2010 Report Card: Tracy McGrady

When a change occurs it always takes the mainstream a bit of time to adjust to the new idea. I recall watching a Knick game near the end of the year with the announcers talking about whether or not McGrady would be coming back next year. One of them (not sure who it was) said that McGrady would have to accept being a second star on a team.

At this time, I’ll chose to reveal McGrady’s similarity scores before I continue.

Similarity Scores:

z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS eFG PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
.000 Tracy McGrady 2010 TOT 12.2 46.6 42.1 13.1 1.2 5.0 5.3 0.8 0.7 2.4
.090 Travis Best 2003 MIA 11.2 47.3 42.7 12.0 0.5 2.9 5.1 0.9 0.1 2.1
.099 Henry Bibby 1980 PHI 11.1 49.1 41.0 13.1 1.1 3.7 5.4 1.1 0.1 2.6
.110 Troy Hudson 2007 MIN 10.8 48.3 45.1 13.1 0.5 3.1 4.7 0.9 0.1 2.6
.158 Bimbo Coles 1999 GSW 14.8 49.6 44.9 12.9 0.6 3.3 6.3 1.3 0.3 2.3
.162 Bob Sura 2004 TOT 16.2 51.0 43.8 12.9 2.2 7.1 5.0 1.3 0.3 2.3
.166 John Johnson 1978 TOT 11.9 45.3 41.5 16.1 2.0 6.1 4.2 0.8 0.4 3.3
.171 Damon Stoudamire 2004 POR 14.8 50.8 47.7 12.7 0.6 3.6 5.8 1.1 0.1 2.1
.174 Brad Miller 2007 SAC 13.5 50.8 45.9 11.5 1.6 8.1 4.5 0.8 0.8 2.2
.174 Doug Overton 2000 BOS 10.5 46.6 42.9 12.7 1.2 2.7 4.4 0.8 0.0 1.7
.176 Jim McMillian 1979 POR 11.9 49.9 44.6 10.7 2.1 5.1 4.3 1.3 0.4 2.1

I know it takes a little time for perception to catch up with reality, but does that look like a list of players that should be questioning whether or not they are the second star of a team? To me that group should be worrying if they can keep their job as second string point guards. It’s been a long time since McGrady has been a top tier player, but there’s no doubt that he fell off Sandy Alomar Cliff years ago. Below is a list of his comparables by age, which reminds me of one those don’t use drugs posters.

Age z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS eFG PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
19 .244 Kevin Garnett 1996 MIN 15.8 52.2 49.7 13.1 2.7 7.9 2.3 1.4 2.1 1.7
20 .121 Kevin Garnett 1997 MIN 18.2 53.7 50.2 15.7 2.3 7.4 2.8 1.3 2.0 2.1
21 .098 Kobe Bryant 2000 LAL 21.7 54.6 48.8 21.2 1.5 5.9 4.6 1.5 0.9 2.6
22 .072 LeBron James 2007 CLE 24.5 55.2 50.7 24.1 0.9 5.9 5.3 1.4 0.6 2.8
23 .145 LeBron James 2008 CLE 29.1 56.8 51.8 26.8 1.6 7.0 6.4 1.6 1.0 3.0
24 .121 Kobe Bryant 2003 LAL 26.2 55.0 48.3 26.0 1.1 6.0 5.1 1.9 0.7 3.0
25 .053 Kobe Bryant 2004 LAL 23.7 55.1 46.8 22.9 1.5 5.3 4.9 1.6 0.4 2.5
26 .114 Paul Pierce 2004 BOS 19.4 51.7 44.1 21.3 0.8 6.1 4.8 1.5 0.6 3.5
27 .175 Grant Hill 2000 DET 24.5 56.5 50.1 24.7 1.3 6.4 5.0 1.3 0.6 3.1
28 .083 Jamal Mashburn 2001 CHH 17.5 49.3 45.0 18.4 1.1 6.9 5.0 1.0 0.2 2.5
29 .088 Derek Anderson 2004 POR 15.1 49.9 44.0 13.8 0.5 3.6 4.5 1.3 0.1 1.8
30 .090 Travis Best 2003 MIA 11.2 47.3 42.7 12.0 0.5 2.9 5.1 0.9 0.1 2.1

