Looking at the 2005 NBA Draft (Part I)

[This entry comes from Knickerblogger.net?s Director of College Scouting, Dave Crockett. As always I can be reached at dcrockett17@yahoo.com]

Rather than doing the typical ?winners? and ?losers? column I want to try something a bit different in the aftermath of last Tuesday?s NBA draft. As a bona fide NFL and NBA draftnik I?m fascinated by how differently teams in the two leagues approach the draft. In the NFL the ?best player available? approach is heavily favored over drafting based on ?need or fit.? However, all things being equal, the NBA seems to be almost the complete opposite. Although the two strategies overlap, each theoretically has an advantage over the other. In the NBA the disadvantage of drafting the best player available regardless of position is that talent duplication is quite costly. A logjam at a given position can be quite difficult to clear because of the salary cap and the dynamics of the labor market in a given year. On the other hand, drafting to fill specific needs is rarely the best way to accumulate talent and improve a roster. If done wisely drafting the best player available can put a team in a position to meet its other needs via trades or free agent signings by providing greater roster flexibility. It allows the team to make deals where getting back equivalent talent is not the only objective; it may be opening up playing time for a young player already on the roster.

In the days following the NBA draft I?ve noticed that many writers seem to implicitly favor either a ?best player available? strategy or a ?need? strategy, and this certainly colors their perspective on who won and who lost on draft night.

So in this three part entry I?ll try to offer some post-hoc thoughts on Isiah Thomas?s draft night (Part I), as well as the other teams? (Parts II and III). I?ll list each team, the players they acquired, their Chicago pre-draft camp measurements (height in shoes, wingspan, and weight) if available, position, and school along with a few comments based on the teams’ apparent strategy.

Knicks

8. Channing Frye (6-10-1/2, 7-2-1/2, 243.6#), C/PF, Arizona
21. Nate Robinson (5-9, NA, 180#), PG, Washington (f/ Phoenix)?
30. David Lee (6-9, 7.0, 229.5#), F, Florida

?New York acquired guards Quentin Richardson and Nate Robinson (the 21st overall selection) from the Phoenix Suns for F Kurt Thomas and G/F Dijon Thompson (the 54th overall selection)

Overall, Thomas managed to blend best player available with need in this draft consistent with his ?younger and more athletic? mantra. Frye and Robinson are athletic talents at positions of need. In one respect I share the Knickerblogger?s recent pessimism about these picks (and the trade). Alone they do not adequately address defense and rebounding, the team?s biggest weaknesses. However, at least in theory these players help create enough flexibility to address those needs in free agency or via sign-and-trade deals. David Lee, for instance, seems to be precisely the kind of player that could put a pretty bow on an ugly contract (e.g., Malik Rose, Penny, Mo Taylor, or Tim Thomas) in a sign-and-trade deal.

As for the particular players drafted, I thought the Knicks did a pretty decent job. The only other players I could see the Knicks regretting passing on at #8 are Danny Granger and Antoine Wright. I have been intrigued by Granger?s scoring ability, defense, and passing, and said so back in March. Granger apparently excelled in his workouts. Since I was traveling in New Mexico last week I got to read a lot about him personally and he?s definitely a quality kid whose career I?ll be watching. Between those three players I just don?t think the Knicks could have gone terribly wrong at #8. None appear to me to be superstars on the horizon yet each appears too skilled and too smart to be a bust (barring injury). Although prep star Gerald Green was also a possibility my bias about high schoolers, particularly wing players, is that I want an NBA ready body if you?re asking me to gamble on game experience and basketball IQ. Green may yet become a great player but it most assuredly will not happen until he fills out physically. He?s quite likely to be a Dorrell Wright type player where you?ll have to wait until he matures physically to see what you have. By then he?ll be on his second contract.

