Knicks Draft Hill/Douglas

In the 2009 draft, it seemed as if the stars would align for New York. Rubio was passed over for the first 4 picks, and it seemed he might drop to the Knicks. But Minnesota snapped him up with the 5th pick. At that point it appeared that the Timberwolves would be done with taking point guards, but they grabbed Syracuse’s Flynn with the following selection. All that stood between New York and Stephen Curry were the Golden State Warriors. Clearly they didn’t need a guard, especially with 6’3 Monta Ellis signed to a lucrative $66M deal. However the Warriors grabbed Curry with the #7 pick, giving them a 6’3 backcourt for 2010. New York’s dreams of either Rubio, Evans, or Curry were not to be.

But the oddities didn’t end there. The Knicks, in desperate need of a guard, took 6-11 forward Jordan Hill with the 8th pick. New Yorkers seemed stunned by the move. Some of the non-profanity laced comments from the KnickerBlogger chat session from draft night:

Lee: lock your doors.. we may have a riot.
Thomas B: Even stern was like..wait what?
Dan Panorama: listen to the boos!
BigBlueAL: Channing Frye part 2
Owen: There goes David Lee
Dan Panorama: no one wants jordan hill, who would we even trade him for???
Thomas B: Okay when the 1st thing you say is wingspan…..
jon abbey: there had better be a trade in the works
Brian Cronin: this is so not cool

At this time it’s unknown if New York will keep Hill. The Timberwolves selected point guards in back to back picks (Rubio, Flynn), so it’s possible that a trade might be in thw works. New York can’t officially trade either Lee or Robinson until the first week of July when the veil lifts on restricted free agents. It’s possible that Hill was selected for another team, in a trade that will be announced in the coming days.

From all accounts, Hill appears to be an energy big man, who has an unpolished offensive game. He can rebound and block shots, both things that are needed by New York. However Hill was rated poorly by two statistical studies. Hollinger had Hill in his disappointment section, noting:

The other big surprise down here is Jordan Hill, who could go as high as No. 4 but rates 26th in the Draft Rater. Hill had solid rebounding and scoring numbers, but his percentages weren’t off the charts, and his poor assist and turnover numbers were a red flag. Although one might think that ballhandling categories wouldn’t matter for a power forward, apparently they do — pure point rating (a measure of how a player passes and handles the ball) is a pretty strong success indicator for frontcourt players, and only four prospects rated worse than Hill.

While Ed Weiland’s words were just as unkind:

…Hill just doesn’t look like anything more than a career journeyman. There is some good stuff in his career. I like that he shot over 60% his first two seasons. I like that his rebound rate has consistently improved. I like that he destroyed both Cole Aldrich and Josh Heytvelt in head-to-head matchups this year. I don’t like that he can’t get his SB40 over 3.0. This is something that even the rawest of top PF prospects should be able to do. I don’t like that his team was so ordinary despite featuring two first round draftees. What bothers me the most is his .537 2-point pct. this year when he became a top scoring option. History simply hasn’t been kind to such players. I feel any team drafting Jordan Hill in the top 10 and expecting him to become something of a cornerstone will come to regret it. He looks like nothing more than a decent journeyman.

The Knicks first round didn’t end there. New York bought Los Angeles’ pick and took defensive minded guard Toney Douglas with the 29th pick. Again Hollinger was down on Douglas, ranking him 62nd among potential draftees. Weiland was a little more positive saying that “his defensive chops and the scoring ability he flashed this year, Douglas should be a lock to go later in round 1… When investing a 1st round pick after #20 in a weak draft a player like Douglas who meets all the important criteria on scoring, efficiency and defense seems like a better gamble than most.”

As I said earlier it’s still unknown whether the team will keep both players. Most likely Douglas will stay, but the waters seem murky around Hill. And these picks don’t really give any insight to what the team might do with their unrestricted free agents. Had the Knicks taken Stephen Curry, I thought it was going to signify the end of Nate Robinson, since the two would provide the same roles and weaknesses. Meanwhile Hill should be able to play alongside Lee, so Knick fans shouldn’t feel threatened by the move. New York will have to wait until July to see how things might play out.

