2009 Report Card: Eddy Curry

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

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

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

Grade: F

Similarity Scores:

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

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

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

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

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

2009 Report Card: Danilo Gallinari

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knicks 2009 Summer League Roster

Looking over the Knicks’ roster there are 9 spots that are taken (Chandler, Curry, Duhon, Gallinari, Harrington, Hughes, Jeffries, Milicic, and Mobley). Two more are likely to be filled by Lee and Robinson. That leaves 4 spots possible for the summer league candidates, barring any offseason player movement.

It’s safe to assume that both draft picks Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas will be on the team’s roster come October. However it doesn’t mean the pair can relax in Vegas, as a poor showing could send them to D’Antoni’s doghouse before training camp even opens. Knick fans will expect both to make the rotation, Hill because of his status as lottery pick, and Douglas because of the lack of depth at guard. New York hopes both can help improve the team defensively, but they’ll need to prove that they’re capable on the offensive side as well. Both will need to play well now and in the preseason to make sure they aren’t sent to the D-League or practice squad. Considering their draft status and the competition, they should be able to give above average performances.

At the end of last year the team rotated in some NBDL players, and it looks like two stuck. Joe Crawford and Mouhamed Sene will be playing in the summer league, but they may need to prove their worth. Both of them combined for only 29 minutes last year, so the team isn’t committed to either. While Sene has more NBA experience, he’ll have tougher competition for playing time. New York has bolstered their front court by drafting Hill, trading for Darko, and hiding Eddy Curry’s Ring Dings. On the other hand Crawford will have less competition from the NBA roster, but might get pushed for playing time by Douglas and some of the other summer league guards New York. I wouldn’t bet on either player making the team, but they do have the inside track.

One player that could push for a roster spot is Morris Almond. The Jazz selected him with the 25th pick in the 2007 draft, but Almond barely saw any NBA action in two seasons. However he was a prolific scorer in the NBDL, averaging 25.4 pts/36 over two seasons. Although this was due to his high usage (30.9%), to Almond’s credit his TS% was a robust 57.6%. One stat that did stand out in the NBDL is his free throw to field goal ratio. He hit .35 free throws for every shot attempted, and averaged 6.5 ftm/36. Clearly he’s skilled at drawing contact, and his 36.7% from downtown shows that he’s able to score from outside as well.

However Morris peripheral stats are weak. His rebounding numbers could be better for someone who stands 6-6, and his passing, steals, and blocks are weak for a shooting guard. Still he could provide some needed scoring off the bench and could be a poor man’s Allan Houston.

Another candidate is Blake Ahearn, a castaway from the Heat & Spurs. Like Almond, Ahearn dominated the NBDL, scoring 21.9 pts/36 on a sizzling 64.6% TS%. He connected on 43.4% of his three pointers, and was about as perfect as you get (95.5%) from the charity stripe. Unlike Almond, Ahearn has one peripheral stats that is above average, his 4.6 ast/36. At 6-2, Ahearn is more suited for point guard at the NBA level.

Yaroslav Korolev was drafted as an 18 year old by the Clippers in 2005 and spent two years in L.A. Yet even though he last suited up for an NBA game 3 years ago, he’s the second youngest player on the summer league team. Korolev is a 6-10 forward who’s father was a basketball coach and is rumored to have a sound all around game. At only 22 years old, he’s definitely young enough to be a “second draft” type of player.

Probably the last guy with a realistic shot at a roster spot is David Noel. He was a second round pick of the Bucks and didn’t play well in his one season. However he did well in the NBDL, scoring 17.1 pts/36 on 60.7 ts% and averaging 5.3 reb/36, 4.4 ast/36, and 1.7 stl/36. His free throw shooting was suspect (68.6%), but he was deadly from downtown (44.6%).

Please God No
Nokoloz Tskitishvili and Alex Acker are both 26 years old. Tskitishvili is looking for yet another chance at the NBA, while Acker is a combo guard who had 2 stints in the NBA (Pistons & Clippers). Nokoloz’s NBA numbers are laughably bad, while Acker’s D-League numbers aren’t very impressive (53.1% TS%).