You might note that at age 27 his most similar player is Grant Hill, but a score of .175 means they’re not very close. Actually McGrady rates close to these players because of his high usage. From ages 21-28 he averaged more than 21.1 pts/36, however his efficiency has been dropping since age 23. Usually guys with TS% south of 52% don’t get to take enough shots to average 20pts/36, but McGrady has managed that feat 3 times in his career (2006-2008). Speaking of his shooting efficiency…

McGrady-TS%

I added the red line, since the league average for TS% is around 54%. T-Mac had a very promising career, capping with a TS% of 56.4% as a 23 year old. A player’s career usually arcs up, levels off, then descends. But McGrady’s drops sharply and early at the peak, giving it the appearance of a mountain not the typical bell curve. If you looked at his career graph at age 23 and applied the normal career path, you’d think he’d be a perennial All Star. But as you can see that’s season was the exception, not the norm. It’s a shame, because McGrady is an exceptional passer and a capable rebounder. And he’s always been able to get to the line. Poor shot selection and an inconsistent three point shot (he’s been over 34% only once in the last 7 seasons) has kept him from achieving true greatness.

I had hoped that McGrady would benefit from a reduction in shot attempts upon arriving in New York. But even when he cut his FGA/36 to 12.6, T-Mac put up the lowest TS% of his career (46.6%). You know your career is over when you’re a former All Star trying to beat out Chris Duhon for a starting job, and you fail. Probably some team will sign him to a minor contract this year, I just hope it isn’t New York.

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

Final Grade: F

Looking To Last Year For Answers

At the start of the season, it was expected that the Knicks would improve on their 32-50 record from the prior year. However the team is under performing and is on pace to win 28 games. With the team failing to meet even their own low standards, it’d be nice to pinpoint exactly what’s going wrong. A good starting place would be to compare this team to last year’s using four factor statistics.

Year       EFF  eFG%  TO% REB% FTFG
2009 Off 108.1  50.3 14.7 24.4 21.0
2010 Off 106.4  50.5 14.9 23.2 19.3

Year       EFF  eFG%  TO% REB% FTFG
2009 Def 110.8  52.0 14.9 27.3 21.5 
2010 Def 109.8  51.7 15.6 27.7 21.2

Oddly New York is a little better defensively than they were last year. The change is due to an uptick in turnovers, and perhaps a minor improvement in shooting percentage allowed. On the other hand the offense has clearly regressed, with more than a point and a half decline per 100 possessions. While the shooting percentage and turnovers are just about the same, rebounding and free throws have fallen considerably.

Grabbing rebounds and drawing fouls are two specialties of David Lee. Compared to last year, Lee’s oreb/36 has slid from 3.3 to a mediocre 2.6 and his fta/36 has gone from 4.2 to 3.8. Perhaps his role in this year’s offense is one of the reasons for the decline, because D’Antoni tends to start the half court offense with Lee on the perimeter orchestrating. This has increased David’s assist numbers (from 2.2 to 3.4 ast/36) but it seems to come at the expense of his other strengths. The typical counterargument for this is that having the Knicks keep the opposing center on the perimeter opens up the middle for the rest of the team. However the team stats contradict such an assertion, with the shooting percentage staying level and the number of fouls in the paint decreasing.

Lee isn’t the only offender in recovering his team’s misses. Gallinari has been inserted into the starting lineup, and he’s only pulling 0.8 oreb/36 which is feeble for a 6-10 player. And one of last year’s New York’s best glass cleaners, Nate Robinson (1.6 oreb/36) was benched earlier in the season and now has been traded away. Even Jeffries’ 3.5 oreb/36 was marginalized to 2.4 oreb/36, a sign that it was a fundamental change in the team’s philosophy that contributed to this decline.

But it’s New York’s free throws that might be hurting them the most. One culprit is Chris Duhon whose production has dipped from 2.6 fta/36 to a pitiful 1.7 fta/36. Duhon has been benched in favor of Rodriguez, however this problem might not have been addressed as Sergio is no threat in the paint either (2.2 fta/36). And again Nate Robinson was a big help here, but his numbers saw a huge decline in 2010 (4.8 to 2.7 fta/36).

