Game Recap: Knicks 92, Hawks 79

That headline is not a typo. Tonight the Knicks held an opponent to less than 80 points for the first time since a 102-73 win over the Nets on April 15 of last year. The Hawks shot 45% from the field, got to the line only 9 times, and committed a woeful 19 turnovers en route to 79 points on 90 possessions. Considering the Knicks typically allow 109 points per 100 possessions, this was a considerable step up in defensive performance against an above-average offense.

Where did it come from? Hard to say. Turiaf was out, replaced by 27 minutes of Jared Jeffries. Jeffries didn’t strike me as having an exceptional defensive game, but the Hawks did seem to settle for a lot of mid-range jumpers (on which they were generally very unsuccessful), so maybe his presence counted for more than I noticed. The Hawks got 17 from J-Smoove, 15 from Kirk Hinrich, and 14 from our old frenemy Jamal Crawford, but aside from Hinrich everyone got their points at a pretty inefficient clip.

For their part, the Knicks scored a pedestrian 92 points on 90 possessions, including 26 on 20 shots from Amar’e, 15 on 11 shots from Landry Fields, and an UnMelonian 14-7-7 line on a slightly more Melonian 6/18 shooting clip from the Big Volumizer. Extra E made 4 threes and grabbed 6 rebounds. Anthony Carter turned into Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson for a few minutes in the second half.

To my eyes, this one had more to do with the Hawks having an off-game than the Knicks turning into the ’89 Pistons overnight. But no matter the cause, the Knicks got a 13 point win on the road against a good team and they got some late-game rest for a couple key players on the first night of a back-to-back. Ugly as it was, that’s a result you’ll take any day.

So what do you guys think, improved Knicks D or just incompetent Hawks offense? Do we want to see Jeffries take more of Turiaf’s minutes long term (I don’t)? What to do with all of our marginal wing players who are suddenly all demanding more PT with their play (Extra E, Anthony Carter, even Roger Mason’s Son)?

Thomas’ Thoughts On The 2010 Draft

Is it just me or is this the least anticipated draft in a long time?  For some reason there is a distinct lack of buzz this year.  Maybe it’s due to the Lakers/Celtics series ending just last week. Perhaps fans are more concerned with the pending free agent signing period.  Maybe its because the top three picks have been pretty much set in stone since the lottery. 

I wonder if you can really get excited about a draft in which pick 20 could turn out to be a better pro than pick 5?  I’m not saying Daniel Orton is an equal prospect to DeMarcus Cousins, but with the questions surrounding Cousins, who knows what he will be in five years?  And that really underscores the problem with this draft: high on potential and short on sure things. 

To me, this year’s draft is reminiscent of the 2001 and 2006 drafts.  Each of those drafts saw big disappointments in about half of the top 10 picks. 2001 lottery picks Brown (1), Curry (4), Griffin (7), Diop (8), and White (9) played well below expectations while less heralded Wallace (25), Parker (28), Arenas (31), and Okur (38) range between solid pros to all-star players. 2006’s unholy trinity of Morrison (3), Thomas (4), and Williams (5) should still be fresh in all minds.  But second round finds Gibson (42), Milsap (47), and Powe (49) are contributors.  The point here is that the Knicks could get lucky and find a solid contributor at 38 and/or 39. 

Take if available:

Willie Warren(PG): I think Warren has too much talent to pass up at 38/39.  He has good size for a point (6-4), excellent ball handler, solid passer, can get into the lane and also to the line.  I am aware that his shot selection needs work but according to draft combine reports he has good mechanics. 

Jordan Crawford (SG): A very effective scorer with well a rounded offensive game.  Unlike Warren, Crawford shows good shot selection and is very efficient. In fact, he is the second most efficient player in draft according to Draft Express. He tends to over dribble and is always on the look out for his shot. Crawford’s offense is somewhat limited by an inability to get to the line. He reminds me of another Crawford who played here–except for the efficient part. 

