J C Ya

Ahhh Jamal Crawford we knew ye well. Crawford came to New York in a sign & trade with Chicago in 2004. It was one Isiah’s early moves, and I didn’t say much at the time of the trade:

In Crawford, New York gets insurance for Allan Houston, and I’m guessing will be his eventual replacement. (Or else why would the Knicks sign him for so long?) Crawford isn’t nearly the shooter that Houston is, but is able to play the point as well.

Back in 2004 New York’s options at shooting guard were an injured Allan Houston, Shandon Anderson, and Penny Hardaway. So there was a need to stabilize the position. Crawford had a good amount of promise to the naked eye. He had just come off his first starting season for the Bulls at the age of 23. He was a combo guard that could score and run the point.

But less than a month in a Knick uniform, it was easy to spot Crawford’s flaws:

Thankfully, the primary backup for Marbury is the Knicks’ new acquisition Jamal Crawford (16.1, 21.6, +2.4). He has been good offensively, but his defense is porous. Crawford’s thin frame is ill-suited to fight through picks, and too fragile to slow down a drive once the other team gets a step on him. Jamal has an excellent handle, but there is nothing more frustrating than having Crawford settling for a jumper (which comprise 82% of his shots), after he’s faked his defender with a series of fancy dribbles. Crawford should force the issue towards the basket with his great passing and dribbling skills. In addition, he’d do well getting fouled driving to the hoop, since the guy makes a free throw shot look like a layup (86% FT).

Crawford’s only 24, so I hope the Knicks coaching staff can get Jamal to produce a little more before he becomes set in his ways. For someone that will likely be in New York for the next 7 years, I’d like for him to be able to give us a little more production, either on offense and defense. He has excellent skills to build on: quickness, dribbling, a good shot, and that three point buzzer beater shows his confidence. He just needs to be smarter with his shot, and work on his defensive fundamentals. The Knicks announcers always make me chuckle with the line “he gets his hands on a lot of balls”, and Crawford’s one positive aspect on defense is creating turnovers (2.1 STL per 40 minutes).

Comparing Jamal Crawford’s first year as a Knick and to his last full year shows little development. The only real improvement he made was getting to the free throw line more often. But even that gain was offset by his drops in steals, blocks, and rebounds. And his defense has always been awful.

24 NYK 70 14.7 0.398 6.9 0.361 2.9 0.843 2.7 4 1.2 0.3 2 16.6 15.2 0.521 0.483
27 NYK 80 15.7 0.41 5.6 0.356 4.3 0.864 2.3 4.5 0.9 0.2 2.2 18.6 16 0.528 0.473

Crawford was the kind of player people either loved or hated. His dribble and ability to get open made him look like an All Star at times. His love for the fade away jumper and one dimensional game drove others crazy. Some will always remember Crawford’s time in a Knick uniform by his inability to fight through a pick. Others will think about his 52 point game against the Heat.

It was unlikely that Crawford was going to be a part of the Knicks’ future. His $10M in 2011 was probably more an impediment to getting a superstar in New York than a bonus. Shooting guards that score and don’t defend aren’t too hard to find. Certainly you can get one for under $10M a season. Jamal didn’t fit the mold of a D’Antoni player. He liked to hold the ball, a cardinal sin in the seven second offense. And he wasn’t a great spot-up shooter, another requisite for a D’Antoni guard.

For most of his career he has been the #1 or #2 scoring option on his team, and his career record is 168-375 (31%). Crawford is the NBA’s version of baseball’s innings eater. A player who can provide scoring for a mediocre club, but not someone you’d want to use as a major cog on a championship team.

Knicks Add to Front Office Staff

According to the NY Times:

John Gabriel, a former N.B.A. executive of the year with the Orlando Magic, has joined the Knicks’ revamped front office and will assume a major role in rebuilding the roster after seven straight losing seasons.

Donnie Walsh, the team president, appointed Gabriel as the director of pro scouting and free agency, a newly created position. Gabriel’s primary duty will be evaluating current N.B.A. players, with an eye toward future trades and free-agent signings.