If I had to build a narrative based on this data, I’d say that the fault lies in a combination of the roster and plan put together by the coaching staff. Perhaps David Lee has become more of a complete player this year, but looking at the results from a team level you have to question the cost. His game has been slowly been pulled away from the basket (his offensive rebounding per minute numbers have dropped every year since 2007) and perhaps in the course of rounding his game out the pendulum has swung too far in that direction. Similarly Nate Robinson was marginalized in an attempt to transform him from a shooting guard into a point guard.

One perspective on the team was that Lee’s unidimensional game and Nate’s out of control play as attributes holding the team back. Well those problems were addressed, and the team has only gotten worse. In D’Antoni’s defense the Knick roster isn’t exactly brimming with talent, but a good coach find his player’s strengths and his strategy adheres to those attributes. New York’s coach appears to be too unbending in his philosophy, and looking at the history of the team’s guards in his tenure shows a mismanagement of talent. Marbury, Richardson, Hughes, and Robinson have all been run out of town. Meanwhile Duhon has stuck around much longer than he should have, and Toney Douglas is still on the fringe of the rotation. D’Antoni is known as being a great offensive point guard in his career, but he’s failed to turn that into anything tangible so far.

Milwaukee 83 – New York 67, The Good And The Bad

You didn’t have to look too deep last night to see examples of the opposing extremes. In a night where the franchise honored the 1970 championship team, their modern day heirs put up a 67 point stinker. Another polar event was the benching of Chris Duhon, who despite being third on the team in minutes played racked up a DNP in favor of newcomer Sergio Rodriguez. The Knicks scored 118 (albeit in overtime) against the #3 defense just two nights prior, but struggled to put up half that against the Bucks. Newly anointed savior Tracy McGrady followed up a 26 pts on 17 shots masterpiece with a 15 pts on 14 shots clunker.

But it wasn’t limited to T-Mac, as the entire team looked bad shooting. Chandler and Gallo, two youngsters who were supposed to thrive with the addition of talented passers, were a combined 4-14. Eddie House put up a Crawford-esque 4-16, Al Harrington was a meager 3-9, and Sergio Rodriguez made his predecessor look like a viable option with his 2-8 night.

The 1970 Knicks were known for their teamwork and fundamentals, as many of the telecast’s guests pointed out, and last night’s team failed to play as a unit. Rodriguez had lots of energy, but nearly too much for his teammates. He racked up 8 steals, and often pushed the ball up the floor. The problem was he was met by superior opposing numbers as the rest of New York jogged their way up the floor.

Other than cohesiveness, the Knicks lacked one other crucial aspect. With Lee bringing his game out to 15 feet and adding a long range bomber in Eddie House, the Knicks lack scoring in the paint to open the exterior. One play that stuck out in my mind was when Tony Douglas received the ball right under the hoop, but was unable to even get a shot off. Al Harrington can drive to the hoop, but he rarely passes the ball in that scenario. We’ve seen Tracy McGrady get the ball in a mid-post iso, but I’m not sure if he has that first step to get past his defender. The team is lacking someone that can really slash to the hoop. Perhaps they’ll get a view of one tonight as they face Nate Robinson and the Celtics.

One Months Time

“Oh well I look at you and say
It’s the happiest that I’ve ever been
And I’ll say I no longer feel I have to be James Dean
And she’ll say
Yah well I feel all pretty happy too
And I’m always pretty happy when I’m just kicking back with you”
–“Five Years Time” Noah and the Whale

For the first time in years, there is optimism for Knick fans. Looking at the reaction on Twitter, fans are eager to grab T-Mac jerseys first thing tomorrow morning from the NBA store. The Daily News put the words “Former All Star” in the title of one of their articles describing T-Mac. Even an old friend on my facebook seemed to wonder why I was so down on grabbing such a big name as Tracy McGrady.

My grades from yesterday’s post reveals that I’m less than pleased with how the team did on the trade deadline. While there seems to be a euphoric fog following the team, I’m curious how people feel things will work out. So I propose the following question: “In one month, what will the starting lineup and rotation look like?”