Channing Frye. He?s a player whose career I have followed very closely. At his best he?s a poor man?s Rasheed Wallace, a long-armed talent who can score in the post, on the break, or out on the floor. At his absolute worst he?s an athletic version of Michael Doleac, a 6-11 screen-roll jump shooter. What I love about Frye, setting aside for the moment that he runs the floor very well, is that he added something to his half-court game every year at Arizona. First he added a little jump hook, then a lefty hook, and finally the 15-18 foot jump shot off the screen-roll. His numbers improved every year despite having never played with an NBA caliber point guard. His harshest critics claim that he?s soft. Though he?s had troubles with strong widebodies (e.g., Eric Williams of Wake Forest ate him up early this past season) ?soft? is a major exaggeration. Channing Frye is no bruiser but neither is Marcus Camby, Samuel Dalembert, Chris Bosh, Rasheed Wallace, or even Tim Duncan for that matter. Lots of guys play center in the NBA who aren?t physically dominant in the mold of Shaquille O?Neal or Ben Wallace. At 6-10-1/2 with a 7-2-1/2 wingspan Frye is plenty tough to be an NBA center. In the 250# range without the frame to get a lot bigger, he?ll never push the bigger centers around. But then, only a fool would ask him to. Like most young post players he needs to learn to better use his athleticism and length to deny post position to stronger guys rather than play behind for the shot block. On the other end though, he?s going to beat the Nazr Mohammeds of the league down the floor by 3 full strides. He?s murder on the screen roll in the 15-18 foot area. He?s a very good passer from the high post. And, he?s going to get you 1-2 blocks (mostly from the weakside) if he plays 20 minutes per night. This season he put up 18 and 16 with 2 blocks and 2 steals against the presumably more physical Lawrence Roberts. He more than held his own against Andrew Bogut (19 and 9 with 3 blocks). He went for 15 and 10 in the Regional Semifinal against Oklahoma State?s physical front line and 24 and 12 with 6 blocks against Illinois in the Regional Final (in one of the 5 best NCAA tournament games ever).

Nate Robinson. This season Nate the Great scored 16.4 points with 3.9 boards and 4.5 assists (better than 2 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio). He shot 53.9% efg this season and got more efficient offensively each year. (His three season points-per-shot totals were 1.15, 1.32, and 1.41.) So Robinson is probably good enough offensively to stay on the floor as a backup guard despite his stature. But, what I really want to talk about is his defense. Robinson is disruptive. He averaged 1.7 steals, but that really doesn?t quite do justice to his defensive impact. He?s the kind of player that can take the opposing point guard out of the game by not allowing him to bring the ball up the floor or set the offense. Unlike other diminutive guards Robinson is Tim Hardaway strong; strong enough to make it difficult for taller guards to back him down. He?s absolutely?not just pound for pound?stronger than most point guards he saw in college. He?s an energizer. When Robinson signed his contract he became the team?s best perimeter defender since Latrell Sprewell departed. The Knicks have not seen an athlete of his caliber since Anthony Bonner in the early-to-mid 1990s.

David Lee. I missed the end of the first round on television so I didn?t get to hear David Lee get booed by the Garden faithful. Huh? I don?t get it. Who was left on the board that was a significantly better choice with a lower ?bust? probability at that spot than Lee? Lee is a 6-9 lefty who can score with either hand in the post. He has a shot out to the 15-18 foot area coupled with very good run jump athleticism and decent handle for a 6-9 kid. Just wait until the summer league Knicks fans. I bet there?ll be a lot of folks saying ?who knew?? when they see the box scores. Currently, Lee?s part of a logjam at power forward. So it wouldn?t surprise me if his stay in New York is brief but I certainly hope Isiah doesn?t just give this kid away. He’s got some talent and some skill, and that’s all you’re looking for at #30.

Draft Reviews. In the ?publish or perish? world of academics when an up-and-coming young scholar, such as yours truly, submits a manuscript to a journal for publication the editor and some number of anonymous reviewers typically decide its fate in one of three ways. In the best case scenario they may accept the author?s brilliant exegesis for publication, perhaps with only a few cosmetic changes (Accept). That, for all practical purposes, never happens. Rumors and legends persist but they are merely this and nothing more. More likely, if the publication gods are smiling, after the editor and reviewers have sufficiently ridiculed a manuscript they will ask the author to revise it based on their oh-so-helpful comments and to then resubmit it for additional battering (Revise and resubmit, or R&R). Or, in the worst case scenario, they may reject it outright (Reject).

In this draft Isiah Thomas gets a revise and resubmit (with major revisions needed). Certainly Zeke upgraded the talent on the roster. One could quibble about the selection of Channing Frye but no one available at #8 was, as far as I could see, a clearly superior choice. The addition of Robinson was to my mind the real plumb. At #21 the expectations for him should be realistic; come in, make the rotation, and contribute. Robinson should be able to do that on his defense alone. But his athleticism, energy, and charisma could very pleasantly surprise. Given the current roster makeup it?s hard to envision David Lee getting to see the light of day in New York, but he?s a nice pick at the end of round 1. And hey, nothing about the current roster should be taken as given.

