Preseason Thoughts

Sitting here on Christmas Eve – 24 hours before the Knicks tip off their season – my thoughts fluctuate between excitement, anxiousness, and fear – excited at the chances of a Championship, anxious from the lockout, and fearful of injuries. Here are my final thoughts (and feel-good YouTube clips) before the Knicks dive headfirst into 2011-2012.

STAT has been too passive thus far. Since ‘Melo joined the team, Amar’e hasn’t been the same. In the first half of last season, he would dominate teams in and out of the paint on the offensive end. Now, the offense moves completely through Anthony and he gets every big shot. Amar’e shoots a better TS% and eFG than Carmelo, and needs to be given the ball more in clutch situations – otherwise he will never regain the confidence a team leader needs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C93i_KFetdw

Toney Douglas looks just as he did last year, if not worse. This must be pretty evident to the Knicks front office as well. Iman has started practicing with the first team, and Baron Davis is the plan at point guard in the near future. Toney just does not have a high basketball IQ. He has a ton of raw talent and plenty of athleticism, but besides a few streaks of three pointers, his play has been uninspiring. He seems wholly unsure on offense and a bit slow on defense. I like him as a backup two – able to handle the ball well and provide some scoring. Let’s hope he can do this again – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2jvQvNiegs

– The Knicks’ defense is above average and Tyson is the main reason.  In the second preseason game against the Nets, Chandler personally altered about five or six shots in the paint – all misses. Most games the team lost last year were only by a few points. If Chandler can save 6-10 points a game, New York’s record could dramatically improve. I don’t think they have a top-ten defense, but I think the Knicks will finish top 15 (last year 21st) in defensive efficiency – good enough to contend for a title. – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nm4pXT0ar8E

Carmelo Anthony at PG may be the best option right now. Until Davis is healthy or Douglas can pass, I don’t see many other choices. His ball handling is great; he draws the double team constantly, and is able to find the open man. He also can pull up from three. The only issue is he will be outmatched in speed, so he couldn’t drive by opposing point guards.  Still, he could play a point forward position, and matchup with other small forwards. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7k8R-Yei_Y

Iman Shumpert has a real shot at being legit. He is confident, aggressive, and fundamentally sound. His ball-handling is great, his shooting form is excellent, and his defense, with some work, could eventually stop anyone in this league.  I think his ceiling is a solid, all-around All-Star who can deliver about 18pts and 6asts per game – a far-shot from the disgust expressed by many when we first drafted him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWBZaajteXU

Balkman and Harrellson deserve a shot. Both provided quality hustle minutes off the bench, and didn’t make too many mistakes. Josh missed a few shots, but that’s to be expected. Balkman was scoring easily and grabbing a bunch of boards. I expect each to get maybe 5 or 10 minutes off the bench for at least the first few games. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9NPhWY664Q

– Overall I predict great improvement with room left to perfect the chemistry. I think this squad can ultimately win a Championship. This year, the Knicks go 38 – 28 and make it to the second round of the playoffs. Happy holidays and a healthy New Year!

Grading the Knicks 2010 Deadline Deals

DARKO MILICIC TO MINNESOTA
FOR
BRIAN CARDINAL

Mike Kurylo: Hard to hate or love this deal. The Knicks were intent to not play Darko, and Milicic has an Erik Estrada sized chip on his shoulder. The NBA grapevine has it that the Knicks are going to release Cardinal, but I don’t see why. Kelly Dwyer called Cardinal the anti-Milicic, a guy who worked hard to squeeze out minutes like you would an old tube of toothpaste. Unlike Darko, Cardinal is on the tail end of his career, but if the Knicks decide to keep him I can see D’Antoni having a use for him in a Jeffries-esque-do-the-little-things kinda way.

Cardinal’s career stats aren’t awful 12.4 pts/36, TS% 55.2, 2.6 ast/36, 2.0 to/36, 6.2 reb/36, 1.7 stl/36. The question is how much of that is from his earlier days, and how much does he have left in the tank? I’ll put a clause out on my grade. If Cardinal plays 200+ minutes for the Knicks, I’ll call it a B+. If not then I’ll go with a C, since you have to hand it to Donnie for trying to get something out of nothing.

Thomas B.: I see this as trading goldenrod for saffron. But this is worth a C+ because we knew Milicic was never going to play. At least now we can wonder if Cardinal will play. Cardinal has been a pro for 9 years and I never heard of him. I had a picture in my mind of who I thought he was and I went to NBA.com to see if it matched; it did not. I was thinking of Bison Dele–he retired a decade ago.

Kevin McElroy: Knicks look set to cut Cardinal, so this seems like a clever piece of bookkeeping that will save them a shade over a million dollars. Small potatoes in the grand scheme of things? Sure. But who am I to hate on a team that wants to save a couple million bucks a few months before its intends to shell out roughly three gazillion dollars to let me root for LeBron and a high-priced sidekick. Not like they gave up anything we’ll miss, and Darko’s malingering could only have caused tension, so I’ll throw this one a C+. Somewhere, Q-Rich is wondering why he had to pay all those real estate agents in the first place.

