Grading the Knicks 2010 Deadline Deals

DARKO MILICIC TO MINNESOTA
FOR
BRIAN CARDINAL

Mike Kurylo: Hard to hate or love this deal. The Knicks were intent to not play Darko, and Milicic has an Erik Estrada sized chip on his shoulder. The NBA grapevine has it that the Knicks are going to release Cardinal, but I don’t see why. Kelly Dwyer called Cardinal the anti-Milicic, a guy who worked hard to squeeze out minutes like you would an old tube of toothpaste. Unlike Darko, Cardinal is on the tail end of his career, but if the Knicks decide to keep him I can see D’Antoni having a use for him in a Jeffries-esque-do-the-little-things kinda way.

Cardinal’s career stats aren’t awful 12.4 pts/36, TS% 55.2, 2.6 ast/36, 2.0 to/36, 6.2 reb/36, 1.7 stl/36. The question is how much of that is from his earlier days, and how much does he have left in the tank? I’ll put a clause out on my grade. If Cardinal plays 200+ minutes for the Knicks, I’ll call it a B+. If not then I’ll go with a C, since you have to hand it to Donnie for trying to get something out of nothing.

Thomas B.: I see this as trading goldenrod for saffron. But this is worth a C+ because we knew Milicic was never going to play. At least now we can wonder if Cardinal will play. Cardinal has been a pro for 9 years and I never heard of him. I had a picture in my mind of who I thought he was and I went to NBA.com to see if it matched; it did not. I was thinking of Bison Dele–he retired a decade ago.

Kevin McElroy: Knicks look set to cut Cardinal, so this seems like a clever piece of bookkeeping that will save them a shade over a million dollars. Small potatoes in the grand scheme of things? Sure. But who am I to hate on a team that wants to save a couple million bucks a few months before its intends to shell out roughly three gazillion dollars to let me root for LeBron and a high-priced sidekick. Not like they gave up anything we’ll miss, and Darko’s malingering could only have caused tension, so I’ll throw this one a C+. Somewhere, Q-Rich is wondering why he had to pay all those real estate agents in the first place.

Robert Silverman: Although I would have gotten a weird kink out of seeing Brian “The Janitor” Cardinal get some spin, it looks like we”ll never know. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for career backup PF/C’s. It’s why the only Nix jersey that I actually own is a Ken “The Animal” Bannister model from ’85-’86. B-

Caleb: Most NBA fans probably didn’t know that Darko was still in the league. Here’s my favorite Brian Cardinal story – can you believe there is a Brian Cardinal story? It’s how he got that contract in the first place. Allegedly, Michael Hensley was giving Jerry West a lot of grief, “why haven’t you signed anyone? etc.” West was about fed up and so he picked up the phone, called Cardinal’s agent and asked if he wanted $30 million. Ten seconds later, he turned to Hensley and said, “I signed a free agent. Are you satisfied?” I don’t know if it’s true but it’s a good story. This trade saved the Knicks about a million bucks, counting luxury tax. Supposedly Kahn is his protege. Guess there was a favor owed. A-

Brian Cronin: As Caleb notes, the trade saved the Knicks roughly $1 million off of their luxury tax bill, and since they were not playing Darko at all, this is a pretty easy win (now as to why they never really played Darko at all, well, that’s another story). A-

Dave Crockett: A little tax relief, and a potential end-of-bench player. Moving right along. A (but only worth a few points)

NATE ROBINSON AND MARCUS LANDRY TO BOSTON
FOR
EDDIE HOUSE, J.R. GIDDENS AND BILL WALKER

Mike Kurylo: Nate’s days were numbered under D’Antoni. Getting the starting job over Duhon seemed to indicate a final opportunity for Nate to win over D’Antoni. Being demoted just 2 days afterwards told you all you needed to know about Nate’s future in New York. In Walsh’s defense Nate did reject the deal to Memphis, but perhaps he could have played chicken with Nate and tried to force his hand (no one wants to sit in the final year of their contract). I’m sad the Knicks didn’t get a draft pick in return in this deal, especially considering that they gave one (and a half) away to Houston. It seems that there’s always a few teams willing to give one away, perhaps the Lakers might have been interested.

In the short term Eddie House will bring the big three ball, and fit in nicer with D’Antoni than Nate ever did. Giddens & Walkers NBDL numbers aren’t bad, but considering how little last year’s NBDLers played, I don’t envision the Knicks giving them lots of playing time. Oh and Giddens just had knee surgery, with no timetable to return. The Celtics got by far the best player of the bunch, and the Knicks didn’t receive anything here except perhaps a rental on House and a short look at Walker. D+

Thomas B.: I guess this means I lost when I took the over for Nate Robinson games as a Knick (82.5) prior to the season. I don’t like the move because Robinson is worth more than what we brought back. I’d have much rather had Robinson added to Jeffries deal with the Knicks keeping the “sweetener” picks. Or bring back a late first round pick when sending Robinson to Boston. A protected pick in 2012 would have made the 2012 pick we moved out with Jeffries easier to take. Of course, Walsh was somewhat limited since Nate could void the trades. This deal makes me think letting Robinson walk at the end of the season is okay. I just can’t see House, Walker, or Giddens dropping 41 points combined in any game this season much less any one of them doing it alone. D-

Kevin McElroy: This trade was presented in a ton of different forms and with a number of different justifications over the last month, most of which made sense for one reason or another. These reasons included:

1) Because the Knicks were going to get a draft pick back.
2) Because the Knicks were going to dump a player to reduce next year’s cap number.
3) Because the Celtics needed an incentive to be pulled into the larger Knicks/Rockets/Kings trade.
4) Because the Knicks wanted to get Toney Douglas more playing time without Nate looking over his shoulder.

