Will Amare miss Game 5?

I think we, as Knick fans, have a particularly interesting view of this situation, as we saw the 1996-97 season go down the drain when Patrick Ewing, Allan Houston, Larry Johnson and John Starks all left the bench during PJ Brown’s altercation with Charlie Ward, leading to the players getting suspended for Game 6 (Ewing and Houston) and Game 7 (Johnson and Starks).

So, will the NBA give the same stiff punishment to Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw? Or will they hide behind the silly explanation that “it wasn’t a real fight, so it doesn’t count.”? Or will they just say, “The rule is dumb, so we’re just not going to follow it?”

Rod Thorn made the call 10 years ago, but it is Stu Jackson’s call now – what do you think he will do?

KnickerBlogger’s Anti-Tank Idea

The NBA’s dirty little secret is out, and everyone knows that teams are intentionally losing games down the stretch. Franchises that have been eliminated from the playoffs and held on to their pick (sorry Knick fans) can reward themselves by losing games down the stretch. And I can’t say I blame them. Athletes are trained from day 1 that winning is the ultimate goal (right Herm?) and a lot of players will resort to just about any means that accomplishes that goal. I’m sure Knick fans aren’t outraged when Malik Rose gets a handful of jersey when he performs his “pull the chair out from under the guy” routine. While an illegal move, if he can get away with it, Rose would be foolish not to keep it in his repertoire. The same goes for the league’s franchises. Would Milwaukee or Memphis or Boston be doing their team a disservice by trying to win down the stretch, when they can put an inferior lineup on the floor? Yes, as long as they can get away with it.

There has been some discussion in the media about possible solutions. One idea, which I think Mike Wilbon of PTI fame has been touting, would be to give all non-playoff teams an equal chance at the lottery (or the “one team one envelope” rule). The downside to this solution is that teams that really need help may not get it, which is antithetical to the draft’s purpose. Imagine if the Clippers or Pacers landed that #1 overall pick this year, while Boston or Memphis sat at #14. A team could finish in last place for 3 straight seasons, and would only have a 51% of getting one top 3 pick (for those scoring with a calculator at home that equation is 1-[11/14]^3). Not only would this solution cause an imbalance in the league, but it would give conspiracy theorists something else to harp on. To this day there are people convinced that Patrick Ewing to the Knicks was an NBA orchestrated event.

Bill Simmons has proposed a tournament where the top 6 teams in each conference are guaranteed playoff spots, and everyone else plays for those last remaining playoffs spots. It’s an interesting concept, but it’s just as easy to circumvent. No one in their right mind would think that if Boston or Memphis won a mini-tournament, they could go on and take the Pistons or Mavs in 7. So this doesn’t really address the problem. Why would a team risk losing a franchise player like Durant or Oden in order to have the privilege of getting spanked by the first or second seed? Teams will be tanking games in the tournament just as they would if it were a regular season game. In fact they would only have to purposely lose one game with this method.

Other solutions include handing out fines to teams that tank, shortening the season, and eliminating the lottery altogether. David Stern’s office could fine teams that are throwing games, but this would be a hard rule to enforce. Often teams have players fake injuries, and disproving something like knee tendinitis would be impossible (right Steve?). And an eliminated team could say they’re trying to give extra playing time to their end of bench guys. Shortening the season would take revenue from both the players and owners, so that option is out the window. And removing the lottery would just exacerbate the problem. In fact that’s what the lottery was created for in the first place, so that teams wouldn’t tank down the stretch.

So what’s a league to do? Here is a fool proof solution: set the lottery order earlier in the season, like at the All Star Game. In other words take a snapshot of the standings at the the All Star break and use that as a basis for the lottery. Obviously only the teams that fail to make the playoffs will participate in the lottery. The only teams that this might give an advantage to are teams like the Sixers who have a good second half. But then again, that’s what we want bad teams to do, win games down the stretch (and Philly was trying to rebuild with the Iverson trade). No team is going to start the season losing, because attendance is linked to winning percentage. And also they might have a Cinderella team in the making (2005 Sonics, I’m looking at you), which would net them profit due to a playoff series (7 games series means that both teams get at least 2 home games).

Below is a chart with the lottery team’s All Star Game ranking (ASG), and their end of season ranking (EOS).