My optimistic side says:
Rodriguez
McGrady
Chandler
Gallo
Lee
bench: House, Harrington, Douglas

This lineup would mean that McGrady and Rodriguez are playing well, which from a long term perspective isn’t such a bad thing. Nothing would make me happier to have Rodriguez and Douglas relegate Duhon to the bench for good. I’d settle for Sergio starting, and Duhon coming off the bench, but that doesn’t bode well for Douglas’ future. Actually I could also live with House starting at point guard, and letting the offense run through McGrady. I imagine that might be the Knicks “best offensive 5” team, which could prove useful considering their lack of size. What I would hate to see is this:

My pessimistic side says:
Duhon
Chandler
McGrady
Harrington
Lee
bench: Gallo, House, Bender

Duhon remains entrenched as starting PG, and between him and McGrady there’s no need for another PG, leaving Douglas and Rodriguez out of the rotation. D’Antoni finds Gallo/Chandler too small for the 4, and inserts Harrington into the starting lineup instead.

Somewhere in the middle lies:
Rodriguez
McGrady
Chandler
Gallo
Lee
bench: House, Harrington, Douglas, Bender

Yes a 9 man rotation wouldn’t be out of the question, although I don’t see a lot of minutes for Douglas/Bender. Chandler and Gallo rotate at the 4 defensively so neither are continually over matched. Duhon is nowhere to be seen, and the Knicks have 2 scorers off the bench in House & Harrington.

So how do you see the lineup in one month?

Knicks-Rockets-Kings Trade – A Three Blogger Look

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, and Sacramento Kings have struck a deal. For the Knicks, it is another step in the plan initiated by Donnie Walsh to curb foolish spending and aim towards free agency. For the Rockets, it is the dawn of a new day, the divorce from an era, and perhaps one of the greatest hauls in franchise history. For the Kings it is space for their rising star Tyreke Evans with regards to the court and perhaps a superstar to team him with. Ironically all teams make this swap looking to the future, but requiring different elements to do so. Mike Kurylo of KnickerBlogger.Net, Rahat Huq of Red94.Net, and Zach Harper of Cowbell Kingdom get together to discuss the teams, the players, and the ramifications of the deal.

To the Rockets
Kevin Martin – $44 million left, expires in 2013
Jordan Hill –  $5.1 million left, expires in 2012 (team option for 2014)
Jared Jeffries – $13.3 million left, expires in 2011
Option to Swap 1st round with NYK in 2011 (top 1 protection)
NYK 2012 1st round pick (top 5 protection)

To the Kings
Carl Landry – $3 million left, expires in 2010 (team options for $3 million for 2011 season)
Joey Dorsey – $1.7 million left, expires in 2011 (team option for $1 million for 2012 season), partially guaranteed in 2011 season
Larry Hughes -$13.7 million left, expires in 2010

To the Knicks
Tracy McGrady – $22.8 million left, expires in 2010
Sergio Rodriguez -$1.6M, expires in 2010 (team option for $2.3M in 2011)

Zach: Kevin Martin was in a lose-lose situation once we saw a glimpse into just what Tyreke Evans could be (November 7th road win in Utah). Martin was going to have to comeback perfectly and he certainly didn’t do so. Upon his return, he struggled with his own scoring at a time in which the Kings were starting to collapse. Martin’s greatest strength has always been getting to the line for easy points and this year he’s only been getting there seven times per game (7.2 fta/36). While seven free throw attempts seems like a lot for most players, it’s the lowest total he’s averaged in four years. That’s what Kevin Martin does; he scores easy points. He finds open spots on the floor, runs off of high screens perfectly and tosses up that funny looking jump shot. You expect it to clank off the side of the backboard because of the shooting motion. Instead, it usually rips through the net as part of the quietest most efficient 25 points per game you’ll see on a nightly basis. He struggled to do that this year on Tyreke Evans’ team. It turned into a treasonous act in the minds of some Kings fans who probably never thought he’d actually be traded. 

Rahat: I think Martin’s skillset will fit beautifully into this Rockets team’s motion offense.  While he isn’t the creating wing I felt this team needs, he will be a huge boost to this offense.  

In Carl Landry, the Kings are receiving one of the most effective inside scorers in the league (career TS% of .630) and the probable 6th-man of the year. Landry is a tireless worker.  He relentlessly attacks the offensive glass.  However, he is a poor defensive rebounder and his totals have been trending downwards. 