Hey I Got Free First Row Tickets to the Summer League!
The summer league might be happy days for Valparaiso’s Ron Howard. Rashaad Singleton is a 7 footer, but barely played at Georgia. According to Wikipedia, Warren Carter plays in Spain and thinks Allen Iverson is the NBA’s best player. Wink Adams shot 26.9% from trey his last year at UNLV.

Who Am I Rooting For?
I think there’s the possibility that the Knicks could find a decent player here. I don’t think there are any NBA starters here, but certainly a few guys could contribute as reserves. After reviewing their numbers, Blake Ahearn is at the top of my list. I have a soft spot in my heart for snipers, and the Knicks really need more depth at point guard. I like Almond, but he scares me at the same time. His number suggest a typical me-first-shooter that’s indifferent to the other aspects of the game.

As for the rest, I hope Sene sticks around, even if it’s in the NBDL until New York moves Curry or Jeffries. Korolev has the most intriguing story, but his numbers are so bad as a teenager it’s hard to see him being good at this level. I don’t want Acker or Tskitishvili, and I sure hope the Knicks don’t fall in love with someone who is hot for a few games (*cough* Roberson *cough*). So that leaves Crawford or Noel. Perhaps Noel would be the better choice, considering D’Antoni had Crawford last year & barely used him.

2009 Report Card: Wilson Chandler

Only one player in Knick history has averaged at least 33 minutes a game at the age of 21: Wilson Chandler. Albeit Chandler’s franchise record was more a result of necessity than talent. D’Antoni gave the youngster plenty of court time because of a scarcity of shooting guards/small forwards. Once the team traded Jamal Crawford, New York lacked a true shooting guard until they grabbed Larry Hughes late in the season. Considering that D’Antoni preferred Nate Robinson to come off the bench, the options were Chandler, Richardson, Jeffries, or Hughes. Chandler was obviously the right decision considering the team’s lack of defense and how much a developing Chandler could mean to the future of the franchise.

One question that remains is how Chandler will develop. On the optimistic side, he did make strides in multiple areas in 2009. Chandler improved his free throw shooting (63.0% to 79.5%), three point shooting (30.0% to 32.8%), scoring (13.4 to 15.6pts/36), assists (1.7 to 2.2 ast/36) and fouls (4.4 to 3.3 pf/36). But these numbers are pedestrian. The young swingman doesn’t do anything great, and his rebounding, blocks, and steals are about what you’d expect from an average 6-8 small forward. His scoring volume is above average (15.6 pts/36) but his efficiency is below (48.0% eFG, 51.5 TS%). Perhaps that’s Chandler’s lot in the NBA: to be the generic player.

For Chandler to make strides and become a genuine NBA starter, he’ll need to make another step in his development. One area could be his three point shooting. Connecting once on every three attempts is too low especially for someone that’s likely to see a lot of attempts in D’Antoni’s system. But a more critical leap would be for Chandler to get to the line more often. Last year he was second to last on the team in FTM/FGA, a measure of a player’s ability to draw contact on the offensive end. Frequently when he gets the ball in the paint, he ends up with a turn around jumper, instead of making a strong move to the hoop. Chandler needs to summon “Ill-Will” when he’s within 6 of the basket.

In order to get a glimpse of how his career might pan out, I queried a list of players comparable to Chandler at the age of 21, and this is the best I came up with. While names like Drexler, Mashburn, and Stackhouse appear, so do Gary Trent, Lamond Murray, and Rex Chapman. Using my similarity scores, I came up with a second list. Again there are a few players with above average careers: Richard Jefferson, Rasheed Wallace, Dirk Nowitzki, and Charlie Villanueva. But two very similar to Chandler show a cautionary tale. Shawne Williams is clinging to a roster spot in Dallas, and Chucky Brown never had a seasonal PER above 14. One thing to note about the below list of similar players is that Chandler’s TS% is almost the lowest of the bunch (except for DerMarr Johnson and Jeff Green).

