2009 Report Card: Eddy Curry

When the Knicks acquired Eddy Curry, he was supposed to be the future of the franchise. Although there were signs that he would never reach that level of play (namely every stat but fg% and pts/36), his size and flashes of scoring lead many to believe in his potential.

In 2009 Eddy Curry had his most disappointing season, playing a grand total of 12 minutes and scoring only 5 points. Immediately after the season ended, Curry vowed to get in shape, and immediately began twittering about his work out regimen. In the weeks since, his private trainer “leaked” that Curry lost 30 pounds, and Eddy appeared before the Knicks brass at the summer league. It appears that Curry is doing what he does best. He appeals to the optimist in Knick fans, while producing almost nothing.

Report Card (5 point scale):
Offense: 1
Defense: 1
Teamwork: 1
Rootability: -87
Performance/Expectations: 1

Grade: F

Similarity Scores:

I’ve decided to look at his 2008 season, since he barely played in 2009.

z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS% eFG% PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
.000 Eddy Curry 2008 NYK 15.0 .578 .546 18.4 2.6 6.5 0.8 0.3 0.7 3.0
.132 Craig Smith 2009 MIN 16.9 .599 .562 18.4 2.4 7.0 1.9 0.8 0.5 2.6
.161 Mike Jackson 1975 VIR 13.9 .584 .528 17.7 3.3 8.1 1.5 0.8 0.3 3.8
.171 Wayman Tisdale 1990 SAC 18.1 .565 .525 21.5 2.3 7.3 1.3 0.7 0.7 1.9
.172 Hakim Warrick 2008 MEM 16.2 .555 .512 17.5 2.5 7.3 1.1 0.7 0.6 1.7
.184 Armen Gilliam 1990 TOT 16.6 .565 .515 18.9 3.1 8.9 1.5 1.0 0.8 2.7
.184 Othella Harrington 1999 HOU 16.1 .559 .513 15.9 2.9 9.8 0.6 0.2 1.0 2.4
.185 Zan Tabak 1996 TOR 12.4 .554 .543 13.9 3.2 8.6 1.7 0.6 0.8 2.7
.196 Orlando Woolridge 1985 CHI 19.5 .608 .554 22.6 2.0 5.6 1.7 0.7 0.5 2.3
.198 Frank Card 1970 WSA 15.3 .556 .528 17.4 3.1 9.5 1.8     2.9
.198 Ike Diogu 2009 TOT 20.3 .611 .534 19.9 4.4 9.4 0.5 0.5 0.5 2.0

All of these players are 6-9 or shorter, except for 7 footer Zan Tabak. Curry is 6-11, but plays small due to his lack of rebounding & blocked shots. In this list Curry is the second worst rebounder, the worst passer, and second worst at coughing up the ball. There aren’t a lot of good players on this list, which speaks volumes for those aspects of Curry’s game. [And yes, Virginia had an ABA team.]

For fun I ran the similarity scores for Eddy Curry in 2005, his last year as a Bull. For irony’s sake I’ve included the 11th person. (Note Ike Diogu’s 2006’s season is the most similar to Curry, but I excluded it because in 2005 it wouldn’t have happened yet.) Not a whole lot of franchise centers here.

z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS% eFG% PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
.000 Eddy Curry 2005 CHI 16.3 .583 .538 20.2 2.3 6.7 0.7 0.4 1.2 3.2
.132 Bill Cartwright 1980 NYK 17.9 .608 .547 20.4 2.2 8.3 1.9 0.5 1.2 2.5
.152 Lorenzo Charles 1986 ATL 11.5 .587 .557 16.1 1.7 5.1 1.1 0.3 0.8 2.4
.170 Tom Chambers 1982 SDC 15.0 .553 .525 18.7 2.8 7.5 2.0 0.8 0.6 3.0
.183 Rasheed Wallace 1997 POR 18.4 .588 .565 17.8 2.3 8.0 1.4 0.9 1.1 2.2
.184 Joe Barry Carroll 1981 GSW 16.4 .534 .491 19.1 3.4 9.4 1.4 0.6 1.5 3.0
.200 Tim McCormick 1985 SEA 14.7 .606 .557 16.5 3.3 9.0 1.8 0.4 0.7 2.6
.209 Gary Trent 1997 POR 16.8 .569 .536 16.6 2.9 8.0 1.6 0.9 0.7 2.4
.214 Eric White 1988 LAC 15.2 .597 .536 18.2 3.2 6.3 0.9 0.7 0.3 2.1
.222 Walter Berry 1987 TOT 16.8 .561 .531 22.7 3.1 7.0 2.4 0.9 0.9 3.5
.224 John Wallace 1997 NYK 13.0 .571 .521 14.9 2.3 7.1 1.7 1.0 1.1 3.5
.229 Mike Sweetney 2005 NYK 16.4 .592 .531 15.5 4.0 10.0 1.0 0.6 0.7 2.6