Robert Silverman: Although I would have gotten a weird kink out of seeing Brian “The Janitor” Cardinal get some spin, it looks like we”ll never know. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for career backup PF/C’s. It’s why the only Nix jersey that I actually own is a Ken “The Animal” Bannister model from ’85-’86. B-

Caleb: Most NBA fans probably didn’t know that Darko was still in the league. Here’s my favorite Brian Cardinal story – can you believe there is a Brian Cardinal story? It’s how he got that contract in the first place. Allegedly, Michael Hensley was giving Jerry West a lot of grief, “why haven’t you signed anyone? etc.” West was about fed up and so he picked up the phone, called Cardinal’s agent and asked if he wanted $30 million. Ten seconds later, he turned to Hensley and said, “I signed a free agent. Are you satisfied?” I don’t know if it’s true but it’s a good story. This trade saved the Knicks about a million bucks, counting luxury tax. Supposedly Kahn is his protege. Guess there was a favor owed. A-

Brian Cronin: As Caleb notes, the trade saved the Knicks roughly $1 million off of their luxury tax bill, and since they were not playing Darko at all, this is a pretty easy win (now as to why they never really played Darko at all, well, that’s another story). A-

Dave Crockett: A little tax relief, and a potential end-of-bench player. Moving right along. A (but only worth a few points)

NATE ROBINSON AND MARCUS LANDRY TO BOSTON
FOR
EDDIE HOUSE, J.R. GIDDENS AND BILL WALKER

Mike Kurylo: Nate’s days were numbered under D’Antoni. Getting the starting job over Duhon seemed to indicate a final opportunity for Nate to win over D’Antoni. Being demoted just 2 days afterwards told you all you needed to know about Nate’s future in New York. In Walsh’s defense Nate did reject the deal to Memphis, but perhaps he could have played chicken with Nate and tried to force his hand (no one wants to sit in the final year of their contract). I’m sad the Knicks didn’t get a draft pick in return in this deal, especially considering that they gave one (and a half) away to Houston. It seems that there’s always a few teams willing to give one away, perhaps the Lakers might have been interested.

In the short term Eddie House will bring the big three ball, and fit in nicer with D’Antoni than Nate ever did. Giddens & Walkers NBDL numbers aren’t bad, but considering how little last year’s NBDLers played, I don’t envision the Knicks giving them lots of playing time. Oh and Giddens just had knee surgery, with no timetable to return. The Celtics got by far the best player of the bunch, and the Knicks didn’t receive anything here except perhaps a rental on House and a short look at Walker. D+

Thomas B.: I guess this means I lost when I took the over for Nate Robinson games as a Knick (82.5) prior to the season. I don’t like the move because Robinson is worth more than what we brought back. I’d have much rather had Robinson added to Jeffries deal with the Knicks keeping the “sweetener” picks. Or bring back a late first round pick when sending Robinson to Boston. A protected pick in 2012 would have made the 2012 pick we moved out with Jeffries easier to take. Of course, Walsh was somewhat limited since Nate could void the trades. This deal makes me think letting Robinson walk at the end of the season is okay. I just can’t see House, Walker, or Giddens dropping 41 points combined in any game this season much less any one of them doing it alone. D-

Kevin McElroy: This trade was presented in a ton of different forms and with a number of different justifications over the last month, most of which made sense for one reason or another. These reasons included:

1) Because the Knicks were going to get a draft pick back.
2) Because the Knicks were going to dump a player to reduce next year’s cap number.
3) Because the Celtics needed an incentive to be pulled into the larger Knicks/Rockets/Kings trade.
4) Because the Knicks wanted to get Toney Douglas more playing time without Nate looking over his shoulder.

In its final version, the trade accomplishes zero of these things. No draft pick came back and no long-term salary left with Nate, the Celtics trade was conducted separately from the mega-deal, and Alan Hahn has tweeted that Douglas will remain out of D’Antoni’s rotation (behind Duhon and the newly acquired Sergio Rodriguez).

Ultimately, the Knicks sent away a fan favorite for players that won’t be around after a couple months, received no assets, cleared up no cap room, and have run the risk of rejuvenating a division rival for a playoff run by sending them a much-needed bench scorer (seriously, I know the Knicks are out of it, but we can all agree that we’d rather not see the Celtics succeed in the postseason, right?). On a personal level, I’m happy that Nate gets to play for a good team, but the Knicks did absolutely nothing to advance their interests here. More worryingly, it feels like the Knicks brass was simply out-maneuvered, failing to take a hard line as the best parts of their return package came off the table. It feels silly to give such a poor grade to this one, seeing as Nate would have walked in a few months anyway, but the direction that this negotiation took shouldn’t get anything more than a D+.