In its final version, the trade accomplishes zero of these things. No draft pick came back and no long-term salary left with Nate, the Celtics trade was conducted separately from the mega-deal, and Alan Hahn has tweeted that Douglas will remain out of D’Antoni’s rotation (behind Duhon and the newly acquired Sergio Rodriguez).

Ultimately, the Knicks sent away a fan favorite for players that won’t be around after a couple months, received no assets, cleared up no cap room, and have run the risk of rejuvenating a division rival for a playoff run by sending them a much-needed bench scorer (seriously, I know the Knicks are out of it, but we can all agree that we’d rather not see the Celtics succeed in the postseason, right?). On a personal level, I’m happy that Nate gets to play for a good team, but the Knicks did absolutely nothing to advance their interests here. More worryingly, it feels like the Knicks brass was simply out-maneuvered, failing to take a hard line as the best parts of their return package came off the table. It feels silly to give such a poor grade to this one, seeing as Nate would have walked in a few months anyway, but the direction that this negotiation took shouldn’t get anything more than a D+.

Caleb: This was depressing. Like Balkman, an example of Walshtoni dumping someone they just didn’t like. Although, to be fair, it saved the Knicks more than $1 million, counting luxury tax. On the plus side, I’m happy for Nate, who will have a lot of fun the next three months. Wild-card: Bill Walker. Before he blew out both knees, there was talk of his being a top-5 pick. If they ever invent a new surgery/rejuvenation machine he could be a stud. D

Robert Silverman: First of all, can we please stop holding a torch for the supposed “Kenny Thomas for Jeffries & Nate deal that Donnie Moth$%&*^!ing Walsh turned down!!!!” deal. It was a rumor. No one, save Walsh and Petrie, knows if it’s true and they’re not telling. It’s like still being pissed at Isiah for (supposedly) retiring in ’93 rather than accept a trade to the Knicks (as Pete Vescey/Pete Vescey’s psychic Ms. Cleo claims). No, two C-Minus prospects like Giddens and Walker isn’t much of a haul for a productive (if maddening/maddeningly inconsistent) player. But what’s the alternative? Even if you could get another team to go for a sign and trade this off-season (which, considering Olympiakos was the strongest bidder in the summer of ’09 isn’t likely), you’re still going to have to take back a contract to make the deal work, thus cutting into our sweet, creamery cap space. The one thing that royally cheeses me off is that come playoff time, I will pull for Nate when he’s in the game (b/c he’s Nate. Warts and all, I so dig the dude). As a result, I’ll have to…sort of…root…for…the Celtics. Ick. I just threw up a little in my mouth. C-

Brian Cronin: I agree that it is a bit frustrating that Nate returned little value partially because his own coach was pretty clear about not liking him (way to market your assets!), but once you allow that Nate’s value was depressed to the point where you weren’t going to get a draft pick for him (by the way, the deal apparently does include a conditional second round pick, but I believe it’s one of those conditional picks where the chances of the conditions ever actually existing are next to nil, so it’s effectively not really a pick at all), then saving some money on the luxury tax is as good as anything else, I suppose. C+

Dave Crockett: This was all about coach D. I just cannot understand why Nate couldn’t play in 7SOL (such that it is in NY) while he got big mileage out of Barbosa in PHO. Happy for Nate, but I recall from my Beantown days that Tommy Heinsen HATES Nate. That’s never a good thing in that town. D

JORDAN HILL, JARED JEFFRIES, OPTION TO SWAP 1ST ROUND PICK IN 2011 (TOP 1 PROTECTION), 2012 1ST ROUND PICK (TOP 5 PROTECTION), AND LARRY HUGHES TO HOUSTON/SACRAMENTO
FOR
TRACY MCGRADY, SERGIO RODRIGUEZ

Mike Kurylo: I’m not sure what else to say that I didn’t say yesterday. So I’ll look at what this deal means for this year. I admit I’m a bit excited to see some new blood on what’s become a lifeless team. However there’s a nagging voice in the back of my head that is telling me not to get too optimistic. I would love for someone to take Duhon’s place in the starting lineup. But part of me is hoping it’s not McGrady, because if he plays well then the front office might overpay to keep him. I don’t want my future hopes resting on Donnie Walsh giving him a reasonable contract, T-Mac staying healthy for a full season, and shooting more efficiently than he’s been in the past (he’s had exactly one season with a TS% over 54%). What are the odds all that comes to fruition?

