Jerome James, Good & Bad

Earlier today, the Knicks announced the signing of Jerome James, and I’m not exactly sure how I feel about the deal. It’s like watching a dramatic movie. If the ending is happy, you rail against it because they took the easy way out. If the movie ends tragically, you’re upset that things didn’t end up the way you optimistically hoped.

The first thing Knicks fans are going to wonder is what James will bring to New York this year? He’ll give the Knicks their first defensive minded center under the age of 50 since Marcus Camby. Opposing guards who get past Crawford and Marbury will have to watch themselves in the paint, because Jerome blocks a shot just about every full quarter he plays. In fact over the last 4 years, James is 6th in blocks per minute. When he decides to shoot the ball, he’s a decent offensive player. His career FG% is 49%, and his free throw percentage has improved every year of his career to a passable 72% last year. James’ rebounding has slipped, but that could be due to playing next to Dangie Fortvans.

However there is a dark side to Jerome James’ game. The FAMU alumnus has three huge weaknesses that will drive Metropolitans nuts. First is that he’s turnover prone. Since James’ never played in high school, his basketball IQ is somewhere around Forrest Gump’s. Second is James’ propensity to foul. Again looking over the last 4 years, James has led the league in fouls per minutes. The last thing that will turn the fans against James is his weak work ethic. The laziness tag is something that has followed him since college.

You don’t need a crystal ball to see what’s going to happen. One cold day in New York, Jerome James is going to turn the ball over, and then head to the bench with two quick fouls. The opposing team is going to have a double digit lead by the time the Knicks center checks back in. James is going to turn the ball over twice more, on the last one he’ll loaf back on defense getting there in time only to inbound the ball after another score. And that’s going to be the end of the love affair between Jerome James and the New York fans. You have to remember that this is the city that openly booed Patrick Ewing near the end of his career (something I’ll never understand).

New York will see the duality of Jerome James. Some days will be like the fantastic playoff series he had last year & others will be like the scenario above. On one hand New York desperately needs a center, but on the other James is more apt to be a backup than a starter. While $6M a year is reasonable for a player of his caliber, 5 years at the age of 30 doesn’t exactly fit in with Isiah’s rebuilding creed. Although signing James will allow Sweetney to move back to PF and flourish at his natural position, did we pay too much for such a flawed player?

As I said before I?m not sure what to think about this deal. I?m not crazy about James, but there are some things about his game that I like. Of course with his foul problems, I?m not even sure that James can average more than 25 minutes a night. But I feel more comfortable going into this season with him, than have to rely only on an unproven Frye every night. Finally I have to wonder, if Jerome James couldn?t get significant minutes on the Sonics, a defensively starved team, how much can he help the Knicks? We’ll have to wait until the season starts to see how this turns out.

Zeke’s Eye For The Draftee Guy

Being maxxed out on cap space and having little left in trade bait, the Knicks future is directly tied to the draft. If New York is this bad next year, they’ll have two mid/high lottery picks and two very late first rounders in which to improve their team. Although the Knicks have had recent success in the draft with Sweetney and Ariza, their history has been more Jerrod Mustaf than Charlie Ward. A few infamous moments in New York draft history over the last decade:

2002 – Knicks trade the #7 pick, Nene Hilario, for Antonio McDyess, and then select Milos Vujanic in the second round. McDyess plays 18 games total in a Knick uniform, exactly 18 more than Vujanic plays in the NBA.
1999 – Knicks select Frederick Weis with the 15th pick while New York City born Ron Artest from St. John’s University, who lives 7 subway stops away from MSG, is still avilable. Artest wins defensive player of the year then goes crazy pondering why the Knicks selected Weis.
1996 – New York has three picks from 19-22. Those three players selected play a total of 103 games for New York. The person selected in between those three: 2-time All Star Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

While Isiah didn’t commit these atrocities, and with the Knicks’ future directly tied into his ability to draft, we should take a look at Zeke’s track record. When Thomas was the expansion Raptors GM, he participated in three drafts. In 1995 Isiah had the 7th spot. During the draft Toronto fans were cheering for Ed O’Bannon, who led the UCLA Bruins to the national championship. O’Bannon was awarded the NCAA tournament MVP & was the National Player of the Year. Instead Isiah drafted Damon Stoudamire from Arizona. The next year, the Raptors GM opted for the Unanimous Player of the Year and selected Marcus Camby with the #2 overall pick. In 1997, Thomas’ last year as Toronto GM, he took a chance on a high school player named Tracy McGrady at #9.

