Knicks 2007 Report Card (A to Z): Channing Frye

KnickerBlogger: Channing Frye looked to be one of the better picks of the 2005 draft, earning a berth on the All Rookie 1st team, and was one of the bright spots of the abysmal 2006 season. Frye’s main strength was his jump shot. He showed good accuracy and range on his jump shot, making him an ideal pick and roll partner. Frequently he burned opposing big men who were too slow to guard him on the outside. Although primarily an outside threat, Frye did have the buddings of a decent low post game. And while he was not a fantastic rebounder or shot blocker, Frye certainly didn’t embarrass himself in either category. According to basketball-reference.com, the top 5 comparables to Knick forward/center were a solid group of Sharone Wright, Drew Gooden, Marcus Camby, Joe Smith, and Michael Doleac. Isiah Thomas looked as if he worked his draft magic yet again.

However a funny thing happened on the way to the All Star Game, Channing Frye suffered a horrendous sophomore slump in 2007. His PER plummeted from a vigorous 18.0 to an anemic 10.5. Frye had setbacks in a few major categories namely his scoring (20.4 to 14.4 pts/40), free throw attempts (5.8 to 2.3 FTA/40), offensive rebounding (3.5 to 1.9 oReb/40), and eFG% (47.9% to 43.5%). Frye’s top 5 most comparable players after last year were Michael Doleac, Thurl Bailey, Doug Smith, Anthony Avent, and Steven Stepanovich. Hardly the same class of players as the first 5.

There are a host of theories on what happened to Frye from his freshman to his sophomore season. The first is the Curry-Frye theory, which claims that Frye’s decline was due to Curry’s emergence as the Knicks sole low post player. Pushing Frye out to the perimeter would explain his drop in rebounding and foul shots, but 82games.com shows Frye to have a higher PER at the forward position than at center (where he plays with Curry off the court). So the entire blame can’t be placed on Curry’s shoulders.

The second theory is the Sax-Knoblauch theory, which claims that Frye’s decline was from the pressure to succeed in New York. While the Knicks aren’t as high profile as the Yankees, Frye was visibly shaky at times. He passed up on wide open 20 footers, normally his bread and butter. It’s unknown what could cause such a transformation, but clearly Frye’s suffered from a lack of confidence.

Finally the last theory, also known as the Frye-Injury theory, claims that Frye never fully recovered from his injuries. Channing missed the end of 2006 with a knee sprain, and the summer with a twisted ankle. It may not even be that Frye was physically hurt, but rather disoriented from the lack of cohesion with his teammates due to missing so many games.

KnickerBlogger’s Grade: F

2008 Outlook: Whichever theory or combination of theories you ascribe to regarding Channing Frye’s sophomore slump, 2008 is going to be a make or break season for him. Luckily for Frye, he’ll have a fresh start in Portland. He’ll back up the high profile duo of Oden & Aldridge for a team with little expectations and less brighter lights. With a boost of confidence and an offense that features him a bit more, Frye could show that 2007 was just a bump in the road.

Dave Crockett: I hate to give a guy an F, especially a fellow Arizona alum but… yeesh. This was a throw away season for Frye. For my money–and this is after having seen a ton of his college games–I think the move away from the screen-roll oriented offense along with the injuries were the major culprits. Perhaps more fundamentally though his game was built to be unsustainable; so one-dimensional it was. Frye should benefit from playing for Nate McMillan on a team that will probably run the floor a little more; something I happen to think is a palliative, if not the cure for athletic big men prone to offensive droughts.

Brian Maniscalco: Here’s a project for an ambitious researcher. Has there ever been another player whose PER dropped by 7 or 8 points in consecutive seasons early on in his career? The magnitude of that drop is so enormous that it must rank among the all time free falls in NBA history, especially for a player so early in his career. If there are players with similar falls from grace, how did they fare in the future? Is this the sort of thing a player can recover from or is it a death knell?