Perhaps Sergio Rodriguez would be the guy to send Duhon packing. But I just don’t trust D’Antoni to play him, and can you blame me? Remember the NBDL-shuffle of last year? The 2 whole games he gave Nate Robinson this year (one against Cleveland) before calling the experiment a failure? Von Wafer? Morris Almond? I just don’t envision Mike D’Antoni handing over the reigns to a youngster, especially with how oddly married he is to Duhon. My guess is that Sergio won’t get a chance until it’s too late, and he’ll be gone without given a fair shake.

On the long term it’s a lot to pay for moving the contracts of Hill and Jeffries, and I’d be much happier if things go wrong in the next 3 seasons we still have our draft pick to comfort us on those cold February days when the team is playing poorly. I’d like to give this a D or an F, but the remote chance this brings in 2 studs and the draft picks don’t matter gives it some hope. C-

Thomas B.: This is NOT the 13 points in 35 second Tracy McGrady coming to NY. I hope folks understand that. This guy is much closer to the Anfernee Hardaway we got in 2004: an injury riddled once dominant scoring wing. I’m excited about what Sergio might be able to do…to Duhon. If he can’t steal Duhon’s minutes at point he does not need to be in the NBA. Sergio should be allowed a fair shot to supplant Duhon. We know Duhon won’t be back, so at least see if Sergio is worth bringing back on the cheap. Other than the draft picks, I won’t miss what we sent away.

This deal was not about players, it was about cap room and Walsh delivered. Now we have to see what that cap room turns in to. This deal can’t be graded fairly until July 2010. And the true impact will not be known until May of 2011 (playoffs anyone?). For now, I’ll grade this pass/fail. So for giving the team a chance to dream about James/Bosh or James/Wade or Wade/Bosh, Walsh earns a Pass. But if he goes all Dumars this off season…..

Robert Silverman: Outside of the roundball ramifications, from a semi-ontological point of view, doesn’t it seem like the Knicks are somehow osmotically taking on the karma/organizational principles (or lack thereof) of their Madison Sq. Garden co-occupants? For years, nay, decades…heck, since ice was invented, the Blueshirts have given a washed-up/injured “star” a year or two to spin/reclaim their former glory. Some worked out well (Messier, Jagr, even Gretzky) while for the most part they, to use an utterly shop-worn tabloid cliche, bombed in their B’way revival (Plante, Sawchuk, Hedberg, Nilsson, Esposito, Hodge, Dionne, Carpenter, Lafleur, Nicholls, Gartner, Kurri, Robitaille, Lindros, Fleury, etc. etc.). Look at the cats who’ve graced our roster in the past decade – McGrady, Hardaway, Jalen Rose, Steve Francis, Stephon Marbury, Van Horn, McDyess, Mutombo, etc. In 2001, that’s an all-star roster. Alas, it isn’t 2001 anymore, Victoria. And there ain’t no Santa Claus.

Look, Walsh went all in for LeBron/Wade. And as my fellow Knickerbloggers/other sportswriters/pundits have written, he had to do it. I’m going to cross the sporting barriers for my take on this: “…The day you say you have to do something, you’re screwed. Because you are going to make a bad deal…” – Billy Beane/Michael Lewis, Moneyball

Say LeBron/Wade gives the ‘Bockers the Heisman. What does Walsh do then? Just let all of that cap space sit there? Doesn’t Walsh, by the same logic then have to overpay Stoudamire/Johnson/Gay (or trade for Arenas – shudder) even if none of them are close to being worth a max deal? Like Thomas B., I’m going to hedge my bets/grades: A+ (LeBron/Wade agrees to be NY’s best girl)/D- (Walshtoni’s so depressed/on the rebound that he throws money/a promise ring at the first vaguely attractive gal who comes his way)

Kevin McElroy: Look everybody, I know we’ve grown accustomed to expecting the worst here. I also know that there is plenty NOT to like about this trade [For example: how’s that “Nate and Jeffries for Kenny Thomas” trade look now? Far be it from me to say “I told you so,” but I think we can put to rest the idea that Walsh was wise to turn down that opportunity because he was waiting on something better (I’m looking at you “Donnie Walsh Report Card” commenters!) I hope for the sake of Walsh’s sleep schedule that rumor was unfounded all along.].

But these are the facts, and they are undisputed: The Knicks, even by the most pessimistic cap projections, will have $32 million in cap space next year. The Knicks have retained David Lee, who can be used in a sign-and-trade this summer. The Knicks have retained Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, the two players who most fans feared would have to be sacrificed to unload Jared Jeffries contract. And the Knicks will enter next season, no matter the free agent machinations, with Eddy Curry’s $11 million dollar expiring contract, allowing them to either make a mid-season trade or add another very good player in the summer of 2011. Make no mistake, the Knicks paid dearly to get here, and if they strike out in free agency, the lost draft picks could haunt them for a decade. But look around, and think about where we were 24 months ago (Isiah in charge, capped out beyond belief, any hope of signing LeBron as faded as my 1998-99 Eastern Conference Champions graphic tee), and realize that you now root for an NBA team with a blank slate, four months before the best basketball player in the world becomes a free agent. And, yes, there is no guarantee that he, or anyone else, is coming. But this was the only reasonable course of action given where the Knicks started and the potential reward.