To take an objective look at these picks, let’s take the career PER of the players surrounding Isiah’s picks.

1995
No Player Career PER
1 Joe Smith 15.7
2 Antonio McDyess 18.7
3 J. Stackhouse 17.4
4 Rasheed Wallace 17.7
5 Kevin Garnett 23.0
6 Bryant Reeves 13.8
7 D. Stoudamire 17.4
8 Shawn Respert 11.6
9 Ed O'Bannon 9.1
10 Kurt Thomas 14.9
11 Gary Trent 15.9
12 Cherokee Parks 12.0
13 C. Williamson 15.3

Although the draft had some great players early on, by the time Toronto’s turn had arrived the pickins were slim. With the 7th pick, Isiah got the best person available, Damon Stoudamire. “Mighty Mouse” played well for the Raptors as a young point guard, but his career tailed off after he was traded to Portland. Selecting Respert or O’Bannon would have been a mistake. Kurt Thomas was still a risky pick, considering he missed a whole year at TCU due to an injury, and would miss serious time his first three years in the NBA as well.

1996
No Player Career PER
1 Allen Iverson 20.9
2 Marcus Camby 17.9
3 S. Abdur-Rahim 19.8
4 Stephon Marbury 19.4
5 Ray Allen 19.7
6 Antoine Walker 16.9
7 Lorenzen Wright 14.2

Not listed here are three excellent guys that went 13-15: Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, and Steve Nash. If the draft were held with today’s knowledge, those three middle picks along with Iverson and Ray Allen would comprise the top 5. Clearly there were better players available in the draft than Camby, however getting someone that put up a 17.9 career PER isn’t a total disaster. Camby never fulfilled his potential in Toronto, but in New York he replaced the injured Patrick Ewing and was a large contributor in the 8th seed Knicks getting to the NBA Finals. In hindsight, with such a deep draft getting Marcus Camby with the #2 pick was a sub-par selection.

1997
No Player Career PER
1 Tim Duncan 25.1
2 Keith Van Horn 17.1
3 C. Billups 16.7
4 A. Daniels 14.4
5 Tony Battie 14.3
6 Ron Mercer 12.6
7 Tim Thomas 14.8
8 Adonal Foyle 12.8
9 Tracy McGrady 24.4
10 Danny Fortson 16.6
11 T. Abdul-Wahad 11.4
12 Austin Croshere 14.8
13 Derek Anderson 16.3
14 Maurice Taylor 14.1

Even Isiah’s biggest nemesis has to admit that Toronto had the steal of the 1997 draft. Despite only playing 18 minutes a game, McGrady had a PER of 17.4 his first year. By his second season, he still didn’t see much time (23 min/g) despite seeing a marked improvement in his production (20.6). Obviously, the young McGrady was just oozing with talent.

Not listed above are any of second round selections. To round out Isiah’s career, we can add: Jimmy King (1995 #35) and Trevor Ariza (2004 #43). While we can throw King in the bust pile, Ariza was certainly the best player available at #43, and maybe the best second rounder taken (or at least the best not named Anderson Varej?o).

So Isiah’s draft report card looks like this:

1 player who was the steal of the draft (McGrady)
2 players that were the best picks available (Ariza & Stoudamire)
1 second round bust (Jimmy King)
1 overall #2 bust, yet serviceable player (Marcus Camby)

While Thomas’s track record is favorable, his past is a small sample size which may not indicate future successes. Knowing Isiah’s method, whether it be scientific, scouting, or dart board, would make it easier to judge his ability. However, the Knicks President’s draft history makes me more comfortable with the Knicks’ future than if Pete Babcock, John Gabriel, or Garry St. Jean were the man in charge.

Basketball-Reference.com Interview

In the last 5 seasons (’00 – ’04), who has gotten the most offensive rebounds per game (minimum 200 games)?

A. Elton Brand
B. Tim Duncan
C. Kevin Garnett
D. Shaquille O’Neal
E. Ben Wallace

For those who like a challenge, feel free to make your guess in the comments section. I’ll post the answer tomorrow, with a link on how to find it.