My guess is that Frye will bounce back, but I doubt he will regain the promise he held after his rookie season. I expect him to be a good-to-very-good backup for Portland, and in the best possible circumstances it’s conceivable that he could win a sixth man award or possibly slip into an All-Star game. But after such an awful performance last season I don’t see his ceiling being any higher than that, whereas after his strong rookie campaign it seemed like the sky was the limit.

Michael Zannettis: My feelings about Frye’s play this year are well-documented. Without getting to the free throw line or being a force on the offensive glass, the one player that showed up in his comparables both seasons, Michael Doleac, seems to be the player he’s become. Another name that comes to mind is Maurice Taylor. As we’ve learned from players like Doleac and Taylor is that as sweet as that mid-range jumpshot is, it’s actually the worst shot to take on the court. You’d have to hit it at a ridiculous rate to be a viable offensive player if that was your only skill.

I can’t blame Frye’s struggles on the screen-and-roll, the brights lights of New York, or the tunnel vision of Mr. Curry. Simply put, he didn’t man up. He played soft. As much as we often like to question Curry’s effort level, especially on defense, we have to wonder where Frye’s determination to grab an offensive board went. They don’t call it “fighting” for position, for nothing.

Brian Cronin I took Brian’s challenge, and took a look at every rookie in NBA history who played as many games as Channing Frye did in his first year (65) and ended up with a PER of at least 8 for the season.

Of the 915 matches, only ONE of them had a PER drop as large as Frye’s, John Shasky, who posted a 12.7 PER for the Miami Heat in their expansion year of 1988-89, but only a 2.5 in 14 games for Golden State the following season. Shasky played one more year before his NBA career ended, with a nice rebound PER of 11.1 for Dallas in 1990-91.

So this is basically unprecedented (Shasky wasn’t a major rotation piece like Frye was), which I guess bodes well for Frye, in the sense that it sounds like a bit of a fluke.

However, upon looking through the players, I did note a number of players who suffered decent setbacks (minus 4 or so points) and in almost every case, while there was some bounceback, for the most part, they continued to stay at the lower level or even decline further.

So I don’t think Channing Frye’s future is a bright one.

As for his grade for this past season, I’m gonna be nice and say D-.

Would you have kept Rose and Taylor’s contracts?

One of the more irritating things this season reading John Hollinger has been his consistent (not constant, as he has only brought it up a few times, but he has done so consistently – the same talking points) harping on the Knicks paying off of Jalen Rose and Maurice Taylor, which kept the Knicks from using their salaries in a similar way to the way they used Antonio Davis and Anfernee Hardaway last year, to trade to teams trying to clear salary cap room (a move that was pretty clearly done by the owner as an attempt to keep Isiah Thomas from doing those trades, as they usually involve taking on more salary).

My problem with Hollinger’s criticism is that I just do not think it is reasonable to believe that, had the Knicks kept the salaries and done similar moves to last year, Hollinger wouldn’t have (probably rightfully) ripped the Knicks for doing what he is currently chastisizing them for not doing! A true lose-lose proposition.

First off, the idea that, had the Knicks kept Jalen Rose’s contract, they would have been able to pick up Pau Gasol (as Hollinger recently suggested) is pretty silly.

But there probably would be a couple of other players that the Knicks could have at least been in the running for had they kept Rose and/or Taylor’s contracts.

My question is, do you think the Knicks are better off letting the contracts expire, or do you think they should have kept the salaries to make trades?

I personally think it is better to just take the money loss (and the Balkman pick that they got with Jalen Rose) and let the money come off the cap. The Knicks won’t be under the cap any time soon, but I’d prefer to keep that possibility an actual possibility, which would not be the case if they kept trading salaries for longer-term contracts. And really, who really WAS available this year? Anyone who could really change the Knicks? If Gasol could have been gotten, I guess that would have worked, but I sincerely doubt the Knicks would have been able to get Gasol.

But I’m interested in hearing from the rest of you folks. What do you think the Knicks should have done with Rose and Taylor’s contracts?

Diagnosing Patient Frye: What Ails Our Sophomore Slumper?