KnickerBlogger Turns 5

This week marks the 5th anniversary of KnickerBlogger. When I started this venture, I didn’t imagine it would last this long. Five years ago, blogging was still in its infancy. There were less than 2 million blogs when KnickerBlogger came into existence. Just six months after, the number of blogs had doubled. Today it’s unknown how many blogs there are. One estimate is 200 million. Many of them are powered by individuals like myself.

More important than the number of blogs is the role they perform. Once derided by the mainstream media, just about every newspaper, magazine, and network hosts their own blog. They are now an essential part of the world’s information and entertainment. Blogs fill an important niche in the world. Previously the only avenue for the common man to voice his opinion was through those who held the keys to kingdom. Often his voice was not heard by the public. Blogs have taken the words of the everyman and projected them from the world’s tallest soap box.

Five years ago my goal with KnickerBlogger was to create a platform for those who felt their opinion was not represented in the mainstream. Judging by the other readers who come here to share their thoughts and my affiliation with True Hoop Network that allows me to bring these voices to the mainstream, it seems that I have succeeded. I can only wonder what KnickerBlogger will be in five more years.


To celebrate this anniversary, I’m announcing the KnickerBlogger Quinquennial Team. To assist in this matter, I’ve looked at the overall PER and the single season PER for that period.

Stephon Marbury, PG – As painful as it is to admit, Marbury has dominated the team in many ways during the lifespan of KnickerBlogger. As his career with the team comes nearer to it’s disappointing end, it’s hard to remember that he was a productive scorer early on. He has the highest single season PER (21.9 in 2005) as well as the highest PER (18.4) during the KnickerBlogger era. His defense was mediocre and his contract was suffocating, had the two been reversed he would have been a shoe in for the Hall of Fame.
Reserves: Chris Duhon, Nate Robinson, Frank Williams.

David Lee, PF – It may shock many to see Lee here, but those that have watched him play aren’t surprised that he’s been the second most productive Knick by PER standards over the last 5 years. Looking at things from a objective standpoint it’s hard to find a more deserving PF. Randolph’s PER is the same and his weaknesses are similar to Lee’s (blocked shots, defense). However, Lee has played 4000 more minutes while costing the team $10M less. After Randolph are Mike Sweetney and Kurt Thomas. Sweetney ate himself out of the league, and Thomas wasn’t nearly as productive on the offensive end. Of all the starters on this list, Lee is the one who is most likely to also appear on KnickerBlogger’s Decennial team as well.
Reserves: Zach Randolph, Kurt Thomas, Mike Sweetney.

Nazr Mohammed, C – Surprised it’s not Curry? Nazr played exactly 81 games for the Knicks in 2 seasons, and would rank 4th in Knicks PER over the KnickerBlogger era. Mohammed was a great offensive rebounder, pulling down 4.0/36 oreb/36. To put that in perspective that’s a higher rate than Lee’s career 3.6. During the Isiah era, Nazr was eventually replaced by Eddy Curry. Comparing the two, Nazr was outscored by Curry (19.2 to 13.7), but Curry did it with almost double the turnovers (3.5 to/36 to 2.0). Additionally Mohammed had nearly double the blocks (1.3 blk/36 to Curry’s 0.7), triple the steals (1.4 stl/36 to 0.4), and more rebounds (10.6 reb/36 to 7.4). With that in mind, it’s clear that Nazr deserves the nod here.
Reserves: Eddy Curry, Dikembe Mutombo.