Gabriel is well versed in the art of rebuilding. He was the Magic’s general manager from 1996 to 2004, a period in which the franchise lost Shaquille O’Neal to free agency and traded Penny Hardaway, but restocked by obtaining Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady.

Gabriel was named executive of the year in 1999-2000 after orchestrating 37 transactions that netted nine first-round draft picks and created the salary-cap space to sign Hill and McGrady.

After being fired in March 2004, Gabriel joined the front office of the Portland Trail Blazers, who have undergone a transformation that the Knicks surely hope to emulate. Once saddled with a bloated payroll and a roster of bad actors, the Blazers are now one of the most promising young teams in the league.

Also joining the Knicks’ front office is Misho Ostarcevic, who will be the director of player personnel. Ostarcevic was Walsh’s international scout with the Pacers.

Gabriel and Ostarcevic were hired earlier this month, although the team did not announce the moves. Walsh was not available for comment Wednesday.

You can see John Gabriel’s transactions as the Orlando GM at Hoopshype. Looking at his record, he seems to be average. His first two drafts were busts (Brian Evans 27th and Johnny Taylor 17th). But he grabbed arguably the best player in the 2000 draft (Mike Miller) and found Zaza Pachulia in the 2nd round in 2002. The trio of firsts in 1998 didn’t fare well (Michael Doleac, Keon Clark, and Matt Harpring) but there wasn’t much else in that draft (Rasho Nesterovic and Al Harrington would have been better choices as were Rashard Lewis & Cuttino Mobley however the latter two were taken in the second round).

Gabriel was keen enough to trade for Ben Wallace, but Wallace was shipped to Detroit in the Grant Hill trade. Hard to argue with that without putting on your hindsight glasses. Gabriel best move was grabbing Tracy McGrady from the Raptors for a first round pick. Looking through his transactions it seems Gabriel weakness was finding a stable center. He drafted Michael Doleac, Curtis Borchardt, Keon Clark, and Steven Hunter in the first round, but none were good enough to become starters. The Magic used veteran defensive minded journeymen bigs like Bo Outlaw, John Amaechi, and Horace Grant in the post-Shaq era.

After leaving Orlando, Gabriel did work with the Portland Trailblazers. This is a good sign not only because Portland has done a good job in building a strong roster, but their GM Kevin Pritchard is said to be statistical minded. It’s hard to gauge whether or not Gabriel has an understanding of statistical analysis. He did trade for Ben Wallace, but that may have been luck (considering he traded Wallace a year later). Gabriel did also acquire Hill and McGrady, two players who score highly by statistical measures, although both were known superstars at the time.

The Worst Article Of 2007

Folks it’s about that time of year again, to announce the worst article of 2007. While there were many fine candidates throughout the year there’s one article that was published just 2 days ago that has surpassed all others. I’m proud to say that this work is right up there with previous winners such as Charlie Rosen’s most overrated list, and Frank Hughes 2004 piece. The winner for KnickerBlogger’s worst article of 2007 is brought to us by Lou V. of paperbacknovel titled “Why the Knicks Don’t Suck.. Anymore, But the NY Post and NY Daily News Do (Suck).”

I don’t know what the internet comparable version of “don’t judge a book by it’s color”, but maybe it should be “judge an article by it’s title.” It certainly applies to this year’s worst article winner. Notice the improper use of the ellipsis (two dots instead of three), and how the author has to add the final “(Suck)” in parenthesis because he decided to throw in the word “Anymore”. If the author wanted a better title, he could have dropped both words for a simpler title: “Why the Knicks Don’t Suck, But the NY Post and NY Daily News Do.” But why go for clarity when you’re aiming for much lower?

While I have to admit I thought at first that this would be an Onion-esque satirical piece, I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t. The author, Lou V., starts off by bashing the local media for “getting their [readers’] attentions off real economic and political issues by parading sports and the lottery in front of them.” A reasonable start to an article, as I’ve certainly taken my shots at the mainstream news. Unfortunately he follows it with this monstrocity:

… the Knicks are fine. They remain as they were to start the season — a young, athletic team with guys who can score; they have great chemistry, believe in their coach, and are progressively playing better defense… They’re not a championship team yet, but they’re a good team; a playoff-caliber team.