Healthy, Wealthy, and Young: The Birth of A New Era
Standing 6?11?, being only 23 years-old, and with a promising rookie campaign under his belt, Channing Frye seemed destined to finally fill the gaping productivity hole at the Knicks? power forward position. The Knicks haven?t employed a tall, talented four since the glory days of Charles Oakley. Having suffered through a platoon of the short (Anthony Mason, Larry Johnson), the short and useless (Othella Harrington, Clarence Weatherspoon, Malik Rose, Maurice Taylor), and the short but perennially out of shape (Mike Sweetney), Knicks fans envisioned a bright future of crisp pick-and-rolls, a smooth jumper, and a reasonable defensive presence.

The average Knick fan was in love with Frye, but those fluent in statistical analysis were downright infatuated with him. Frye produced a very healthy rookie PER (18.12) ranking him second in his class, superior to the more heralded big men drafted ahead of him?Andrew Bogut, Marvin Williams, and Charlie Villanueva. The PER was promising in general, but also healthy in its components. Frye?s skill set was broad, which is an underrated quality and a strong indicator of future growth. He created shots, hit the ones he did, kept his turnovers in check, and rebounded well. Frye averaged 20 points per 40 minutes and it?s not hard to see why: he could shoot with range, was developing a low-post game, and hit his free throws. He?s a young big man who could score, and those don?t grow on trees. In all, the only blight on his record was a dismal Curry-esque assist ratio.

It wasn?t youth and inexperience that stood in Frye?s way. His major obstacles were his coach and his health. In his relentless effort to sabotage the Knicks? season, ?Coach? Larry Brown decided to bury Frye behind the inferior, older, shorter, and ultimately unemployment-bound Maurice Taylor. When Frye was finally able to wrestle himself some playing time, he sprained his knee and missed the last month of the season. In the off-season Larry Brown was replaced with the man who drafted Frye, while the months off provided time to heal. Knicks fans indulged high, and arguably, merited hopes that Frye would continue to improve and squeeze the Knicks into the playoffs of a historically weak conference.

We have thus far been grossly disappointed. To label Frye a disaster two-thirds through his sophomore campaign is painfully appropriate. Far from being a fringe All-Star candidate, Frye is posting a paltry 11.74 PER, and having trouble justifying a rotation slot, much less a starting job. Frye’s drop of -6.38 PER is downright ridiculous. We had no reason to believe Frye?s production would plummet, since none of Frye?s metrics were outliers to suggest a regression to the mean.

Paging Dr. Stats
There?s nothing about Frye’s rookie statistics that suggest ?luck? instead of ?skill.? Frye does nearly everything well (except pass), instead of one or two things spectacularly. In other words, he?s more Elton Brand than Kyle Korver. But Frye?s game is ailing badly. What?s the diagnosis?

Examining Frye?s performance record, reveals that for the most part Frye 2.0 is the same player as Frye 1.0. His turnover rate this season is not only healthy, but slightly improved. His usage rate is down slightly, but nothing alarming. His assist ratio is as small as ever, no change there (and unfortunately no improvement). We run into the first problem with a decreased rebound rate. A downtick that?s bad but not dramatic. However Frye?s main malady is his outright implosion in True Shooting Percentage. Frye went from a better than league average 54.1% to an atrociously bad 47.1%. That?s not a decline, that?s a crash.

There are three components that factor into TS%: 3-pt FGs, 2-pt FGs, and Free Throws. Frye doesn’t take threes, and his free throw percentage is even better this year, so it’s easy to say that his drop in FG% from .477 to .438 is the culprit. At first glance, Frye seems to be losing his shooting touch.