Caleb: This was depressing. Like Balkman, an example of Walshtoni dumping someone they just didn’t like. Although, to be fair, it saved the Knicks more than $1 million, counting luxury tax. On the plus side, I’m happy for Nate, who will have a lot of fun the next three months. Wild-card: Bill Walker. Before he blew out both knees, there was talk of his being a top-5 pick. If they ever invent a new surgery/rejuvenation machine he could be a stud. D

Robert Silverman: First of all, can we please stop holding a torch for the supposed “Kenny Thomas for Jeffries & Nate deal that Donnie Moth$%&*^!ing Walsh turned down!!!!” deal. It was a rumor. No one, save Walsh and Petrie, knows if it’s true and they’re not telling. It’s like still being pissed at Isiah for (supposedly) retiring in ’93 rather than accept a trade to the Knicks (as Pete Vescey/Pete Vescey’s psychic Ms. Cleo claims). No, two C-Minus prospects like Giddens and Walker isn’t much of a haul for a productive (if maddening/maddeningly inconsistent) player. But what’s the alternative? Even if you could get another team to go for a sign and trade this off-season (which, considering Olympiakos was the strongest bidder in the summer of ’09 isn’t likely), you’re still going to have to take back a contract to make the deal work, thus cutting into our sweet, creamery cap space. The one thing that royally cheeses me off is that come playoff time, I will pull for Nate when he’s in the game (b/c he’s Nate. Warts and all, I so dig the dude). As a result, I’ll have to…sort of…root…for…the Celtics. Ick. I just threw up a little in my mouth. C-

Brian Cronin: I agree that it is a bit frustrating that Nate returned little value partially because his own coach was pretty clear about not liking him (way to market your assets!), but once you allow that Nate’s value was depressed to the point where you weren’t going to get a draft pick for him (by the way, the deal apparently does include a conditional second round pick, but I believe it’s one of those conditional picks where the chances of the conditions ever actually existing are next to nil, so it’s effectively not really a pick at all), then saving some money on the luxury tax is as good as anything else, I suppose. C+

Dave Crockett: This was all about coach D. I just cannot understand why Nate couldn’t play in 7SOL (such that it is in NY) while he got big mileage out of Barbosa in PHO. Happy for Nate, but I recall from my Beantown days that Tommy Heinsen HATES Nate. That’s never a good thing in that town. D

JORDAN HILL, JARED JEFFRIES, OPTION TO SWAP 1ST ROUND PICK IN 2011 (TOP 1 PROTECTION), 2012 1ST ROUND PICK (TOP 5 PROTECTION), AND LARRY HUGHES TO HOUSTON/SACRAMENTO
FOR
TRACY MCGRADY, SERGIO RODRIGUEZ

Mike Kurylo: I’m not sure what else to say that I didn’t say yesterday. So I’ll look at what this deal means for this year. I admit I’m a bit excited to see some new blood on what’s become a lifeless team. However there’s a nagging voice in the back of my head that is telling me not to get too optimistic. I would love for someone to take Duhon’s place in the starting lineup. But part of me is hoping it’s not McGrady, because if he plays well then the front office might overpay to keep him. I don’t want my future hopes resting on Donnie Walsh giving him a reasonable contract, T-Mac staying healthy for a full season, and shooting more efficiently than he’s been in the past (he’s had exactly one season with a TS% over 54%). What are the odds all that comes to fruition?

Perhaps Sergio Rodriguez would be the guy to send Duhon packing. But I just don’t trust D’Antoni to play him, and can you blame me? Remember the NBDL-shuffle of last year? The 2 whole games he gave Nate Robinson this year (one against Cleveland) before calling the experiment a failure? Von Wafer? Morris Almond? I just don’t envision Mike D’Antoni handing over the reigns to a youngster, especially with how oddly married he is to Duhon. My guess is that Sergio won’t get a chance until it’s too late, and he’ll be gone without given a fair shake.

On the long term it’s a lot to pay for moving the contracts of Hill and Jeffries, and I’d be much happier if things go wrong in the next 3 seasons we still have our draft pick to comfort us on those cold February days when the team is playing poorly. I’d like to give this a D or an F, but the remote chance this brings in 2 studs and the draft picks don’t matter gives it some hope. C-

Thomas B.: This is NOT the 13 points in 35 second Tracy McGrady coming to NY. I hope folks understand that. This guy is much closer to the Anfernee Hardaway we got in 2004: an injury riddled once dominant scoring wing. I’m excited about what Sergio might be able to do…to Duhon. If he can’t steal Duhon’s minutes at point he does not need to be in the NBA. Sergio should be allowed a fair shot to supplant Duhon. We know Duhon won’t be back, so at least see if Sergio is worth bringing back on the cheap. Other than the draft picks, I won’t miss what we sent away.

This deal was not about players, it was about cap room and Walsh delivered. Now we have to see what that cap room turns in to. This deal can’t be graded fairly until July 2010. And the true impact will not be known until May of 2011 (playoffs anyone?). For now, I’ll grade this pass/fail. So for giving the team a chance to dream about James/Bosh or James/Wade or Wade/Bosh, Walsh earns a Pass. But if he goes all Dumars this off season…..

Robert Silverman: Outside of the roundball ramifications, from a semi-ontological point of view, doesn’t it seem like the Knicks are somehow osmotically taking on the karma/organizational principles (or lack thereof) of their Madison Sq. Garden co-occupants? For years, nay, decades…heck, since ice was invented, the Blueshirts have given a washed-up/injured “star” a year or two to spin/reclaim their former glory. Some worked out well (Messier, Jagr, even Gretzky) while for the most part they, to use an utterly shop-worn tabloid cliche, bombed in their B’way revival (Plante, Sawchuk, Hedberg, Nilsson, Esposito, Hodge, Dionne, Carpenter, Lafleur, Nicholls, Gartner, Kurri, Robitaille, Lindros, Fleury, etc. etc.). Look at the cats who’ve graced our roster in the past decade – McGrady, Hardaway, Jalen Rose, Steve Francis, Stephon Marbury, Van Horn, McDyess, Mutombo, etc. In 2001, that’s an all-star roster. Alas, it isn’t 2001 anymore, Victoria. And there ain’t no Santa Claus.