The reason I’m in a trivial mood can be attributed to the fine options presented to me at www.basketball-reference.com. If you haven’t been there in a few weeks, or even a few days, you probably haven’t seen the changes that have been done with the site. Although it has the run of the mill player, team, and league stats, B-R (as it’s commonly referred to) has historical stats that you won’t find anywhere else like:

* Team Offensive & Defensive Points Per Possession
* Most Similar Players By Age
* Awards
* All Star Games
* Colege Stats
* John Hollinger’s PER
* Dean Oliver’s stats (ORtg, DRtg, PW, PL, PW%)

Recently a query page has been added currently called B-R Labs. With this, you can get customized stats on teams & players on just about anything you can imagine.

Justin Kubatko, the site’s creator, was kind enough to answer a few questions.


The Beginning:
What kind of background do you have in sports & technology?

In high school I played basketball (sixth man on a bad team) and tennis.
In college I played IM sports, mainly basketball and softball. After college I was the head coach for a JV boy’s basketball team in North Carolina for two years and an assistant coach for a boy’s high school basketball team in Albuquerque for two years. I started running seriously about three years ago and have completed two marathons (best time 3:31) and one half marathon (1:37).

On the technology side, I have a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s degree in statistics, so technology has always been a part of what I do. One thing I am having fun with now is learning Perl and MySQL.

What prompted you to start a stat site up?

One day I noticed that Sean Forman (owner of Baseball-Reference) had the domain name basketball-reference.com reserved. Since I knew Sean through SABR, I asked him if he wanted me to work on a basketball site for him.

I enjoy designing web pages and working with data, and I also felt that basketball needed a reference site that approached the quality of Baseball-Reference. A site that was easy-to-use and fun-to-play with that gathered together old data as well as new.

How exactly did you meet Sean Forman?

Sean and I were both SABR members, so in that sense we had “known” each other for a few years. I originally contacted him by e-mail; I think it had something to do with Baseball-Reference. I met Sean in person at the 2003 SABR convention in Denver.

What kind of help did you receive from the other stat sites (Baseball-Reference & Pro-Football-Reference)?

I received a lot of support and advice from Sean Forman, especially when the site was getting ready to go live. Specifically, he provided helpful comments on the site design and suggested numerous ways to improve the presentation of the data.

What did you use for your source data?

Sean Lahman donated much of the data used to create this site. While I have made many additions and modifications to Sean’s data, he saved me a significant amount of time.

When did B-R come online?

May 10, 2004.

Current Opertations:
Am I correct in assuming that it’s largely a one man operation?

Yes, you are. Sean Forman helps with some things on the server side, but I take care of all of the site’s content.

How much of it is automated?

Most of the pages are created using programs I have written. However, almost all of the pages on the site are static. If I want to make the same change to all player pages I have to re-run my programs. That may seem inefficient, but static pages help a lot with site speed. I want to avoid the dreaded “The operation timed out when attempting to contact www.example.com” messages.

In 1974 – player offensive rebounds, steals, and blocked shots first recorded. In 1978 turnovers. In 1980 three pointers. Will you consider adding things from 82games.com like oPER, +/- for the years they have available?

Yes, at some point. I wish I had more time to spend on the site, but God and family — my wife Laura and my sons, Zachary and Cristian — come first.

What is coming up in the future?

In no particular order: player game logs, more query tools, more ABA data, and current season statistics.

Fun Stuff:
When can I make my lifetime advertising purchase of Patrick Ewing‘s player page?

The timing of this question is funny, as this is something Sean and I are currently working on. Page sponsorship should be available within the next month or two.

Who is your favorite NBA player to watch?

This is easy: Tim Duncan.

Why?

I lived about an hour from Winston-Salem when Duncan was a sophomore and junior, so I got to see him play a lot on television. He is one of the most fundamentally sound players I have ever seen.

When does the NBA expand to New Mexico?

When the coyotes stop howling.

Which basketball player most represents your game?

I am going to say Richard Hamilton, but only because we are both runners.

There was an article about Hamilton’s running in a recent issue of Runner’s World. If you ignore the running aspect, I would say Ollie McClellan from Hoosiers (although I am much taller than Ollie).

International Relations Part 2

Scott Carefoot runs RaptorBlog.com, the self-proclaimed “best Raptors fan site – now and forever”. In a tradition that began last season, we wrote guest blogs on each other’s sites before a Knicks-Raptors game. Here, Scott offers a preview of the new-look Raptors before Wednesday’s match in Toronto. KnickerBlogger returns the favor on his site.