ASG Rank EOS Rank Team
11 20 Indiana Pacers
16 24 Minnesota Timberwolves
17 17 Los Angeles Clippers
18 18 New Orleans Hornets
21 22 New York Knicks
22 21 Sacramento Kings
23 25 Portland Trail Blazers
24 27 Atlanta Hawks
25 26 Seattle SuperSonics
26 23 Charlotte Bobcats
27 28 Milwaukee Bucks
28 19 Philadelphia 76ers
29 30 Memphis Grizzlies
30 29 Boston Celtics

The Eddy Curry Study, Pt. II

It’s only been 12 games, but it looks like Knicknation has turned on Eddy Curry. Posts on various message boards show New Yorkers’ disdain for their “center of the future.” At UltimateKnicks, a post was titled “I’m done with Curry….” and it was met with no resistance. One Knicks4Life poster started a thread two weeks ago called “The Eddy Curry Watch” and went from the opinion “Got to admit, he looked pretty good out there” to “I’m done defending Curry” in two weeks. Even on RealGM, where the hardcore optimists take up residence, posts are proclaiming “Curry has got to go.

However there are still a few people that are still optimistic on Curry’s future.

“We’re not asking Eddy to dominate the league at 23 years of age. That’s a tall task for anyone. I don’t remember too many 23-year-olds coming in and dominating, regardless of how long they’ve been in the league. Twenty-three is still 23.”

You might expect that quote to come from a body-painted rabid Knick fan on a message board, but instead those words come from Knicks President & Coach Isiah Thomas. That quote comes from the New York Daily News along with this tidbit:

Still, [Isiah] has made a Ewing-esque guarantee about Curry’s future, and yesterday named some other top-tier big men in arguing that the sixth-year pro will take as long as they did to develop. Those names included Yao, Jermaine O’Neal – whom Thomas acquired and coached in Indiana – and one guy whose number hangs from the Garden rafters.

“I saw Patrick Ewing in the gym (Saturday) night,” Thomas said. “I remember Patrick at 23. Do you remember what the Knicks’ record was when Patrick was 23? … I’m just saying, it takes awhile.”

While I don’t expect Isiah to badmouth one of his own players, I don’t think Thomas should expect Knick fans to swallow his words hook, line & sinker. Let’s look at the facts and discuss whether Eddy Curry is similar to Jermaine O’Neal, Yao Ming, and Patrick Ewing? Curry turns 24 in a couple of weeks, which means last year he was 23 for a majority of last season. So let’s look at our 4 players at the age of 23:

Ewing  20.0 pts, 22.5 pts/40, 47.4% efg, 52.6% ts%
O'Neal 19.0 pts, 20.2 pts/40, 48.0% efg, 52.1% ts%
Y.Ming 17.5 pts, 21.3 pts/40, 52.2% efg, 58.6% ts%
CURRY  13.6 pts, 21.0 pts/40, 53.8% efg, 58.3% ts%

Curry’s scoring and shooting percentages are right up there with the other three, only his points per game lags behind. Since that’s a function of his minutes, let’s look at some of his other stats to see why he’s not getting the playing time the other 3 received. We’ll use the stats per 40 minutes to even things out, since the minutes per game are radically different between the 4.

OTHER STATS (per 40 minutes)
Ewing  10.2 REB, 2.3 BLK, 3.9 TO, 4.3 PF
O'Neal 11.2 REB, 2.5 BLK, 2.6 TO, 4.0 PF
Y.Ming 10.9 REB, 2.3 BLK, 3.0 TO, 4.1 PF
Curry   9.2 REB, 1.2 BLK, 3.8 TO, 5.1 PF

It’s clear from the fouls that Eddy can’t get more minutes, however it’s not just the fouls that keeps Curry on the bench. He lags behind all 3 in rebounding, blocked shots, and fouls. Only Ewing’s high turnover rate keeps Eddy from running the table. Curry’s blocked shot rate is especially damning. The Knicks current center’s blocks shots at half the rate of the others. This confirms eye witness testimony of Eddy’s poor defense. From these numbers, it’s obvious that Curry is poor in areas vital to the center position, which is the primary reason he doesn’t receive more minutes.