Lance Stephenson(SG): This guy is all over the place in mocks. NBAdraft.net has him going 15th, DX has him 41st, CNN didn’t place him in the first round, and Chad Ford won’t tell me where he thinks Stephenson will go unless I fork over 6.95 a month (Ed’s note – 37th as per version 6.1).  Anyway Stephenson has great size (6-6) for the two, he is strong and quick though not a super athlete. A one dimensional offensive player but is superb in that dimension. Stephenson is probably a higher upside than Crawford. There are maturity concerns with him and I wonder if giving him a half million dollars then turning him loose in his home town is a great idea. That aside, on talent he is a steal at 38.

Jerome Jordan(C): The 7 footer center from Tulsa will be 24 years old by the start of the 2010-11 season, but he is still quite young in terms of the basketball development–began playing late in high school.  His offense is limited but he has a solid face up jumper and good defensive skills.  Even if his ceiling is a solid back up center, that’s pretty good for the 38th pick.

Mikhail Torrence(PG): Has good size (6-5) and can get to the basket with either hand.  Good passing skills are slightly marred by below average decision making.  A flawed player (that is why he’ll probably be available) but has potential to improve.  Pushes the ball and transitions well.  Probably a good fit for D’Antoni’s offense. Torrence’s shot needs work (46 FG%) but far better offensive player than Duhon or Collins.

I would pass on:

Gani Lawal(PF): I don’t dislike the 6-9 junior but I don’t see how he fits into the coach’s plans.  A defensive specialist with a limited offensive game sounds like a guy that will languish on the end of D’Antoni’s bench.

Tiny Gallon (C): A lighter version of Jerome James at 6-10 305.  Again, does not fit into the current style of play.

Samardo Samuels(PF): A graduate of my alma mater and I wish him the best but I’m not sure he has the tools to survive as an undersized PF (6-8) in the NBA.  Sure guys like Milsap, Blair, and Glen Davis do well with a similar frame, but Samuels doesn’t show the rebounding ability of Milsap or Blair, and Samuels lacks Davis’ ability to finish against larger players. 

With a little luck, and a good eye for talent, a GM can find a valuable player in the second round.  Because the Knicks have only 4 players under contract for 2011, they don’t have to draft based on position needs–they need everything– placing positional needs above talent is always a bad idea. Given the current state of the roster and the coach’s reluctance to give minutes to rookies, I think the approach is to take the most talented, high potential player available, then hope he develops into a solid contributor over the next 2-3 seasons.

2010 Game Thread: Knicks @ Warriors

It’s schadenfreude but I was pretty thrilled tonight when LeBron picked Jamal Crawford’s pocket with a minute & a half to go in the Cavs/Hawks game. For a second I dreamed it was the ugly past of the Knicks vs the bright future of the Knicks. I almost don’t want the off season to start, because it’s nice to dream of what could be rather than face the reality of a possible failure.

Anyway game on, late night Knick fans.

Knick Fans Should Be Thankful This Christmas

Hey Knick fans, what’s there to be unhappy about? (And for those needing a little extra Christmas cheer, I highly recommend Twas The Night Before Knicksmas.) Wait before you answer this question, I want to put things into perspective.

First, the Knicks will have cap space this offseason. And not just a few million through the mid level exception to grab a Jerome James or Jared Jeffries. But rather enough room to get the best player in the NBA. And perhaps with a little luck there will be space for a second star as well. Considering the overspending of the last decade, this alone should have New Yorkers dancing in the aisles.

Second, the roster has some good young talent. David Lee has blossomed from a late round pick to become one of the better power forwards in the league. Maybe he’s not an All Star talent, but he’s in the discussion. It’s easy to imagine Lee on a championship team as a key element. Additionally New York has Danilo Gallinari, an intriguing 21 year old. Gallo showed he’s deadly from three his first year, and in his second he is wowing fans with multidimensional play. Personally if I’m the Knicks GM, he might be my only untouchable player on the roster.