But let’s hold on there, because what FT% doesn’t show is his rate of attempts. Last year Frye shot 5.8 free throws per 40 minutes. This year he’s down to 2.3, which is down a staggering 60%! Frye went from taking a free throw for every two field goals, to shooting one for every four. Essentially, Frye has eliminated free throws from his offensive repertoire. Frye can shoot the rock, but relying on a mid-range jumper for the majority of your shots is career suicide. Take the master of the mid-range, Richard Hamilton. What keeps his offensive numbers up are his prodigious rate of free throw attempts, not just the accuracy of his shot. Ironically, the same plight of all ?J? no drive, is what made Frye?s predecessor, Mo Taylor, such an inefficient offensive player. After calling for Frye to replace Taylor, like a nightmare we?ve just watched the former turn into the latter.

What?s funny is the attacking the basket inclination that has escaped Frye has downright possessed his best friend, David Lee. Lee leads the league in field goal percentage despite lacking any talent as a shooter. Dunks and lay ups are the highest percentage shot, an obvious fact that Lee embraces but Frye seems to have forgotten.

The case of the disappearing free throws extends to a bout of, “Where are the rebounds?” Frye’s rebounding numbers were unimpressive in college. Red flags were raised on draft day, but the Knicks insisted he’d be fine, and his first year in the NBA he was. His rookie rate of 14.2 was reasonable, putting him in line with the second-tiered rebounders at his position, like Andrew Bogut, Rasheed Wallace, and Chris Wilcox. It was nothing to write home about, but Frye was still an above-average performer. This year, his rate has declined to 12.3%, placing him in the unenviable company of Mark Blount and Mikki Moore, the former being infamous for his pathetic work ethic and the latter for his slight frame.

What went wrong? A rebound percentage is made of two components: Offensive and Defensive Rates. In fact, Frye’s defensive rebounding has improved this year, going from 5.9 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes to 6.2. On the other hand, his offensive rebounding is down by a third, from 3.5 per 40 minutes to 2.2. As his friend the Freshman-Sophomore Game MVP demonstrates, offensive rebounds are a function of activity around the basket. They don’t come to you, you go to them.

Looking closely at his numbers?both advanced and traditional?reveal the problem: Frye is not attacking the basket. It?s not that he can?t, it?s that he won?t.

Take Two of These and Call Me In the Morning
In a sense, Frye?s problems are good problems to have. He demonstrated in his rookie season a capacity to grab offensive rebounds and draw fouls, but for some reason he?s gone away from these aspects of his game. Frye is too young to suggest his talent has abandoned him. Rather it seems, he?s switched his strategy. This is a problem of habit not skill, and should be, if any basketball problems can be, correctable. If Frye is sick, he doesn?t need a doctor, he needs a psychologist.

It would seem to reason that if Frye rededicates himself to attacking the basket, his Free Throw rates, field goal percentage, and offensive rebounds will improve. Frye has the talent to drive to the basket, the question is will he embrace that style, reverse his collapse, and once again establish himself as one of the league’s best young forwards.

Michael Zannettis regularly posts on his website www.michaelzannettis.com He addresses topics as diverse as the culture of evolution, possession law, and communication theory. He lives in Astoria and has a fond childhood memory of when the NBA Finals were interrupted by a White Ford Bronco in a low-speed car chase.

New Addition to the Knicks “Pay To Not Play” Auxiliary

According to the New York Daily News, Isiah Thomas and Jalen Rose are working out a buyout of the remaining one year/$16 million left on Rose’s contract.

This will now make it a staggering $52 million that the Knicks will owe on the salary cap this year for five players who will not play for the Knicks this year (Allan Houston, Jerome Williams, Shandon Anderson and Maurice Taylor are the other four…you can stretch it to 6 players and $58 million if you want to argue that Malik Rose is essentially paid to not play as well).

However, seeing as how this money is already spent, I think it probably does make more sense to cut Rose loose than to keep him around. Unlike Malik, Jalen Rose likely would not be a good influence on the younger players, and like Malik, he wasn’t going to play any significant minutes, so if this can free up a roster spot for another player, then that’s okay by me.

What’s intriguing about this the most to me is who is the Knicks back-up small forward until Jeffries comes back? Is it Renaldo Balkman? Or David Lee?

Or will we see Jamal Crawford at the 3 in a three-guard lineup?