I guess if you’re going to define “good” as being one of the worst teams in the league, then the 5-11 Knicks are good. By those standards, the 6-10 Clippers are great, the 7-8 Bucks are awesome and the 8-9 Nets are unbeatable. Just about the only thing true in these sentences is that the Knicks are a young athletic team with guys who can score. They do not have good chemistry, and they certainly don’t believe in their coach. Their defense hasn’t progressively improved, in fact it’s been about the same for the last 2 years. No the Knicks aren’t a championship team. No the Knicks aren’t a good team. No the Knicks aren’t a playoff-caliber team. Of course the author throws in this nugget in the same paragraph: “… James Dolan, owner, who has proven to be a stand-up, moral guy …” More on that later.

In his next section Lou V is a bit more sensible. Lou talks about how Isiah was “castigated” by the Renaldo Balkman selection, and states that Larry Brown was viewed favorably due to racism. There’s definitely a valid point to be made with Balkman. Many in the mainstream media criticized Thomas relentlessly for the selection, one that is looking better and better by the day. And yes claiming Larry Brown was liked not because he is one of the better coaches of his generation, flaws and all, because of the color of his skin is one of the more reasonable claims of this column. Read on.

The next section titled “Why Isiah Thomas Doesn’t Suck” is laughable. The author claims that “Isiah has turned the Knicks around in 3 years at the helm as GM.” and “Most GM’s in the NBA would exchange their best three big men for [Curry-Randolph-Lee]in a heartbeat.” I guess you could debate that Isiah has only been around for 3 years, since he is 19 days short of his fourth season. However what’s not debatable is that he’s turned the team around. The Knicks have only bested their ’03 record of 37 wins once in Isiah’s tenure, and are on track for only 25 wins this season.

But it’s the author’s second assertion that has me thinking. How many teams would trade their top 3 big men for the Knicks? Well I think I can safely omit Boston, Orlando, Toronto, San Antonio, Phoenix, Utah, Dallas, and Houston due to their star power at those positions. I might add Miami (Shaq), Chicago (Ben, Thomas, Noah + didn’t want Curry in the first place), Denver (Camby, Nene, K-Mart), Clippers (Brand), Portland (Oden), and Memphis (Gasol). Then there are teams where these three wouldn’t fit in like Golden State (Nellie-ball), and Detroit (‘Sheed/McDyess). Not counting teams that wouldn’t do it for reasons of fiscal irresponsibility, I count 16 teams that wouldn’t trade for our trio tower. Of course I guess a team like the Nets or Lakers might (Bynum?), so Knick fans might want to put in an order for that Kwame Brown or Nenad Krstic jersey they’ve been pining for.

What puts this article at the top of my list is the sidebar containing “Isiah Thomas’s Knicks’ Resume.” Some of the gems:

“Zach Randolph and Fred Jones for Channing Frye? This may go down as one of the great Knick trades ever.”

“Acquired Tim Thomas from Milwaukee and center Nazr Mohammed from Atlanta in a three-team trade…. Mohammed played some good ball in NY, but then helped Isiah rebuild with the trade listed below this one. Tim Thomas played some ball in NY, but then helped Isiah get Eddy Curry from Chicago. This Feb 2004 trade was a fantastic setup trade for the Knicks.”

“Despite the criticisms, Marbury has played a lot of all-star basketball in NY. The final word is still out on this trade as there is still that conditional 1st-round pick hanging out there in 2009 or 2010 that Phoenix gets from NY, but so far, NY got Stephon Marbury for a bunch of crap — including Knick-franchise-of-the-future-according-to-Stu-Laden, Michel Lampe. Penny Hardaway was used by Knicks to help get Stevie Francis, who was used to help get Zach Randolph. Phoenix used this trade to get $7-million under the cap, enabling them to sign free agent Steve Nash, and catapulting them to an elite team. This trade looks good for both teams right now, for different reasons.”