Rookies Toney Douglas and Jordan Hill are both still raw. From the minutes I’ve seen of Douglas, the guy can defend. He’s lightning quick on the defensive side of the ball, and if he can put together his game on the offensive side, he’ll be a solid pro. Jordan Hill is a #8 pick that has been buried on the bench, but his potential is unknown. Certainly there’s a GM out there that fansied him last summer and would be willing to part with something of value for his services. Finally, of course there is Nate Robinson, who is talented and may find himself out of D’Antoni’s doghouse yet. And if he doesn’t then he might fetch the Knicks another young player, a draft pick, or some cap space.

As for D’Antoni, he’s the best coach the Knicks have had in about a decade. Complain all you want about his short rotation, favoritism, or system, but isn’t that par for the course of a good coach? Think of the last 2 good Knick coaches. Jeff Van Gundy treated Marcus Camby like a red-headed step child for a year. It took Ewing’s injury and subsequently Camby leading the team to the Finals for Van Gundy to realize the talent he had. And Pat Riley forgot he had Rolando Blackman in the playoffs and instead played Greg Anthony (with a TS% of .487 that year) 17 minutes per game. Blackman had almost as many playoff minutes (34) as Corey Gaines (28) that year.

No matter what you think about D’Antoni, it’s clear that he’s a step up from Don Chaney, Herb Williams, Isiah Thomas or Lenny Wilkens. (I won’t even mention that other guy, considering the joyous season we’re in). D’Antoni turned Phoenix into one of the best teams in the league, and was one bloody nose (and a few suspensions) away from a title. There’s no chance any of those other guys would have been able to accomplish with the Suns. And if you think that D’Antoni gets too much credit for Phoenix’s success, think about Phil Jackson for a second. How many championships did Jackson win in the 2 years Jordan fielded fly balls? Even having Kobe and Gasol and Odom wasn’t enough talent 2 years ago. Given the players, Jackson is the type of coach that’s good enough to win a title. And the same is true of D’Antoni.

Finally Knick fans should thankful of the front office. Oh sure we can argue about every little move, and debate lots of the small stuff. But to put things in perspective, we owe a draft pick because of what Isiah Thomas did in 2004. In the preceding years, Knick fans would be cowering in fear of a news announcement involving their team because it likely meant that they traded away a draft pick or gave another team the cap space to sign the player of their dreams. Those days are gone. In fact if the team announced a trade, I think most fans would imagine it would involve acquiring a draft pick (like when we got Toney Dougals) or freeing up some extra cap space (like when we sent Jamal Crawford or Zach Randolph packing).

When I think about my childhood, opening Christmas presents wasn’t about what I didn’t get. I rarely got the exact toy I wanted, and some Christmases were leaner than others, but more often than not I got lots of good things that I enjoyed. And the same should be true of Knick fans. In the spirit of Christmas, for one day we should be thankful for the things we have and not fret the things we don’t. That, and let’s beat the tar out of the Miami Heat!

LET’S GO KNICKS!

2009 Report Card: Donnie Walsh

It was with fanfare befitting a peaceful transfer of power from despotism to enlightenment that Donnie Walsh inherited Isiah Thomas’ job as New York Knicks president of basketball operations in the spring of 2008.  But as with so many European monarchs, African generals, and Spinal Tap drummers before him, the excitement surrounding Walsh’s arrival soon gave way, at least in part, to the grim realization that the pitfalls of previous years had not all departed with his predecessor.  An impossible cap situation, a meddling owner, and a frequently unmotivated core of players were all holdovers from the Isiah era which Walsh has been forced to address, with varying degrees of success.

Walsh’s first Knicks team finished with a record of 32-50, worse than three of the five Knicks squads that Isiah oversaw.  But Walsh’s job was never about 2009 and, unlike Isiah, he immediately proved willing to accept that short term failure was a necessary and acceptable side effect of true progress.  To this end, it is undeniable that the poker-faced Bronx native has moved a dysfunctional franchise in the right direction, but his advances have not come without missteps.  That these mistakes have come with little popular backlash is cause for gratitude to Isiah – critics of Walsh would be far more vocal had his hiring not come on the heels of such unmitigated failure.