The evolution of Carl’s offensive repertoire has been startling.  He came into the league as merely a garbageman, using his extreme athleticism to hang around the basket for easy openings off of passes from Tracy McGrady.  But his athleticism has declined since that rookie season as he re-aggravated a serious injury from college.  While he is still athletic, he no longer appears freakish like he once did.  In his second year, Landry showed off an ability to face up and take his man off the dribble and developed a deadly mid-range jumper.  Due to his size, we thought this would be the extent of his capabilities.  The real surprise has come this year as Carl is now a very effective post scorer, showing off an arsenal of fadeaway jumpers and hooks off of either block.  He has struggled against fronting and double teams in recent weeks but it is unclear whether this is merely due to unfamiliarity with these new approaches.  

Finally, Carl has never been a good defender.  Though he is described as ‘physical’, he does not hold his ground well in the post and is easily mauled over by larger power forwards.  He is also a poor shot-blocker.

Mike: Rahat, earlier in the season you said McGrady “has looked bad” and that “he’s not helping” the Rockets. Do you think he’ll help the Knicks?

Rahat: Overall, he looked bad.  However, this was quite some time ago.  It’s anyone’s guess right now if the struggles were due to permanent physical regression or rust/the natural readjustment after surgery.  He was still surprisingly effective as an individual defender, never really getting beat laterally.  (This was pretty odd as he seemed to have little to no explosion offensively.)  The problem for us was that this Rockets team wins through pace and hustle.  McGrady was too slow to keep up on the break and made little effort to help defensively – that wasn’t going to cut it here.  It’s tough to say whether he will help the Knicks because there is the possibility that he was able to work off more of the rust during his latest hiatus.  I certainly wouldn’t rule it out.  His days as a frontline star are over, but I think he can still be a factor, situationally. 

Mike: If you were D’Antoni, how would you use him in the offense?

Rahat: I’m not completely familiar with the Knicks’ offense so I can only assess McGrady’s capabilities.  Primarily what he brings, contrary to popular belief, is passing.  For McGrady, the passing will always be there – he’s the best passing wing this league has ever seen, rivaled only by James.  It was remarkable to see that even in his regressed state, he could still effectively create plays for his teammates.  Just absolutely remarkable.  He can hold the ball at the key, in stationary position, and blindly hit cutters without needing to actually beat his man off the dribble.  He also never makes mistakes.  It’s never been mentioned, but as far as court IQ, he’s in the league’s top 99th percentile. 

As for the rest of his game:

He can still create space for his jumper because he is so incredibly skilled/coordinated: he uses a jab step-left to free himself for his pet shot at the elbow.  Unfortunately, he is not a good shooter (TS% of .487% in his last healthy season; bottom 5th in league) so this is not an aspect of his game one’s offense would want to feature. 

Interestingly, while most of his shots come in motion off his own dribble, he might actually be a far better set shooter.  He looked very good on the few set shots he took last year, but he rarely attempts them.  We will also need to see how much lift he has on his shot upon return, because for McGrady, that is crucial.  He has looked flat in recent years and that has contributed to his drastic decline. 

Moving on, McGrady struggles scoring off the catch/curl/cut.  In fact, he is the antithesis of a “willing cutter.”  To be effective, he has to have the ball in his hands. 

Mike: As I said earlier, one way I would advocate the Knicks acquiring McGrady was if he were able to push Duhon to the bench. Duhon has just killed New York this year, especially with regards to scoring in the paint – going as far as passing up open layups. Honestly I think Duhon is probably the worst NBA player I’ve ever seen with regards to scoring inside. 

With that in mind, how has McGrady been with respect to:
1. Scoring inside?
2. Playing point guard?

Rahat:

1. Scoring inside – even when healthy, scoring inside has been Tracy McGrady’s achilles heel since I have been following him.  Hard to believe because we all remember the dunks from his younger days.  As he has aged, most likely out of fear, he just simply avoids driving to the basket at all costs.  This includes the 4th quarter of Game 7’s with opponents in the penalty.  If you look at my game analysis during his return, he did valiantly try to drive to the hole on certain occasions, much more aggressively than in years past, most likely in hopes of assuaging the concerns of watching eyes.  The problem was that he simply did not have even a modicum of explosion.  As I said earlier, that could possibly change as the leg builds strength, but his fear of contact will not.  Even moreso than help defense, inside scoring is the last thing one can hope to expect from Tracy McGrady.