When Walsh arrived, he inherited three players with cap-killing contracts that extended past 2010. He was widely expected to find takers for ZERO of them. He found takers for THREE of them (Z-Bo, Crawford, Jeffries). This can’t be forgotten. The road here was a bumpy one, but the fact that we’re here at all is cause for quiet celebration. And cause for an A- .

Caleb: For me the key is opportunity cost. Without moving Jeffries, the Knicks ran a real risk of being able to afford only one major free agent, a scenario that probably would have led to signing no one — who would come to MSG, if even David Lee were gone? They were truly, truly desperate.
But the reactions are also just that people can’t believe their eyes. Or they remember the Bulls and Jerry Krause striking out for a couple of years, or they’re quivering at the memory of Isiah throwing $29 million at Jerome James. But free agency isn’t bad, guys. For $3 million, you can get someone better than Jordan Hill. Along those same lines, I think there’s very little chance the lost draft picks are in the teens, much less the lottery, and Walsh has covered his worst-case scenarios. $32 million buys a lot of options, LeBron or no. It won’t be hard to make this team a contender again. The only reason not to give this trade a higher grade is because when both the other teams come away grinning ear to ear, you have to figure you might have paid more than you had to. B

Brian Cronin: Not for nothing, but I believe the most pessimistic cap projections (a cap of $53 million) give the Knicks $31 million. Not a big deal, but you would need more than that to give full maximum contracts to either Lebron, Wade or Bosh. In any event, I think this is a trade that the Knicks had to do, and as Robert notes, when it is clear that you have to do something, other General Managers are going to take advantage of that need, and Daryl Morey is one of the best General Managers in the NBA, so he basically got as much as he could possibly get in this deal – but because the deal had to be made, I think it’s still a worthwhile move. I am on board with the notion of splitting the difference between an A (if this nets either Lebron/Wade, Lebron/Bosh, Wade/Bosh or Lebron/Lee) and F (if this nets no one of note, not even Joe Johnson), so the middle of that is a C.

EDITED TO ADD: I just realized another valuable aspect of this trade. It now allows the Knicks to sign up to $20.5 million worth of free agents (presuming a $53 million cap) while still keeping Lee’s cap hold in place rather than the $11 million worth of free agents before this trade. If they do that, they can then go over the cap to re-sign Lee. That basically puts them into a position where they can pretty much guarantee themselves that they will keep Lee if they want to keep Lee, as they’d be able to match any offer he gets. That’s big. Big enough for me to raise my grade to a B-.

Dave Crockett: You have to give this an incomplete. On the downside, the cost of this flexibility is high. So in one sense, it’s almost impossible to see this deal as an A+. Even in the best case scenario, we win the Yankee way–at a higher cost-per-win than any other team. Nevertheless, I’d rather win than not win. So, we’ll have to see what Donnie does with the flexibility. Its worth noting that the flexibility we have should also extend to sign-and-trades and trades. Incomplete.

Knicks 107, Wizards 85 – Duhon Sits

Chris Duhon sat for the second half of the Knicks 107-85 win last night against the Wizards. I went back & checked all the games where Duhon played less than 24 minutes, and couldn’t find any where the Knicks point guard failed to appear in the second half. In other words, for the first time in the D’Antoni era, he benched Duhon.

The move is something I’ve advocated here for some time. Duhon has been under performing for the entire season, with a harmful/feeble combo of 8.7 pts/36 and 48.2% TS%. The Knicks coach went with Robinson, Hughes, and the seldom used Marcus Landry in the guard position.

What’s is most interesting to watch is how D’Antoni handles this going forward. As I mentioned previously, there’s little space between being in the Knicks rotation and racking up DNP-CDs. For the last year and a half, the point guard spot has been dominated by Chris Duhon. Obviously this is going to change how the lineup looks going forward. I guess the big question is who will emerge as the Knicks point guard? Can the diminutive Robinson pull a 180 on his 2010 season, and end up in D’Antoni’s favor? Will Larry Hughes, the Ghandi of NBA-bench related facial hair, revive his descending career? Can Toney Douglas emerge as the PG of the future? Or will Duhon take this benching to heart and solve what’s been vexing him?

Going out of business! 50% off! Priced to move! (All sales are final. Void where prohibited by law)

Following hard on the heels of Mike K’s fine breakdown of the benefits (or lack thereof) of trading for McGrady, I’m going to channel my inner Bill Simmons (I’ve been watching “Jersey Shore” on MTV and going to strip clubs all weekend to emotionally/psychically prep m’self. Needless to say, it’s been pretty harrowing.) and throw out some possible deals that could be made, even if our erstwhile coach is playing it coy:

“The key is it’s got to fit into the plan,” D’Antoni said before the Knicks’ 112-91 loss to the T’wolves last night. “It’s got to be right. I think we as an organization, we’re looking all the time, trying to better the team without messing up the long-term plan. It’s a tricky thing to do.