2009 NBA Draft Day

REMINDER: Don’t forget to enter the KnickerBlogger.Net 2009 Draft Contest before the draft starts!

With the draft less than 12 hours away some recent developments have changed how the night might proceed for the Knicks. Most pertinent is Minnesota trading for the #5 pick. There were rumors that New York was looking to acquire this asset from Washington, but with the pick traveling north that option has vanished. More importantly this move might affect who is available when the Knicks turn comes around. Originally it was assumed that Washington would take PF Jordan Hill with this selection. However it’s unlikely that the Timberwolves will take him because they already have two young frontcourt players in Jefferson and Love. They sent PG Foye and GF Miller in the deal, and with a guard heavy draft it’s likely that Minnesota will select two guards. Therefore it’s possible that both players Minnesota takes tonight are ones the Knicks were targeting.

There have been a few other rumors that New York was trying to add a late first round pick, but as of this writing nothing has been made official. With a draft that is more deep than top heavy, the pick could net a rough gem like Austin Daye, Marcus Thornton, or Nick Calathes.

Chad Ford reported that the Knicks are likely to send Quentin Richardson to Memphis in exchange for Darko Milicic in the next few days. This is a smart short term move for the Knicks. For the first time in years, the Knicks will have a shotblocking center, something they sorely lacked in the Isiah Thomas era. Milicic has averaged 2.6 blk/36, but his other numbers have disappointing. Last year Darko’s TS% was a respectable 53.3, but that was about 50 points above his career average so it’s possible that his good shooting was just a career fluke. He’s never averaged more than 24 minutes per game over the course of a season, so it’s unlikely that Milicic will earn a starting spot. However he’ll provide some much needed interior defense to a team that is starving for it. Milicic has only one year left on his deal, so it will not affect the team’s 2010 plans.

In other NBA news, the Hawks have netted ex-Knick Jamal Crawford, while the Cavs are on the verge of grabbing Shaquille O’Neal. The latter deal is quite interesting from a number of perspectives. Cleveland is hoping that adding Shaq will help fuel a Cavalier championship and keep LeBron from leaving via free agency. From Shaq’s perspective he gets to match up against rival Dwight Howard and Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy, who he has feuded with in the press. And should the Cavs beat the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals this year, Shaq will go up against the Lakers and another rival Kobe Bryant.

Finally yours truly appeared on a Hardwood Paroxysm’s podcast last night for about 10 minutes, answering questions about the draft & the upcoming season.

*** BREAKING NEWS (1:30pm): Yahoo reports the Knicks acquired the Lakers’ first round pick (#29). According to the article the Knicks are looking to target a big man with this pick.

Pre-Draft Link-O-Rama

Here at Knickerblogger.net we want you to be informed. To that end, we have spanned the information super highway looking for the best pre-draft analysis and mock drafts. If you know of a good link that we missed, please share.

Dave Berri has some interesting views on the “top” point guards. After reading his work I am officially off the Flynn bandwagon and throwing my full support behind Stephen Curry. Check this cool production chart based on the last season of the players who attended college. Berri really likes Lawson. Maybe Caleb was right about Flynn. And Hollinger likes Lawson too.

Over at hoopsanalyst the love for Lawson continues while Ed Weiland goes all Andy Rooney on the pre-draft evaluation process:

It’s as if the scouts, GMs and other personnel men simply focus in on what goes on in the combine and workouts and ignore the season. As if they’re drafting players for a decathlon instead of the same five-on-five game these players were playing the previous winter.

Rooneyisms aside, I think Ed is on to something. Ed also evaluated combo and shooting guards. I’m sure he’ll get to forwards and centers too so check back in on him.

The combine measurement cheers and jeers continue at blogs all over but this one stood out for me. Hoopsreport.com reports that Eric Maynor’s stock is down:

Maynor’s height for a point guard is pretty good at 6-foot-3, but his weight was not impressive. Maynor weighed in at just 164 pounds, the lightest of anyone at the Combine. To successfully defend NBA guards, he will have to hit the weight room.