Curry’s backers say that his poor defense, high foul rate, & lack of rebounding are a factor of his age. Unfortunately this statement is in direct contradiction of the evidence above. Ewing, Yao, and Jermaine O’Neal were all good rebounders, had their fouls under control, and were dominant in the paint even at the tender age of 23.

Thanks to basketball-reference.com, we have another way to judge a player’s potential. Similarity scores look at a player’s stats, then finds other players that had similar numbers. For example if you wanted to know if Chris Paul is likely to be good, one way would be to look at the players that were most similar to him. Good news for Hornet fans, as Paul’s most similar are Stephon Marbury, Mike Bibby, Isiah Thomas, and Gilbert Arenas. Meanwhile Garnett’s comparables at age 23 predicted a Hall of Fame career: Bird, Duncan, Webber, and Ewing. And how do our four players match up?

Most Similar at Age 23
Ewing: Jermaine O'Neal, Keith Van Horn, Pau Gasol, Derrick Coleman, Tim Duncan
O'Neal: Patrick Ewing, Pau Gasol, Derrick Coleman, Bryant Reeves, Shawn Kemp
Y.Ming: Ralph Sampson, Rik Smits, Pau Gasol, Jermaine O'Neal, Georghe Muresan
Curry: Jeff Ruland, Mitch Kupchak, Sharone Wright, Jamaal Magloire, Leon Douglas

At 23 years old Ewing, O’Neal, and Ming compared to All Stars and/or players that were very good early in their career. On the other hand, Curry’s most comparables leave a lot to be desired. The one thing they have in common is they were all washed up by the age of 28.

For those that aren’t into statistical methods, there are still other ways to judge a player’s value.

Awards by the age of 23
Ewing: All Star, Rookie of the Year, All Rookie Team
O'Neal: All Star, Most Improved Player, All NBA Team (3rd)
Y.Ming: All Star, Rookie of the Year, All Rookie Team
Curry: None

Just as the statistics predicted, Patrick Ewing, Jermaine O’Neal, and Yao Ming were acknowledged by their peers for their fine play. All three became All Stars before the age of 24, and all three were given some other award. And again Curry is the odd man out, lacking in any kind of hardware.

So what do all these facts tell us? First that Curry’s age isn’t an excuse for his lack of development. Just using the players Isiah chose, we’re able to show that 23 year olds can play at a high level. Ewing went to a four year college, Yao Ming came form another country, and Jermaine O’Neal skipped college. Despite coming to the NBA from different routes, all three made their mark by the age of 23. Second Curry’s lack of college experience isn’t an excuse either. Just like Curry, O’Neal came to the NBA out of high school. Before age 23, Jermaine O’Neal played in only 5076 minutes compared to Curry’s 6683. Despite Curry having a season’s worth of minutes over O’Neal, Jermaine was the one to become an All Star. But O’Neal isn’t the only player to accomplish this. Dwight Howard is only 21, and is poised to become one of the East’s best centers. Toronto’s Chris Bosh appeared in his first All Star game at age 21. While Isiah Thomas might be throwing out names like Ewing, Yao, and Jermaine to make Curry sound like a promising young player, it’s clear no matter how you look at it that Eddy Curry will not become a “league-leading center.”

The Eddy Curry Study

“There is real hope that Eddy will develop into a league-leading center,” (Knicks owner James) Dolan said. “If you watched the second quarter of the San Antonio game he was pretty good. That’s Larry’s job … to get him from one quarter to four quarters.”
New York Daily News
March 02, 2006

Whether it’s due to the variety of cultures or the sheer number of inhabitants, New Yorkers rarely agree on anything. However, thanks to James Dolan & the Knicks front office, 2006 has given New Yorkers a topic all can agree upon: The New York Knicks suck. While Big Apple residents often have the propensity to overstate their cases, it’s hard to be a contrarian on this issue. At 17 wins and 44 losses, New York is dead last in the NBA standings. Additionally the Knicks have the NBA’s worst salary cap situation. Not only do they currently have the league’s highest salary, but they continue to trade for and sign players to exorbitant long term contracts.