“We’ll keep looking. [Team president] Donnie [Walsh] will keep looking.”

You got that right, Coach. It is tricky. Is it as tricky as realizing that perhaps you should have played more than 6 guys in the 2nd half of a back-to-back, even if it means deviating from the sanctity of your precious 8-man rotation or going to the zone when Jefferson, Love and (shudder) Ryan Freaking Hollins are positively killing the Nix in the low post? Maybe not. But I digress…

Since it’s so durned difficult to make trades, in the spirit of teamwork (I’ve been taking my Teamocil these days), here are a few reasonable and hopefully fair deals to aid our (snicker, chortle) playoff push or upgrade for the future.

TRADE NUMERO UNO
New York trades: Jared Jeffries (SF/PF) and Cuttino Mobley (SG)
Sacramento trades: Kenny Thomas (SF/PF), Sergio Rodriguez (PG),  Hilton Armstrong (C)

http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yk98edg

Why it’s plausible: Rodriguez is buried behind Tyreke Evans and Beno Udrih at PG. Jeffries has been a rumored target of Cowtown’s eye for awhile. They save some serious ducats (Mobley) in exchange for taking on JJ’s last year – hence a net savings – and dump 3 cats who are out of their rotation. The Nix get a young, up-tempo PG and of course, salary-cap savings.

TRADE KET SZAMA
New York trades: Jared Jeffries (SF/PF)
San Antonio trades: Matt Bonner (PF), Michael Finley (SG) Ian Manhinmi (PF/C)

http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yfdmonf

Why it’s plausible: In the west playoffs, JJ’d be a valuable piece, guarding a variety of players – from Nowitzki to Brandon Roy to Chris Paul. The Nix would agree (nudge, nudge, wink wink) to release Bonner and Finley so that they could re-sign w/San Antonio. The ‘Bockers get a young big/project and (all together now), cap room in 2010.

TRADE ZAHL DREI
New York sends: Jordan Hill (PF), Cuttino Mobley (SG), Wilson Chandler (SF/PF)
Golden State trades: Anthony Randolph (PF), Anthony Morrow (SG), Speedy Claxton (PG) Devean George (SF), Raja Bell (SG)

http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yztmymk

Why it’s plausible: For whatever reason, Nellie seems down on the Anthony’s (Morrow and Randolph). Chandler’s stock is at an all-time high. Hill can be sold to Golden State of Mind-ers as a reasonable substitute for Randolph and the Nix absolutely steal two pieces and actually save cap-bucks (a million or so).

And finally, just fo’ sh@*%s n’ giggles, a mega-deal (pigs flying not included)…

TRADE ANTALL FIRE
New York sends: Wilson Chandler (SF/PF), David Lee (PF/C), Nate Robinson (Freakshow), Jordan Hill (PF/C), Toney Douglas (PG)
Portland trades: Greg Oden (C), Jerryd Bayless (PG), Rudy Fernandez (SG), Travis Outlaw (SF/PF), Patrick Mills (PG)

http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yk6tm2y

Why it’s utterly implausible but makes a weird, twisted kinda sense: Hear me out. While Portland would be admitting that they screwed the pooch by taking Oden over Durant, look at their 8-man roation post-trade –

PG Miller/Blake
SG Roy/Robinson
SF Chandler/Webster
PF Aldridge
C Lee

Lee and Aldridge in the high/low post would be great. Robinson returns to the Pacific Northwest and wouldn’t be a PG liability since Roy does a chunk of the ballhandling. Chandler’s a serious upgrade at SF over Batum/Webster. And they get two prospects in Hill and Toney D to boot.  That Blazers team could seriously challenge the Nugs and the Spurs (if not the Lakers) and given the number of picks/overseas assets the team still has, they’d still have the pieces to make a deal if it didn’t work out.

For the D’Antonis, we’d be a little light this year (to say the least), but moving forward, wouldn’t Oden be worth rolling the dice on? If he’s healthy he’s the defensive 5 we haven’t had since Ewing. Bayless is another boom-bust investment and Rudy F. could be Ginobili 2.0. That’s a TON of if’s, but what’s the ceiling of the guys we’re trading? Lee’s great, but not a franchise player or even a Robin to someone’s Batman like Vintage Pippen/Worthy/McHale or these days, Gasol/Pierce. Chandler’s getting better n’ better, but he’s a very poor man’s Shawn Marion. Hill could be a more athletic Kurt Thomas and Douglas might turn into Chris Childs. All nice pieces, for sure. But there isn’t a franchise guy in the bunch. Now take a look at the 2010 roster if these moves pan out:

PG Bayless
SG Fernandez
SF Gallo
PF That guy from Cleveland
C Oden

You bring Jeffries off the bench and fill the rest of the roster w/vet free agents who are jonesing to be part of LeBron’s entourage & Marcus Landry types. If you wanna get really ballsy, you see if Phoenix will dump Nash for expirings + picks. That’s a serious contender right now. It won’t happen, just b/c Portland can’t/won’t bail on Oden. But a girl can dream, right? Whaddaya think Knickerblogger-istas?