.000 Wilson Chandler 2009 NYK 12.9 .515 .480 15.6 1.2 5.9 2.2 0.9 1.0 1.8
.037 Shawne Williams 2008 IND 12.8 .522 .485 16.3 2.0 6.6 2.2 1.0 1.0 2.2
.059 Richard Jefferson 2002 NJN 13.4 .524 .468 13.9 1.6 5.5 2.6 1.2 0.9 2.0
.076 Chucky Brown 1990 CLE 11.9 .525 .470 14.7 2.2 6.2 1.3 0.9 0.7 1.9
.080 Marvin Williams 2008 ATL 14.5 .540 .462 15.4 1.5 6.0 1.8 1.1 0.4 1.7
.082 Rasheed Wallace 1996 WSB 11.8 .530 .511 13.2 1.9 6.1 1.7 0.8 1.1 2.1
.093 DerMarr Johnson 2002 ATL 11.3 .513 .479 12.5 1.2 5.1 1.7 1.3 1.2 2.1
.097 Al Harrington 2002 IND 14.3 .526 .476 15.8 2.6 7.6 1.5 1.1 0.6 2.1
.104 Dirk Nowitzki 2000 DAL 17.5 .564 .513 17.6 1.2 6.5 2.5 0.8 0.8 1.7
.105 Charlie Villanueva 2006 TOR 16.4 .521 .500 16.1 2.8 7.9 1.3 0.9 1.0 1.5
.108 Jeff Green 2008 SEA 9.9 .492 .443 13.4 1.6 6.1 1.9 0.7 0.8 2.5

I’m inclined to give Chandler a good grade this year because he was a 21 year old who played out of position & made improvements over his first year. However the bar is now set higher on the expected returns for 2010. I won’t be as charitable in his next report card if he doesn’t show more signs of development.

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

Grade: B+

NOTE: I found a flaw in the similarity scores, and corrected it.

Similarity Scores, Part 1

Kobe Bryant is the next Jordan. Dwight Howard is the next Alonzo Mourning. Mardy Collins is the next Jason Kidd. Comparing two players allow us to communicate lots of information with a few words. If someone says that LeBron James is like Oscar Robertson, you would imagine LeBron being strong, versatile, agile, great, etc. Or perhaps that’s how you might picture the Big O, depending on how old you are.

Comparing two players is also useful when you’re evaluating players. Find a historical player similar to a youngster, and you have a good idea of how he might develop. However identifying similar players can be difficult and subjective. Is LeBron the next Jordan, Magic, or Robertson? In order to take some of the guesswork out of the equation, I’ve created a similarity score using statistics. Since per-game and accumulated stats are dependent on playing time and don’t adequately reflect a player’s skill level, I’ve decided to go with standardized (z-scores) per minute stats. Originally I used just about every stat the NBA officially keeps track of, but the results didn’t pass the smell test. It didn’t make sense for personal fouls to be worth the same as points. Therefore I decided to use weighted stats, and broke them into three categories.

The first and most important category is scoring. No other historically recorded statistic is more integral to a player’s worth. Some players are expected to run the offense and have a high number of assists, while others are on the floor primarily to rebound, but few do both. However just about everyone on the court is expected to score at some point or another. Even players that score infrequently or inefficiently should be more similar to those of the same ilk. Hence I made scoring worth approximately half a player’s comparison score.

Originally I had added many aspects of scoring, but I found that they tended to take away from the main focus: efficiency and volume. Oddly I also saw better results when I limited scoring to just three stats: TS%, eFG%, and PTS/36. Since the first two are compilations of different aspects of scoring, I feel justified leaving things out like free throw percentage or three pointers attempted. And the results seemed to get better when I gave more priority to the percentages, and less to points. This is due to a wider variety in efficiency than volume. Lots of players can average 20pts/36, but few can do it at 60% TS%. Currently TS% and eFG% are both worth twice as much as PTS/36.

I split the rest of the stats into two sections which I call (for lack of better terms) “Small Man” and “Big Man”. “Small Man” is worth about a third and consists of three parts: AST/36, STL/36, TO/36. I found that assists tend to separate contrasting players better, and ranked it equal to the other two combined. “Big Man” is worth about a fifth and is OREB/36, DREB/36, BLK/36 and PF/36. Rebounding combined (but not individually) is more valuable than blocks, and fouls are minuscule, but present.