The Knicks best trades of all time: Dave DeBusschere for Bellamy; Riordan and Stallworth for Monroe; Oakley for Camby; and Zach for Frye? Um yeah… The author also credits Isiah for drafting Trevor Ariza and Demitrius Nichols, ignoring the fact that the first was traded and the second’s expulsion from the club was a classic blunder.

Not to be outdone, the author concludes with “Why James Dolan Doesn’t Suck.” He states that “Dolan’s handling of the Anucka Browne Sanders case is prototypical of his high moral fiber.” I guess I couldn’t have said that better myself.

Some Plays Count: Stephon Marbury & David Lee 11/11/07 (Part II)

In the last installment, I looked at a recorded version of the Knicks’ game against Miami on Sunday in order to get a better understanding of the team. Today I’m going to look at David Lee’s play in the first quarter. Due to Zach Randolph’s absence, Lee started but was removed only a few minutes into the game. From a layman’s perspective this might have seemed justified because his man Udonis Haslem scored 10 points on a perfect 5-5 shooting. Isiah Thomas sent Malik Rose, whose strength lies on the defensive end, to the scorer’s table just 7 minutes into the game. Since I was curious what Lee did that earned him a quick hook, I’m only going to look at the plays that are significant to this event.

10:40 [NYK 6-0]
Lee Slam Dunk Shot: Made (2 PTS)
Assist: Marbury (1 AST)

The Heat get distracted as Quentin Richarson fumbles the ball, but recovers it. Lee slips past his defender under the hoop and raises his hands. Marbury hits Lee with a pass, and David dunks the ball for an easy 2 points.

Davis Layup Shot: Missed Block: Lee (1 BLK)

Miami has the ball and attempts a pick & roll with Davis & Haslem. The pick & roll (especially with Haslem) will be a staple of the Heat offense all night long. Lee switches on the play, follows Davis to the hoop and blocks his shot attempt.

Crawford Turnover:Lost Ball (1 TO) Steal:Hardaway (1 ST)
9:59 [MIA 2-6]
Haslem Driving Dunk Shot: Made (2 PTS)
Assist: Hardaway (1 AST)

Crawford losses the ball as the Knicks bring it up, and Lee picks up Jason Williams in transition to slow the Miami fast break. Unfortunately nobody picks up Lee’s man Haslem, and Hardaway finds him for an easy score.

Lee Turnover:Lane Violation (1 TO)

This one speaks for itself. Lee steps into the lane too early on a Curry foul shot attempt, and the Knicks lose a point. This is a foolish mental lapse on Lee’s part.

Davis 3pt Shot: Missed
Lee Rebound (Off:0 Def:1)

David Lee is one of three Knicks that has to guard against Jason Williams’ incursion into the lane. Williams kicks the ball out to Ricky Davis who misses an open three. Lee grabs the miss.

8:48 [MIA 5-8]
Williams 3pt Shot: Made (3 PTS)

Another pick & roll by Miami. This time Crawford is on Jason Williams, and the pick is set by Haslem. Crawford is so far behind on the pick, that Williams is at the free throw line while Jamal is still behind the three point line. Lee does a good job picking up Williams and forces him to the baseline, preventing him from getting in the lane. Crawford recovers, and Lee leaves to cover Haslem. However with Crawford on him, Williams creates some space for himself and sinks a three pointer.

Lee Layup Shot: Missed

On the next series, Lee goes baseline against Haslem, but he misses the reverse layup. The Knick announcers state that it was a “nice move” despite the negative outcome.

Marbury Foul:Shooting (1 PF)
Williams Free Throw 1 of 2 missed
8:17 [MIA 6-8]
Williams Free Throw 2 of 2 (4 PTS)

Miami runs the pick & roll again, this time Marbury is on Jason Williams. Lee gives Stephon room to go under the pick. Despite being in a position where he should be able to defend the inside, Marbury is unable to prevent Williams from getting to the hoop. Marbury fouls Williams, who converts one of two.

