Looking at Others’ Knick Season Outlook

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what the various major sports websites were saying about the Knicks at the start of training camp, so let’s do that now!

John Hollinger, for ESPN Insider, makes all the right points (overpaid for Jeffries, the team turned the ball over too much, not signing Butler was idiotic), but I was pleased, as a Knick fan, to see his overall take on the team:

With a small, quick backcourt of Marbury and Francis, there’s a lot of talk that the Knicks will run and push the ball like the Phoenix Suns. But anyone who has seen those two play knows this is impossible, because neither of them seek to push the ball up court. They’re quick and they’re great drivers, but they’re mostly half-court guys.

While the style may not be what some expect, one thing I can pretty much guarantee is that the Knicks will win a lot more games. That’s to be expected — the nice thing about hitting rock bottom is that you can’t go down any further — but a number of factors favor the Knicks to make a double-digit improvement in wins. First and foremost, they’ll play for Thomas, rather than last year’s white-flag routine. That alone should improve the defense several notches.

Second, the result of Brown’s lineup switches was that the Knicks’ worst players were on the court for large stretches of time. Maurice Taylor, Qyntel Woods and Malik Rose all played over 1,000 minutes last season; that playing time will be going to guys like Jeffries, Frye and Lee this time around. Frye is perhaps the most egregious example — he only played 1,571 minutes even though he led the team in player efficiency rating. He should come close to doubling that total this year as the opening-day power forward.

As a result, I expect New York to generate some genuine excitement this year — hanging out on the fringes of the playoff race and getting increased production from the younger players. They’ll still massively underachieve compared to what they’re spending, and it may not be enough to save Thomas’ job, but the Knicks will at least look like a real NBA team again.

Very nice analysis from Hollinger.

For AOL Sports, Steve Aschburner has some interesting questions for each of the teams in the Eastern Conference. Here is his question for the Knicks:

Q: Didn’t you used to be Steve Francis?

A: Just getting rid of Larry Brown doesn’t make a Francis-Marbury backcourt any more feasible. Neither of them is a good enough shooter to play for long stretches off the ball, and both of them are defensive liabilities if the opponents’ backcourt has some size. Marbury won’t feel any pressure to accommodate Francis now, either; if he can get Larry Brown out of town, he isn’t going to be bothered by Francis’ displeasure. What Francis needs is to play for a strong head coach on a team built around a big man — say, Miami minus Wade — if he’s ever going to live up to his potential and help a team more than himself.

Not a bad analysis of Francis’ position on the team, which certainly DOES seem to be a bit odd, doesn’t it?

CBS Sportsline loses some credibility with me with their Eastern Conference primer, as they listed Jalen Rose as the probable starter at small forward. Yikes. Talk about not knowing the team very well.

Marty Burns does a decent job at looking at the Knicks for CNN/SI here.

1. Can Isiah clean up the mess?
After the fiasco of ’05-06, Thomas jettisoned Brown and finds himself back on the bench as coach. His first job in camp will be to clean up the toxic atmosphere that engulfed the team a year ago and get them playing as a cohesive group.

2. Who’s the starting shooting guard?
With Stephon Marbury the starter at point guard and free agent signee Jared Jeffries likely to inherit the small forward position, the Knicks have a glut at the 2 spot. Steve Francis, Jamal Crawford and Quentin Richardson will battle it out, which could make for some raw nerves — and some good fodder for the New York tabloids.

3. Can Renaldo Balkman play?
Thomas was criticized heavily on draft night for using the No. 20 pick on the relatively unknown Balkman. The 6-8 South Carolina product will need to show in camp that he can step in and contribute, or Thomas will hear more about it from the MSG hecklers.

However, I think his #3 is a bit silly, as I don’t think Balkman’s playing time will be key to the Knicks season at all.

By the by, speaking of Balkman, Bill Simmons said something bizarre regarding Balkman in his latest column. Check it out –

Three months from now, Knicks fans will be dealing with the fact that taking Renaldo Balkman at No. 20 over Rajon Rondo, as crazy as this sounds, was the single biggest mistake of Isiah’s entire tenure, the one misfire that will end up haunting that franchise for the next decade. And that’s saying something. But Balkman/Rondo will trump everything else Isiah inflicted. Just you wait. That’s all I’m saying for now.

What an odd statement.

Hoops Hype hasn’t gotten around to the Knicks yet in their season preview.

Drop me a line if you have seen some other previews from big sites (except for the wonderful preview we all read at the Dime’s website) – I’ll link them up here.