In the end, I’ve come up with a system that although has subjective elements, should provide objectivity across the board. The similarity scores use the same equation for every player, so there isn’t any bias in that respect. In other words I could try to make Jamal Crawford more similar to Michael Jordan, but that would likely make other players that are more close to him get even closer. In future I may tweak the weights, but essentially the process is the same.

Since I plan on adding these to the report cards, let’s start with the guy I missed, Chris Duhon’s 2009 season compared to others at the age of 26.

0.000 Chris Duhon G 2009 NYK 79 12.2 .570 .515 10.9 3.0 7.0 0.9 2.7
0.044 Vinny Del Negro G 1993 SAS 73 13.9 .563 .514 12.8 3.8 6.9 1.0 2.2
0.052 Brad Davis G 1982 DAL 82 14.5 .569 .524 13.7 3.1 7.0 1.0 2.2
0.096 Steve Henson G 1995 POR 37 12.1 .613 .564 11.3 2.5 8.1 0.9 2.8
0.101 Vern Fleming G 1989 IND 76 15.8 .572 .517 15.3 4.4 7.0 1.1 2.7
0.105 Rex Walters G 1997 PHI 59 13.0 .571 .543 13.9 3.7 3.9 1.0 2.1
0.107 Jacque Vaughn G 2002 ATL 82 13.1 .547 .498 10.5 3.3 6.8 1.3 2.2
0.116 John Crotty G 1996 CLE 58 13.0 .590 .482 10.0 3.2 6.0 1.3 3.0
0.117 Luke Walton F 2007 LAL 60 14.7 .551 .517 12.4 5.5 4.7 1.1 2.1
0.120 Sherman Douglas G 1993 BOS 79 13.5 .518 .504 11.5 3.0 9.5 0.9 3.0
0.121 Phil Ford G 1983 TOT 77 10.4 .525 .480 11.7 2.3 6.5 1.2 3.0

The first thing to notice is the z-sum table, which is the similarity score. The lower the number this is, the more similar the players are. Duhon is most similar to Del Negro and Davis, with a drop off to Henson & the others. So what does something like this tell us about Duhon? Looking over the list we see lots of mediocre players and no All Stars. So the chance that Duhon will develop into something superior to his current form is rare. As for the comparables, in two of the next three years, Del Negro would have his most productive seasons. And much like Duhon, Davis languished as a reserve before catching on in his 26th year. He would become the starter for the Mavericks, and ride out a few bad seasons until the team turned things around in the mid-80s.

Stay tuned for Part 2…

I Want To Draft Like It’s 1999

An NBA draft where the #1 overall consensus is a power forward, and a ton of guards are to be had including an intriguing foreign guard? No I’m not talking about this Thursday’s NBA draft where Blake Griffin is likely to go #1, there is a lot of depth at guard, and everyone is wondering where Rickey Rubio will land. I’m talking about the 1999 draft where Elton Brand went first, guards were taken in 7 of the next 10 picks, and Manu Ginobili quietly landed to the Spurs in the second round.

Of the top 10 picks, 9 of them had solid to spectacular careers, but only one of those stayed long enough to be seen as a success for the team that drafted him: Shawn Marion. A lot of these players were traded to other teams before they could really help the team that drafted them like Brand, Francis (a draft day holdout), Odom, Hamilton, Andre Miller, and Jason Terry. Number 5 pick Jonathan Bender never lived up to his potential due to injury. Wally Szczerbiak stayed with Minnesota, but was taken too high at #6. Baron Davis stayed with the Hornets for 5 and a half seasons, but was traded midyear to Golden State where he engineered one of the biggest first round upsets in history.

Although there was plenty of value at the top 10, the next 10 was filled with busts. Only Ron Artest (#16), Corey Maggette (#13) and James Posey (#18) were worth noting. As for the rest of the draft, there were two European superstars taken late in Kirilenko (#24) and Manu Ginobili (#57), and a few fillers (Jeff Foster #21, Kenny Thomas #22, Devean George #23, and Gordon Giricek #40).

Knick fans remember this draft for grabbing Frederic Weis one pick before Ron Artest, but that may not have been the biggest bust of the draft. As I previously mentioned the top 10 all netted solid players except for Bender. If you want to excuse him for injury, then nearly every pick 11-14 (except for Maggette) could be seen as failures as well. Trajan Langdon at #11 is a candidate, although he’s had a good career overseas. Aleksandar Radojevic (from the powerhouse Barton County Community College) was taken 3 picks prior to Weis. And the Timberwolves struck out the pick before New York’s with Duke’s William Avery.

