5 from this era: Nazr, Lee, Balkman, Robinson, Duhon.
Reserves: Mutombo, Van Horn, Ariza, Sweetney, Frank Williams, Gallinari, Chandler.
Coach: D’Antoni

It’s sad but I think this is the best the Knicks could do combining all the players over the last 5 years. I’ve left Marbury off for obvious reasons. New York would have a tremendous rebounding starting lineup, with enough balance of offense & defense on the bench. If you wanted, you could substitute Randolph or Kurt Thomas for Sweetney. But this being KnickerBlogger, I thought it’d be good to give the guy a second chance. The same goes for Frank Williams, who is playing well enough in the NBDL to get another shot at the NBA. Gallinari & Chandler make the list because of their youth. If this team were looking at a title, then I might choose Tim Thomas and Crawford. But I think this is a .500 team that will need some youth.

Two Games Over .500?

Stephon Marbury was the point guard with Allan Houston at the 2. Kurt Thomas and Tim Thomas were the forwards and Nazr Mohammed was in the middle.

The bench players were Mike Sweetney, Anfernee Hardaway, Jerome Williams, Trevor Ariza and Moochie Norris

That was the Knicks team on January 1st, 2005, when a Knick three-game winning streak came to an end with a loss to the New Jersey Nets, 93-87. The Knicks ended the night at 16-14, the last time they were two games over .500 until last night. Read More

Knicks 2009 Season Preview Part III

Part I here.
Part II here.

SMALL FORWARD:

If guard is the Knicks’ most plentiful position, then small forward is their least. Let’s take a look at these two players:

Name TS% EFG% PTS/36 PER
A 0.51 0.48 16.2 15.0
B 0.48 0.45 11.9 10.7

From these stats Player A is obviously superior. And that’s who the Knicks thought they were getting when they traded for Quentin Richardson. Player B is the player they actually got. (A is Richardson’s averages pre-New York, B is his averages in a Knick uniform). Despite a clear decline in play, Richardson will be the Knicks defacto starter at small forward, a position he’s had for the last 3 years. It’s painfully obvious that Richardson’s career has taken a downturn due to injuries. SI.com has a list of his injuries over the last two seasons: head, right ankle, flu, right knee tendon, back surgery, sprained right elbow, back spasms, and hamstring strain. We can only hope that Q-Rich takes his flu shot this year.

Richardson has a couple of positives. He has a familiarity with D’Antoni due to playing under him in 2005, and he exerts energy on the defensive end. How effective those two make him are another story. Quentin can hit the three (career 35.2% 3P%) and rebound (6.4 REB/36), but he has been a substandard scorer. Last year he was woefully inefficient (TS%: 44.4%, eFG%: 42.1%) and averaged a pitiful 8.1 points per game off of 8.5 shot attempts. The team would be better off playing him 20 minutes off the bench instead of the 28.3 minutes per game he averaged last year. Without a major turnaround in scoring efficiency, he’s bench material.

Unfortunately Richardson will more likely get the lion’s share of the minutes at small forward, because the Knicks don’t have many other options. The main reserve is 21 year old Wilson Chandler. A late first round pick, Chandler is an athletic 6-8 swingman. As billed by the “Ill Will” tatooes on his arms, Chandler is a good defender. He can contribute in a variety of ways: blocks, steals, rebounds, three point shots, and points. On the negative side of the ledger, Chandler is an inefficient scorer (TS: 48.0%, eFG% 45.7%) who isn’t shy about taking a shot.

There are lots of players similar to Chandler, under 21 year old forwards with poor shooting percentages, with varying results. For every Donyell Marshall, Trevor Ariza, and Al Harrington there seems to be a Lamond Murray, Sylvester Gray, or Yi Jianlian to match (for Net fans change that last name to Samaki Walker). At this point it’s unclear which path Chandler is on.

Wilson Chandler may be too young for a starting role, but if the Knicks went out to a nightclub, Danilo Gallinari would be waiting outside for someone to pass him Wilson Chandler’s driver’s license. [Warning from the KnickerBlogger.Net legal dept. – using someone else’s id to enter a nightclub is illegal, immoral, and more likely to have your night end in a White Castle than someone else’s bed.] Gallinari won’t be of legal American drinking age until next August. Additionally he’ll be adjusting to an entirely different country, game, and diet. (Sorry Gallo – you won’t have freshly made hand cut pasta on the road.)

Lamentably, there isn’t much to say about Gallinari’s game that wouldn’t be conjecture. He hurt his back in summer league and is just starting to practice with the team. Since D’Antoni said he didn’t want Gallinari to play in the D-League, it’s probable that Danilo will sit on the end of the bench for most of the year. Gallinari’s future will be at power forward, but considering he hasn’t grown into his body yet, his injury, and the Knicks lack of depth at the three, small forward is probably where he’ll get the bulk of his minutes. When Richardson eventually misses a big chunk of time, don’t be surprised to see Gallinari’s name get called in the second quarter of games.

All in all the Knicks don’t have a lot of options at small forward. Going into the season two of their three potential SFs are battling injuries: Chandler and Gallinari. Additionally Jared Jeffries (who isn’t listed here because D’Antoni plays him in the frontcourt) who could play SF is also injured. Patrick Ewing Jr., who at the time of this writing has a chance of making the roster, has played only 24 preseason minutes. Even if Junior makes the team, it’s possible he’ll start the season in the D-League. D’Antoni will use a three guard rotation at times, but if Richardson and Chandler both get hurt at the same time he’ll have some interesting decisions to make.

Odds & Ends

  • Via TrueHoop, Childress talks about how things other than scoring matter over in Europe. Mainly how scoring is less important. Henry Abbott sums up the matter nicely:

    If it really is true — that little things that win games are more valued in Europe — then that confirms just about every negative stereotype of American basketball development. And it fits perfectly with the message from just about every new-breed statistical expert: That scoring is overvalued here, at the expense of other things that are hugely important but less obvious.

  • We’ll see how true this is, but the Post is talking about Marbury starting tonight against the Celtics. Of course they’re not sure where he’ll start. Anyone else get the feeling he’s like Costanza in the episode he keeps leaving things in women’s houses to get them used to him so they’ll feel more comfortable dating him? [To the tune of by Mennen] Marrrrrr-bury.

    It would make the most sense to start Marbury at shooting guard, replacing the struggling Jamal Crawford, who was 1 of 6 for four points. Or he could conceivably replace Quentin Richardson in a three-guard offense. D’Antoni has started a Chris Duhon-Crawford backcourt through the first five preseason games and feels it may be time to experiment with just two exhibition games left.

  • Ever wonder what Trevor Ariza is doing these days?
  • A blog that praises it’s GM? Could it ever happen here?
  • Kevin Pelton’s breakout candidates for 2009. And there’s one Isiah Thomas drafted small forward.