7:45 [MIA 8-8]
Haslem Jump Shot: Made (4 PTS)
Assist: Williams (1 AST)

The Knicks miss a shot, and Miami is in transition. Quentin Richardson is playing center field, making sure no one gets an easy bucket. Marbury takes Richardson’s man, Ricky Davis. Suddenly Davis drives to the hoop towards Richardson with Marbury trailing. With two defenders on him, he kicks it out to Marbury’s man, Jason Williams. Lee rotates over, and Williams hits Lee’s man Haslem for an open jumper.

Lee Turnover:Bad Pass (2 TO) Steal:Hardaway (2 ST)

Richardson is posting Hardaway, and Lee tries to get Quentin the ball. Penny jumps in front and intercepts the pass. Miami tries to take advantage of the opportunity…

Davis Layup Shot: Missed
Lee Rebound (Off:0 Def:2)

…but Davis misses the shot and Lee grabs the miss.

[MIA 10-10]
Haslem Jump Shot: Made (6 PTS)
Assist: Williams (2 AST)

Jason Williams blows past Marbury on a Shaq pick & roll. Lee helps out on this play, and Haslem is wide open. Williams hits Haslem, who nails the open 12 footer.

O’Neal Layup Shot: Missed
Haslem Rebound (Off:1 Def:1)
6:21 [MIA 12-12]
Haslem Hook Shot: Made (8 PTS)

Shaq has the ball in the post and Lee double teams to assist Curry. Lee flails his arms as Shaq comes towards him, but O’Neal misses the shot. Looking at the replay, two things occur here. First is that Lee is shocked for a moment that he isn’t called for a foul on the play. It looks like he intended to foul Shaq to force him to convert from the charity stripe. This moment of hesitation may have cost him the rebound. Haslem beat Lee to the ball and puts it back for another score. The second thing is that Eddy Curry could have had the rebound. After Shaq misses the shot, Curry who is less than 6 feet from the hoop runs towards the offensive end, instead of trying to rebound the ball.

Lee Jump Shot: Missed

David Lee misses an open jumper. Lee had the ball by himself on the baseline, but Shaq was under the hoop conceding the shot, not allowing Lee to get closer.

Malik Rose seen sitting at the scorer’s table waiting to check in.

O’Neal Jump Shot: Missed
Lee Rebound (Off:0 Def:3)

Shaq misses, and Lee grabs the rebound.

3:41 [MIA 18-14]
Haslem Jump Shot: Made (10 PTS)
Assist: Williams (3 AST)

Williams and Haslem again run the pick & roll. Williams goes through it to his left, then back to his right. Marbury is unable to stay with Williams, and Lee helps out picking him up at the foul line. Williams passes the ball behind his back to Haslem, and Haslem buries his 5th shot. In this play, Lee was hampered by Marbury who ran into him trying to get Haslem, preventing him from getting to Udonis.

Lee Layup Shot: Missed
3:21 [NYK 16-18]
Curry Putback Layup Shot: Made (8 PTS)

Marbury & Curry run their own pick & roll. Marbury passes to Curry, who is quickly double teamed. Curry then hits Lee who is picked up by Shaq. Lee can’t make the layup, but Curry is there to clean up the mess.

Lee Substitution replaced by Rose

Looking back at Haslem’s perfect 5-5 stretch against Lee, 2 were in transition, 2 were on pick & roll plays, and one was due to an offensive rebound. However it’s hard to single out Lee as the culprit for these plays. For the transition baskets, Lee made sure he was back on defense, but had to cover someone else’s man. Similarly with the pick & roll, Lee had to defend the guard on the Haslem buckets.

While Lee didn’t have a good offensive start, his defense was at least adequate. Looking at these plays it’s clear that the Knicks’ defensive problems stem from more than just one player. It’s easy to point to the guards as the root of the cause, but New York’s defensive woes may go further than that. Take the pick & roll. I don’t recall the last time the Knicks “hedged” (where the forward steps out to slow down the guard) under Isiah Thomas. It’s funny because the hedge was a staple of the past Knick teams. In fact I can’t even think about Kurt Thomas without thinking how good he was at slowing down guards on the pick & roll. In fact they seem to do one of two things. Either the guard goes under, or the guard goes over and tries to catch up with his man. Unfortunately neither tactic seems particularly effective. The Knicks inability to come up with any way to slow down the pick & roll might be the fault of their players. But it might also be the fault of the coaching staff, who has been unable to put together an adequate defense.