Preseason: Nets 97 Knicks 111

Random Thoughts:

Eddy Curry looked good on offense. He has good hands when receiving the ball & is too strong for players to guard in the post. Curry does use his bulk too much, and had 2 first half turnovers. Unfortunately Curry looked pitiful on defense, especially early on. The Nets were scoring almost all of their early points in the paint, taking advantage of the small Knicks backcourt. Curry committed a flagrant foul by grabbing Richard Jefferson around the waist midair. Eddy’s problem seems to stem from a lack of knowledge on how to properly defend. He seems too eager to use his hands and not his body. If the Knicks stay with Marbury & Francis, Curry is going to need to be more active defensively. Remember the Nets were without Kidd & Carter, so you’d have to think that those two All Stars would have done more damage than their substitutes.

Speaking of which, Francis & Marbury played a lot of time together and both took turns running the point. Even on the same possession, one would pass to the other and relinquish PG duties. They have some qualities that compliment each other. Francis is a tenacious rebounder for a guard, and is much better at pushing the ball up the court quickly. Both these skills were apparent when the Nets missed a shot. Francis would attempt to rebound on each Nets’ possession and if he didn’t get the rebound he would demand the ball from the Knick that did. Steve would then speed up the court giving the Knicks the quicker pace that Isiah is trying to instill into his offense. On the other hand the pair have skills (or lack thereof) that don’t complement each other. Neither is a good spot up shooter, and neither looks comfortable moving without the ball.

Quentin Richardson was the first man off the bench, and was the Knicks’ second higher scorer with 14 points. With New York grabbing 2 small forwards during the offseason, Richardson coming off his worst season looked to be the odd man out. However if Q-Rich can contribute like this on a nightly basis, it would certainly make him a strong rotation player, and a fine 6th man.

Watching Jared Jeffries play tonight, I’m found myself considering printing out what I wrote about his signing. Should Jeffries play the rest of preseason the way he did tonight, I would then salt and mustard said print out. And if the Knicks new SF plays that way for the first month of the season I would definitely take the seasoned writing and devour it, hence eating my own words. Having a player like Jeffries helps stabilize the Knicks defense, especially when he plays with the small guard combo.

David Lee is one of those players that makes Isiah Thomas look like a draft day genius. He was all over the offensive boards, which is even more impressive considering Lee was the center of the Knicks’ small lineup. I’m not sure how many minutes Lee played at center, but when he manned the 5 he was flanked by Jeffries or Balkman at the 4. On one series (one that should be shown on local replays of the game) Lee and Balkman kept after an offensive board until David got control of the ball, and tipped it to Balkman for an easy bucket. In fact it’s Lee’s glasswork and both Jeffries & Balkman’s height that allows Isiah to play this small combination. If nothing else it’s an interesting solution to the Knicks’ center dilemma.


If you like reading blogs, you should check out this month’s Dime Magazine. They asked bloggers to contribute a few words on their team’s upcoming season, and Henry Abbott of TrueHoop.com does a fine job introducing the series.

Training Camp Begins! Let the Festivies Commence!

Thank goodness – some actual basketball news!!

The official training camp begins later today, and yesterday (Media Day) had a number of interesting quotes from players and some intriguing hints as to what we can expect from this year’s Knicks.

First off, I am quite pleased about the Mo Taylor waiving. And yes, it is amusing that one of the things that alienated Larry Brown from the front office was his “waive him, him and him” attitude. While his expiring contract could be quite intriguing to other teams – exactly what were the Knicks going to get with that expiring contract that would be good for the team in the long haul? I posit that it would be nothing as good as just letting the cap space run out, and Mo Taylor has no place on this squad. I wonder, though, where he will end up playing.

Steve Francis had a good quote about last season in the Times today- ?Did you see me play? Did I play?? Francis said. ?I don?t even remember playing. It was just so much uncertainty, man. It?s tough playing under uncertainty.?

Eddy Curry has lost weight and David Lee has put on weight – both events are good news for Knick fans. Lee also apparently impressed reporters during Media Day with the sheer passion he exuded for winning this season and his frustrations with being unable to even take the blame for losing last year, as he didn’t play enough to even feel like he had control over the situation.

The four players vying for Taylor’s spot are forwards Nikoloz Tskitishvili and Elton Brown, center Paul Miller and guard Milone Clark. Clark really has no chance, and I would have to think that Tskitishvili would have to absolutely astonish everyone to get the job, so it is likely down to Miller and Brown. Brown apparently is quite the bruiser, and has even been able to give Curry a run for his money on sheer force on the low blocks, which is cool, but I think Miller sounds a bit more intriguing, as I like the added facet of a center who can shoot the jumper, as a change of pace from Curry (as I doubt any of them will play significant minutes ANYways).

Finally, I cannot wait to see what Zeke’s rotation looks like – who will be the backup small forward? Will Channing Frye be the backup center? Will Balkman play at all? Will Jerome James wear a groove into the bench from sitting so much? We find out today, for basketball has finally returned to us, folks!