Looking at Others’ Knick Season Outlook

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what the various major sports websites were saying about the Knicks at the start of training camp, so let’s do that now!

John Hollinger, for ESPN Insider, makes all the right points (overpaid for Jeffries, the team turned the ball over too much, not signing Butler was idiotic), but I was pleased, as a Knick fan, to see his overall take on the team:

With a small, quick backcourt of Marbury and Francis, there’s a lot of talk that the Knicks will run and push the ball like the Phoenix Suns. But anyone who has seen those two play knows this is impossible, because neither of them seek to push the ball up court. They’re quick and they’re great drivers, but they’re mostly half-court guys.

While the style may not be what some expect, one thing I can pretty much guarantee is that the Knicks will win a lot more games. That’s to be expected — the nice thing about hitting rock bottom is that you can’t go down any further — but a number of factors favor the Knicks to make a double-digit improvement in wins. First and foremost, they’ll play for Thomas, rather than last year’s white-flag routine. That alone should improve the defense several notches.

Second, the result of Brown’s lineup switches was that the Knicks’ worst players were on the court for large stretches of time. Maurice Taylor, Qyntel Woods and Malik Rose all played over 1,000 minutes last season; that playing time will be going to guys like Jeffries, Frye and Lee this time around. Frye is perhaps the most egregious example — he only played 1,571 minutes even though he led the team in player efficiency rating. He should come close to doubling that total this year as the opening-day power forward.

As a result, I expect New York to generate some genuine excitement this year — hanging out on the fringes of the playoff race and getting increased production from the younger players. They’ll still massively underachieve compared to what they’re spending, and it may not be enough to save Thomas’ job, but the Knicks will at least look like a real NBA team again.

Very nice analysis from Hollinger.

For AOL Sports, Steve Aschburner has some interesting questions for each of the teams in the Eastern Conference. Here is his question for the Knicks:

Q: Didn’t you used to be Steve Francis?

A: Just getting rid of Larry Brown doesn’t make a Francis-Marbury backcourt any more feasible. Neither of them is a good enough shooter to play for long stretches off the ball, and both of them are defensive liabilities if the opponents’ backcourt has some size. Marbury won’t feel any pressure to accommodate Francis now, either; if he can get Larry Brown out of town, he isn’t going to be bothered by Francis’ displeasure. What Francis needs is to play for a strong head coach on a team built around a big man — say, Miami minus Wade — if he’s ever going to live up to his potential and help a team more than himself.

Not a bad analysis of Francis’ position on the team, which certainly DOES seem to be a bit odd, doesn’t it?

CBS Sportsline loses some credibility with me with their Eastern Conference primer, as they listed Jalen Rose as the probable starter at small forward. Yikes. Talk about not knowing the team very well.

Marty Burns does a decent job at looking at the Knicks for CNN/SI here.

1. Can Isiah clean up the mess?
After the fiasco of ’05-06, Thomas jettisoned Brown and finds himself back on the bench as coach. His first job in camp will be to clean up the toxic atmosphere that engulfed the team a year ago and get them playing as a cohesive group.

2. Who’s the starting shooting guard?
With Stephon Marbury the starter at point guard and free agent signee Jared Jeffries likely to inherit the small forward position, the Knicks have a glut at the 2 spot. Steve Francis, Jamal Crawford and Quentin Richardson will battle it out, which could make for some raw nerves — and some good fodder for the New York tabloids.

3. Can Renaldo Balkman play?
Thomas was criticized heavily on draft night for using the No. 20 pick on the relatively unknown Balkman. The 6-8 South Carolina product will need to show in camp that he can step in and contribute, or Thomas will hear more about it from the MSG hecklers.

However, I think his #3 is a bit silly, as I don’t think Balkman’s playing time will be key to the Knicks season at all.

By the by, speaking of Balkman, Bill Simmons said something bizarre regarding Balkman in his latest column. Check it out –

Three months from now, Knicks fans will be dealing with the fact that taking Renaldo Balkman at No. 20 over Rajon Rondo, as crazy as this sounds, was the single biggest mistake of Isiah’s entire tenure, the one misfire that will end up haunting that franchise for the next decade. And that’s saying something. But Balkman/Rondo will trump everything else Isiah inflicted. Just you wait. That’s all I’m saying for now.