Zeke can change this R&R to an acceptance for publication if he can manage to find something that looks like a direction. Some of the parts, though certainly not all, appear to be falling in place but this roster still needs a lot of work.

Up next: Eastern Conference Reviews

Oh, and Happy 4th everyone!

Gnate and Nate?

My writing this week hasn’t been shedding Isiah Thomas’ latest move in a positive light. However one day after the draft would be a foolish time to continue to rain on the Knicks. Just one day after the draft Channing Frye is a future All Star, Nate Robinson is the backup PG that is better than half the starters in the league, and David Lee is going walk right in & fill Kurt Thomas’ shoes.

In fact despite railing on the deal just a few days ago, I was pretty excited when I heard that the Kurt Thomas trade was finalized because New York got Nate Robinson. No I haven’t changed my mind on the deal, because I think Richardson is an average player who doesn’t address the Knicks main needs. However if the deal had to go through, getting “Gnate” made it palatable. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the small guys. Years ago when Earl Boykins was a Net and Cavalier castoff I advocated from the top of my barstool that the Knicks should pick him up.

There are just so many reasons to like the diminutive player. I didn’t get to watch much of the NCAA tournament this year, but I saw at least one Washington game. Nate is one of those guys that you can’t help but keep your eyes on, because he will make something exciting happen. Although the Knicks do lack flash, I think Robinson can contribute as a solid player as well. Before going mainstream, the APBRmetric-minded Kevin Pelton gave him a nice write up over at draftcity.com. Meanwhile I can entertain thoughts in my head that Robinson will consider playing nickelback/kick returner for my beloved New York Jets.

Getting back to the Knicks I’m not sure whether they’ve solved their defensive problem. The reviews of Frye is that he’s a polished offensive player, but on defense the word “soft” has been thrown around. While he is a shot blocker, that talent doesn’t always translate from college to the pros. Knicks fans know that we’re not getting Tim Duncan or Tyson Chandler, but the answer to the question on exactly how much Frye can help solidify their D will have to wait. Obviously David Lee isn’t the defensive answer unless the Knicks trade Mike Sweetney (doh!) or Malik Rose (hooray!).

Even without getting another player, there is something Isiah and the Knicks can do to improve their defense: hire a defensive-minded coach. While I don’t believe that a coach can turn an awful defensive team into a stellar one, a good coach might be able to get the Knicks going in the right direction. Larry Brown would be a no-brainer, but there are two other possibilities that I wouldn’t mind New York considering. I know P.J. Carlesimo isn’t the popular choice in town, but he took the last ranked Warriors and turned them into an above average 12th in just two years. The Sprewell incident and sitting on the bench next to Emperor Popovich should make him a more experienced coach.

Nate McMillan’s contract should run out any second now. While the Sonics weren’t a defensive juggernaut, McMillan’s team made the most of what they had, had might have give the Spurs a run for their money had they not have a series of unfortunate injuries. Nate would give the Knicks their first legitimate coach since Jeff Van Gundy, and if he were able to bring over uber-consultant Dean Oliver it would be the icing on the cake. I?d still prefer a known commodity over guys like Herb Williams or Bill Laimbeer. With the draft out of the way, getting a coach should be the #1 priority on the Knicks list.

Keep a Close Watch on the Madness for Us (Part II)

[For Part I of David Crockett’s two part piece scroll down, unless you’re the type that likes to read the ending first.]

Small Forwards

Player Team Yr PPG RPG APG eFG% FTM/FGA
Gomes, Ryan Prov. SR 21.7 8.2 3.3 55.0 24
Thompson, Dijon UCLA SR 18.2 8.1 2.2 53.2 29
Warrick, Hakim Syracuse SR 21.2 8.2 1.6 56.2 45
Caner-Medley, Nik Maryland JR 16.7 5.9 2.1 52.7 23
Granger, Danny New Mexico SR 18.3 8.5 2.3 59.8 44
Williams, Jawad North Carolina SR 14.4 4.0 1.5 62.4 30
Williams, Marvin North Carolina FR 11.3 6.5 0.8 55.9 56
Graham, Joey Ok. State SR 17.7 6.4 2.0 57.8 39
Lee, David Florida SR 13.3 8.8 2.2 52.4 40
Wright, Antoine Texas A&M JR 17.6 6.2 2.2 58.1 24