Since their 2000 season ended, the boys in blue & orange have been in a slow & steady decline. It’s no coincidence that the Knicks demise is accompanied by two major events that left them absent of a quality big man. Patrick Ewing was traded to Seattle in the summer of 2000, and Marcus Camby was sent packing over a year later. While I’m not obtuse enough to think that you need a dominant center to win in the NBA, New York’s most successful teams have been lead by the man in the middle. The 70s Knicks wouldn’t have been the same without Willis Reed. Patrick Ewing kept the team afloat in the 80s and 90s. And Marcus Camby almost catapulted them to an improbable Finals victory in 2000. Since then, the Knicks have attempted to fill this void with undersized power forwards like Kurt Thomas and Mike Sweetney. New York’s only playoff appearance in this period was when they had a serviceable (but past his prime) Dikembe Mutombo roaming the paint.

It’s probably these kinds of thoughts Isiah Thomas had in his head when he signed Eddy Curry for 6 years and $60M. Curry is only 23 years old, and at a listed 6’11 285lbs is no undersized power forward. There is no doubt that once Curry releases the ball, he is an able scorer. In David Crockett’s last KB.Net article, he said of Curry:

You can count nine centers with better offensive production (Shaq, Duncan, both Wallaces, Ilgauskas, Brad Miller, Zo, Okur, and Gadzuric), and all but Gadzuric are a good bit older than Curry.

And this is where the opinions of Curry begin to diverge. Although he doesn’t lack the ability to score, it’s the other aspects of the game that elude Eddy. He seems disinterested on the defensive end, is a timid defensive rebounder, and turns the ball over too often. When Isiah Thomas decided to pursue Eddy Curry, he must have thought that these attributes would change. In fact the quote above shows that the Knicks owner, James Dolan, feels the same way. But is this true? How likely is it that New York’s present center will become their center of the future?

To answer a question like this, we just need to look in the past. To find players similar to Mr. Curry, I limited myself to 23 year olds who were 6’10 or taller. I also limited myself to the last 25 years, or what I would term the modern era of the NBA (1980 or since). This is due to the changes in the game including the ABA/NBA merger, the three point line, gaps in statkeeping (blocks, steals, turnovers), etc. Using this information, we can gauge how likely it is for Curry to become a more productive player. If we look at 23 year old players whose defensive rebounding rates were close to Curry’s (5.0 & 6.2 DREB/40 min) we find that after 3 years those same players on average saw a meager increase of 0.5 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes. Optimists will find comfort in the knowledge that there were a few players who started out as timid as Eddy, and turned into excellent rebounders.

Marcus Camby was an awful rebounder for the Toronto Raptors, which is probably the reason they traded him to New York. In his first two years he averaged 5.5 and 5.3 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes. In New York, his rates steady increased until blossoming as a full time starter in 2001. That year Marcus averaged 9.9 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes, nearly double his average in Toronto. Another player who went from hyalophobe to hyalophile is Jayson Williams. Like Camby, in his first two seasons Williams showed a fear of glass for the Sixers. And just like Marcus, Jayson nearly doubled his defensive rebounding by age 26, snaring 10.0 DREB/40min.

Camby and Williams show that it’s not impossible for Curry to become a strong rebounder. However if you’re going to start to tout Curry as a future All Star, you might want to preface your statement with something to the effect of being a blind optimist who will be winning the lotto in the near future. By looking at defensive rebounding averages of all players from age 23 to 36 (see graph below), players will hit their peak around the age of 27 and begin to decline at around 32. From this data it might be reasonable to incur that Curry will be at best a league average rebounder for a man of his size, and at worst remain a poor rebounder.

By using this same technique, we can also analyze his turnover and blocked shot rate. The next two charts reveal that both turnovers and blocked shots decrease steadily as a player ages. That turnovers decrease is a good sign for the Knicks, since it’s a major weakness in Curry’s game. As poster NGLI pointed out, the Knicks young center is prone to being stripped due to keeping the ball too low and is called for offensive charging by bowling over his defenders. If Eddy can improve on his career 3.3 TO/40 minutes, it’d make him a legitimate offensive option, one the Knicks can feed into the post without effectively giving the other team the ball in the process. As for blocked shots, it looks as if it’s a skill a player either has or does not have. I did eyeball a few of the league’s best shot swatters, and their rates do increase. Nonetheless for everyone else it’s just a skill that erodes as a player gets older.