Look, Walsh went all in for LeBron/Wade. And as my fellow Knickerbloggers/other sportswriters/pundits have written, he had to do it. I’m going to cross the sporting barriers for my take on this: “…The day you say you have to do something, you’re screwed. Because you are going to make a bad deal…” – Billy Beane/Michael Lewis, Moneyball

Say LeBron/Wade gives the ‘Bockers the Heisman. What does Walsh do then? Just let all of that cap space sit there? Doesn’t Walsh, by the same logic then have to overpay Stoudamire/Johnson/Gay (or trade for Arenas – shudder) even if none of them are close to being worth a max deal? Like Thomas B., I’m going to hedge my bets/grades: A+ (LeBron/Wade agrees to be NY’s best girl)/D- (Walshtoni’s so depressed/on the rebound that he throws money/a promise ring at the first vaguely attractive gal who comes his way)

Kevin McElroy: Look everybody, I know we’ve grown accustomed to expecting the worst here. I also know that there is plenty NOT to like about this trade [For example: how’s that “Nate and Jeffries for Kenny Thomas” trade look now? Far be it from me to say “I told you so,” but I think we can put to rest the idea that Walsh was wise to turn down that opportunity because he was waiting on something better (I’m looking at you “Donnie Walsh Report Card” commenters!) I hope for the sake of Walsh’s sleep schedule that rumor was unfounded all along.].

But these are the facts, and they are undisputed: The Knicks, even by the most pessimistic cap projections, will have $32 million in cap space next year. The Knicks have retained David Lee, who can be used in a sign-and-trade this summer. The Knicks have retained Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, the two players who most fans feared would have to be sacrificed to unload Jared Jeffries contract. And the Knicks will enter next season, no matter the free agent machinations, with Eddy Curry’s $11 million dollar expiring contract, allowing them to either make a mid-season trade or add another very good player in the summer of 2011. Make no mistake, the Knicks paid dearly to get here, and if they strike out in free agency, the lost draft picks could haunt them for a decade. But look around, and think about where we were 24 months ago (Isiah in charge, capped out beyond belief, any hope of signing LeBron as faded as my 1998-99 Eastern Conference Champions graphic tee), and realize that you now root for an NBA team with a blank slate, four months before the best basketball player in the world becomes a free agent. And, yes, there is no guarantee that he, or anyone else, is coming. But this was the only reasonable course of action given where the Knicks started and the potential reward.

When Walsh arrived, he inherited three players with cap-killing contracts that extended past 2010. He was widely expected to find takers for ZERO of them. He found takers for THREE of them (Z-Bo, Crawford, Jeffries). This can’t be forgotten. The road here was a bumpy one, but the fact that we’re here at all is cause for quiet celebration. And cause for an A- .

Caleb: For me the key is opportunity cost. Without moving Jeffries, the Knicks ran a real risk of being able to afford only one major free agent, a scenario that probably would have led to signing no one — who would come to MSG, if even David Lee were gone? They were truly, truly desperate.
But the reactions are also just that people can’t believe their eyes. Or they remember the Bulls and Jerry Krause striking out for a couple of years, or they’re quivering at the memory of Isiah throwing $29 million at Jerome James. But free agency isn’t bad, guys. For $3 million, you can get someone better than Jordan Hill. Along those same lines, I think there’s very little chance the lost draft picks are in the teens, much less the lottery, and Walsh has covered his worst-case scenarios. $32 million buys a lot of options, LeBron or no. It won’t be hard to make this team a contender again. The only reason not to give this trade a higher grade is because when both the other teams come away grinning ear to ear, you have to figure you might have paid more than you had to. B

Brian Cronin: Not for nothing, but I believe the most pessimistic cap projections (a cap of $53 million) give the Knicks $31 million. Not a big deal, but you would need more than that to give full maximum contracts to either Lebron, Wade or Bosh. In any event, I think this is a trade that the Knicks had to do, and as Robert notes, when it is clear that you have to do something, other General Managers are going to take advantage of that need, and Daryl Morey is one of the best General Managers in the NBA, so he basically got as much as he could possibly get in this deal – but because the deal had to be made, I think it’s still a worthwhile move. I am on board with the notion of splitting the difference between an A (if this nets either Lebron/Wade, Lebron/Bosh, Wade/Bosh or Lebron/Lee) and F (if this nets no one of note, not even Joe Johnson), so the middle of that is a C.

EDITED TO ADD: I just realized another valuable aspect of this trade. It now allows the Knicks to sign up to $20.5 million worth of free agents (presuming a $53 million cap) while still keeping Lee’s cap hold in place rather than the $11 million worth of free agents before this trade. If they do that, they can then go over the cap to re-sign Lee. That basically puts them into a position where they can pretty much guarantee themselves that they will keep Lee if they want to keep Lee, as they’d be able to match any offer he gets. That’s big. Big enough for me to raise my grade to a B-.

Dave Crockett: You have to give this an incomplete. On the downside, the cost of this flexibility is high. So in one sense, it’s almost impossible to see this deal as an A+. Even in the best case scenario, we win the Yankee way–at a higher cost-per-win than any other team. Nevertheless, I’d rather win than not win. So, we’ll have to see what Donnie does with the flexibility. Its worth noting that the flexibility we have should also extend to sign-and-trades and trades. Incomplete.