What an odd statement.

Hoops Hype hasn’t gotten around to the Knicks yet in their season preview.

Drop me a line if you have seen some other previews from big sites (except for the wonderful preview we all read at the Dime’s website) – I’ll link them up here.

KnickerBlogger’s Official Take on the Jeffries Signing

At the end of David Crockett’s appraisal of the Jeffries signing, he states “So, numerous paragraphs later I’m still not sure how I feel about this. What about you all?” and Brian Cronin said in his Jeffries post “either Dave or Mike will be tomorrow to give us a more in-depth look at the signing.” So I guess it’s my turn. Like Dr. C, I’ll break it down on 3 separate issues.

1. Has Thomas overpaid for Jeffries? Personally I’d say yes, not necessarily in price but in years. In fact he’s similar to two SF that the Knicks had last year: Trevor Ariza & Matt Barnes. And neither has anything close to a 5 year deal (although Ariza’s deal wasn’t publicized it’s thought to be 3 years or less). Jeffries is young, but I don’t think his trade value will rise much over the next 5 years. Unlike most basketball players his weakness is easily seen through statistics, and his non-existent offensive game isn’t likely to become much better than it is now. GMs may not be able to determine a player’s defensive worth, but they’ll easily be able to see Jeffries offensive worth (or lack thereof) therefore lowering his trade value. For Isiah to hit the bullseye on this one, Jeffries has to start getting votes for the NBA All Defensive Team.

2. Do we need Jeffries? Again I’d argue no. With Jeffries on the roster I count 6 guys that can play small forward: Balkman, Q-Rich, Jalen, Lee, Malik, and Jeffries. Let’s assume that Lee & Malik Rose are more PF than SF, then the Knicks have 4 SFs. Consider that New York has 5 guards total for both guard spots and you can see a minutes crunch at the swingman spot. Additionally Jeffries skill set closely mirrors that of first round pick Balkman, so it will cut into Renaldo’s minutes and hamper his development. As Balkman does develop, having Jeffries on the roster will be redundant. Hence why the long contract (see #1) might not have been a good idea to begin with.

3. Does this make sense on a team level? I’m not a big fan of the “we’re already under the cap so this long term contract doesn’t hurt” argument. Let’s say Isiah is fired after (or during) the season and the next GM decides he wants to get under the cap. Jeffries contract will be yet another piece that needs to be moved. While it may be easier to move than some of the other Knickerbockers (Francis, Marbury, Jerome James, etc.) it’s still on the deficit side of the leger rather than the asset side. Any contract Isiah signs that is over the league value doesn’t help the Knicks regardless of the team’s salary cap status.

Secondly it’s hard to ignore that this decision comes on the heels of Jackie Butler’s departure. One week the Knicks don’t have the room or money to resign their 21 year old promising young center, and the next they’re paying more than double for a player with a lower ceiling. A year or two from now it would have been much easier to move Jackie Butler than Jeffries if for nothing else than Butler’s age & reasonable contract. In fact I would imagine some team might take a young, cheap, and talented player in Butler as a bonus for eating up a big ugly contract (Steve Francis). The Knicks’ roster doesn’t run deep at the center position, as the Knicks only have 2 true centers. When Curry is in foul trouble, Isiah Thomas may be forced into giving Jerome James substantial minutes which isn’t a palatable scenario. And on the nights that Curry and James are both in foul trouble, Frye will be forced to man the five, or heavens forbid Maurice Taylor or Malik Rose. Isiah should have been focusing on the team’s thinness at center rather than adding to the glutton at small forward.

So the Knicks overpaid for a player, that addresses a need that was already addressed in the draft, and in the process hurt themselves by not retaining one of their young prospects. For Jeffries to make this deal work, he’s going to have to become the lock down defender Isiah envisions or become a better offensive player. And I’m not banking on either.