Mid Season Youngins Report

With 41 games in the books, I thought I’d check in on the youngins and see how they’re doing.

Wilson Chandler’s stats are quite similar to last year’s with a few worthwhile exceptions. Before the start of the season I said Chandler would have to increase either his free throw attempts or three point shooting percentage to be a successful NBA player. Unfortunately Wilson has regressed in both areas (FTA/36 2.8 to 2.2, 3p% 32.8% to 27.2%). These stats are important for his development because Chandler settled for the three pointer too often and didn’t connect often enough from downtown. Instead Chandler has reduced the number of three pointers attempted (3PA/36 4.1 to 2.6) and consequently his TS% has risen to 52.5%, good enough to be his best season. Chandler has given up chucking threes to taking the action to the hoop. NBA hotspots shows Chandler taking a high percentage of his shots from the paint (234 of 536 FG attempts). Granted he isn’t drawing contact and getting to the charity stripe, but this is a shift in the right direction for the 22 year old.

Limited to being a three point specialist in his first season, Danilo Gallinari has shown his athleticism in his sophomore campaign. Gallo has improved his free throws (2.4 to 3.5 fta/36), rebounding (4.8 to 5.5 reb/36), blocked shots (0.3 to 1.0 blk/36), personal fouls (4.2 to 2.4 pf/36) and points scored (14.9 to 16.7 pts/36). Overall he’s improved in multiple areas, which is exactly what you’d want from an underaged #6 pick.

Neither player in the Knicks draft class of 2009 has made an impact. Toney Douglas is 9th in minutes on the team and Hill is 11th, which in D’Antoni’s rotation means neither is playing consistently. At the start of the season, it seemed as if Toney Douglas would be in the rotation and Jordan Hill would be on the outside looking in. There was even rumors of Hill being sent to the D-League to see some action. But recently Hill has crept into the end of the Knicks rotation, and Douglas has seen his minutes reduced. To the eye Douglas has been quick on the defensive end, but he’s lost the play making ability that he flashed in the preseason. Meanwhile Hill has shown his athleticism on both ends of the floor, but he’s settling for long jumpers too often for a F/C. Finally Marcus Landry has been limited strictly to garbage time (72 minutes played on the year).

Of the five, Danilo Gallinari is the only one that’s given the inkling of becoming a future All Star. Down the stretch it’s important to see if Gallo can take a bigger role in the offense and not defer to his teammates. Chandler has improved, but he still need to produce more to be an above average NBA starter. As the season progresses we should monitor Chandler’s efficiency. For Douglas, Hill, and Landry, it’d be good for them to get significant court time, but the Knicks pursuit of a playoff spot could hamper such an opportunity.

What’s Wrong With the Knicks?

The New York Knicks have limped out to a 1-6 start, their worst since 2003 when they began the year 1-8. That season, they eventually finished 37-45, which would actually be an improvement for this team. So although history shows us that all is not lost, there are some issues the team must overcome to get back on track.

Not to Three?
The team’s three point percentage of 30.3% is 57 points lower than last year’s average, but that number isn’t indicative of how bad New York’s shooting has been. That percentage is inflated by Danilo Gallinari’s sizzling 46.6%. The non-Gallo Knicks are shooting an appallingly bad 22.5%. And while the knee-jerk reaction is to blame non-shooter Jared Jeffries and rookie Toney Douglas, the pair are actually 2nd and 3rd on the team respectively in three point percentage. It’s the regulars of Hughes, Harrington, Duhon, Chandler, and Robinson that are sinking the team.

For some teams, going through a cold spell from behind the arc might be a nuisance, but D’Antoni’s offense requires the team to make their treys to open up the inside. I documented this here, showing how other teams are clogging the middle and daring the team to beat them from the outside. That said this is probably an early season funk, and more likely than not New York will end up in the middle of the pack with regards to three point shooting. Hopefully the drought will end sooner than later.

Ill Ill Will?
It seems that Knick fans are split on their opinion of Wilson Chandler. Some see a youngster with a lot of upside, while others see caution flags from his advanced stats. But neither side envisioned him playing this poorly. Chandler has been dreadful in 2010, starting off the year with a PER of 7.7, nearly half of his 2009 rate of 12.9. The decline is entirely due to his anemic shooting: 39.9% TS% and 20.0% 3P%.

Chandler did have surgery in the offseason, which prevented him from working on his game during the summer. The good news is that his non-shooting stats have been identical to last year, which means that there isn’t a lingering physical issue that is causing his decline. The bad news is Chandler was never a good shooter to begin with, and that he needed the extra time to work on his jumper. The best the team can hope for is to send Chandler slashing to the hoop more often, which is usually a good prescription for any athletic player struggling to find their range.

There’s No Movement, No Movement, No Movement…
What happened to the movement on offense? The hallmark of D’Antoni’s offense is having some kind of constant motion, either via ball or players. But this year, it seems that the half court offense has become stagnant. And of course there’s the limitation of the roster. Chris Duhon is still passing up easy buckets in the paint, Al Harrington is still refusing to pass the ball, and Jeffries is still getting court time. The one guy who has the multifaceted game to jumpstart the offense, Nate Robinson, is sidelined with an injury.