Armed with this data it’s clear that Eddy Curry will remain a “Baby Shaq” and never become the real deal. The safe money is that he should be able to reduce his turnovers enough to become an offensively productive center. Unfortunately he’ll never be strong on the defensive end, either in rebounding or blocking shots. Now is this the definition of a “league-leading center” that the Knicks front office had in mind when they gave away a couple of first round picks and signed Curry to $60M? That’s something New Yorkers can debate about for the next few years.

One Year And One Week

A year and a week ago, the Knicks had hit their worst stride since the Patrick Ewing era. New York was expected to compete for the playoffs, and actually spent a good portion of 2004 in first place in the East. Unfortunately 2005 wasn’t as kind. The Knicks lost 9 of their first 10 games, going from a healthy 16-13 to a wavering 17-22. With the team in shambles and desperate for a change, New York needed someone to take blame for failing to meet expectations. On January 22nd, Lenny Wilkens fell on the axe, and resigned as the New York Knicks coach.

Fast forward a year and a week, and the situation is eerily similar. Patrolling the Knicks sideline is a win-now coach in Larry Brown. The Knicks revamped their team in the offseason with a mix of veterans (Antonio Davis, Quentin Richardson) and youngins (Curry, Frye, Lee, Robinson) to make them competitive this year. The Knicks weren’t expected to unseat the Pistons or Heat, but they were so sure that they’d be out of the lottery that they gave away two first round picks without any restrictions. Just like a year ago, New York has failed to meet expectations. Again the Knicks have lost 9 of their last 10 games. And again it’s time to find a fall guy.

However this year, unless Larry Brown has changed his opinion on his dream job, he isn’t handing in a letter of resignation. Unlike Wilkens, Brown isn’t a relic of yesteryear, trying to hold on to his last chance at an NBA coaching job. Long Island Larry is coming off back to back Finals appearances. He isn’t in New York accepting a charity position. Brown is the real thing.

The Knicks can’t blame the players for their woes. This season’s 14-30 record isn’t the fault of Stephon Marbury. You just have to look at the three games the Knicks played without him for proof of that. It’s not Jamal Crawford or Nate Robinson’s fault for being unable to play the point in Marbury’s stead, because they’re not made for that role. It’s not Eddy Curry’s fault for not being able to play defense, rebound, or cut down his turnovers, because that’s what he was before he got here. It’s not Jerome James’ fault for having a few good playoff games. Even if you disagree and would like to blame the roster, they’re not going to be the fall guy, because you can’t trade any of them. No one is going to take Jerome James for 5 years. No one is going to want Eddy Curry, who can’t manage to play more than 27 minutes a game, despite his backups being Davis, James, and Butler. Nobody is going to want Quentin Richardson, who’s so detached from his former self I swear he’s suffering from basketball amnesia. Somebody might want Marbury, but that loser tag that’s been slapped on him since New Jersey makes his value lower with each loss.

So you can’t use the coach as the scapegoat. You can’t use the players. And the owner isn’t going to fire himself. Knick fans that are looking for a sacrifice to offer to the basketball gods have one person left to roast: Isiah Thomas. There is no one else to blame this mess on. While he didn’t walk into an ideal situation, it’s undeniable that he’s made his share of mistakes. Every single person on this roster was picked by Isiah. The coach was picked by Isiah. Every single draft pick owed is because of Isiah. There’s no one else to blame. If New York was 30-14 instead, I’d be here praising the Knicks’ president for his work. But you’re only as good as your record, and the Knicks have the third worst record in the league. Someone has to be responsible for this mess, and like an election in Cuba, there is only one legitimate candidate.

Knicks 2006 Preview Part I

Center: This is one area that the Knicks have certainly upgraded. While Nazr Mohammed filled the position reasonably well last year, his departure left a 6’10 foot void in the middle of Knicks’ lineup. Herb Williams did the best he could with a rotation of Mike Sweetney, Kurt Thomas, Malik Rose, Maurice Taylor, and any fan 6’7 or taller willing to don a uniform for a few minutes.

This year Knick fans should notice an instant transformation at the 5. When the Knicks acquired Curry, the press was quick to compare him to Patrick Ewing, but I was reminded of another young Knick center. Marcus Camby arrived in New York in a controversial summer deal. Both players were former high lottery picks, with health issues, whose previous teams had soured on them, and were brought over in controversial summer trades. If Gothamites are looking for a bright comparison, it would be fantastic if Curry’s could break out for New York like Camby did years ago.