The Guys I Like

? Dijon Thompson, UCLA. Strengths: The kid named after a condiment can score. He’s a true SF with a lot of skills. CBS Sportsline lists him as a guard; he played there last year a bit but hasn’t at all this year. Questions: He was a weak defender when he arrived. He still is. Will he ever play any?
? Hakim Warrick, Syracuse. Strengths: He has superb post footwork, and an uncanny knack for getting his shot off against stronger, taller players. The championship-clinching shot block is a “never forget it” play. Weaknesses: Where do you pick him? How do you use him? His career will be all about expectations. He has tremendous tools but may never be dominant at anything. That won’t play on every franchise. He’ll begin his career as a SF, but what will he grow to be?
? Jawad Williams, N. Carolina. Strengths: He reminds me of Ced Ceballos in that he could score 10-12 points just by running the floor and hitting the boards. Questions: Is that enough?

Best Players, Conventional Wisdom

Hmm? I’m not sure if there is much conventional wisdom about the small forwards. I
think beauty will be in the eye of the beholder.

* Other Intriguing Players

? Marvin Williams, N. Carolina. Will the freshman declare for the draft? There isn’t much of a “book” on him yet. That may play to his advantage.
? Danny Granger, New Mexico. Strengths: He’s 6’8″/225 lbs. His scoring and shooting numbers have increased every year. He’s also pitching in 2 blocks per game. Questions: The primary questions seemed to be about his range and his attitude, as I recall. Well, he shot 44% from 3pt range this season. I can’t say I know much about his attitude though.
? Ryan Gomes, Providence. Strengths: He’s a fabulous all-around player. Questions: He’s also an undersized power forward. Can he make the move to SF in the NBA?

Power Forward/Center

Player Team Yr PPG RPG APG eFG% FTM/FGA BLKS/G
Allred, Lance Weber St. SR 17.6 12 1.6 52.3 40 3.0
Bass, Brandon LSU SO 17.5 8.8 0.9 59.0 45 1.7
Bogut, Andrew Utah SO 20.6 12 2.4 64.3 34 1.9
Diogu, Ike Az. State SR 22.5 9.6 1.4 59.6 62 2.2
Frye, Channing Arizona SR 15.6 7.5 1.9 52.7 32 2.1
Villanueva, Charlie Uconn SO 13.1 8.1 1.3 51.6 34 1.9
Simien, Wayne Kansas SR 19.4 11.1 1.3 54.3 40 0.7
Williams, Shelden Duke JR 15.8 11.1 0.9 59.6 38 3.8
May, Sean North Carolina JR 16.7 10.9 1.7 54.8 50 1.0
Nicholson, Yemi Denver JR 18.2 8.6 0.9 58.6 22 3.0
Fazekas, Nick Nevada SO 21.5 9.4 1 56.8 42 1.6

The Guys I Like

? Andrew Bogut, Utah. Strengths: He’s the real deal. He can score with either hand. He’s smart and he’s still improving. Questions: Will he declare? He still has another year of eligibility. If he does he’s a virtual lock to be a top 3 pick.
? Channing Frye, Arizona. Strengths: He added something every year at Arizona. This year he’s added a 15-18 foot jump shot. He can score in the post with either hand and will block a shot or two. Questions: Can he add another 15-20 lbs without impacting his quickness? Right now he’s something of a tweener.
? Shelden Williams, Duke. Strengths: He blocks almost 4 shots per game at 6’9″! I knew he could rebound and score, but that surprised me. Questions: How much center can he play in the NBA?

Best Players, Conventional Wisdom (Aside from Bogut)

? Wayne Simien, Kansas. Strengths: Strength. He has also improved the range on his shot and his FT shooting. Questions: Can he stay healthy? He’s not had a single, season free from fairly serious injury in college.
? Sean May, N. Carolina. Strengths: He’s an exceptional rebounder, particularly at 6’8″ or 6’9″. He has a nice assortment of post moves. Questions: Though his conditioning has improved he still gets winded and ineffective in stretches. Could he eat himself out of the league?