Debunking The Four vs Five Theory

One of the reasons I started this blog was to question NBA cliches, vapid expressions like “defense wins championships”, “momentum”, and “chemistry”. One thing that’s been on my mind recently has been some of the debates on KnickerBlogger during the Lee/Balkman era. For years David Lee has been a favorite by a section of KnickerBlogger writers and followers, and in the earlier days the General’s troops received a lot of criticism for supporting him so vehemently. Lee’s detractors argued that putting him on the floor hurt the offense because his limited skills gave opposing teams the equivalent of an extra man on defense, saying that the team was trying to score 4 on 5. Meanwhile Lee’s supporters argued that his excellent inside scoring and rebounding forced the opposing team to keep a man on him.

To be clear, this was early in David Lee’s career, before he extended his range to 15 feet and was more aggressive with putting the ball on the floor. Also I’d like to add that Renaldo Balkman deserves mention in this discussion. Much like Lee, Balkman’s offensive game was limited to scoring near the hoop and recovering his team’s missed shots.

This topic has been on my mind because some fans are giving a portion of the credit to the Knicks recent win streak to the insertion of Jared Jeffries into the rotation. I don’t want to bring Jeffries’ defensive contributions into this discussion, and admit that there’s no doubt most of his value comes from that end of the floor. What I’m most interested in is solely the discussion on the offensive side of the ball, and I’d like to limit this topic to that portion.

Jeffries is just awful on the offensive side of the floor, with exactly one skill – rebounding. Of course this is the same attribute that Lee & Balkman exceled at, but the latter were better at it and had the additional attribute of being able to score around the basket at a good rate. Jeffries slightly higher turnover rate is exacerbated by his low point total. (In other words, his hands are much worse than the other two.) If the ability for defenses to leave a offensively challenged 5th man uncovered was real, then Jeffries would be a lightning rod for such an effect.

  Player Year eFG% FTA  FT% ORB AST TOV  PTS  TS%
Jeffries 2010 .444 2.8 .576 3.1 2.2 1.9  8.2 .473
 Balkman 2010 .521 3.2 .531 3.4 1.5 1.6 10.5 .533
     Lee 2008 .575 3.7 .762 3.8 1.7 1.7 12.7 .621

A good example of Jeffries ineptitude was Saturday’s game. Jeffries overall line wasn’t awful, as he scored 12 points on 10 shots with just 2 turnovers and 2 assists. However his stats, which were atypically good for Jeffries, belies how poorly he played. Easily he could have had a much better night, as he missed two wide open three pointers, a 5 foot hook shot, and three layups two of which were blocked. The latter acts are typical of Jeffries who at 6-11 is inexplicably feeble around the basket. At the end of the night, Jeffries was a team worst -13.

If you asked me to sum up in as few words as possible why I don’t believe in momentum in basketball, I would say watch enough games, and you’ll see that when announcers start talking about momentum often enough the momentum will “shift”. Momentum typically isn’t something a team builds on, but rather it has zero predictive ability. New York had a lot of momentum in their 12-0 run early in the first quarter, of course until the Rockets followed it with their own 13-5 run. Momentum truly is just the last shot. You would expect when the Knicks began to play Jeffries, one of the worst offensive players in the league, major minutes that there would be a sizable group of fans discussing the Knicks being hurt by having to play 4 vs 5 on offense. However it seems that the opposite has occurred. When the Knicks put Jeffries into the starting lineup and began to win games, no one mentioned his hindrance on the offensive side.

Normally when I debunk something I tend to look at it from a statistical bent. However in this case, since the observational analysts seem to be content with the results, I guess I should be as well. Or rather, if by using the same source (a team trying to score with a player who isn’t able to score on his own) and method (observational data) a group of people come up with two different theories (Lee/Balkman are detrimental to the team, Jeffries is not) then you can assume that there is an inherent flaw in the study and the theory has no merit. From my perspective this is a clear case of looking at the result and trying to fit an answer into the blank. When the Knicks were playing poorly, the “4 vs 5 offense” existed and part of the problem. When they were playing well, the “4 vs 5 offense” wasn’t real.

I guess if I wanted to give real proof I’d point to the 2006 Pistons who had the league’s 4th best offense despite giving Ben Wallace 35 minutes a night. From an observational standpoint I could look at Saturday’s game. If the Rockets let Jeffries freelance without a defender then David Lee and Wilson Chandler would be the most hurt. But the duo shot a combined 20-30, most of their work coming from in the paint and in the midrange.

In fact the Knick offense was fine unless Jeffries was shooting. If he made his three layups (which you’d expect from someone 6-11), the Knicks start the 4th quarter up by 7 points. Add in the two turnovers and two wide open three pointers he missed, and the team would have cruised to victory with an average performance from #20. So it wasn’t that the other team was able to use Jeffries to stunt the rest of the offense, but rather it was Jeffries own futility which hurt the offense. So if the Knicks aren’t having their entire offense disrupted by having Jared Jeffries on the floor for 33 minutes a game (his average since December 6th), then playing a offensively superior player like a young David Lee or Renaldo Balkman wasn’t a detriment either.