Van Horn/Renaldo Balkman, SF Keith played only 47 games for New York, but he put up some good numbers while he was here. Van Horn was criticized for being a tweener that had trouble defending, but he rebounded well and scored efficiently. However Van Horn only played 1500 minutes for New York. That’s about as much as Al Harrington. If that’s too little for you, then Balkman is next on the PER list. Considering how PER doesn’t account well for defense, then it makes sense that he was probably unrepresented by his stats.

One note on Keith Van Horn: shortly after Isiah Thomas took over the team, he traded Keith Van Horn. At the time Van Horn was a popular player who had just been acquired that summer, so the trade felt hasty. Since then New York has suffered through instability at the small forward position, something I’ve called “the Curse of Keith Van Horn”. The list of small forwards since the Knicks jettisoned Van Horn: Anfernee Hardaway, DerMarr Johnson, Tim Thomas, Trevor Ariza, Shandon Anderson, Jerome Williams, Matt Barnes, Jalen Rose, Ime Udoka, Qyntel Woods, Jared Jeffries, Quentin Richardson, Renaldo Balkman, and Wilson Chandler. Hopefully the curse will be broken in 2010
Reserves: Tim Thomas, Junk Yard Dog.

Jamal Crawford, SG – The default pick, since there really haven’t been many other shooting guards in recent Knick history. Robinson is the only other one that merits any mention. Crawford can drive Golden State fans crazy for the next few years.
Reserves: Nate Robinson

Lenny Wilkens, Coach – I’d like to choose D’Antoni, but he’s only been around for a half season. Wilkens got the team to the playoffs until they tuned him out a year later. In retrospect that should have signified there was something wrong behind the scenes. In his latter years, Wilkens was an adequate coach, which says a lot about the coaches the Knicks have had over the last 5 years.

Most Minutes 5: Curry, Lee, Richardson, Crawford, Marbury
Least Minutes 5: Trybanski, Randolph Morris, Matt Barnes, Jamison Brewer, Jermaine Jackson

Best Defensive 5: Mutumbo, Kurt Thomas, Balkman, Ariza, Frank Williams
Worst Defensive 5: Curry, Randolph, Jalen Rose, Crawford, Marbury

Drafted 5: Frye, Lee, Balkman, Ariza, Nate
Toughest 5: Kurt Thomas, Balkman, Collins, Robinson, Frank Williams

Best Shooting 5: David Lee, Tim Thomas, Van Horn, Nate, Marbury
Worst Shooting 5: Bruno Sundov, Malik Rose, Balkman, Shanderson, Collins

All Name 5: Cezary Trybanski, Othella Harrington, Qyntel Woods, Anfernee Hardaway, Moochie Norris
Scrappiest 5: David Lee, Jerome Williams, Renaldo Balkman, Jermaine Jackson, Frank Williams

If I had to choose a Starting 5 from this era: Nazr, Lee, Balkman, Robinson, Duhon.
Reserves: Mutombo, Van Horn, Ariza, Sweetney, Frank Williams, Gallinari, Chandler.
Coach: D’Antoni

It’s sad but I think this is the best the Knicks could do combining all the players over the last 5 years. I’ve left Marbury off for obvious reasons. New York would have a tremendous rebounding starting lineup, with enough balance of offense & defense on the bench. If you wanted, you could substitute Randolph or Kurt Thomas for Sweetney. But this being KnickerBlogger, I thought it’d be good to give the guy a second chance. The same goes for Frank Williams, who is playing well enough in the NBDL to get another shot at the NBA. Gallinari & Chandler make the list because of their youth. If this team were looking at a title, then I might choose Tim Thomas and Crawford. But I think this is a .500 team that will need some youth.

Is This Worse Than Any Isiah Trade?

It is now official, Shaquille O’Neal has been dumped traded to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks. I think we all, more or less, agree that this is a horrible trade for the Suns, trading the better, younger player on a team with the best record in the Western Conference for an older, worse player who, as a kicker, is not just injury prone, but currently injured.