KnickerBlogger’s Official Take on the Jeffries Signing

At the end of David Crockett’s appraisal of the Jeffries signing, he states “So, numerous paragraphs later I’m still not sure how I feel about this. What about you all?” and Brian Cronin said in his Jeffries post “either Dave or Mike will be tomorrow to give us a more in-depth look at the signing.” So I guess it’s my turn. Like Dr. C, I’ll break it down on 3 separate issues.

1. Has Thomas overpaid for Jeffries? Personally I’d say yes, not necessarily in price but in years. In fact he’s similar to two SF that the Knicks had last year: Trevor Ariza & Matt Barnes. And neither has anything close to a 5 year deal (although Ariza’s deal wasn’t publicized it’s thought to be 3 years or less). Jeffries is young, but I don’t think his trade value will rise much over the next 5 years. Unlike most basketball players his weakness is easily seen through statistics, and his non-existent offensive game isn’t likely to become much better than it is now. GMs may not be able to determine a player’s defensive worth, but they’ll easily be able to see Jeffries offensive worth (or lack thereof) therefore lowering his trade value. For Isiah to hit the bullseye on this one, Jeffries has to start getting votes for the NBA All Defensive Team.

2. Do we need Jeffries? Again I’d argue no. With Jeffries on the roster I count 6 guys that can play small forward: Balkman, Q-Rich, Jalen, Lee, Malik, and Jeffries. Let’s assume that Lee & Malik Rose are more PF than SF, then the Knicks have 4 SFs. Consider that New York has 5 guards total for both guard spots and you can see a minutes crunch at the swingman spot. Additionally Jeffries skill set closely mirrors that of first round pick Balkman, so it will cut into Renaldo’s minutes and hamper his development. As Balkman does develop, having Jeffries on the roster will be redundant. Hence why the long contract (see #1) might not have been a good idea to begin with.

3. Does this make sense on a team level? I’m not a big fan of the “we’re already under the cap so this long term contract doesn’t hurt” argument. Let’s say Isiah is fired after (or during) the season and the next GM decides he wants to get under the cap. Jeffries contract will be yet another piece that needs to be moved. While it may be easier to move than some of the other Knickerbockers (Francis, Marbury, Jerome James, etc.) it’s still on the deficit side of the leger rather than the asset side. Any contract Isiah signs that is over the league value doesn’t help the Knicks regardless of the team’s salary cap status.

Secondly it’s hard to ignore that this decision comes on the heels of Jackie Butler’s departure. One week the Knicks don’t have the room or money to resign their 21 year old promising young center, and the next they’re paying more than double for a player with a lower ceiling. A year or two from now it would have been much easier to move Jackie Butler than Jeffries if for nothing else than Butler’s age & reasonable contract. In fact I would imagine some team might take a young, cheap, and talented player in Butler as a bonus for eating up a big ugly contract (Steve Francis). The Knicks’ roster doesn’t run deep at the center position, as the Knicks only have 2 true centers. When Curry is in foul trouble, Isiah Thomas may be forced into giving Jerome James substantial minutes which isn’t a palatable scenario. And on the nights that Curry and James are both in foul trouble, Frye will be forced to man the five, or heavens forbid Maurice Taylor or Malik Rose. Isiah should have been focusing on the team’s thinness at center rather than adding to the glutton at small forward.

So the Knicks overpaid for a player, that addresses a need that was already addressed in the draft, and in the process hurt themselves by not retaining one of their young prospects. For Jeffries to make this deal work, he’s going to have to become the lock down defender Isiah envisions or become a better offensive player. And I’m not banking on either.

Comments are closed. You can leave them in Brian’s thread.

The Knicks Want Jeffries

The Knicks have signed Wizards forward Jared Jeffries to their mid-level exception (i.e., 5-years averaging $6 million per). Because the team is over the luxury tax threshold it will have to match the contract dollar-for-dollar in taxes should Washington choose not to match it. The Washington Post is reporting that the contract has language designed to discourage Washington from matching or demanding a sign-and-trade. Jeffries? agent has also made it clear that his client wishes to play in New York. However, matching the offer is not?financially speaking?especially burdensome for Washington, who has the cap space.

So, is this a good signing for the Knicks? I?ll try to look at this from three related (but distinct) vantage points: production, roster management, and fiscal. Even as I type this I?m not sure where I stand, though I?ll note that I have always rooted for him.

Production. Certainly Jeffries? per game offensive numbers fail to jump off the page. Last season he scored 6.4 points and pulled down 4.9 boards. More advanced metrics don?t necessarily make him look any better either. His career PER is 10.5 and he has posted below league average offensive ratings each year of his career. I was particularly interested in seeing how turnover-prone he is, as I?d hate to add another butterfingers to the frontcourt. His career turnover rate is 14.4?not atrocious; an upgrade over Qyntel Woods but not as good as Jalen Rose (12.5 in NY) or Q-Rich (8.7). Fortunately, Jeffries? 13.3 usage rate suggests that his teams have never looked to him for offensive punch.