If Walsh’s patience and indecipherability are his greatest qualities in negotiation, they may also be his best assets in avoiding the kind of criticism that is typicaly heaped upon New York pro sports executives by media and fans.  His stern demeanor and unshakable calm suggest to observers, even at moments of seeming misjudgment, that he knows more about the situation than they do and so deserves their trust.  A move-by-move analysis of Walsh’s Knicks tenure reveals a well-reasoned overall plan that has been tarnished by some truly baffling decisions.  With the belief that the moves a general manager doesn’t make are as important as the moves he does make, I offer this chronological assessment of Walsh’s first season-plus on the job:

May 10, 2008: In his first, and thus far best, major move as Knicks president, Walsh signed Phoenix Suns coach Mike D’Antoni to a 4-year, $24 million contract.  D’Antoni’s hiring has resonated with fans (seen in the sense of pride that came with a prized coaching commodity choosing the Knicks over a handful of other suitors, as well as the entertaining brand of basketball to which they are treated each night), Knicks players (seen in the career years put up by David Lee, Al Harrington, Nate Robinson, Wilson Chandler, and, for the first 50 games, Chris Duhon), and players around the league (D’Antoni’s relationship with soon-to-be-max-contract-signers LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Kobe Bryant may prove to be his most important asset as the Knicks’ coach).

Grade: A, and if LeBron’s affection for D’Antoni leads him to New York, it becomes an A-plus.

Draft Night, 2008: With the sixth pick, Walsh chose Danilo Gallinari, whose struggles with back trouble and flashes of promise have both been well-chronicled on this and other sites.  While the jury remains out on Gallo, we have a better idea about some of the guys Walsh could have taken.  Of the lottery picks remaining on the board at #6, Eric Gordon (chosen 7th, 14.98 rookie PER), Brook Lopez (chosen 10th, 17.94 rookie PER), and Anthony Randolph (chosen 14th, 16.94 rookie PER and an absolute monster of a summer league) have looked the most promising thus far.

However, simply lining Gallo up against these three doesn’t quite create a proper lens for evaluating Walsh’s choice.  Looking back through Chad Ford’s archives reminds us that Gordon and Joe Alexander (chosen  8th, 10.19 rookie PER) were the two most likely Knicks picks had they passed on Gallinari, and the early returns suggest that Walsh may have dodged a bullet by passing on Alexander’s unique, but extremely raw, skill set.

Grade: C-plus.  We all love Gallo and it’s tempting to give Walsh an incomplete here.  It’s also probably unfair to criticize Walsh for passing on Lopez and Randolph, as the former was universally regarded as low on upside and the latter as a potential bust.  Still, it’s impossible to ignore how well Gordon, Randolph, and Lopez would all fit into D’Antoni’s system, and one would be hard pressed to find a non-Knicks fan who would put an unproven 21-year-old who already has back problems on the same level as any of these three.  I think there are decent odds Gallinari will prove this grade wrong but at the moment this looks like an OK, but not great, pick.

July 4, 2008: Walsh signed former Bulls PG Chris Duhon to a 2 year contract at the full mid-level ($12 million).  The price tag here looks high now, given the lower salaries being handed out this offseason and the incredibly frustrating second half to Duhon’s 2008-09 season.  Still, the Knicks have never minded paying out  luxury tax dollars and Walsh brought in a point guard who generally stays out of his own way and makes his teammates better on the offensive end.  If Duhon’s ability to create easy baskets can turn Curry into a tradable commodity this season (it’s a long shot, but hey, a guy can hope), it becomes a great signing.  Until then, Duhon is a player who doesn’t set his team back on the court, creates reps for a young core in need of development, and doesn’t set the franchise back in its hunt for prime talent in 2010.  Pretty good move for the mid-level in a lackluster free agent summer.

Grade: B.