Again it seems the lack of an outside threat has hurt the team, but perhaps D’Antoni should be finding another way to generate points. Given his reputation as an offensive coach, he should be able to coax some more production out of this group.

Pennies On the Dollar (Or Thousands of Dollars on the Millions of Dollars)
While one could argue that their precious cap space and a lack of assets prevented them from making a major move, the truth is the team failed to improve at all. The team didn’t deviate from their 2009 roster much, adding only Darko Milicic, Jordan Hill, Toney Douglas, and Marcus Landry. None of these players are averaging 10 minutes per game.

The problem boils down to New York failing to find any low cost help. It’s easy to say the NBA is a superstar’s league, but the truth is that teams need to fill their entire roster. This means front offices need to not only be successful in acquiring superstars, but digging the bargain bin for productive players. The Celtics might not have won a a title without their big trio, but perhaps their troika of youngsters Rondo, Perkins, and Powe was equally important to that championship run. The same could be said for the Spurs for turning the undrafted 30 year old Bruce Bowen and 57th overall pick Manu Ginobili into a part of their core. And the Pistons would not have won their last championship without Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups – two players that were relative nobodies before their arrival in Detroit.

Every year there seems to be a few unheralded players who find success on the major league level, in addition to homeless veterans willing to play for a bargain. In the Donnie Walsh era, the Knicks have flirted with lots of inexpensive players like Von Wafer, Demetris Nichols, Anthony Roberson, Cheikh Samb, Mouhamed Sene, Courtney Simms, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Joe Crawford, Chris Hunter and Morris Almond but failed to unearth any rough gems.

For a team that relies on outside shooting so much (New York was 1st in three pointers attempted last year), the team has a glaring hole at shooting guard. The 2-guard position is filled by a small forward (Wilson Chandler), an undersized point guard (Nate Robinson) and an aging slasher with a questionable shot (Larry Hughes). To compound the situation the team does have a free roster spot and there are some options available (Almond, Crawford and Szczerbiak). It would cost the team a fraction of their total salary to acquire a shooter, but for some reason they’re content in staying pat. Having a three point specialist would probably be helpful a few nights over the course of the season. But developing one from the NBA scrap heap into the rotation would be the mark of a good front office.

Hill Fails To Impress (& Knick Tidbits)

Knick fans that hoped the 2009 #8 pick would pay immediate dividends are going to be disappointed. Mike D’Antoni said Jordan Hill “got a ways to go” with regards to being NBA ready. A quote like this would be expected if New York grabbed a teenager from Europe like Ricky Rubio or Brandon Jennings. But Jordan Hill is 22, and spent 3 years in Arizona. Shouldn’t he be ready to contribute to the NBA now?

Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the Knicks recent power forward draftees. Channing Frye, like Hill, was 22 year old #8 overall pick from Arizona and managed an 18.1 PER in 1500+ minutes his first season. David Lee, taken in the same draft, had a 15.4 PER in 1100+ minutes that same year. The 9th overall pick in 2003, Mike Sweetney, was buried on the IR due to incompetent management. But he still was able to perform on an NBA level with a 17.2 PER his first season. Even Nene Hillario who was traded by the Knicks on draft day put up a PER of 15.4 in 2200+ minutes as a 20 year old rookie for Denver.

Hill’s defenders say he started playing basketball late, and that he’s still learning the game. But 2010 is a win now year, with the Knicks not owning their own pick in the upcoming draft. And Walsh didn’t really seem interested in spending money this summer to improve his team, even on his own players. The only trade they made this summer was for a backup center in Darko Milicic. So with no other avenues to improve the team now why would the Knicks take a player who was a project? Surely there was someone that was more ready to contribute this season (Blair seems the part, and Lawson had a nice preseason). Perhaps Walsh didn’t mind taking someone unpolished, but then he should have aimed for someone that was younger or had a bigger upside.

It sounds rough to be critical of a rookie before the season even starts. I can understand Hill not making the rotation, especially with the veterans ahead of him. But I would have liked to hear the coaching staff speak more positively of him. Maybe something along the lines of “he’s good, but he’s going to have to wait his turn.” Perhaps a better showing in either summer league or the preseason would allow me to look past his current state. I’m sure Hill will get some minutes at some point this year, and I can only hope that he can get some positive reviews for his on the court play.

Other News:

  • You can throw away any chance of Eddy Curry getting into the rotation early in the season to increase his trade value. Curry talked about his offseason conditioning publicly on Twitter, then hurt his foot in the first practice. Although it was initially thought that the injury wasn’t serious and he’d be back quickly, Eddy didn’t play in a single preseason game. The team has told Curry to not come back until he reaches a certain weight, implying that his summer regimen wasn’t as advertised. Curry threw away his 2009 season, and so far he’s on pace to do the same in 2010.
  • Not only are Eddy Curry and Jordan Hill out of the rotation, but it seems that Larry Hughes didn’t make the cut either. Hughes probably didn’t expect this to occur (he started 57 of 68 games in 2008, and 20 of 55 last year), and it’ll be interesting to see how he responds. Although the Knicks could afford to let someone like Stephon Marbury hang in the wind (especially considering Marbury’s actions after the team let him go), the front office and coaching staff could lose serious face if this situation gets that ugly.