I don’t quite buy that given that length and speed are far more important to defense with the new backcourt defensive rules. Active hands and fast feet are better indicators of defense for guards. And what does weight tell you about the ability to play good team defense? You know, Stockton would be a late second rounder by today’ standards. Okay now I sound like Rooney. Moving on…

Matthew Maurer over at the draft review tells us of the 7 deadly sins of drafting. It’s a fun and quick read but we Knick fans will disagree with his assessment of Jared Jeffries’ “perimeter oriented skill sets.” Umm-no. Matthew should update his mock—its 3 weeks old—but I have a soft spot for this site as I won a draft trivia contest there a few years ago. My prize: a one size fits none T-shirt and really cool draft yearbook with stats and impressions on the top 20 players at each position. I don’t think they have published one since but I hope he tries it again.

Hoopshype.com has a mock draft powered by Jonathan Givony of draftexpress.com fame. I like that Givony mocks based on what the team should do rather than what the team is expected to do. For example, Givony has Memphis taking James Harden second. I find that to be a great move because of Rubio, Thabeet, and Harden, it is Harden that best addresses Memphis struggles with scoring (28th in Efficiency, 23rd in eFG) right away. Givony has Holiday to the Knicks and Flynn in the bottom half of the lottery as of 6/17/09.

NBAdraft.net updates their mock about every two days. You can also get opinions on hundreds of prospects. The countdown timer is cool too.

If you can tear yourself away from Jessica Gomes, CNNSI has a mock up as well.

2009 Report Card: Chris Duhon

When the Knicks signed Chris Duhon for 2 years at $5M per year, more than one analyst accused the team of overpaying in free agency yet again. However looking at Duhon’s production over the year it’s hard to argue with the signing. The former Bull ran the offense (7.0 ast/36), shot efficiently (56.9% ts%), hit nearly 40 percent from downtown (39% 3p%), and played above average defense. Oh and he set the franchise record for assists in a game with 22.

But Duhon’s season wasn’t all positive. He still is a meager scorer (10.9 pts/36) who is limited when driving to the hoop. Occasionally the Knick point guard ventures into the paint, and passes up a wide open look in lieu of delivering the ball to a teammate on the perimeter. And while Duhon and Lee make a great pick & roll tandem, as the season wore on Duhon’s scoring deficiencies allowed other teams to focus on Lee and better defend the strategy. This year, Duhon’s turnovers per minute peaked at 2.8 to/36, mainly due to his scoring woes. Teams looked to stop the pass more when he had the ball.

When looking back on the 2009 season, Duhon will be remembered for transitioning from Stephon Marbury’s noxious hold on the team to D’Antoni’s ball-sharing paced offense. Duhon was the anti-Marbury: quiet, stable, defensively able, inept finishing around the hoop, unselfish with the ball. All in all, Duhon’s effect on the team was a positive one, but his deficiencies make him more suited for a reserve role than a starter playing upwards of 36 minutes. The team has more pressing needs this summer (namely center and shooting guard), but finding their point guard of the future would be a wise investment as well.

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

Final Grade: B+

Pre-Draft Camp Mock and Draft Thoughts Part II: L-O-T-T-O!

If you haven’t already done so take a look at Part I, done prior to the lottery.

Now that the ping pong balls have bounced, leaving our beloved Knickerbockers no better or worse off than they’d have been just based on record, I’ll re-work the lottery picks and post the remainder of this first round mock.