November 21, 2008: Walsh put on his Kevin Pritchard hat for a day and swung two trades that cleared up $27 million in 2010 cap room.  In sending Zach Randolph to the Clippers and Jamal Crawford to the Warriors in exchange for a useful forward in Al Harrington, a useless forward in Tim Thomas, and a soon-to-retire combo guard in Cuttino Mobley, Walsh dismantled the slim playoff hopes of what was then an above-.500 team.  More importantly, however, he overhauled the team’s long term cap position, picked up a trade chip in Mobley’s tax-free contract, and rid the team of two shoot-first players who were almost certainly stunting the development of their younger, more promising counterparts.   A complete no-brainer.

Grade: A-minus.  It’s a move any good GM would have made if it was available but, what can I say, it’s a good career move to succeed Isiah.

February 19, 2009: An unstoppable force (the Bulls’ desire to trade Larry Hughes) met an immovable object (Jerome James’ contract) and the unstoppable force won as the Knicks flipped James and Tim Thomas for Hughes.  Largely seen as a garbage for garbage deal, the move was supposed to make the Knicks slightly better in the short run without helping or hurting their long-term cap situation and, mainly, sparing their fans the nightly sight of James smiling and joking around on the end of the bench during 20-point losses.  A mostly useless move in the long run and maybe a net negative, as Hughes took some minute that would likely have gone to Nate and Chandler otherwise.  Hughes also brought back some of the poor shot selection and general grumpiness that had mostly departed with Crawford and Stephon Marbury, respectively.  In the end, the trade’s impact, positive or negative, was minimal and we stopped having to listen to Jerome James jokes.

Grade: C (in a one-credit class with little effect on overall GPA).

Trade Deadline, 2009: The Knicks engaged in a well-chronicled negotiation with the Sacramento Kings, who asked for Nate Robinson and Jared Jeffries in exchange for Kenny Thomas’ soon-to-expire contract.  With the Knicks still loosely in playoff contention, Walsh turned down the offer and chose not to rid himself of the nearly $7 million committed to Jeffries in 2010.  A puzzling, disturbingly Isiah-esque move whose questionability has been compounded by the complete disinterest that Walsh has displayed in re-signing Nate this offseason.  If Robinson is truly so expendable, and it’s likely he is, then why endanger the future for only a few months of his services?  This inaction made little sense at the time and makes even less sense now.

Grade: D-minus.

2009 Draft, Lead-up: Another instance in which Walsh seemed to contradict his general mission statement of financial flexibility, as he reportedly rejected an offer of the #5 pick and some expiring contracts for Wilson Chandler, Jeffries, and Hughes.  This rumor always seemed a bit sketchy from the Wizards’ side, but if this offer was truly on the table, I can’t imagine Walsh’s resistance to it.  Trading Jeffries is a desirable goal, Hughes has no long-term value, and Chandler, while a promising young player, is more likely than not to become an effective wing who is generally indistinguishable from any number of other small forwards in the league.  The negligible , if even existent, talent drop off from Chandler to the #5 pick in the draft (which turned out to be Ricky Rubio, though no one would have guessed it at the time) seemed a small price to pay for the disposal of a considerable financial obstacle.

Grade: D.  It’s worth noting that a few different versions of this trade were bouncing around during draft week, some of which would have been less of a windfall for the Knicks.  None of them, however, seemed particularly logical to reject as the Wizards displayed genuine interest in both Jeffries and Hughes.

Draft Night, 2009: Walsh played the hand he was dealt at #8, picking Jordan Hill after watching Rubio and Stephen Curry disappear in rapid succession.  An uninspiring, but far from disastrous, summer league performance has left Hill as a general mystery to Knicks fans at this point, but he’s big and athletic and he got enough numbers in college (although his FG% leaves something to be desired, considering his layup-and-dunk-heavy shot selection) to suggest that he’ll be a useful role player at the worst.  Walsh’s bigger coup on draft night was the effective purchase of Toney Douglas’s draft rights from the Lakers, just the kind of low-risk, solid-upside maneuver that the Knicks never seem to make.  If Douglas develops into a serviceable back-up point guard with a jump shot and an above average defensive skill set, which seems likely, this pick is a success.