Other Intriguing Players

? Brandon Bass, LSU. Strengths: SEC player of the year, yet no one knows about him. He has a nice all-around game. He lives at the free throw line and blocks almost 2 shots per game. His body is right out of the Karl Malone catalog. Questions: How good is he?
? Ike Diogu, Az. State. Strengths: Pac10 player of the year, yet he’s a man some feel has no NBA future. He got lots of points and boards on some bad Sun Devil teams. He’s 6’9″ and not a wide body. He does little beyond 13 feet. Can he play the same game in the NBA?
? Charlie Villanueva, UConn. Strengths: He has amazing athleticism for a man 6’11. He can do it all. Questions: Can he continue to turn his athleticism into a blessing rather than a curse? Last year he totally diminished his size by staying on the perimeter, playing as a 6’11” small forward for all practical purposes. This season he has halved his 3pt FGAs and doubled his FT attempts. Does he need another year of seasoning under Calhoun? Whether he makes the jump may depend on how far UConn goes.

These are just a few of the players who may do something special this march. Keep your eyes open. It’s almost a guarantee that one or more will be playing in the Gah-den next fall.

Keep a Close Watch on the Madness for Us (Part I)

[Leaving for my mini-vacation on Friday I thought I had everything in order. I had some columns pre-written to be published while I was away, and my new TIVO-esque creation was ready to record the Knicks game on Tuesday. I planned to watch the game upon arrival Wednesday night & publish something about it today. Unfortunately cruel fate stepped in & the Knicks blackout instead left me with some boringly faux-NBA show.

Luckily I was greeted to a huge post in my mailbox from guest-blogger David Crockett, an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Crockett is head of the KnickerBlogger college scouting division, and can be reached at dcrockett17@yahoo.com]


Yes, it?s that time of the year already. March Madness is rapidly approaching. On Sunday night the pairings will be announced. Somewhere in the heartland a 20-win team from a mid-major conference will writhe in the agony of uncertainty about its tournament fate, all because this team pulled a stunner in its conference tournament final. Once the pairings are made public Digger Phelps will announce one-by-one the 57 (of 65) invitees to he considers ?dangerous.? He will then proceed to bombard us over the next three weeks with a seemingly endless string of meaningless basketball clich?s. Virtually everyone will ignore some pretty good matchups in the Not Invited Tournament, including some of the actual players in said tournament. Yet strangely enough, all will seem right with the college basketball world.

Rather than talk of brackets, bubbles, Cinderellas, or ?sleeper teams? I thought I?d write to ask a favor of the Knickerblogger?s readers. Since it appears that the Knicks have linked their immediate and long-range future to the draft, and since I plan to write a NBA draft entry as June draws closer, help us keep an eye on a few players in this post-season who might look good in the blue and orange down the road.

I have designated a few players, quite unscientifically I might add, as ?players to watch.? These, for the most part, are players that I think are pretty good. Some are players I?ve not seen, but have heard about. Others are players I don?t particularly care for, but about whom others have raved. Still others have something in their stat lines that drew my interest. I?ve listed a few players at their projected NBA position, along with their regular season statistics. I?ve characterized them as ?Guys I Like,? ?Best Players According to Conventional Wisdom,? and ?Other Intriguing Players.? Comments before, during, or after the tournament are welcome.

Point Guards

Player Team Year
PPG
RPG
APG
eFG%
FT/FG
Paul, Chris Wake Forest SO
14.9
4.4
6.6
53.0
49
Brown, Dee Illinois JR
14.2
2.5
4.6
68.7
17
Jack, Jarrett Ga. Tech JR
15.9
4.9
4.6
58.6
40
Felton, Raymond North Carolina JR
12.0
4.0
7.3
56.6
25
Robinson, Nate Wash. JR
16.3
3.6
4.9
54.5
33
Williams, Deron Illinois JR
12.4
3.7
6.6
51.4
15
Hodge, Julius N.C. State SR
17.1
6.9
4.5
51.1
45
Brooks, Darren SIU SR
15.0
5.1
4.3
50.8
17

The Guys I Like

* Jarrett Jack, Ga. Tech. Strengths: He?s an outstanding defender with an NBA ready body. Questions: How well does he make decisions in the half court?
* Deron Williams, Illinois. Strengths: Passing and high basketball IQ. He makes few mistakes on offense or defense. Questions: He has limited quickness, so how well does his offense translate to the NBA?

Best Players, Conventional Wisdom

* Chris Paul, Wake Forest. Strengths: Outstanding scorer who is very efficient. He gets to the FT line an awful lot. Questions: Paul is a weak defender on a weak defensive team. He?s rarely been asked to defend. Can he?
* Raymond Felton, N. Carolina. Strengths: Passing, ball handling, steals. Questions: Although his long-range shooting has improved he is inconsistent; also an inconsistent FT shooter.