“Addition by subtraction.” It’s one of those sports cliches that sound neat at first but nonsensical if you really think about it. The theory is that a team can improve after a negative influence is removed. Bill Simmons calls it “The Ewing Theory” in reference to his friend’s notion that the Knicks in the Patrick Ewing era always seemed to play better when he wasn’t in the lineup.

For years, Simmons has claimed that this theory applies to Vince Carter. Considering that the Raptors went 0-9 last season when Carter wasn’t in the lineup, I figured we could put that theory to bed as far as Vince and the Raptors were concerned. But a funny thing has happened to this team since Vince was traded to New Jersey for Eric Williams, Aaron Williams and Alonzo Mourning’s dialysis machine…they’re playing more like a “true team” and winning more games.

In all fairness to Vince, the Raptors had one of the toughest schedules in the league leading up to his departure. Toronto had a 7-14 record after the loss to the Pistons on Dec. 8 when he suffered his final injury in a Raptors uniform. If I remember correctly, he was diagnosed with “sand in his vagina”. Anyway, Toronto lost three of the next four games leading up to the trade, so Vince left as Toronto had an 8-17 record.

The Post-Vince era got off to a rocky start as the Raptors dropped four of their next six games before they returned to Toronto for a four-day rest. Lo and behold, the Raptors opened 2005 by winning six of their next eight games and we now stand two games behind the three-way clusterhump of the Knicks, Celtics and Sixers for the Atlantic division lead.

This resurgence can be partially attributed to an easier schedule, as they played 19 of their first 31 games on the road followed by six of their next eight at home. Considering that they are 3-18 on the road after beating the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Monday, there’s no doubt this is a mitigating factor. But it shouldn’t take Knicks fans long to see how different this team is from the Raptors that lost 108-102 in New York on Nov. 27.

The only two starters that remain from that game’s lineup are Rafer Alston and Chris Bosh. Morris Peterson has replaced Vince Carter at shooting guard, Eric Williams has replaced Jalen Rose at small forward, and Rafael Araujo has replaced Loren Woods at center. This lineup is bigger, plays better defense and defers to Chris Bosh as the first scoring option. The 20-year-old sophomomre power forward has taken a quantum leap in 2005 with double-doubles in all eight games while averaging 20.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, two blocks and shooting 54 percent from the field.

Meanwhile, the Raptors have some pretty decent players coming off the bench. Jalen Rose has played his best basketball in years since he was relegated to an “instant offense” role after the trade. Donyell Marshall still provides rebounding and long bombs from the corners (he made three of them in a row late in the fourth quarter to slay Minnesota on Monday). Matt “The Red Rocket” Bonner has quietly been a rookie revelation, as the 2003 second-round pick has returned from a season in Italy to provide the Raptors with the league’s deadliest shooting touch off the bench. He’s third in the NBA with a .556 field goal percentage and most of those shots have been taken a few feet inside the three-point line.

In summary, I am as thrilled with this 16-23 team as it is humanly possible to be without narcotics. Now that Vince is gone, players like Bosh and Peterson have capitalized on their opportunities to take on leadership roles and there is no doubt that the team chemistry has improved as a result. It’s easy to root for this team, which is more than I can say for the Knicks. That’s not a cheap shot, it’s just that I could never root for a team managed by Isiah Thomas and coached by Lenny Wilkens. I expect this will be the last Lenny appearance in the Air Canada Centre before Isiah puts him in a home.

Sixers 88 Knicks 96

For most of the first quarter there was nothing new to the Knicks attack. They mostly played a perimeter game consisting of one of three things:

  • Marbury asking for the pick & roll.
  • Marbury faking the pick & roll & driving to the hoop
  • Crawford using his dribble to get an open jumper.

The Knicks big guys were either to join in the perimeter attack (Kurt Thomas on the pick & roll) or do what Nazr Mohammed did. The Knicks’ starting center scored the first of his two first quarter field goals by waiting for a guard to dish the ball after being doubled team on a penetration drive. The second one Nazr earned with an offensive rebound and put back.