So how might this draft have turned out? Here’s my re-draft, not necessarily in order of how they should have been taken. But rather in how one alternate earth might have been for the first 16 picks.

#1 Chicago – Elton Brand
The Bulls made the right pick. Actually in our reality they made 2 right picks with Artest at #15. The problem was that they gave up on that team too early. Chicago could have been a mid-west powerhouse with Brand, Artest, and Brad Miller with a supporting cast of Jamal Crawford, Fred Hoiberg and Jake Voskuhl. The problem was the team was still young & surrounded with little else. Marcus Fizer? Khalid El-Amin? Corey Benjamin? Bryce Drew? Michael Ruffin? Dragan Tarlac? Dalibor Bagaric? No wonder they won 15 games in 2001.

#2 Vancouver – Lamar Odom
Vancouver didn’t deserve Steve Francis, but they didn’t really need him either. They had grabbed Mike Bibby in the draft before, and as New Yorkers learned Francis didn’t play well with other point guards. Instead they should have grabbed Odom. The Grizzlies had an awful team, but Bibby, Odom, and Shareef Abdur-Rahem would have been a respectable threesome. Looking at their history, they were doomed to failure by their poor drafts Reeves #6, Abdur Rahim #3, and Antonio Daniels #4 is hardly the core you want to build a franchise on.

#3 Charlotte – Baron Davis
Davis was the right pick here.

#4 Los Angeles Clippers – Steve Francis
Now these two deserved each other.

#5 Toronto – Ron Artest (traded to Indiana)
The Raptors originally drafted Bender and traded him for Antonio Davis. Why would Toronto do such a thing? They have Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, and Doug Christie. So there goes the shooting guards and small forwards. They could use a point guard, but that isn’t a priority with Carter & McGrady taking up a big share of the offense. They need a big man, but there really aren’t any in this draft (Jeff Foster?). I see why they traded this pick, they had two dynamic scorers and needed some front court depth (past Charles Oakley). So I have the Raptors trading this pick still, and Indiana selecting Ron Artest instead. The Pacers would end up with Ron after a few seasons later anyway. The Pacers would have Artest to defend Allan Houston in the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals (which Indana won) but they could also use him to shut down Kobe Bryant in the Finals (which they lost in 6).

#6 Minnesota – Manu Ginobili
I’m going to go out on a limb here. Before Garnett went to Boston and won a title, people argued how the league would have been if he had swapped teams with Tim Duncan. That the two were equally good, and Duncan won those championships because of his supporting cast. So let’s see how Garnett would have done with the Argentine at his side. Also in this Bizzaro universe Kevin McHale would be a genius.

#7 Washington – Rip Hamilton
Washington really sucked. It doesn’t matter who they draft here. The guy is going to be gone by the time Jordan arrives. Might as well be Rip so that the Pistons improbable championship still occurs.

#8 Cleveland – Shawn Marion
Cleveland took who they thought was the best guy on the board, Andre Miller. And normally I agree with such a signing, except the Cavs had two young (but undersized) guards on their roster already: Brevin Knight and Earl Boykins. Miller’s arrival meant that both would be gone within a year. Cleveland let Boykins go, but traded Brevin Knight for Jimmy Jackson, Anthony Johnson and Larry Robinson. All three would be off Cleveland’s roster by the next season. I hate it when a team overloads at one position and fails to net anything substantial from trades. If we’re not taking Andre Miller here, then you can have an up-tempo team with Knight/Boykins. So I think Shawn Marion is the right fit here.

#9 Phoenix – Corey Maggette
The Suns are probably crushed that they didn’t get Marion. They have Jason Kidd, and are about to offer Anfernee Hardaway to a huge contract. Maggette’s scoring and rebounding would be adequate in lieu of Marion’s energy game.

#10 Atlanta – Trajan Langdon
The Hawks have Mutombo and Rider and are in dire need of a point guard. So with Andre Miller on the board, they’re going to draft Trajan Langdon. This way by 2005 they’ll have learned their lesson and take Deron Williams or Chris Paul with the #2 pick instead of Marvin Williams.