What I wonder, though, is this such a bad trade that it is even worse than any Isiah trade? Read More

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.

The Knicks Could Take A Lesson From Sci-Fi

“We’ve made too many compromises already. Too many retreats. They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!”
Jean-Luc Piccard

I’m not angry or upset at the Knicks latest deal. But I’m not jumping for joy when I think about it. I’m left indifferent to Isiah’s new deal, kinda like Jerramy Stevens’ hands to a well-thrown football. It’s no secret that New York could use a small forward to end the Keith Van Horn curse. Since they sent the high-socked spiked-haired one packing, Van Horn’s successors at small forward have all been disasters. Tim Thomas suddenly turned into tiny-Tim, Jerome Williams fell victim to a rule not even named after him, Trevor Ariza is playing like a 20 year old, Quentin Richardson is playing like a 25 year old with a 40 year old’s back, and Penny Hardaway is playing with himself (since he’s not on the team he has to practice by himself – you perverts!).

It’s certainly possible that Jalen Rose can end this curse. Rose is a multi-skilled offensive player, who can handle the ball from the 3 spot and provide a little bit of scoring. New Yorkers might remember when Jalen Rose torched the Knicks for 20 second half points in a 2005 Raptor victory. The Knicks have had problems finding a backup ball handler, a problem only exacerbated by the injury to Marbury. Although the Knicks still need a backup point guard, Rose’s ability to play point-forward will help the team in that respect. He could be the small forward they’ve been looking for all season, and his ability to run the offense might take the pressure off of Crawford & Robinson. The extra year on the deal doesn’t hurt anyone except James Dolan’s accountant, and if there is anyone who can turn a mid-late first into gold it’s Isiah Thomas.

On the other hand, Rose might go the way of the last 5 small forwards who donned the blue & orange. Even in his Pacer heyday, Jalen was a good but not great offensive player. While Rose is a skilled passer for a swingman, he still coughs it up a decent amount, and the last thing the Knicks need is more turnovers. Or maybe the last thing the Knicks need is another porous defender. If that wasn’t enough, Rose is a bit of a head case, ranking about a 5 on the 10 point Artest scale. Rose has complained about playing time, and only have to look at the Knicks bench to see how far those with a skewed sense of entitlement get with Coach Brown. When Marbury comes back and demands the ball in his hands, will an unhappy Rose do a Johnny Cash impersonation and show up dressed in black? Or maybe Larry Brown will get fed up when Jalen allows one too many opponents a closer look at the rim. As for the draft pick, maybe Isiah’s luck runs out? Or maybe he gets another Robinson or Lee: that is a nice role player, but no one that will change the franchise.

So while we wait for the Jalen Rose experience to play out, the question that keeps popping in my mind is “is this how it’s going to be for the next few years?” Are the Knicks going to cash in expiring deals for longer contracts of the league’s unwanted mediocre players? I have the bad feeling that next year I’m going to be writing another blog about the Maurice Taylor/Theo Ratliff trade. The year after, Malik Rose for Wally Szczerbiak.

And my feelings are warranted. The Knicks sent Camby for McDyess, and McDyess for Marbury. They sent Keith Van Horn for Tim Thomas, and Thomas for Curry. Othella Harrington for Jamal Crawford. Kurt Thomas for Quentin Richardson. At the time of each deal, it would have been hard to argue that the Knicks didn’t get the better player. However taken as a whole the deals have extended New York’s stay in salary cap hell. The aftermath has left fans in some kind of rooting purgatory, where we concede any hopes of being seriously competitive both now and in the near future. The Knicks are stuck in a vicious cycle of absorbing salary to get better, but not being able to get better because of those long term contracts. Since the last Finals team fell apart, New York has been a skipping record, waiting for someone to move the needle. Watching the Knick franchise is like watching one of their games. When the Knicks are down by 18 in the 3rd & claw their way back to a single point deficit I don’t say to myself “that’s great they’re coming back!” Instead I ponder “why are they always losing & playing from behind?” And that’s exactly how I feel about the direction this team is in.