2010 Season Preview: Optimist vs Pessimist

Optimist: Ready for another year of exciting basketball?

Pessimist: Ready to get another beating this year?

Optimist: What do you mean?

Pessimist: Well every year you make these wild predictions about the Knicks, and every year I kick your butt in.

Optimist: The last time we did this 2 years ago I predicted 43 wins, and the Knicks won 23, but that’s ancient history. I’ve learned from my mistakes, and feel confident about this year. Don’t you?

Pessimist: Um, never.

Optimist: Look at it from the bright side. Last year’s team won 32 games, and this team has a lot more going for it. The roster alone is deeper. Milicic, Hill, and Douglas are new additions, then add in a healthy Gallinari and a trimmed down Eddy Curry and you have to admit the team is a lot deeper, no?

Pessimist: Darko Milicic? He’s 24 and has been on 4 different teams already. Can anyone tell me what Jordan Hill does well? From what I saw this summer, he’s a power forward that’s shies from contact and likes to shoot hooks & jumpers. Douglas is a combo guard that shot 28.8% eFG in the summer league (including an arctic 9.1% from downtown). Gallo already has back problems, and a “trimmed down” Eddy Curry? Isn’t that like a suped up Ford Tempo?

Optimist: Easy there Pessy. Listen Darko will protect the paint. Hill will give some rebounding and outside shooting. Douglas can defend too and run the offense. Gallo is going to be the next Nowitzki. And Curry is going to score a ton in the paint. And anyway those 5 guys aren’t the core of the team, just some extra help. Lots of bench players in the league have faults.

Pessimist: Faults? The Knicks’ bench is like San Andreas. Which reminds me I have update my earthquake insurance.

Optimist: Earthquake insurance in New York City? With those kinds of prediction abilities, how do I lose to you every year? Anyway, the Knicks had lots of guys shuffling in & out last year. Crawford, Randolph, Collins, Roberson, Rose, Tim Thomas, and Jerome James, not to mention all the NBDL guys (Crawford, Sims, Nichols, Samb, and Sene). Certainly this year’s roster will be more stable.

Pessimist: Perhaps. But who is to say that Donnie won’t pull the trigger to shed some more contracts. Curry and Jeffries will be gone if Walsh receives a half decent deal (at least you’d hope so). And the Knicks don’t have a draft pick to sweeten the pot, so they’ll have to throw someone in like Chandler, Gallo, or Hill.

Optimist: Wait a second, you’re saying getting rid of Curry or Jeffries would be a bad thing? Let’s just see how things pan out before dumping on Walsh. Donnie has been pretty shrewd with deals so far.

Pessimist: Like Balkman & Von Wafer?

Optimist: No like getting rid of Randolph & Crawford. You have to admit he’s been good with regards to shedding contracts & having a long term plan.

Pessimist: How about not getting the #5 pick for Jeffries & Chandler? And not sending Jeffries and Nate to Sacramento?

Optimist: Those are just rumors. Nobody really believes those.

Pessimist: *aheam*

Optimist: OK almost nobody.

Pessimist: I think the knock on Walsh is whether he’s a good evaluator of talent. Say what you will about Balkman, but there’s no doubt that Von Wafer could have helped this team last year. The Knicks were starving for a shooting guard last year, had Wafer on their summer league team, and the next thing you know Wafer was starting for the Rockets. This year the team still needs a shooting guard, they had Morris Almond on their summer league team, and … need I say more?

Optimist: C’mon, you’re killing Walsh for Balkman, Wafer, and Almond? I’m not too concerned with the end of bench guys. D’Antoni isn’t likely to play them anyway.

Pessimist: What about Jordan Hill? He didn’t look all that great in summer, and I don’t see him breaking the rotation this year.

Optimist: That just shows how deep the team is. See you’re making my point for me. Anyway, Let’s move on to the offense. You have to admit that the Knicks will be better on offense this season. It’s the second year of D’Antoni’s offense so the players will be more acclimated to the system…

Pessimist: … Got any proof that players do better in the same offense?

Optimist: No, but it sounds right. Add in a full season from Gallinari. The guy hit 44% from three and 96% from the line. Give him more than 400 minutes and scoring will increase.

Pessimist: That’s the teenager with the bad back, right?

Optimist: Actually he’s 21 now.

Pessimist: You know Crawford played almost the same amount of minutes last year as a Knick, and hit 46% of his threes? Anyone can put up eye-catching numbers in limited minutes.

Optimist: He’s still young, and it’s realistic to think he’ll improve as he matures. The offense will improve this year?

Pessimist: And the defense?

Optimist: Darko Milicic, Jordan Hill, Toney Douglas are all defensive players …

Pessimist: First off none of those players are likely to see a lot of minutes. Curry, if he ever gets in shape, could push Darko for time so the Knicks can showcase him. And both of them will keep Jordan Hill on the bench. Toney Douglas will likely see time, but not if he’s shooting 20%. You have to admit the defense will be just as bad as last year.

Optimist: It won’t be worse and is likely to be better. Will you admit the offense will be better than last year?

Pessimist: Of course not.

Optimist: Time to put your money where your mouth is – how many wins are the Knicks getting in 2010?