2. Playing point guard – At this point in Tracy’s career, based on what I saw in those games, I think he can only be effective in this league as a point guard.  He doesn’t shoot well enough to justify a role at the ‘2.’  If he’s on the court, to offset some of the negatives, you want to be utilizing his passing for a net gain.  So I could see him as sort of an extreme-new-age version of Ron Harper (of Chicago Bulls three-peat fame) going forward. 

There’s two problems: 1) I’m still not sure it would work unless it was Fratello’s Cavs.  Tracy won’t push the pace.  For this reason, you could use him off the bench, but I don’t see it happening as a starter.  2) He doesn’t have a prayer against 1’s defensively.  You would need to mask that by pairing him with a 2 capable of taking those duties.  In his return, I never saw him get beat laterally, but this was in defending bulky small forwards.  It won’t work against NBA point guards.

Mike: The Knicks defensive schemes have a lot of switching, so individual match-ups don’t matter as much. However New York just traded three guys that could have played alongside McGrady well. Jared Jeffries, Nate Robinson, and Larry Hughes all could have guarded the point guard position, allowing T-Mac to run the offense while  defending a wing. Additionally Jeffries/Hughes would have given New York a lengthy lineup, while Nate Robinson could have been inserted alongside T-Mac as a shooting guard and be freed of trying to play point. 

Duhon has been the Achilles Heel on offense, but the problem is no one else was able to step up. D’Antoni tried Hughes and Robinson, but the coach has little patience with shooting guards masquerading as points. With McGrady as possibility at point guard, and adding Sergio Rodriguez, perhaps D’Antoni can end Duhon’s stranglehold on the starting spot. 

Zach: Sergio Rodriguez will be perfect for a team like New York that has nothing of substance at the point guard position. He pushes the tempo, pulls passes out of orifices and finds a way to make a positive impact. He’s the Kings leader in +/- this year and it’s legit. When he’s on the court, he makes things happen. Is he going to be able to defend anybody? Not a chance. Not to mention, his jumper is suspect. But he is a facilitator that will be fun to watch for Knicks fans.

Rahat: Tell me about Jordan Hill.  Is this someone upon whom I can pin future hopes?  In my diligent investigations prior to the consummation of this deal, what I gathered led me to the conclusion that he most likely sucks.  Is this a fair assessment?  

Mike: I have to say I was very down on the drafting of Hill. A few statistical evaluations had him as being overrated by the scouts, and the Knicks sorely needed a point guard (see my rant on Duhon above). Hill is raw, which is a bit of a red flag for a guy that didn’t come out as a underclassmen. Watching him I’ve been slightly impressed compared to my low expectations, so I think the word “sucks” is a bit of a stretch. He certainly has the athleticism to be a good NBA player. Hill can rebound & block shots, and he does have an outside jumper.

The big problem is his inside scoring – he seems to shy away from the hoop and use fade aways instead of going strong. Even when he has a point blank shot, he’ll occasionally miss. It’s like Hill has no clue how to score in the paint. Additionally, he’s a little lost on the defensive end, but you expect that from any first year player. Off the top of my head, I’d say he’s a less heady and less polished Kurt Thomas. From the three minutes I spent interviewing him he’s a happy-go-lucky nice guy, which means he doesn’t have Kurt’s mean streak either.

Rahat: Henry Abbott wrote a piece earlier in the year on Jared Jeffries, describing his defensive impact on the court.  Is he a zero offensively?  Just how bad is he?  Perhaps even more importantly, does he know his limitations?  Offensively, there’s Shane Battier-bad and Trevor Ariza-bad.  The latter can be disastrous and painful to watch.

Mike: Jeffries has exactly one skill on the offensive side – rebounding. Earlier I said Chris Duhon is the worst NBA scorer in the paint I ever witnessed, well Jeffries is a close second. It’s baffling at 6-11 how many shots from point blank he’ll miss. Throw in the turnovers and he’s not a zero but rather a complete negative on that side of the court. Jeffries does seem to know this and often will pass up open opportunities, but I think the coaching staff is encouraging him to take open shots & drives. He’s been doing more of that this year, but without much success.

He does bring a lot on the defensive side, but don’t expect a lock down defender ala Ron Artest or a fly swatter like Josh Smith. Just a smart guy that will take a bunch of charges, can cover just about anybody, and will do more good than bad.