I know rebuilding takes time, but then again I’m not sure if this is rebuilding. Isiah didn’t inherit an ideal situation, but he’s only addressed the issue of youth. The Knicks are still capped out. The Knicks are still on the red side of the ledger when it comes to draft picks. And the Knicks still don’t seem to understand that it’s important to get players that can defend. The Jalen Rose trade is a good example of this, of the 4 things the Knicks sorely need to move forward as a franchise, the only long term benefit is the draft pick. If New York is serious about rebuilding eventually somebody, whether it be Dolan, Isiah, or whoever is the GM, is going to have to draw a line in the sand and say this salary cap nonsense ends here.

Four Players That Need More Time

In today’s article, I’ll identify 4 guys who were productive last year, but didn’t see enough minutes from their team. All of them are big men, and two have been playing well for two or more seasons now.

Dan Gadzuric

By definition, the league average for John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is 15. Last year despite only playing 22 minutes per game, Gadzuric managed a PER of 18.5. The next person on the list was Michael Redd. Ironically Redd just received a 6 year $90M+ contract from the Bucks, while Gadzuric will play for the same 6 years, but for $54M less. Doesn’t seem fair does it? Just the other day, the APBRmetric board was discussing this very topic. That is that teams tend to overpay for guys with good pts/g, and that if a Moneyball type executive wanted to exploit the NBA, this would be good place to start.

If given a fair chance, he could easily step in & start for 20 teams in the NBA. Maybe even 25 teams. While I have no delusions that Gadzuric would be an All Star, it seems a waste in a league where centers are at a premium. Just looking back over the last few years of free agency, mediocre 7 footers like Foyle, Dampier, and Olowokandi have received big deals for little production. Meanwhile, Dan has posted a PER above 17 for two straight years. An athletic player, he can hit the glass at both ends of the court, block shots, and come up with a steal. Gadzuric shoots at or above 50%, and has cut back on his fouls to a level where he could easily play 30-35 minutes a game. With the arrival of #1 overall pick Bogut, the Bucks may not need Dan more than the 22 minutes a game that they gave him last year. It’s a shame, because given quality minutes, this guy could really shine.

Al Jefferson

Just go to a Celtics forum, and mention the words “trade” and “Jefferson” in the same sentence. You might see some replies like:

heff: “blasphemy!”
Big Al: “Jefferson is basically the only untouchable player on the team right now”
Jahwei: “Another reminder. Kids, don’t do drugs.”

Well you get the picture. Despite 2005 being Jefferson’s first year in the league, and receiving only 15 minutes a game, he still put up a PER of 16.6. Oh and remember this kid can’t kick back with a beer after the game until January, unless David Stern decides to play the Celtics home opener in Tijuana. As most youngling that enter the league, Jefferson was prone to turnovers and fouls. Considering that he can work on those numbers, he’ll be an asset for the Celtics next year. Jefferson is a fine rebounder, and ranked 19th in John Hollinger’s rebounding rate last year (with the above mentioned Gadzuric being 2nd). Doc Rivers was critical of Jefferson’s defense last year, which limited his minutes. If Al can hustle during preseason and get on his coach’s good side, Rivers might loosen the apron strings and be pleasantly surprised with the results he gets.

Mike Sweetney

How much longer will Mike be on these lists? Do I have to show up in the Garden with a “Free Mike Sweetney” sign? The guy had a 17.2 PER in his first year, despite spending the first few weeks on the IR behind such NBA luminaries like Clarence Weatherspoon and Othella Harrington. Still the Knicks only played him in 11 minutes per game. The year after Sweetney posts a 16.4 PER, despite playing against taller opponents at the five. Still the Knicks limit his minutes to under 20, whether or not he’s performing well.