However things changed with about 3 minutes left. The Knicks dumped the ball in the low post to Michael Sweetney. It seemed natural to see New York work out of the post. Sweetney didn’t spin continuously in the paint & muscle his way to a jump hook like Larry Johnson used to. He didn’t hold the ball for 10 seconds and drive toward the middle to take a strong running shot in the lane like Patrick Ewing did in his day. Instead the second year player deftly spun to the paint and gently dropped a finger roll into the net.

In fact Sweetney asked for the ball two more times at the start of the second quarter, and the Knicks feed it to him for post-up scores. The announcers declared it was the first time they’ve ever seen him asking for the ball. That’s a long way from the “wide-eyed rookie” I described him as less than a year ago. That description could have fit Trevor Ariza.

Actually Ariza’s skills make him a Jekyl & Hyde player. He’s calm & confident in transition, or when the focus is not on him in the half court. One play in the first quarter exemplifies Ariza’s strengths. He stole the ball near midcourt, and beat out everyone to the ball and laid it in leaving everyone else trailing behind him on the play. It looked like Ariza was jogging while everyone else was running at full speed. Clearly, he was in his element.

On the other hand, Ariza looks lost in the half court game. His first jumper rebounded high over the backboard, causing him to loose faith in his shot. By my count, he passed up 3 open jump shots in the first half. The other end of the court didn’t offer any solace for Ariza, where his one-on-one defense was lacking. Before watching him tonight, I thought the Knicks should trap & press with him in the game. Writing his strengths & weaknesses down on (electronic) paper just reinforces this idea.

Ariza played plenty of minutes thanks to Tim Thomas having his third bad game in a as many attempts. By halftime, Thomas had played 15 minutes and had 0 rebounds with 3 points on 6 attempts. I wonder how many more bad games Thomas can afford before the Knicks hand over the SF starting job to Ariza. The Knicks can’t afford to have Thomas as an overpaid SF sitting on the bench, especially when Shanderson is doing so well in that role. Tim’s huge contract would make him even more impossible to trade if he can’t beat out a 19 year old that every team passed up at least once. I’m sure Wilkens will give him a $12.9M dollar long leash.

Unfortunately Michael Sweetney doesn’t have the luxury Ariza does. Kurt Thomas did what coaches love, all the small things. He blocked two of Iverson’s shots in the first half, and was aggressive on the offensive glass. Thomas ended up with only 8 points, but had 4 offensive rebounds and 4 blocked shots. Even though Sweetney was 4-4 in the first half, he only had 10 minutes in the first half, and didn’t get back into the game until 3:30 in the 3rd quarter. He didn’t take another shot after the first half. Kevin Pelton asked me the other day if this is Sweetney’s team yet. He’d be the starting PF if the other Thomas was ahead of him on the depth chart.

The Knicks best front court was when Michael Sweetney played next to Kurt Thomas. Philly doesn’t have a center that would make New York pay for such a transgression, so the Knicks were able to get away with a small lineup. When bigger centers come to town, Sweetney may loose some of those minutes when the Knicks are forced to play a center bigger than 6’9. Sweetney played only 17 minutes, and that’s with Jerome Williams and Vin Baker getting a combined 3 minutes. Although part of his low minute total can be attributed to 5 personal fouls.

Nazr Mohammed put up great numbers, good enough for the New York press to not be able to use the words “Keith Van Horn” until at least Friday. Unlike Sweetney, Mohammed stayed out of foul trouble which enabled him to play 32 minutes and score 18 points. More impressively he had 3 steals and 3 offensive rebounds.

Simply, the Knicks beat up on a bad team. I can’t blame them for it, because you can only beat who the schedule makers pit you against. New York plays the Clippers at home next, before facing a brutal road trip against 4 top notch opponents. For the time being, I’ll enjoy tonight’s victory & everything that comes with it.

Knicks Roster Analysis – Point Guards

Hi, I’m Kevin Pelton. At the risk of going all Lionel Hutz on you, you may remember me from such columns as “Page 23” at Hoopsworld.com and such contests as KnickerBlogger’s 2004 Bloggers Bracket. Over the last couple of months, his KBness and I have shared some e-mails and AIM conversations, and I was flattered when he asked me to do a little guest blogging during his vacation. After giving him some crap about vacationing on the best day of the NBA year, I gladly agreed and offered to give an outsider’s take on the Knicks. I’m basically thinking of this as my chance to do one chapter’s worth of a Pro Basketball Prospectus-style annual.