Comments are closed. You can leave them in Brian’s thread.

Hollinger’s Knicks

[In today’s article, we take you back in the KnickerBlogger.Net Time Machine? to February 8th 2006. In this much darker time in Knick history, the hometown blue had been in the middle of a 10 game losing streak. It’s a stark contrast to the 1 game win streak the team is currently riding.

In this date in history, Michael Zannettis sent me this intelligent discourse on the Knicks of his era. Unfortunately I was out of town on business (that thing that allows me to collect money to pay for this thing), and the KnickerBlogger publishing group was on a team building exercise in the mountains of Nepal.

Mr. Zannettis is head of the KnickerBlogger.Net Biology department, ensuring that all employees of KB.N Industries do actually bleed orange & blue. So without further ado…]


mort (nyc): Okay, smart guy. Imagine this: Larry Brown gets fired and John Hollinger is named head coach of the Knicks. Oh, and Stephon Marbury just broke his leg. Who are your starting 5?

John Hollinger: (3:12 PM ET) Wouldn’t be MY dream job, that’s for sure. The obvious move in the frontcourt would be start Frye and Curry, bring Lee off the pine and forget the others. I’d have to play Crawford at point and if Q’s back felt OK would probably play he and Ariza at the wings, with heavy sprinklings of Jalen off the pine. Nate Robinson and Qyntel Woods could sop up whatever minutes are left over and take over for Q when the back acts up.

In the wake of the Davis-Rose trade a lot has been spoken of the luxury tax consequences of assuming Rose?s salary, but I share the sentiment of many Knicks fans in saying I could care less how much money James Dolan loses. Moreover, since their salary cap was already a hopeless situation going into next year, adding Rose does nothing to hurt the remote possibility that they might be under the cap in the summer of 2007. At that time the cages should be cleaned of such albatrosses as Allan Houston, Shandon Anderson, Jerome Williams, and Maurice Taylor. Three players who do not actually play on the team, and the fourth who shouldn?t.

Since the Knicks gave away their draft pick and they are nearly mathematically eliminated from the playoff picture, their record this year has no significance. However, that being said, it would still be nice to see the Knicks win some games. After all, we do like rooting for them.

So the question remains, what is the best rotation for the Knicks in terms of winning games this season (and next)? The conventional wisdom seems to state, at least according to Larry Brown?s resume, that playing rookies is an untenable option, since they are undeveloped and unproductive. Therefore Brown has been riding the more ostensibly reliable veterans?.um?wait. Only the problem is this logic does not apply to the 2006 Knicks. The rookies Brown has on the team are not named Darko or Delfino and are now already superior players to the ones in his rotation. Since Larry Brown did not follow Hollinger?s plan, his latest starting five was: 1, Jamal Crawford; 2, Quentin Richardson; 3, Jalen Rose; 4, Maurice Taylor; 5, Eddy Curry.

FRONTCOURT
This latest game was a microcosm of the entire season. When Curry ran into early foul trouble, he was replaced with resident worst free-agent signing of the year champion, Jerome James. If Brown wanted to bring in more front-line support he called on Malik Rose?s number 13, which is actually higher than his PER 8.9. The ineffectual trio of Taylor, Rose, and James played 51 minutes, while David Lee played less than 1, Frye played only 19 and Curry 23.

Let?s first examine the difference in production between David Lee & Channing Frye versus Maurice Taylor & Malik Rose, assuming that any rational observer can agree that James should not be beating out Herb Williams for the back-up center spot, much less the promising Jackie Butler.

Taylor scores more than Lee, but does so at a less efficient rate with more turnovers and less rebounds. Moreover, Lee has an Assist Ratio twice as high. In fact, if Lee keeps up his 14.0 rate, it would qualify as top-ten among NBA power forwards. All that being said, Taylor is still a superior player to Malik Rose, who has the same rebounding problems, but with an altogether new level of offensive incompetence. He shoots a woeful TS % 42.5, which is almost as bad as Darko last year, who couldn?t get off the end of Brown?s bench despite his implicit connections to Eastern European mobsters. And while Rose is a far worse player than Taylor, Frye is a far superior player to Lee. In fact, Frye?s rookie PER of 19.9 ranks 30th in the league. With such strong production, he is qualified to be a starter on every team in this league with the possible exception of Brown?s old team the Pistons.