In a final draft night move, Walsh acquired Darko Milicic from the Grizzlies by sending Quentin Richardson off on the first leg of his summer-long tour of NBA mediocrity.  Another low-risk move that might suit D’Antoni’s system well.  Given what he had to work with, a sound if unspectacular draft night for Walsh.

Grade: B-plus for draft night in a vacuum.  However, if you consider that Walsh could have had Rubio or Curry at five had he made the Wizards trade, it’s a C-minus.

Free Agency, 2009: I don’t know.  Do you?  I think Walsh was right not to pay for Iverson.  I would have loved a year or two of Nash at the mid-level, but I get the feeling that was never as close to a reality as we all were hoping.

If Walsh wins his ongoing staring contest with Ramon Sessions (17.65 PER, 23 years old) and signs him for two years at a low 2010 cap number, it will be a way better long-term move than signing Jason Kidd (16.95 PER, 36 years old) would have been, as the Knicks will acquire a young, affordable point guard who can defer to his teammates and can wait until after the Knicks make their big free agent splash to receive his long-term payout.

Additionally, Walsh has done well not to give in to unrealistic demands by either Lee or Robinson in a depressed market, but until their situations are resolved (ideally with Nate walking or taking a cheap one-year deal and Lee staying on for something near the mid-level), it’s hard to get a read on Walsh’s current plan or his level of confidence in the LeBron/Wade/Bosh sweepstakes next offseason.

Grade: Incomplete.

All told, Walsh’s tenure got off to a promising start but has suffered from several moments of seeming hesitance to take the final plunge and commit to any one comprehensive strategy.  Walsh has clearly leaned toward building for the future at the expense of the present, which is a welcome change from the Isiah era, but his unwillingness to part with anyone of value as a pot-sweetener in the unloading of bad contracts has stunted the Knicks progress toward an ideal 2010 cap situation.  As it stands, the team has a top-flight coach and more young talent and long-term financial flexibility than anyone could have realistically expected 16 months ago.  But one worries that Walsh has hedged his bets a bit too much and will fall short of a free agent jackpot next summer.

Overall Grade: B

2009 Report Card: Al Harrington

Historically New York has had good luck with getting malcontents from Golden State. Back in 1999, the Knicks traded for Latrell Sprewell who was suspended by the Warriors for choking Coach P.J. Carlesimo. Spre’s strong defense helped New York reach the Finals that year. Nearly 10 years later, Golden State shipped another unhappy player to Gotham. Although the 2009 Knicks weren’t nearly as successful as their 1999 squad, the team benefited from Harrington’s presence.

Like the player he was traded for, Jamal Crawford, Al Harrington’s most pronounced skill is shot creation. But unlike Crawford, Harrington actually is productive when scoring. Harrington’s true shooting percentage for the Knicks last year (55.5%) was 10 points better than Crawford’s best year in New York (54.5%) and 25 points higher than his career average with the team (52.9%). Last year he was just above his career average from three (2009: 36.2%, career: 35.9%), while attempting a career high nearly 7 per game (6.5 3pa/g, or 6.7 3pa/36). He can drive to the hoop and score from inside as well. Although not as skilled as Lee or Zach Randolph, Harrington is able to draw contact and score in traffic. Much like Eddy Curry, Harrington will continue with the ball towards the hoop no matter how many defenders follow. The difference between Harrington and Curry is that Al doesn’t bowl over defenders or lose the ball as often (2.3 to/36 to Curry’s 3.2).

Unfortunately Harrington doesn’t pass well. Many of Harrington’s passes seem to bounce off his recipient’s hands or are caught awkwardly losing momentum. I have two theories on his sharing woes. The first is that his passes are usually near the hoop with the other player close by, so that his passes are too fast for the short distance. The second is that Al passes so infrequently that his teammates don’t expect the ball to come to them. Perhaps it’s a bit of both, since the passes occur so close to the basket the receiving player is gearing up for a rebound. In any case it’s something to watch for in 2010.