Pessimist: I’m skeptical of the improvements. Hill shot pretty bad in the summer, Douglas shot worse, and Milicic has shot pretty bad his whole career. Eddy Curry is a turnover machine who doesn’t rebound on the defensive end. There’s still no true shooting guard. Number 8 overall pick Jordan Hill can compete against Wilson Chandler to see who shoots less free throws. I’ll go with 32 wins again.

Optimist: The team has definitely improved. They’ll top last year’s total and then some. The additions to the roster will help D’Antoni mix & match and won’t leave the team helpless when the inevitable injuries occur. Better seasons from Gallinari & Curry will only help the team. Continuity with the coaching staff is a plus as well. I’ll go with 38 wins.

Pessimist: Next you’re going to tell me they’re going to make the playoffs.

Optimist: 8th seed, which will be good enough to attract that kid from Ohio!

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.

Just Say No to Douby

According to the New York Daily News, the Knicks are going to give Quincy Douby a chance to make the team. As a college prospect Douby intrigued me. During his last year at Rutgers Douby scored efficiently, averaging 24.9 pts/36 with a 55.6% eFG and a TS% of 60.1%. His steals (1.8 stl/36) and rebounds (4.2 reb/36) were enough for a guard who was primarily a scorer. The Knicks didn’t get a chance to draft Douby that year because Sacramento took him 19th, one pick before New York selected Renaldo Balkman.

However Douby’s NBA career never took off. In three seasons, the Kings only played him thirty minutes or more in a game five times. Needless to say, he was unable to crack the rotation. It’s hard to fault Sacramento, since Douby’s stats have been disappointing. For a player who was an efficient scorer in college, he hasn’t been able to adjust to the NBA level. Douby’s career scoring is weak (13.7 pts/36, 47.6% TS%, 44.1% eFG) for a player that doesn’t offer much else but scoring (9.3 PER). What’s most disappointing is Douby’s sub-par three point percentage (30.6%), despite his high attempt rate (5.1 3pa/36).

If Douby, a Brooklyn native who played at Rutgers, looks good in this tryout, New York could sign him to a contract. Unfortunately this would be the same mistake they made in preseason with Anthony Roberson, which backfired on the team. Even when the Knicks were in dire need of another guard, Roberson wasn’t deemed good enough to earn playing time. He was finally dealt to Chicago in the Hughes deal, for nothing else than to give the Knicks another chance at filling his spot on the roster.

Ironically Douby has a lot in common with the person he may replace. Roberson and Douby are only a year apart in age, and both players have struggled to earn playing time in the NBA. Both are scoring guards who don’t offer much else. However a look at the stats show Roberson to be the superior player. This should send red flags to the team. If Roberson was wasting a roster spot then why would they sign Douby who has been outperformed by Roberson on the NBA level?

  Player  G    MP  FGA 3PA  3P% FTA  FT% TRB AST STL TOV  PTS  PER  TS% eFG%
   Douby 136 1462 13.5 5.1 .306 2.0 .890 3.6 2.0 1.2 2.0 13.7  9.3 .476 .441
Roberson  59  568 15.1 8.6 .368 0.6 .900 2.7 2.2 1.5 1.5 16.0 11.6 .522 .513

In the near future the Knicks are aiming to sign one or two big free agents, and to accomplish that goal they are going to have to be frugal with their money. So far the media has concentrated on Lee, Robinson, and Duhon as the linchpin to the Knicks free agency success. While this may be true, the team will still need to fill the rest of their roster cheaply. Identifying bargain NBA players like Von Wafer, Matt Barnes, and Ime Udoka could mean the difference between having a great team in 2010, and one that is still a few mid-level free agents away from competing for a title.

Knicks’ Week in Advance 12/22/08

Thank goodness we can put the nastiness that was last week behind us. The Knicks went 0-4 last week, and with the exception of Milwaukee each of the teams the Knicks played are much better than the Knicks. While the Knicks did not play well in every game, I don’t think the team has quit as I have seen in years past. I am encouraged by the effort – if not the execution. At any rate, I think the Knicks have reached the low water mark on the season. The past ten games were arguably the toughest stretch of the season with four games against some of the top teams in the NBA (Cavs, Lakers, Celtics, Suns), and some strong teams (Hawks, Detroit, Portland). So on paper, the Knicks should have gone 3-7 over the last ten. New York has only 1 more 5 game road trip and it is much less brutal than the recent west coast swing. To sum things up, I haven’t given up hope on this season. There are a few encouraging signs and we will get to them in the article.

A light schedule this week with two games at home, Wolves and Nuggets.

Fri, Dec 26 Minnesota 7:30 pm
[First meeting of the teams this year]

TEAM POSS EFF eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
New York Knicks-Offense 98.4 105.6 50 15.8 23.3 20.1
Rank
1
19
12
17
28
28
Minnesota Timberwolves-Defense 91.5 110.4 51.7 14.4 24.9 25.7
Rank
16
25
28
25
6
23
New York Knicks-Defense 98.4 108.5 50.9 14.3 27.4 18.7
Rank
1
20
23
26
18
3
Minnesota Timberwolves-Offense 91.5 102 45.4 15.2 27.9 22
Rank
16
28
29
13
10
24

The Wolves come to MSG on Friday boasting one of the worst records in the league and the stats back it up. The Wolves are horrid on defense (110.4 efficiency, 25th) and they allow teams to put up very high numbers from the floor (51.7 eFG%, 28th). This bodes well for the Knicks as they are 11-4 against teams that give up more than 49% (eFg) from the floor. They are 6-0 against teams whose eFG% is at or above 50%. The Knicks seem to take advantage of inefficient defensive teams.