Last year, Michael Sweetney?s lack of playing time caused temper fits from Knick fans fluent in statistical evaluation of performance. This year Lee and Frye are d?j? vu all over again. Once again, the Knicks simply do not seem to understand what they have on their hands. The fact that Frye and Lee are rookies is simply irrelevant on a team that currently has the league?s worst record. They are already better than aging veterans who have no roles in the Knicks? future.

Using Curry and Frye as starters with Lee off the bench, the Knicks can employ a rotation in structure congruent with Brown?s last team, the Detroit Pistons, who start Rasheed and Ben Wallace, then bring in Antonio McDyess off the bench to play power forward, moving the remaining player to center. Since both Frye and Curry can play center, Lee can be used in this way at power forward, a more natural position for him than the awkward small forward, where his inaccurate jump shot was a liability. Lee shoots an astronomically high percentage from the floor, albeit in his limited minutes, and one would think putting him into the post will deter too much regression to the mean, as he can employ more of his around the basket moves and less 15-foot line drives off the side of the backboard.

Finally, if this rotation leaves any stray minutes, they should go to Butler. In a rebuilding team filled with talented and promising rookies, there is no place for Taylor and Rose.

BACKCOURT
Marbury?s absence gives this author a modicum of pleasure to see how important he was to the ?competitiveness? of the Knicks. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. His continued inactiveness presents considerable problems for the Knicks? rotation.

While Crawford is a no-brainer at the point, Hollinger prefers Trevor Ariza over Qyntel Woods even though the latter is experiencing a resurgence in his second chance opportunity. Woods 15.3 PER is very respectable and superior to Ariza?s 10.7 PER. Nonetheless, Ariza was a burgeoning perimeter stopper before he was lost in Brown?s doghouse. That Trevor does not get along better with the coach is unfortunate for the young player?s development.

Conversely, Brown is certainly giving QRich ample opportunity to prove himself now that he is back in the Knicks? rotation. Nonetheless with QRich collecting bricks like he’s starting a construction company, it would seem he would be a more prudent benching. Perhaps much of his struggles should be attributed to rust and injury, but no matter the reason he?s still stinking up the joint. It?s admirable that he?s playing with heart, but a healthy Ariza should be getting his minutes. Using Woods and J. Rose, who both have average PERs and alternating Ariza for defensive assignments seems a more prudent course than currently relying on QRich.

In only two games with the Knicks, it is clear that J. Rose should be the primary ball-handler whenever he is on the court. This should alleviate Crawford?s bad shot tendency and Robinson?s turnover rampage, both which are wrecking havoc to the Knicks? offense. Therefore if Marbury ever returns, there is optimism that Knicks will no longer have to employ either Robinson or Crawford at the point. Considering that Robinson is not yet a competent rotation player, using him in a more limited role will improve the Knicks? competitiveness. In Hollinger?s scenario he would only receive sparse minutes when Crawford is sent to the bench, for a more reasonable ten minutes of energy off the bench.

All three swing spots, sans Marbury, are average at best, or rather, at worst. There is not one among them that even posts a 16 PER, but neither are they below 14 PER. Having no open sores in your starting line-up is more than can be said for many other teams around the league. Once Marbury returns, the Knicks can go eight players deep ? Marbury, J. Rose, Woods, Crawford, Lee, Curry, Frye, and Butler ? who post average PER or better. Conceivably, by eliminating Robinson and Richardson from the rotation, if the Knicks employed this line-up for a full-season without starting the season 19 games under .500, it would be more than reasonable to expect competition for a playoff berth. But just as importantly it would allow their rookies to receive the playing time they need to develop.