1. LA Clippers – Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma: If Mike Dunleavy’s recent declaration of undying love for Blake Griffin is true then he’ll probably trade players to clear room for his new beloved. If it’s not true then the #1 pick may represent a rare opportunity to clean up a roster that is a mess, possibly in one fell swoop. (Previously: Ricky Rubio)

2. Memphis – Ricky Rubio, PG, Spain: Choosing Rubio has its advantages, regardless of whether he wants to play in Memphis. His rights become an asset for the asset-starved Grizz. Even though Memphis should do this, no player in this draft generates more ambivalence for me than Rubio. The talent is evident, but there are lots of reasons it may not work out for the team that drafts him. (Previously: Demar DeRozan)

3. Oklahoma City – Hasheem Thabeet, C, UConn: Thabeet may be a one-trick pony but his trick is precisely what OKC needs. He’s a defensive anchor, with a decent shot at becoming a more athletic Mutombo. The downside is that he will probably never be even an average offensive player. But, in this draft there’s something to be said for being fairly certain of a player’s “floor”. (Previously: Brandon Jennings)

4. Sacramento – Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy: Sactown will most likely take the best PG left on the board. I suspect Rubio would prefer Sactown over Memphis, and perhaps a deal can be struck. (Previously: Blake Griffin)

5. Washington – Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona: The Wiz is the team I think most likely to deal its pick. If they keep it they’ll be looking for depth that could help in a pinch, but with some upside. Hill is a lot like Chris Wilcox. (Previously: Hasheem Thabeet)

6. Minnesota – Tyreke Evans, G, Memphis: I think Minny opts for the highest upside player on the board regardless of position. It could be Evans, depending on workouts. It could also be Hill, Jennings, DeRozan, or Lawson. Almost literally nothing they do would surprise me, which I hope they interpret as a challenge. (Previously: Evans)

7. Golden State – James Harden, G, Arizona State: I’ve loved to watch this kid play since he was a junior in high school. To me he’s the 6’5″ Paul Pierce. Other mocks have him higher right now, but I expect that on draft night he’ll slide in between 5 and 8. (Previously: Jordan Hill)

8. New York – Ty Lawson, G, UNC: I almost pulled the trigger on Lawson in the previous version. Now that I think Nate Robinson most likely will be signed-and-traded this July, Lawson becomes a better fit. He used to be just a fly-down-the floor guard (and frankly, there is something to be said for that) but his screen roll game has really evolved. I expect him to shine in workouts. He may be this year’s Westbrook–an already well-regarded player who vaults up the board based on superior workouts. Oh, and I really hope Walsh can find a 2nd round pick this year. This draft has some potentially very useful role players. (Previously: James Harden)

9. Toronto – Stephen Curry, G, Davidson: Is it possible to NOT love Steph Curry’s game? He fits Toronto like a glove, even down to his weaknesses (i.e., lateral quickness, overall athleticism, defense). He’s also the right kid to play outside the lower 48. This is a makes-too-much-sense-NOT-to-happen move if Curry is available. (Previously: Stephen Curry)

10. Milwaukee – Dejaun Blair, PF/C, Pittsburgh: Blair’s rebounding and long arms may get him to the top ten. (Previously: Ty Lawson)

11. New Jersey – Demar DeRozan, SF, USC: I think DeRozan is the biggest gamble this draft. It’s just not clear if he’s really good at anything yet. Add to that, he may be leaving town one step ahead of the sheriff with allegations of payola hanging over Tim Floyd at USC. Having said that, I’d honestly be a bit surprised if someone doesn’t pull the trigger on him earlier. (Previously: Jeff Teague)

12. Charlotte – Gerald Henderson, SG, Duke: With Larry Brown making personnel decisions, there is simply no way to anticipate what he’ll do. What I can probably write down is “scrappy, hard-nosed defender with a high basketball IQ” and just wait to fill in the name. I like Henderson as a solid sixth man who plays both ends. (Previously: Gerald Henderson)

13. Indiana – Jrue Holiday, G, UCLA: Holiday was probably among the most shocked when Darren Collison return to UCLA for his senior season. That moved Holiday to SG, where he struggled playing limited minutes out of position for a team with a style that doesn’t exactly fit his strengths. I’m not an “everyone should play one year!” guy, but Holiday should go back to school for another year. He’d definitely move to PG this year and could vault himself into the top 5 of next year’s draft. He may yet do so in this draft based on workouts, but the new format doesn’t allow as many chances for teams to see players as in the past. As of this writing he hasn’t hired an agent, but everything I have read suggests that he’s in the draft to stay. (Previously: Earl Clark)

14. Phoenix – Johnny Flynn, PG, Syracuse: The rumor mill says that Phoenix likes him. We’ll take that as a baseline pick. (Previously: Johnny Flynn)

15. Detroit – Earl Clark, F, Louisville: I am not a fan of Clark’s offensive game, particularly shot selection, but he’s a good defender. (Previously: Wayne Ellington)

Once we get out of the lottery, beauty will be in the eye of the beholder. I expect trades galore and one or two “who the hell is that guy!?” selections as well.