His calling card, such that it is, is defense. So, how good is he defensively? That is a notoriously difficult question to answer, and probably near impossible to answer for combo forwards using most easily accessible stats. There is no reason to think that Jeffries is not at least the defensive equivalent of any of the veteran small forwards on the roster. So the real question is whether he is an upgrade, and if so by how much? Kevin Broom wrote up a nice piece at RealGM about the 2005 Wizards defense as part of a team defensive charting project he?s been doing. (If you are in a hurry, scroll down to ?Defense By the Numbers? in boldface. Start reading there.) Broom?s game-charted data portrayed Jeffries as a good pressure and help defender, typically assigned the best frontcourt scorer to protect the defensively-indifferent Antawn Jamison. Broom?s criticism at the time was that Jeffries was too often apt to abandon his assignment to help in the post, leaving accomplished shooters wide open 3 pt. looks. That seems to be precisely the kind of thing a young player might get better at over time, though I have no idea whether Jeffries has. Again, the numbers don?t add much clarity. According to 82games.com his on-court/off-court numbers balance out exactly to zero.

From a production standpoint Jeffries is a gamble; not quite a Jerome James-type nonsensical gamble, but a gamble nonetheless. He?s a role player that doesn?t score. Unlike with an emerging offensive force, where widely available metrics are sensitive enough to provide a decent projection (think Jackie Butler), we are often stuck reading the proverbial tea leaves on defensive-oriented players. There?s nothing to suggest that Jeffries, who is at least 6?10? with really long arms and nice lateral quickness, doesn?t deserve the rep he has as a good young defender but then there is little to support it either.

Roster Management. Between the draft and this signing one might think that Isiah is channeling the dearly departed Larry Brown, given his sudden fondness for defense-first role players. Jeffries, who will play both forward spots, will join a semi-crowded front court. It is certainly reasonable to suspect that Jeffries, even with no other roster changes, will start at small forward alongside Channing Frye and Eddy Curry. Isiah however could also opt to start either of the more perimeter oriented forwards, Jalen Rose or Quentin Richardson. I strongly suspect that David Lee?s future is now at backup power forward rather than small forward, should he remain on the team. I certainly hope that the Jeffries signing portends the end of significant minutes for Malik Rose and Mo Taylor.

If Jeffries actually brings the defense and versatility to the table his reputation suggests then it would seem that Isiah?s strategy is to mix-and-match lineups, similar to the Dallas Mavericks. If this is true, it would seem to contradict his earlier pronouncements that he would shrink the rotation. Even should he be committed to chaining Malik Rose and Mo Taylor to the bench, and even assuming that Balkman?s minutes will be limited, it is difficult to see how Isiah manages front court minutes without thinning out the roster in that area.

Fiscal Impact. As mid-level exception signings go it?s hard to characterize this as outright horrible, if only because Jerome James still anchors the scale at that end?not to mention the training table. Jeffries is a big gamble because he contributes so little offensively that he must play stellar defense, at a position where there are few nights off, or he becomes a net negative. Anyway, if Jeffries really is just a decent defender backed by a pretty good defensive center then why not stay with less expensive options like Qyntel Woods?

I am willing to give Thomas the benefit of the doubt on Jeffries’ talent. I am far less charitable concerning Isiah’s ability to play the market. The full mid-level seems a bit pricey for a defensive role player that is not a bona fide shut-down guy at his position, especially when San Antonio basically turned their mid-level in to Jackie Butler and Francisco Elson. But then, if my understanding is correct, Jeffries already has turned down an even bigger contract offer to sign New York?s offer sheet. Also, the agent?s very public rhetoric?that Jeffries really wants to leave?seems to suggest that he has at least some fear that Washington may match New York?s mid-level offer.

So, numerous paragraphs later I?m still not sure how I feel about this. What about you all?

Balkman & Jeffries

BALKMAN

http://82games.com/vegas3.htm

Article on Balkman at 82games. I think Roland hit the nail on the head.

http://knicks.mostvaluablenetwork.com/general/breath-of-fresh-hair/

Father KnickerBocker’s take on Balkman.

http://www.hoopsworld.com/article_18030.shtml

Hoopsworld sees good thing happening to Balkman.

http://southcarolina.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=562913

GameCocks (South Carolina) article on Balkman. Great if you love a new paragraph every 2 sentences.

JEFFRIES

http://www.nysun.com/pf.php?id=37120

Martin Johnson article on the Knicks’ short sidedness of signing Jeffries.

http://www.nypost.com/sports/knicks/knicks_unlikely_to_bag_jeffries_knicks_marc_berman.htm

Post article about the Wizards probably resigning Jeffries. It’s the only NY sports paper that has printed an article stating Washington will match.