As KB said in introducing the guest bloggers, I’m a Sonics fan, but I’ve followed the Knicks more closely than the average NBA team the last couple of years. I guess it’s the contrarian in me that makes me feel a certain kinship with a group of guys roundly criticized as underpaid. I championed the Knicks as a playoff team in my preview this year, repeatedly insisting they were better than the Celtics. Lo and behold, I nailed the C’s record and was one game off on the Knicks. Just forget the fact that both teams remade their rosters during the season.

Before we start examining the players in detail, some technical notes about the statistics I’ll be using in the statistical summary:
TS% – true shooting percentage, the best measure of offensive efficiency (PTS/(2*FGA + .88*FTA))
Reb% – percentage of estimated available rebounds grabbed
Pass – 50 * ((AST/MIN)^2)*(AST/TO)

The other measures are all derived from my possession-based rating system, which creates an imaginary team composed of four average players and the player in question. Off and Def are this team’s offense and defense ratings, Win% its winning percentage, and WARP the wins the player is worth over a replacement-level player.

Value is derived from a slightly adjusted WARP formula and uses the Marginal $/Marginal Win concept I’ve adapted to basketball from the late Doug Pappas. I only have this for last season. Salary is the player’s 2004-05 salary (from Hoopshype.com).

Without further ado. ?

Stephon Marbury

Year    MPG   PPG   RPG  APG   TS%  Reb%  Pass   Off   Def  Win%  WARP  Value  Salary
01-02 38.9 20.4 3.2 8.1 .519 4.7 5.12 93.1 91.1 .547 9.7
02-03 40.0 22.3 3.2 8.1 .520 4.6 5.06 93.4 89.9 .592 13.0
03-04 40.2 20.2 3.2 8.9 .519 4.6 7.05 93.0 89.2 .601 13.6 $11.48 $14.63

I spent the summer of 2002 “covering” the Suns for News@Hoopsworld, and the process made me a Marbury fan. That summer, Marbury was feeling the full wrath of the comparison between him and the player he was traded for, Jason Kidd. Marbury was fairly blamed for a foolish DUI, but the blame for the teams’ performance was unjustified, as it usually is. Kidd is a better player, but he’s also been the best point guard in the NBA over the last three years. It wasn’t Marbury’s decision to effectively trade Clifford Robinson for Bo Outlaw, just as Kidd didn’t draft Richard Jefferson or magically heal Kerry Kittles.

Statistically, Marbury is one of the league’s most devastating offensive forces. It’s my belief that players who are good at more than one thing don’t get as much credit for those skills as do one-dimensional players, and Marbury might be exhibit A in that argument. Last year, Marbury posted an identical assist/turnover ratio to Kidd’s and handed out only slightly less assists per minute, but anyone suggesting that they were in the same league in terms of passing would be laughed off the ‘net.

With the Knicks, Marbury drifted slightly more to the true point guard side of things, sacrificing a point per game for an assist per game, a trade-off I imagine Lenny Wilkens was happy to see him make. It’s not inconceivable that Marbury could lead the NBA in assists next season.

The concern is that Marbury gives it all back at the defensive end of the court. Hey, look, here’s a quote that says just that!

“Marbury’s one of the top 10 players on offense,” Wayne Winston, half the brains behind WINVAL, told the Washington Times. “Everybody thinks this guy is a great player. But when he’s on defense, he gives it all back.”

Indeed, per 82games.com, the Knicks were 6.7 points per 100 possessions better on offense with Marbury in the game, 5.6 points per 100 possessions worse on defense.

But is that right? Plus-minus numbers, particularly the adjusted kind WINVAL uses, are valuable, but they’re not the complete story on defense. John Hollinger reported in last year’s Prospectus that the Suns ranked fourth in defending starting point guards, and 82games.com also reports that Marbury held opposing point guards in check.

Marbury’s other big weakness is that sometimes he tries to do too much. The playoffs were the quintessential example of that; the image of Marbury forcing it time and time again in desperation against the Nets will be hard to forget (and not just because I picked the Knicks to pull the upset). Marbury put up 23 shots a game over the last three games of that series. He’s been at his best when paired with a strong power forward along the lines of Kevin Garnett and Amar? Stoudemire — and the Knicks might just have someone like that on their roster.