16. Chicago – Jeff Teague, G, Wake Forest: Teague is an undersized SG, a high-usage player both years at Wake but improved his TS% from 59% to 62% almost exclusively by getting to the line. He looks like Ben Gordon with a clue.

17. Philadelphia – Chase Budinger, SG/SF, Arizona: I posted a fairly extensive take on him at Arizona Desert Swarm. At this point in the draft he’s a bargain as a 6th or 7th man. It’s also worth noting that Philadelphia currently puts absolute blechhh! on the floor at SG.

18. Minnesota – BJ Mullens, C, Ohio State: This would be a reasonable gamble on size, athleticism, and potential in the high teens.

19. Atlanta – Terrance Williams, SG/SF, Louisville: Like his Cardinal counterpart, Williams brings much more to the floor in defense and other areas unrelated to scoring. For its part Atlanta doesn’t need another mouth to feed on offense. Williams could bring back a little of what they miss since Josh Childress left for Greece.

20. Utah – Sam Young, SF, Pittsburgh: He plays a similar game to Matt Harpring; a little jump shot and a lot of bruises.

21. New Orleans – Marcus Thornton, SG, LSU: I’m not a huge fan of Thorton as a playmaker, where he was often miscast in college. As the new (better) Janero Pargo I like him a lot better.

22. Dallas – James Johnson, F, Wake Forest: I think the Mavs take the most athletic front court player they can find at 22.

23. Sacramento – Tyler Hansborough, PF, North Carolina: Hansborough isn’t a first or even second option in the NBA, but he will rebound, run the floor, get to the line, and should be a decent pick and pop player. DraftExpress’ comparison to Luis Scola sounds about right.

24. Portland – Jermaine Taylor, SG, Central Florida: What Portland needs is a slashing small forward to better compliment Roy, but they won’t get one unless they trade. They’ll probably end up moving this pick, but if not Taylor is a player that could develop into the kind of slasher they need.

25. Oklahoma City – Darren Collison, PG, UCLA: He would join former backcourt mate Westbrook, and projects to a very solid backup PG.

26. Chicago – DaJaun Summers, SF, Georgetown: Gamble on upside.

27. Memphis – Wayne Ellington, SG, UNC

28. Minnesota – Eric Maynor, G, VCU

29. LA Lakers – Jodie Meeks, G, Kentucky

30. Cleveland – Gani Lawal, PF, Georgia Tech

Note: Austin Daye would definitely be in the first round, but right now I am unsure about whether he’ll return to Gonzaga. I hope he does. I love his game. He just needs to put on some muscle.

The Expected

Sometimes a commenter makes an point that inspires an article. I could have written this in the comments section, but I think it deserves an post of it’s own. Yesterday BigBlueAL wrote:

Look I have praised David Lee alot this season because he has improved his offense alot in terms of hitting that baseline jumper a bit more consistantly and being able to drive more often w/o getting his shot sent into the stands. But his numbers to me are a huge reflection of this system and Randolph being traded. Defensively he is still horrible and is not going to be anywhere near worth what his salary will most likely reach if you are trying to put together a championship caliber team.

Again I like David Lee and dont like ripping him, but please he is not a starting PF on a championship team. He is what his and Nate’s role should be, 20-25 minute players who bring energy off the bench. Those players are very important on good teams, but they are easier to find than go-to, superstar type players which is clearly what the Knicks are lacking and have lacked since Houston/Spree were together.

Unlike baseball where I have vast knowledge of sabermetrics and such in basketball I dont look at stats beyond the basics as much as I should, although being an ESPN Insider I do like reading John Hollinger and becoming more aware of more analytical basketball stats.