Other Intriguing Players

* Nate Robinson, Washington. Strengths: He is perhaps the best inch-for-inch athlete in college basketball. Unlike other small guards he is a superior defender, very disruptive like Mugsy Bogues. Questions: Can he play the point in the NBA? He rotates backcourt positions at Washington.
* Julius Hodge, N.C. State. Strengths: Listed at 6?7?, he played PG, SG, and SF at N.C. State. Questions: His senior season has been a disappointment. Did he regress or did the talent surrounding him decline that much? What position does he play in the NBA?

Shooting Guard

Player Team Yr PPG RPG APG eFG%

FT/FG

Head, Luther Illinois SR 16.1 3.9 3.8 62.2 21
McCants, Rashad North Carolina JR 15.8 3.1 2.8 58.0 25
Stoudamire, Salim Arizona SR 18.2 2.3 1.9 66.2 29
Roy, Brandon Wash. JR 13.2 5.6 2.2 56.7 28
Anderson, Alan MI State SR 13.4 5.5 1.8 60.0 38
Winston, Kennedy Alabama JR 18.1 5.4 2.4 54.2 25
Wade, Tiras LA-Laf JR 20.4 6 1.3 55.2 26

The Guys I Like

* Kennedy Winston, Alabama. Strengths: Very good shooter who can get quality shots off screens or put the ball on the floor. He is difficult to guard. He?s also a good defender. Questions: Not many; I like him. Kinda like Jarvis Hayes, he may not be a superstar but his game translates well to the NBA.
* Brandon Roy, Washington. Strengths: He can quietly take over a game, putting something in every column. He?s always been a high percentage shooter, good defender, and tough rebounder. Questions: Does he do anything well enough to get noticed?

Best Players, Conventional Wisdom

* Rashad McCants, N. Carolina. Strengths: He is an outstanding all around scorer. Questions: What else can he do?
* Luther Head, Illinois. Strengths: Very good all-around player. Questions: Does he have enough experience at any one position to play it well in the NBA?

Other Intriguing Players

* Tiras Wade, LA-Lafayette. Strengths: His stat line suggests that he can score and rebound. He measures 6?6?/209 lbs. He allegedly can also put the ball on the floor. Questions: I?ve not seen him play so I don?t know what to make of him. Can he really play the SG or is he an undersized SF?


Stay tuned for tomorrow’s exciting conclusion.

Breaking Down the Knicks Deadline Deals? A Little More

[Today’s column was written by David Crockett, who has been taking note of the wild trade action, creating a new frontier on the NBA landscape. (You must be this old to get that joke.) David is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of South Carolina, and can be reached at dcrockett17@yahoo.com]

At the trade deadline the Knicks consummated two separate deals. If you?ve not had an opportunity to read the Knickerblogger?s excellent breakdown of the deals please do so. He does an especially good job of debunking the knee-jerk media tendency to ignore the importance of draft picks in deadline deals.

At the risk of putting words into his virtual mouth, he basically argues that the Knicks are in the seventh layer of salary cap hell until 2007 irrespective of what they do primarily because of Houston?s contract (KB: that’s exactly what I was arguing). Consequently, he argues, the amount by which the Knicks exceed the cap threshold is irrelevant as a strategic matter, at least it is until Houston comes off the cap in summer ?07. If the Knicks wish to rebuild with young players and/or draft picks other teams will assuredly demand a premium; either the Knick?s young players or cap relief.

Given this, the real wisdom in taking on a given contract lies in its implications for financial flexibility at the beginning of the 2007-2008 season (i.e., when Houston comes off the books). Prior to that Marbury?s and Houston?s pacts will keep the team hopelessly above the cap. (A nice salary breakdown per season can be found here.) Of course the other piece to the puzzle is the roster construction.

So let?s take an even closer look at the two deadline deals from both a financial and a roster construction perspective.

Deal 1
? The Knicks Receive: Malik Rose, PF, 2005 first round draft choice (SA via Pho), and 2006 first round draft choice
? The Spurs Receive: Nazr Mohammed, C, Jamison Brewer, G

Financially, the Knicks have replaced Mohammed?s short, reasonable deal with Rose?s considerably longer, less cap-friendly deal. Rose enters the final year of his deal, which pays him $7.1 million, just as the Knicks get out from under Houston?s mega-deal. By then I expect Rose?s current 15.5 PER to have shrunk considerably, right along with his market value. I think it?s reasonable to anticipate that, short of a buyout, Rose is in NY for the duration of his deal. Clearly, this is the bitter pill Thomas was willing to swallow for the two first round picks.