I think the defense requires a slight downgrade to the numbers I get for Marbury, but he’s still certainly amongst the top five point guards in the NBA and likely amongst its top 20 players. At $14 million-plus next year and for many years to come, he’s somewhat overpaid, but he gives the Knicks a star player they haven’t had since Patrick Ewing, and the price paid for him in the trade with Phoenix was worth it.

Moochie Norris

Year    MPG   PPG   RPG  APG   TS%  Reb%  Pass   Off   Def  Win%  WARP  Value  Salary
01-02 27.4 8.1 3.0 4.9 .471 6.3 4.14 89.7 91.1 .463 2.9
02-03 16.8 4.4 1.9 2.4 .470 6.7 2.32 88.4 89.7 .468 2.0
03-04 12.8 3.5 1.0 1.8 .471 4.5 1.93 87.7 88.4 .454 0.9 $2.528 $3.850

Since I’m only going back three years, Norris’ last good year doesn’t show up. The last three years, Norris has barely been adequate for a backup point guard, and last year he was even worse than that after seeing his passing and rebounding numbers tank. If there’s good news, it’s that Norris did pick up his performance after joining the Knicks in a trade for Clarence Weatherspoon, pushing his field-goal percentage from a dreadful 31.0% to 40.8%.

Most point guards come out better offensively than defensively by my system, which makes sense. With scoring and passing, most of their contributions come on the offensive end of the court. But Norris hasn’t been an efficient scorer in the last three years and has only been a good passer one of those years.

As a price for unloading Weatherspoon’s larger contract, Norris isn’t that bad, but the Knicks shouldn’t feel particularly compelled to play him, and if he’s still in the rotation next fall, that’s not a good sign.

Frank Williams

Year    MPG   PPG   RPG  APG   TS%  Reb%  Pass   Off   Def  Win%  WARP  Value  Salary
02-03 8.0 1.3 0.9 1.6 .393 6.3 4.15 86.1 90.3 .372 -0.1
03-04 12.8 3.9 0.9 2.2 .478 4.3 2.76 88.1 89.5 .432 0.5 $2.216 $0.957

Williams has just recently been discussed here, so I’m not sure entirely how much I have to add for the discussion. Unlike Dave, I wasn’t a particularly big fan of Williams in college. I recall thinking of him as an underachiever (I also abhorred Illinois teammate Brian Cook), and scoffing when people got excited about his summer-league play before his rookie seasons.

After a couple of NBA seasons, however, I have to agree with Dave that the Knicks need to keep Williams and give him more action. Offensively, Williams and Norris were similar players last season, and neither was very good. The first place there’s a difference between the two of them is that while Norris will be 31 this summer and is on the downside of his NBA career, while Williams turned 24 this season and has plenty of room to grow.

The second difference is defense. I hadn’t really investigated Williams’ defense very much before this, but there’s little question statistically that it’s fantastic. Williams’ on-court/off-court comparison is the reverse of Marbury’s – 5.7 points per 100 possessions better on defense (and also 1.4 points per 100 possessions better on offense). Williams’ individual defense also looks great; he limited opposing point guards and shooting guards both to a microscopic 10.1 PER.

Sadly, I’m going to copy Hollinger again by using my similarity scores to assess the future prospects of the Knicks’ youngsters. Williams’ closest age-24 comparable is Jeff McInnis, at the time playing limited minutes as a backup in Washington. It would take a couple of years, but McInnis eventually developed into an adequate starter. The next four names on the list — Morlon Wiley, Anthony Goldwire, Dan Dickau, and someone named Lowes Moore — aren’t as encouraging, but next after that is Scott Skiles and Sam Cassell also lurks in the top ten. So there’s some breakout potential there.

KnickerBlogger correctly points out that there won’t be a ton of minutes for Williams next season if Allan Houston is back, but what about the possibility of just cutting bait on Anfernee Hardaway? Hardaway isn’t a bad player by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s not a part of the Knicks’ future and Williams could be. I think Williams is plenty thick enough to play 20-25 minutes behind Marbury and Houston as a third guard in a three-guard rotation and that would really help the Knicks’ perimeter defense.

Kevin Pelton writes “Page 23” for Hoopsworld.com on a semi-regular basis. He can be reached at kpelton@hoopsworld.com. Check back Wednesday for his analysis of the Knicks’ shooting guards.