What to watch for: Al Jefferson. Jefferson is putting up very solid numbers for a team on which he is the focal point of the offense. He is fairly efficient around the basket (49.3 eFG%) but does not get to the line that often. His FT/FG ratio of 18 is among the lowest on the team, and surprisingly low for a player with a usage of 25.2. Jefferson’s low free throw numbers are mainly due to his offensive style. Al likes to shoot a short jump hook when he catches the ball, does not put the ball on the floor often, and is a poor passer (7.5 ast-r). Jefferson’s game is very much about positioning and put backs (3.2 offensive rebounds/36).

Teams can routinely double Jefferson because there really isn’t anyone else on the team the defense needs to stop. The Wolves have been unable to take advantage of the doubles Jefferson draws as they are very poor shooters (45.4 eFG%, 29th). The only Wolf to shoot over 40 percent from 3 is Corey Brewer who was lost for the season just a few weeks ago. The Knicks should probably commit to doubling Jefferson while keeping an eye out for…

What to watch for 2: Mike Miller. Miller is the only guard on the team that can score efficiently as his 55.8 eFG% leads the team. However, his efficiency has not translated into many points (11.9 per/36 minutes). I would attribute this to the “me first” play from the three guys moonlighting as point guards….

What to watch for 3: Randy Foye – yeah more like Randy “Faux” as in faux point guard (5.5 ast/36 min), Rashad McCants – “cant pass or shoot” (39.2 eFG%, 1.8 ast/36 ), and Sebastian Telfair – “tell him to stop shooting” (36.1 eFG%) round out the Wolves’ back court. The Knicks don’t do a great job defending the three, stopping entry passes, or stopping dribble penetration. Fortunately, these three Wolves do not excel at any of those things.

What to Watch for 4: Rebounding. Love and Jefferson (10.1 tot/36) are strong rebounders on each side of the court. The Knicks need to concentrate on getting good shots and boxing out to prevent Love (5.4 offensive rebounds/36, 12.1 tot) from securing second chances.

Sun, Dec 28 Denver 1:00 pm
[First meeting of the teams this year]

TEAM POSS EFF eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
New York Knicks-Offense 98.4 105.6 50 15.8 23.3 20.1
Rank
1
19
12
17
28
28
Denver Nuggets-Defense 94.7 103.9 47.1 16.6 28.5 23.8
Rank
6
7
5
11
24
14
New York Knicks-Defense 98.4 108.5 50.9 14.3 27.4 18.7
Rank
1
20
23
26
18
3
Denver Nuggets-Offense 94.7 108 50.8 16.8 25.5 28.4
Rank
6
10
8
23
22
2

Denver is playing very well since trading for a true point in Billups. The Nugget offense (108 efficiency, 10th) is strong and efficient from the floor (50.8 eFG%). The only real blemish on the offensive numbers is the high turnover ratio (16.8, 23rd). Denver is a strong defensive team as well. The Nuggets’ defensive efficiency (103.9) and eFG% (47.1) are each in the top ten of the NBA. They struggle on the defensive glass as they fail to secure 28.5 percent of defensive boards (24th).

What to watch for: Rebounding. The Knicks have to take advantage of Denver’s poor rebounding. The Nuggets are in the bottom third of the NBA in defensive and offensive (22nd) rebounding. Of course, the Knicks struggle securing defensive boards as well (28th). Winning the boards will help the Knicks greatly as it will reduce second chances for a Denver team that is very efficient on offense.

What to watch for 2: The Knicks’ defense. The bulk of the Denver offense comes from the 1, 2, and 3 positions. The Knicks need to play strong defense – especially on Billups – to keep the Nuggets from getting into their offensive sets. Force the ball out of Billups’ hands and force Anthony to run the offense. Anthony is far less talented a passer than Billups is (12.8 ast-r vs. 28.8). The Nuggets have efficient 3 point shooters but none of them take more than 2.5 three pointers per 36 minutes. The Knicks should have clean rotations and prevent the Nuggets from getting open looks – the Nuggets can hit shots when given to them.

What to watch for 3: Fan favorite (after draft night) Renaldo Balkman returns to town. Balkman always thought of himself as an undervalued player in college. I wonder how he will respond in his first game back in NYC.

What to watch for 4: Jet lag anyone? This is the first game on Denver’s east coast swing. Saturday night in New York, you know Anthony is going out. J.R. Smith is from the area (and a proud alumnus of my alma mater – ever dear St. Benedict’s). Maybe the Nuggets will come out sluggish and we can take advantage of it. We will need every edge we can get, so let’s hope the Knicks come out firing.

To all the posters, writers, and of course my fans, (Ethan, Owynn, and Jen) Merry Christmas, “Baruch Atah Adonai” and happy Hanukkah to you, “A salama lakim” and a peaceful Ramadan to you. No matter what you celebrate, or whether you celebrate, have a safe and happy holiday, and most important of all-Go New York, Go New York, Go!

[Editors note: Happy “Holliday” to my Pastafarian readers.]