I have a theory on why David Lee is underrated from a visual perspective. Two of the things he does well are “expected”: rebounding and finishing around the hoop. Every time the other team misses a shot you expect your team to get the rebound. So when David Lee comes flying in to secure the rebound, it’s expected that the he does it. It’s not an act that is remembered or noted because it’s counted upon. Compare this to when Jamal Crawford sinks an impossible shot. Those memories usually stick in someone’s mind because of the rareness of the act. Yet most people don’t remember when Crawford misses a shot, since missing a shot is commonplace and an expected result.

But watching last night’s game against the Thunder, down the stretch Lee’s defensive rebounding was excellent. If you were concentrating on him, it was amazing watching his positioning and tenacity. There were a few rebounds that I don’t think any other Knick (or most big men in the league) would have secured. I honestly don’t think the Knicks would have been in yesterday’s game at the end if it weren’t for Lee’s rebounding.

The same goes for his inside scoring. Fill in the blank in the following sentence: Chris Duhon drives the lane and is double teamed, so he passes to an open David Lee who…

{Have your answer?}

Depending on your imagination you might say:
* dunks the ball.
* makes a reverse left handed layup.
* draws the foul for 2 shots.
* makes the buckets and draws the foul.

Now fill in the blank on this sentence: Chris Duhon drives the lane and is double teamed, so he passes to an open Jared Jeffries who…

{Have your answer?}

This time your answer will probably differ from Lee and you might say:
* fumbles the pass.
* blows the layup.
* scores with a nice finger roll (Jeffrightened style!).

Depending on the player you would have a different result. Yet Lee doesn’t seem to get credit for being able to catch a pass in traffic and score around the hoop. It’s because it seems to be such an easy act that it’s expected that he does so. Yet few players in the league can be as successful Lee, when performing this action. Now if you think I’m using a strawman argument with Jeffries, then replace Lee with Chandler or Curry. Chandler is more likely to take a turnaround jumper instead of going inside and isn’t very likely to draw a foul. Meanwhile Curry is more apt to either fumble the ball or commit an offensive charging foul.

David Lee’s rebounding and efficient inside scoring (without turning the ball over) is valuable because there aren’t a lot of players in the league that do those things at such a high level. That makes him a valuable starter level player, even with his defensive shortcomings. Hence why the Knicks have entertained so many offers for Lee from other teams. Of course everything depends on context, he would need to be paired with a strong defensive center. But as for Lee not being a good starter on a championship team, don’t you think the Spurs would love to have him on their team right now? Currently their PFs are Matt Bonner, Kurt Thomas and Fabricio Oberto (who pushes Duncan to PF).

However, the more relevant point I’m trying to make is that it’s hard to catch these things with the naked eye. As Michael Lewis wrote in Moneyball:

One absolutely cannot tell, by watching, the difference between a .300 hitter and a .275 hitter. The difference is one hit every two weeks. It might be that a reporter, seeing every game that the team plays, could sense that difference over the course of the year if no records were kept, but I doubt it. Certainly the average fan, seeing perhaps a tenth of the team’s games, could never gauge two performances that accurately-in fact if you see both 15 games a year, there is a 40% chance that the .275 hitter will have more hits than the .300 hitter in the games that you see. The difference between a good hitter and an average hitter is simply not visible-it is a matter of record.

Similarly observers might not be able to differentiate between a player has a TS% of 60 and one that has a TS% of 55. And the value of player who averages 11.7 reb/36 might not be noticeable. But it’s undeniable that these stats correlate to winning, more than the naked eye would believe. To make an analogy to baseball David Lee might be the .280 hitting shortstop with a handful of few home runs, but has a strong .OBP, hits a lot of doubles, and doesn’t make a lot of errors (but maybe doesn’t have a lot of range or a great arm). For decades things like OBP, SLG, etc. were not valued by generations of baseball fans. And much like baseball, unless you’re looking at the advanced stats, you might not be able to see the value David Lee gives a team.