There is one problem with comparing Curry to either Ewing or Camby. Both of the former Knick centers excelled at rebounding & defense. In the 2006 Basketball Forecast, John Hollinger said that Curry was among the 5 worst rebounding centers in the league, meanwhile Dan Rosenbaum had him ranked as the 5th worst defensive center in the league. Watching him during the preseason, Curry’s defense appears as poor as advertised. His ‘D’ suffers from poor footwork, being out of shape, and a general indifference. The Knicks young center is a beast when he has the ball, but shies away from contact at all other times. The blocked shots that I recall from preseason were from the weak side, and unfortunately Curry doesn’t have Camby’s athleticism to be a force in that manner.

Eddy is a fantastic scorer who does so at a very high rate. Big men that shoot well usually get a lot of easy buckets from tip-ins, but Curry was a pitiful 89th in offensive rebounds per minute last year. This just means that Curry’s skills as a scorer are even more impressive than his 54% might indicate. Luckily 82games.com tracks such things, and Curry only scored 2% of the time on “tips”. In comparison Nazr Mohammed rebounding tips comprised 7% of his scores, and Mike Sweetney tipped the ball in 4% of the time. Kurt Thomas matched Curry’s 2%, which is a bad sign since the pick and roll specialist Thomas only ventured into the paint when he was lost.

Eddy’s size presents problems for opponents trying to defend him. Defenders that that allow him to get too deep in the paint are likely to fall victim to one of his variety of post moves. Fronting Curry isn’t a better proposition, as his soft hands allow him to handle the lob and he can finish the alleyoop as well as any big man in the league. Eddy Curry’s addition means that the Knicks have a legitimate second scoring threat next to Marbury, which should improve New York’s offense tremendously.

Before acquiring Curry, the Knicks signed Jerome James to help bolster the middle. Like Curry, and unlike any of the Knicks centers last year, James’ size is more than adequate for the position. Jerome will be able to protect the rim, and will provide a bit of muscle as his 8.4 fouls per 40 minutes will attest to. Unfortunately, James also shares Curry’s lack of rebounding and offseason conditioning.

The Knicks also have a pair of young players that should be able to fill in at center for a few minutes a game. The number 8 pick in this year’s draft, Channing Frye, and undrafted CBA prospect Jackie Butler have gotten good reviews from Larry Brown. Of the two, Butler is more likely to see time at the 5 for two reasons. The first is that Frye’s slender build will make him more suitable for power forward his first year. The second is despite his inexperience, Butler is the Knicks’ best rebounder. Unfortunately like most young players, Jackie finds himself committing mental mistakes. In one summer league game, Butler had 3 whistles on him in what seemed like a 5 minute stretch. If he wants to earn playing time, he’ll have to cut back on the gaffs.

Power Forward: In recent history, the Knicks have had a glut of power forwards. This year seems to be no exception. Less than a month ago I asked Knick fans “By January 1st, who is the Knicks’ starting PF?” The most popular choice was Malik Rose, which was my answer as well. I chose Rose due to the Knicks lack of defenders, but after watching a few preseason games, I’m going to switch to Antonio Davis.

Malik Rose is an intelligent player who understands the concept of team defense. Rose is rarely lost in a defensive rotation and has a sneaky array of moves to thwart opposing players. However he is staring down the wrong side of 30, and won’t be able to compensate for his lack of size with physical ability anymore. Davis’ height has allowed him to age more gracefully than Rose. Despite nearing the end of his career, Davis’ rebounding and defense is still at an acceptable level. Although Rose was never a big shot blocker, his per minute rate is half of what it was just a year ago, and less than a third of what it was at its peak. Malik’s rebounding dipped noticeably as well, grabbing only 7.4 boards per 40 minutes for the Knicks.