As for Larry Hughes, he can still defend on the wing a little, but his offense just isn’t there anymore. He had a hot streak earlier this year, and D’Antoni used him often. But once his luck vanished, so did his playing time. Perhaps he’ll get some burn in Sacramento and will finally be able to shave his beard. But I’m guessing for the Kings, this move isn’t about Larry Hughes.

Zach: I think the move has two huge components. The Kings now have great flexibility in the years before Tyreke Evans gets to start thinking extension. I know that’s a bit extreme considering we’re still in his rookie campaign but this franchise will be built around him and Geoff Petrie just got as close to a blank slate as he’s ever going to get. So yes, in a way this was largely a move for cap space. Secondly, the Kings just acquired their best low post scorer since Chris Webber (and he kept hanging around the elbow). Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes are full of potential and hope but Carl Landry is a guy that will get results. Not only does he produce in the post but he does it at a cheap price. At some point in the next year, Sacramento will get to decide if he is worth keeping, how much it will cost and where he fits into the core. And they get a nice window to judge everything properly. If they don’t think it will work out long-term there will be dozens and dozens of NBA teams wanting to acquire his Bird Rights and scoring ability. The Kings just became the biggest transaction player for the next year. That’s the biggest impact of all of this. 

Mike: You could argue that the Rockets got the best player in this deal. So how do you feel about it?

Rahat: I’m simply speechless right now.  I haven’t yet taken this all in.  It was a good deal when it was just, essentially, Landry for Martin.  But the Knicks’ part of our haul?  Daryl Morey might have just rebuilt this entire franchise in one swoop this afternoon.  I don’t think I can appropriately articulate the significance of this move in this space provided.  

Mike: Funny thing is that I’m not crazy about this trade from the Knicks perspective. I feel as if New York is paying too much for getting out of Jeffries’ contract, perhaps if it were the useless and more expensive Eddy Curry I would be OK with it. Sending any one of Jordan Hill, a first round pick, or an option to swap firsts seems reasonable to unload his contract. But all three seem to be overkill. On top of it, according to NBA salary cap expert Larry Coon, even with this trade New York can’t sign two max guys and keep David Lee. Perhaps being able to get a second near max guy (for ~ $14.8M) is the thing that puts them over the top for signing LeBron, but it’s an awful big risk. 

I know I’m in the minority with my opinion, and perhaps I’m more optimistic on the Knicks chances of grabbing a top free agent without this move. I’m not against moving Jeffries, obviously, I’m just against the cost. Here’s one final thing for Knick fans to consider: what does the team do with McGrady if he’s a good fit for D’Antoni’s offense? Do the Knicks consider re-signing him in the summer considering McGrady’s injury history? How much, or rather how little, will McGrady take to stay? Lots of things to keep New Yorkers buzzing while the other half of the league is in the playoffs.

T-Mac Trades That Could Help New York

With trade rumors circulating, I decided to look at some of the possibilities of a three way T-Mac deal. From the Knicks perspective, it’s obvious that they want to shed either Jeffries or Curry, and rumors are that they covet McGrady. It’s unlikely that the Knicks are going to make the playoffs, but the Rockets are on the cusp, and they’re interested in getting something tangible for their oft-injured former All Star. Meanwhile the Wizards are looking to salvage something from their disasterous season, most likely in the form of cap relief and young talent.

With that in mind there are a few possibilities. The simplest one is this:

New York gets:
McGrady GF

Washington gets:
Harrington PF
Mobley SF
HOU 1st round pick (protected)

Houston Gets:
Butler SG
Haywood C
Jeffries F

Basically the Knicks unload Jeffries and get McGrady as a last ditch effort to make the postseason. Meanwhile the Wizards clear Butler’s salary off their cap and get a draft pick in return. The Rockets eat some salary, but get three players that will aid them reach the postseason. Houston can protect that draft pick in case they slip in the standing.

There are a few ways to work this deal if parties aren’t interested in certain aspects of it. For instance New York has reiterated that they would not trade Cuttino Mobley, so they can do the deal with Darko Milicic instead. Additionally the Knicks can ask for seldom used PG Mike James as well. What if the Rockets don’t want Jared Jeffries, but the Knicks are still enamored with T-Mac? They could send Nate Robinson to Houston, but not Washington

Of course just because this was reported in the news doesn’t mean that these teams are even discussing such a swap. But if the teams are interested in such a deal, it shouldn’t be too complicated for them to work something out. Personally I’m not thrilled with acquiring McGrady, since I don’t see him helping the team much unless if his arrival pushes Chris Duhon to the bench. However if the Knicks are able to unload Jeffries in a package, then it’s a no brainer as long as New York doesn’t give up any youngsters or draft picks. If either team requires any of Chandler, Gallinari, Hill, Douglas, or a draft pick to make it work, then New York should walk away from the table.