    From a simple perspective it seems that Hughes was beaten out by Toney Douglas (and perhaps Danilo Gallinari) who are likely to eat the bulk of his minutes along with Nate Robinson. But it’s more likely that this is just coach D’Antoni going with his youngsters.

  • Looks like the Knicks have a new end of bench guy, for now. Marcus Landry replaces Joe Crawford (and Chris Hunter) as the Knicks rotate in a new 12th man yet again. Sorry if I’m indifferent on this signing, but New York seems to grab these guys and tend to never use them in a meaningful way. The best analogy I can come up with it my 2 year old who’ll snatch a toy the minute another child becomes interested in it, not really play with it, and then casually discard it when the next shiny thing comes along.
  • Knicks 2010 Season Preview Part 2

    [In case you missed it, Part I is here.]

    Larry Hughes SG

    What the Numbers Say
    Through the first 4 preseason games, Larry is 1 fer 20. Yipes.

    What the Team Says
    “Larry Hughes is a guy that can score points and create his own shot. And I think that’s also very good in Mike’s system.” – Donnie Walsh (after the trade deadline deal that netted Hughes for Tim Thomas.)

    What the Player Says
    “I’m a proven scorer in this league, so it’s not a problem for me,” Hughes said after the Knicks held an open practice for fans at Fordham University yesterday. “It’s the preseason. I’m not too concerned.”

    What My Gut Says
    HeyLarryHughesPleaseStopTakingSoManyBadShots.com really just about sums it up. Alas, I fear good old Larry has the potential to be this year’s Marbury. No, I don’t mean he’s going to eat Vaseline, it’s just that he has a history of pitching a fit when presented with less playing time than he believes he merits. Nor does he seem to have a firm grasp on what his own abilities are. Proven scorer, my fanny.

    Wilson Chandler – SG (in name only)/SF

    What the Numbers Say
    I can’t parse the stats for the life of me, but Wilson Chandler pops up all over the place in Dave Berri’s “Overrated players of 08-09” list.

    What the Team Says
    “He’s a great kid that works hard and I really think he has a chance,” D’Antoni said. “That will depend on him and the work that he puts in in the summertime, and he thinks he’s going to do it. I hope he does.”

    What the Player Says
    “Shake ’em up, shake ’em up, shake ’em up, shake ’em. Roll ’em in a circle of fellas and watch me break ’em” (a tweet in response to Nate Rob’s tweet) Apparently they like tweeting Ice Cube lyrics to one another. Good times.

    What My Gut Says
    For some reason, in spite of his rim-rattling dunks and blocks that send the rock into the (very expensive) seats, Ill Will fails to make much of an impression on me. Perhaps it’s because he has fewer facial expressions, succeed or fail, than Paris Hilton. He’s a nice two-way SF who if he develops a more consistent jumper and solid handle could be Shawn Marion-lite. A quality guy to have and could certainly be a part of the rotation on a contender, I’d still have dealt him for the 5th pick/Ricky Rubio in a NY minute (assuming that it was even remotely possible).

    Danilo Gallinari SF

    What the Numbers Say
    Danilo Gallinari (2009, Age 20) .448 FG, .444 3FG, .963 FT, 4.8 reb/36, 14.9 pts/36
    Dirk Nowitzki (1999, Age 20 ) .405 FG, .205 3FG, .773 FT, 6.1 reb/36, 14.9 pts/36
    (Full player comparison at Basketball-Reference.com)

    What the Team Says
    “He’s the best shooter I’ve ever seen” — Mike D’Antoni

    What the Player Says
    “Wake up at 9.02 (because I do not like alarms perfect!) … Breakfast with milk and Nesquick … accompanied with biscuits or cornflakes in the morning … I need a lot of carbohydrates! Then long session in the bathroom to get ready, get dressed, I put the lenses, a bit of hair gel and so ready to go to training.” — Il Gallo

    What My Gut Says
    I amo Il Gallo! So, ciò sembra un po’gaio, ma è il suo soprannome. Che sono intendendo fare? One of the things that’s actually disappointed me in Danilo’s development is that his English has really improved. As a result, he sounds a lot less like Roberto Benigni/Chico Marx. It’s too bad. I was really looking forward with the post-game interview with Jill “Gimme A Minute” Martin where he screeched, “I want to make love to the firmament!” That said, I think he puts up Nowitzki-like #’s in year two (15 ppg, 6 rpg)

    And even though he hasn’t officially made the team yet, I have to say that I‘m seriously pulling for Marcus Landry. Maybe it’s because he’s making the transition from undersized college center to SG/SF and the last player I can think of who pulled this off successfully was Earl Monroe, who played the pivot/with his back to the basket at Winston-Salem in the 60’s.