As for the rest of his game, Harrington is a poor rebounder for his size and a below average defender. To put into perspective how bad Harrington’s rebounding is, David Lee nearly doubled his rebounds per minute (12.1 reb/36 to 6.4 reb/36) despite both players standing 6-9. Harrington’s blocked shot rate (0.3 blk/36) was also poor.

Overall he was and will be a good fit for Coach D’Antoni’s offense. Harrington’s multifaceted and efficient scoring was a refreshing fit, considering the person he was traded for (Jamal Crawford) and the person whose minutes he inherited (Zach Randolph). But ultimately the lacking elements of his game make him unworthy of a large contract or a starting role. He’d be a fine bench player for the mid level, but considering the Knicks’ monetary crunch for 2010 and Harrington’s current salary ($8.5M) I don’t see many scenarios that would keep Harrington in New York after this year.

Report Card (5 point scale):
Offense: 4
Defense: 2
Teamwork: 1
Rootability: 3
Performance/Expectations: 4

Grade: B

Similarity Scores:

z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS% eFG% PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
.000 Al Harrington 2009 TOT 15.9 .547 .509 20.8 1.4 6.4 1.4 1.2 0.3 2.3
.040 Josh Howard 2009 DAL 17.0 .532 .488 20.3 1.3 5.7 1.8 1.2 0.6 1.9
.073 Nate Williams 1979 GSW 14.7 .542 .501 18.6 1.9 5.7 1.7 1.5 0.1 2.6
.075 Jamaal Wilkes 1982 LAL 16.5 .554 .525 21.5 1.9 4.9 1.8 1.1 0.3 2.0
.081 Keith Van Horn 2004 TOT 17.8 .564 .506 17.9 2.3 7.7 1.8 1.0 0.5 2.6
.086 Wayman Tisdale 1993 SAC 15.7 .540 .509 19.9 2.0 7.9 1.7 0.8 0.7 1.8
.092 Cedric Ceballos 1998 TOT 19.3 .560 .517 19.5 2.7 8.0 2.2 1.2 0.6 2.6
.096 Lamond Murray 2002 CLE 16.7 .534 .487 18.3 1.3 5.8 2.4 1.1 0.7 2.2
.111 Corliss Williamson 2002 DET 20.0 .567 .511 22.5 2.5 6.8 2.0 1.0 0.6 2.9
.113 Richard Jefferson 2009 MIL 15.4 .554 .487 19.7 0.7 4.6 2.4 0.8 0.2 2.0
.123 Chris Crawford 2004 ATL 15.8 .544 .495 17.0 1.7 5.2 1.3 1.1 0.6 1.6
.128 George McCloud 1996 DAL 15.9 .543 .514 18.9 1.5 4.8 2.7 1.4 0.5 2.1

2009 Report Card: Nate Robinson

When the mainstream claims a player has a breakout season, it’s usually due to an increase in a player’s minutes per game which inflates his per game stats (see Eddy Curry’s 2007 season). Nate Robinson did see an increase in his minutes and had career highs in just about every per game stat. However his per minute stats verify that 2009 was a career year. The Knicks’ guard had career bests in per minute points, assists, rebounds, steals, fouls, and free throw attempts.