Why I Hate…

[After Saturday night’s defeat against Cleveland, the self loathing Knicks fan comes out and spews some venom.]

Chris Duhon
Well there’s the obvious statistical reasons. Players are supposed to get more efficient when they shoot less. Duhon averages 8.7 pts/36 with a TS% of 48.0%. Just to put that in perspective, Jared Jeffries scores 6.6 pts/36 with a TS% of 50.7%. Yes Jared Jeffries is more efficient than Duhon. If you gave Duhon’s extra shots to Jeffries, their numbers might be identical. Here’s a note to NBA players: if you can be compared to Jared Jeffries on offense, you suck.

Watching Duhon drive the lane is like watching your least mentally stable friend trying to pick up the most drunk girl in the bar. Both are way in over their heads, and the results are going to be ugly. I’m dumbfounded at how many shot attempts in the paint from point blank Duhon passes out of. It’s like Duhon’s bigger brothers were Ben Wallace and Josh Smith, and he’s been irreparably scared from scoring inside.

What sealed the deal was Duhon’s actions with 3:12 left in the Cleveland game. New York was down by 20 at half time, but they clawed their way back to a 3 point deficit. Nate has the ball on the top of the key & Duhon is on the wing calling for the ball. Nate gives him the ball and without hesitation Duhon launches up a three. Of all the Knicks on the court, I was dumbfounded that Duhon would demand the ball then take the last shot given his poor offensive play and his unselfishness. Was this a way for him to try to get back his starting job through heroics? In any case the shot careens off the rim and the Cavs will hold onto the victory with a little help from…

Al Harrington
I’ll give you this, when the Knicks offensive is reeling and I want them to just score a freakin basket already! I hope the ball lands in Al Harrington’s hands. Yes I received some slack for being pro-Harrington at times, because all the guy does is score, but unlike Duhon he’s not awful at it. A TS% of 53.8% is good for a guy that averages 21.5 pts/36.

Saturday night I watched the second half from a bar, and had to give back stories for some of the Knicks to my wife. When Harrington got the ball I said two things. First is that sometimes they play “You Can Call Me Al” by Paul Simon after he scores (she likes Paul Simon). Second is that when he gets the ball he’s not likely to give it back. And the latter is what kills me about Al. Everyone watching a Knick game knows when Al Harrington is going to shoot; when he gets the ball and makes that quick first move. That’s it the ball is going up – no matter how many defenders converge on him or how many of his teammates are open.

So with 1:51 left in last night’s game, with the Knicks down 5 and needing a score Harrington gets the ball and puts up one of the ugliest shots I’ve ever seen. If I recall correctly, Lebron James is guarding him and Al wildly chucks it off the glass. That’s it game over. Having Al Harrington on your team is the proverbial “he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.”

Mike D’Antoni
When cornered by my wife Saturday night, I admitted that I like D’Antoni and that I think he’s one of the league’s best coaches. But I added “you have to deal with his quirks.” Now every coach has his quirks, and I’m fine with most of D’Antoni’s. Sure I’d like his rotation to be longer, to have him use a 7 foot center, or perhaps for him to communicate with his players on rotation issues. But he’s a good coach with a solid offensive and cares about defense. Even D’Antoni’s harshest critics have to admit that he’s better than the past few Knicks coaches.

However you have to wonder why D’Antoni had Harrington and Duhon on the floor for the final minutes. On the bench was Danilo Gallinari and David Lee. Gallo had 13 points on 10 shots, with 5 assists. Lee had 5 turnovers, but still managed 20 points on 14 shots, so why not pair him with Hill in lieu of Harrington? But more importantly where is the accountability with Duhon and Harrington? The pair wrecked what could have been a great comeback with lousy decision making. And they frequently make the same mistakes over and over again. Why not let them reflect on their mistakes with some extra bench time? Perhaps sticking them in the doghouse for a few games might prevent another loss from boneheaded mistakes.