If rebounding and defense will keep Davis as the starter, then it’ll be the same thing that will keep Maurice Taylor off the court. Taylor will have the role of scoring big man off the bench, and he’ll be limited to 15 or 20 minutes a game, depending on how often the Knicks are behind. Joining Taylor on the bench will be the rookies, Channing Frye and David Lee. Although Frye was taken much earlier in the draft, Lee has been the more impressive of the two. A natural lefty, Lee has become ambidextrous and is a handful (punny!) for defenders when he’s in the post. He can score with either hand, and seems to have a wide array of moves in the paint. Lee was thought of as a good rebounder in college, and hopefully that skill will transfer over to the NBA.

I’m still not sure what to expect out of Frye. His frame resembles that of Marcus Camby, but he lacks Camby’s high flying theatrics. On the other hand Frye has a nice touch from the outside and should make a fine partner for Marbury on the pick & roll. With the depth at power forward and Brown’s predisposition towards rookies it’s hard to tell exactly who will see playing time.

Point Guard: I bet you thought I was going to talk about the Knicks’ small forwards, but the only other position I’m sure about is the point guard spot. Despite reports of a Brown enforced Iversonian-esque move to shooting guard, Stephon Marbury will run the point for the Knicks. The reason is simple, neither Crawford nor rookie Nate Robinson are able to run the point for an extended period of time. Crawford still suffers from poor shot selection, and while the NBA doesn’t keep it as an official stat, I would bet that he led the Knicks in airballs from off balanced jumpers this preseason. The Knicks will rely on Jamal to run the point for a few minutes a game, but leaving the ball in his hands for too long is like putting a gun in Charlton Heston’s hands at an NRA rally. The pressure to shoot becomes unbearable.

Meanwhile Robinson is still learning what he can do at this level. Ironically his rebounding has remained impressive as he tied for the Knicks lead in total rebounds. This should be taken with a grain of salt considering he was also second in total minutes and the Knicks don’t have a lot of good rebounders. Nate’s biggest weakness has been his passing, which shouldn’t be a surprise because he’s more of a shooting guard that needs the ball in his hands than a point guard. He throws too many lazy college passes which end up as NBA turnovers. The Knicks diminutive guard is best suited at going to the hoop with reckless abandon, and using his blazing speed to convert steals into easy buckets. It will be those attributes that keep him Brown’s rotation.

Tune in tomorrow for Part II. For optimists I will have a best case scenario for the 2006 Knicks. For pessimists, there will be a worst case in hell prediction. For small forwards & shooting guards I’ll break down those positions as well.

Nominee: Worst NBA Article of 2005

(Thanks to TrueHoop for the link. While Henry & I might disagree on Stephon Marbury’s worth, his site is easily one of the best places on the web to keep up with everything going on in the NBA.)

In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t really written much this summer. It’s not that I needed some rest from a long NBA season. Nor is there something going on with my life that requires I take an extended break from one of my favorite pastimes. It’s just that there’s really nothing to write about. OK so maybe there are a few things going on in the league, but I have no interest in speculating where Shareef Abdur-Rahim lands or what Michael Jordan’s friends do on a golf course. While I’m not a professional writer, I take pride with what goes on my site, and try to put up the best material with the limited time my free time affords.

On the other hand, not being a paid writer may have its advantages. For example, I don’t have a boss (editor, manager, CEO or whatever) suggesting that I write about a certain topic. Nor am I obligated to write when the creative juices aren’t flowing in order to feed my family (which is a tad bit smaller than the Sprewell clan). I can only imagine that one of those two scenarios is what led Charley Rosen to write this piece on the most overrated players in history, instead of it being of his own volition.

Rosen starts his piece of with: “The numbers are misleading, and so is the hype. The truth is that too many ‘good’ players are wrongly celebrated as being all-time greats. To set the record straight, here’s an alphabetical list of the most overrated NBA players ever.” The only thing that would make me cringe more than that first sentence, would be to hear that they’re turning Diff’rent Strokes into a movie. It’s not as much that Rosen brushes away any statistical analysis, but rather that he puts it on the same level as “hype”. Real statistical analysis starts by asking a question and using the information available to answer it. Hype is emotional excitement that occurs after the fact, and is the antithesis of numerical analysis. Even the terms “overrated” and “underrated” lack any kind of validity. Whether someone is overrated or underrated relies heavily on the individual’s opinion. For example, if you thought that Shaq was going to be twice as good as Wilt Chamberlain, then he was overrated. Ironically, the same player can be underrated by some and overrated by others (Steve Nash comes to mind).