What might those picks turn into? Obviously, there?s no way to characterize future picks as anything other than a gamble. Yet there is no risk-free way to acquire talent prior to its prime. One way we might consider the value of the 2005 draft (New York?s own lottery pick paired with the pick coming from San Antonio through Phoenix) is by look at the past few drafts. I was not at all sold on the wisdom of this deal until I went back and looked at who was drafted in the spots where New York?s and Phoenix?s picks would land based on record (i.e., 6th and 29th overall as of this writing).

A glance back at 6th and the next-to-last players drafted in round 1 from 2000-2004 might make Isiah?s decision to pull the trigger on this deal easier to understand, even at the price of Rose?s contract. (Recall that the first round only had 28 picks total until 2003.)

2004 ? Josh Childress, Atlanta; David Harrison, Indiana (Luol Deng #7, Chicago)
2003 ? Chris Kaman, Clippers; Josh Howard, Dallas
2002 ? Dejuan Wagner, Cleveland; Chris Jeffries, Lakers (Nene #7, Wilcox #8, Stoudamire #9)
2001 ? Shane Battier, Mem; Jamal Tinsley, Atlanta (Tony Parker #28)
2000 ? DeMarr Johnson, Atlanta; Erick Barkley, Portland (Mark Madsen #29)

So really, the question is how wise was it to swap Mohammed?s contract for two additional (slightly more expensive) years of Rose and a two-in-five shot at Kaman/Howard or Battier/Tinsley? Framed this way the deal looks like a pretty reasonable gamble. Consider also that this is purely a deadline deal; no way does San Antonio consummates this deal during the off-season. San Antonio doesn?t need Phoenix?s 2005 or its own 2006 pick, but they could demand a much greater premium for them on draft night than Nazr Mohammed and Jamison Brewer. They could easily trade for future picks or draft some European teenager and keep his rights.

Even though the picks will be towards the end of the round the cap makes it prohibitive to have two lottery picks in consecutive seasons anyway. Also, the Knicks may be able to package the pair to target a specific player. Isiah?s thinking here is shrewd because he?s taking most of the bitter medicine now while the team is well over the cap anyway, with an eye toward 2007-2008 when he?ll have maturing young talent and money coming off the cap.

Deal 2
? The Knicks Receive: Maurice Taylor, PF
? The Rockets Receive: Moochie Norris, G, Vin Baker, F, and 2006 second round draft choice.

Much like the Knickerblogger I think had Isiah stopped with the previous deal I?d be pretty darned happy with things. Unfortunately, just like last season Zeke has a knack for making one deal too many; one that will eventually cost him something to undo. My impression is that I?m a bit more leery about the impact of this deal than is the Knickerblogger. Two things about it really bother me well beyond their curious nature.

First, what need does Mo Taylor address? Surely, the role of overpaid, undersized power forward has now been amply filled by Rose for the foreseeable future. Even anticipating an off-season move involving one or more of the Knick forwards, the Knicks are well-stocked at the position. Taylor is a worse rebounder than Tim Thomas, who at least shoots a high % from 3 point range. Taylor doesn?t defend; his 19 oPER is Moochie Norris bad. Worst, Taylor is expensive at over $9million per, meaning he?s not likely to be more valuable nor converted into anything more valuable than what NY gave up to get him.

Second, Taylor further skews an already unbalanced roster into a dangerously guard-light roster. The team now has no third guard and no true third small forward, but has 5 capable power forwards. This is not just an aesthetics problem. The Knicks simply cannot afford for Hardaway or Crawford to be injured again this season. They would have to sign a guard off the street. Moving both Norris and Brewer without getting at least an emergency guard in return is just silly; worse yet, it may be expensive. New York is virtually guaranteed to enter the off-season, if not before, desperate for a third guard. As a consequence Thomas will almost assuredly pay a premium unless he drafts one. There?s no way the Knicks can go into next season carrying only two guards, and every GM in the league knows this. Had the Knicks thrown in Sundov and cash for Reece Gaines this deal would have still been superfluous but at least not innately harmful. As it stands this deal makes zero sense on any dimension ? financial, performance, or roster balance.