Year G FGA FG% 3PA 3P% FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL TOV PF PTS
2006 72 13.2 .407 3.4 .397 4.7 .752 1.3 2.6 3.9 3.4 1.4 2.7 4.7 15.6
2007 64 13.9 .434 5.7 .390 3.7 .777 1.5 2.6 4.0 2.4 1.3 1.9 4.2 17.1
2008 72 15.0 .423 5.6 .332 3.7 .786 1.0 3.3 4.2 4.1 1.1 2.0 3.6 17.5
2009 74 16.8 .437 6.3 .326 4.8 .841 1.6 3.1 4.7 4.9 1.5 2.3 3.4 20.7

Robinson has regressed from behind the arc posting his lowest seasonal percentage (32.6% 3p%), mostly due a stretch when he seemingly couldn’t buy a bucket. In December and January, Robinson was 37-175 (27.4%) from downtown. However his overall efficiency overcame this deficit with his ability to get to and convert from the line. In D’Antoni’s offense Robinson seemingly has carte blanche to go to the hoop, and he does with vigor. According to 82games, Robinson shot 59.6% eFG from “close”. Watching him, it’s amazing that the diminutive guard is able to score from inside so frequently and efficiently even with contact.

On the court Robinson has matured a little bit. His propensity to commit meaningless fouls has decreased, and D’Antoni keeps him from arguing with officials. Nate still has his eccentric theatrics, for example this season’s on the court Will Ferrell man-crush. It’s commonly thought that Robinson’s other big deficiency is his height. However teams didn’t exploit Robinson in this manner, as I rarely saw other guards post him up. Instead his true Achilles’ heel was revealed as he saw increased minutes this year: defending the pick and roll. Robinson goes under screens at a Jamal Crawford-esque rate, and frequently switches at ill opportune moments. At one point in the season Mike D’Antoni was visibly furious with Nate mid-game for his lack of effort on the defensive end. That Nate is unable to defend the pick and roll in a more physical manner is mind boggling, considering his football background.

Still all-in-all Nate was one of the more productive Knicks in 2009, and is worthy of a contract extension. His potent scoring is an asset alone, but Robinson contributes with passing, steals, and rebounds as well. He’ll probably always be a sixth man, partially due to his ability to create offense on his own with second team players. But it’s more likely that Nate will continue to come off the bench during his NBA career because of his lack of defense.

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

Grade: B+

Similarity Scores:

z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS% eFG% PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
.000 Nate Robinson 2009 NYK 18.9 .549 .498 20.7 1.6 4.7 4.9 1.5 0.1 2.3
.052 Eddie Johnson 1980 ATL 18.0 .538 .489 20.1 1.3 2.7 5.1 1.6 0.3 2.6
.060 Purvis Short 1982 GSW 18.8 .530 .491 22.1 2.5 5.4 4.2 1.3 0.2 2.5
.062 Michael Finley 1998 DAL 19.3 .522 .477 18.7 1.6 4.6 4.3 1.4 0.3 2.3
.077 Jason Terry 2002 ATL 19.2 .549 .500 18.2 0.5 3.3 5.4 1.7 0.2 2.2
.090 Brandon Roy 2009 POR 24.0 .573 .512 21.9 1.3 4.6 5.0 1.1 0.3 1.9
.096 Butch Carter 1983 IND 14.9 .549 .513 17.8 1.3 3.1 4.1 1.6 0.3 2.5
.100 Steve Smith 1994 MIA 17.2 .552 .499 17.5 2.0 4.6 5.1 1.1 0.5 2.6
.102 Jason Richardson 2005 GSW 19.0 .518 .492 20.6 1.7 5.6 3.7 1.4 0.4 2.2
.104 Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf 1994 DEN 16.7 .521 .476 19.8 0.4 2.3 5.0 1.1 0.1 2.1
.109 Andre Iguodala 2008 PHI 19.0 .543 .495 18.1 0.9 5.0 4.3 1.9 0.5 2.4
.111 Mike Glenn 1980 NYK 16.6 .557 .519 19.8 0.9 3.0 3.8 1.6 0.3 1.7

Looking over Nate’s comparable players is a decent list of players. Some offensively focused and defensively challenged shooting guards like Finley, Terry, Smith, and Richardson. Interestingly, there is a lack of undersized guards, not a single player on this list is shorter than 6’1, and the average height is just over 6’4. Nate certainly plays like a taller player, especially with respect to his rebounding and scoring efficiency. Overall his list is impressive for a player that will spend his career coming off the bench.