Some of the players that made Rosen’s list of most overrated of all time are Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, David Robinson, and Patrick Ewing. Throw in Bird & Laettner, and you have the entire front court of the original Dream Team. Charles Barkley, who starts off the list, is called a “a chronic underachiever” by Rosen. Yes, the same Barkley who, despite being at least an inch shorter than his listed 6’6 and gave up nearly half a foot to his competition, made the All Star Team 11 times at power forward. Meanwhile, according to Charley, Karl Malone will only make the Hall of Fame because of two reasons “John Stockton and longevity.” Going by that logic, had the Jazz taken Terry Catledge with the 13th pick instead, maybe he would have been a two time MVP and the #2 man on the all time points scored list.

Of David Robinson, Rosen says “This guy was a cream puff. He could come from the weak-side to block shots, but he couldn’t guard his own man. He could rebound, but rarely in a crowd. He could score, but only on foul-line jumpers, or only if a defender bought a head fake after he drove his left hand into the middle. He couldn’t pass or handle. He couldn’t stand his ground in the paint.” The “cream puff” was All-Defensive 8 times, and ranks 6th all time in blocked shots. Since Robinson’s rookie year, only 12 other players have had more rebounds per minute. He won the Defensive Player of the Year, led the league in free throws 3 straight years, and won an MVP, all before Tim Duncan arrived.

However it’s Rosen’s inclusion of Ewing that really got my goat. If you thought that coming out of Georgetown that Ewing was going to be the next Kareem, then yeah he was overrated. But look at what Rosen has to say about him: “Had he played out of the spotlight in someplace like Orlando or Salt Lake City, Ewing would be remembered as a jump-shooting center who worked hard. Period.”

My friends, Sam Perkins was a jump-shooting center who worked hard. While it’s true that Ewing could bury the jumper, he was more than just an overachieving outside threat. Ewing frequently scored from the paint, something that his 50.5 eFG% and 1.11 PSA will atest to.

Rosen continues: “In truth, he couldn’t handle, pass, move laterally, and do anything worthwhile when an important game was on the line. Moreover, his dim apprehension of what the game was all about precluded any thoughts of being unselfish. Except for the early days of the Mets and the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York sports fans rarely hitch their devotion to a loser like Ewing.”

While I won’t lie and say that Ewing was a fantastic passer and never turned the ball over, the author is clearly cherry picking abilities here. Notice he used the same attributes of not being able to dribble or pass for both Robinson and Ewing. That’s because most centers aren’t known for their ability to run the point. In fact, Patrick’s per 48 minute points (29.3 to 29.2), turnovers (4.2 to 4.0), free throws made (6.4 to 5.9), offensive rebounds (3.3 to 4.4), eFG%( 50.4 to 51.2), and PSA (1.11 to 1.11) are comparable to another contemporary left off the list, Hakeem Olajuwon. Rosen uses a technique he must have learned at the Daily Oklahoman writing school, lowering himself to insulting Ewing by describing him as selfish, dim, and a loser.

Ewing never won any MVP awards, nor did he ever win a championship. However he was the centerpiece on two of the top 5 defensive teams of all times (according to Dean Oliver). During his prime, Ewing had 10 straight seasons where he missed 5 or less games and over that decade, the second highest minute getters on his teams each year were: Gerald Wilkins, Johnny Newman, (an aging) Kiki Vandeweghe, John Starks, Anthony Mason, and Allan Houston (for one year). If #33 was a loser, it was more because of his colleagues than himself. In fact Ewing might have had that championship ring, if not for one of his teammates missing 16 shots one June night. If Patrick was selfish he might have blasted Starks for the game 7 Finals loss. He might have whined about the Knicks never giving him a decent second option on offense. He might have forced his team to trade him, as so many athletes looking at their own best interests do. Instead he stayed for 15 seasons, only asking to leave after the Garden crowd not so politely asked him first.

No matter how you feel about Ewing, you have to admit that my assessment of the man was a bit more fair. So why did Rosen feel the need to do such a hack job on him, and a dozen NBA greats? Maybe it’s the summer heat, or the pressure of paying that air-conditioner burdened electric bill. Charley’s article comes almost a year after Frank Hughes’ stinker of 2004, which makes me glad that I take a little time off in the summer.