Even this summer, with the Knicks trading Kurt Thomas, Sweetney’s hold on the PF position is tenuous. He’s been rumored to be traded for everyone from Antoine Walker to Kwame Brown. In last year’s Basketball Forecast, John Hollinger wrote “a good way to judge if the Knicks know what they’re doing is to see how long it takes for Sweetney to take Kurt Thomas’ job.” For this year’s book, Hollinger would be smart to copy & paste the same quote in, because a year later the Knicks still might not have figured out what they have. New York still has a glut of PFs, and it’s possible that Herb trots out Malik Rose, Jerome Williams, and Maurice Taylor often enough to limit Sweetney’s minutes again. However if given the chance to play 30 minutes a night, Big Mike will be a nice sleeper for those in fantasy basketball leagues that are looking for a double-double power forward.

Nick Collison

In 2003, just three picks after New York nabbed Mike Sweetney, the SuperSonics drafted Collison. Unfortunately the pick didn’t pay immediate dividends for Seattle, as Collison missed the season with surgery on both shoulders. Last year he rebounded back from his injuries, and had a PER of 15.0.

Collison took advantage of the Sonics open offense, and shot nearly 54%. Add to that an ability to draw contact, where he had a true shooting percentage of 57%, the same as Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard. Another reason to like Collison is that he upped his game during the playoffs. During the season he scored at a rate of 15.9 pts/48 minutes, but during the playoffs that average went up to 20.3. Getting more playing time next year shouldn’t be an issue for Nick. Seattle lost center Jerome James, and you never know what’s going to happen with volatile Danny Fortson.

Bulls 88 Knicks 86

It hit me watching today’s Bulls-Knicks game, that these two teams couldn’t be more different. They are twilight zone-esque mirror images of each other. I’m sure somewhere out there, Jordan’s Knicks defeated Ewing’s Bulls with the requisite Star Trek goatees denoting the presence of an alternate universe. The Garden organ playing the infamous star trek fight music.

On the court the Bulls sport the NBA’s second best defense, while the Knicks are ranked a lowly 26th. Chicago relied on their two big men, Chandler and Curry, whose four blocked shots don’t adequately reflect the intimidation and presence they applied in the paint. The Knicks had their problems scoring inside. Marbury had a drive blocked and recovered by one of the Bulls. Nazr Mohammed was embarrassed when his clear-path-to-the-rim-I’m-going-to-jam-it-with-one-hand was forcefully rejected.

On the other hand, the Knicks starting big men had a total of one block. The Bulls scored from the paint time and time again, where they held a 38 to 26 point advantage. Chicago sealed the game with two big plays. Nocioni grabbed a rebound with less than 20 seconds left, and was fouled which setup the Bulls last play. Gordan used a pick and roll, and was left with a match-up against PF Mike Sweetney. The slower Knick kept up with the quicker guard, but Gordan still managed a high arcing shot no more than 10 feet away from the hoop to give Chicago the victory. Giving up two big plays inside at the most critical point of the game underscores my point. The Knicks just don’t have the personnel nor the scheme to stop their opponents from close range.

Everything the Bulls did on defense was what the Knicks fail to do night in and night out. Duhon fought through screens all game to disrupt the Knicks’ pick & roll. It’s been so long since a Knick guard did that, I thought maybe the NBA had made a rule against it. Even when the Knicks were able to get past their defender, the Bulls had one or two help defenders converge on the play. The Knicks were forced to counter with an outside attack. After Marbury, 3 of their next 4 scorers were perimeter players: K. Thomas, Houston, and Crawford.

From the opening tip, one match-up showed exactly how different the two teams are. The bulky veteran Jerome Williams matched up against the skinny teenage rookie Luol Deng. The Junk Yard Dog will earn $5.6M this year, more than any Bull who played tonight. In fact today there were 7 Knicks who earn more than the Bulls’ richest participant tonight: Tyson Chandler. New York’s starters average age was 30, while their opponents were a youthful 24. And that’s including the 31 year old Othella Harrington who only played for a quarter.

After getting swept in back-to-back games by their mirror-image, the Knick organization is going to have to take a hard look at itself. The players should wonder why they aren’t able to play tough man to man defense like their opponents did. The coaching staff is going to wonder why their defensive rotations don’t go as smoothly as the other team’s. The front office might wonder why their roster doesn’t have many young, cheap, and athletic defenders. Hopefully the Knicks can learn something from looking across court and seeing what they are not.