#11 Cleveland – Jason Terry
With the Cavs comitting to an up-tempo offense with their #8 pick, they should take Terry here. Knight, Terry, Marion, and Donyell Marshall are undersized, but should make for a laser fast offense. With Zydrunas healthy in 2011, that’s not such a bad team.

#12 Toronto – Aleksandar Radojevic
As I said earlier, the Raptors really need front court depth, so this is why they reached for the 7-3 Euro. And this is why you don’t draft for need.

#13 Seattle – Wally Szczerbiak (traded to Orlando)
The Magic who acquire this pick in a trade have Darrell Armstrong, Bo Outlaw, and Ben Wallace. They need someone who can score, and don’t care about defense. Wally fits the bill here.

#14 Minnesota – James Posey
In this world, McHale is a genius, and the best player on the board is Andrei Kirilenko. But taking Kirilenko after reaching for an unknown in Ginobili would get him fired. Also having Kirilenko and Garnett on the court at the same time would be too weird. That’s like 60 combined feet of skinny arms & legs. Terrell Brandon, Manu Ginobili, James Posey, Kevin Garnett, and Rasho Nesterovic – that’s a nice team for 2000.

#15 New York – Andrei Kirilenko
Ahhh to dream. The Knicks dared to take a European, but clearly the wrong one. In 2000, Kirilenko would have fit in well with that Knicks team giving them so much depth. The starters would have been Ward, Houston, Sprewell, LJ and Ewing with Camby, Kurt Thomas, Childs and Kirilenko off the bench. That’s one scary team defensively. Additionally AK-47’s arrival might have prevented the team from trading Ewing for Glenn Rice, keeping the franchise from self destruction via salary cap. Perhaps the 2001 Knicks with Camby starting, Ewing coming off the bench, the addition of Mark Jackson, and Kirlenko instead of Rice could have given the team another title run.

#16 Chicago – Andre Miller
Here are your early aughts Bulls: Andre Miller, Jamal Crawford, Toni Kukoc, Elton Brand, and Brad Miller. Not a bad rebuild post-Jordan. Try not to break that team up this time.

Marcin Gortat Is Not Jerome James

Marc Berman of the Post says New York has an interest in signing Marcin Gortat with their Mid Level Exception. I would expect some Knick fans to have flashbacks to the summer of 2005, when the team signed Jerome James. But I think Gortat is miles away from James.

Gortat 2009  69  8.8 2.1 .583 4.5 8.5 13.1 0.7 0.8 2.3 1.2 5.0 11.2 57.3 56.3
 James 2005 268 10.0 2.9 .617 2.9 5.3  8.3 0.9 0.7 3.0 2.9 7.2 11.6 51.7 49.3  	

On the surface they are both defensive minded 7 footers coming off extended playoff runs. Neither player was a main cog in their team’s success (James averaged 16.6 mpg, Gortat 12.6), and neither could hit their free throws. But Gortat distinguishes himself from James in a few key areas. Marcin snared 13.1 boards per 36 minutes to Jerome’s 8.3, a remarkable difference. And although he scores at about the same rate, he’s superior in regards to efficiency (TS%: 57.3 to 51.7%) and turns the ball over less than half the time (TO/36: 1.2 to 2.9). Gortat would also be 5 years younger than James was, and at 25 years of age is just entering his prime. And if you’re worried about his propensity to eat snacks, Gortat’s father was an Olympic boxer (two time bronze medalist) so he probably knows a thing about nutrition.

Even if you attribute Gortat’s numbers to low minute count (he has yet to play 1000 minutes in the league) and Orlando’s success (playing with Lewis, Turkoglu, etc open the floor) and adjust them downward, he still projects to an above average starting center. Trying to find similar players yields few results. One attempt picked up Tree Rollins, Tyson Chandler, and Andrew Bynum. Not bad company at all. Marcin could be a steal for the Knicks, but they have to be mindful of their cap. Unless they move Lee, Curry, Robinson, or Jeffries, the team can’t afford to sign the young center without ruining their free agent chances in 2010.