Knicks 2007 Report Card (A to Z): Steve Francis

KnickerBlogger: When Steve Francis came into the league, his All Star game earned him the nickname “Franchise.” An alliteration on his last name, but Francis hardly deserves that moniker anymore. Along those lines, maybe we can find a few words to describe the Knick guard.

Fragile or Fractious?
The first thing that comes to my head when I think of Francis’ 2007 season is the winter break he took for the month of January. Depending on what you believe either Francis was tending to his knee tendinitis, he quit on the team, or the team asked him to go home. Whatever the reason truly was, Francis missed nearly half the season, which hurts his value.

Last year on the court, Francis had two major strengths. The first was his ability to get to the free throw line and convert. He was second on the team in free throw attempts per minute and third in TS%. Francis was best among the Knick guards in both categories. The second was his rebounding ability. Francis was second among Knick guards in per-minute rebounding, just behind Mardy Collins. This speaks well of Francis’ rebounding, since he gives up 3 inches to the taller Collins. At 6-3, Francis seemed willing to throw himself into the fray on both ends of the court.

No longer a top notch scorer, Francis has dropped nearly 6 points per 40 minutes from his career peak. Therefore his flaws were less tolerable. Francis fractured the Knick offense with his dominance of the ball. He dribbled frantically eating time off the clock, and lost the ball much too often for a guard. His 3.2 TO/40 was right along with stone handed defensive minded big men like Jerome James (3.4 TO/40) and Malik Rose (3.2 TO/40). Ironically this rate is among the best of his career, probably due to his decrease shot attempts which also hit a career low.

KnickerBlogger’s Grade: D+

2008 Outlook:
Francis was traded to Portland in the Zach Randolph deal. It’s unknown at this time whether or not he’ll actually play for them. If Portland does buy him out, who knows where he’ll land.

Dave Crockett: Francis was the most vexing Knick for me personally, though reasonable fans are welcome to disagree. Knickerblogger mentions Francis’ ability to get to the line as one of the best on the team. He was actually 2nd in the league in FTA per 100 FGAs at 51. His 57% TS% was actually a career high–on a career low usage rate. I’d also add that Francis is a quality rebounder at guard–not Jason Kidd quality, but still quite good.

Unfortunately, with Stevie Frequent-Crossover, you get a lot of cloud with that silver lining. Mind you, I do not consider him a selfish player, and his career assist rate of 22.7 (which he topped this season) strongly suggests that he is not. Rather, his particular limitations make him an especially poor fit on this team–a far better fit for say, the Clippers. He’s perfect on isolation plays as a primary offensive option, but a lot of his assists come off his own scoring as opposed to setting up his teammates. He’s a notoriously poor decision-maker on the fastbreak, where he gets a lot of FTAs but frequently won’t pass to teammates for wide open layups. Additionally, he’s a turnover machine. His 06-07 turnover rate (14.2) was ghastly, which should come as no surprise since he’s been almost as turnover-prone as Eddy Curry throughout his career, and just about as bad a defender. I’m not sure I could say that Francis has earned a D. His strengths are so clear-cut but his negatives are magnified on this team. Also, given the team’s willingness to banish Penny Hardaway I’m inclined to give Francis the benefit of the doubt about his month off. Some of his “attitude problems” he’s either outgrown or have been exaggerated. Other than the typical quips about playing time I think he’s been a fairly solid citizen in New York. I think Francis could be a nice fit for a number of teams, just not at his current price. [Ed’s note: this was written before the trade – good foresight Dave!.] If the Knicks could find a taker for his gargantuan contract he’s probably a goner–and better off for it. However, I do not expect Daddy Warbucks to buy Francis out this summer.

Michael Zannettis: In the end, Francis sitting out games was one of the best things he did for the Knicks. That way he neither took away minutes from younger players, nor spent a lot of time proving to teams that he’s not as good as either he used to be, or we all thought he used to be. On that note, I wonder how much Portland plans to play him. Between Webster, Roy, Outlaw, Jack, and Rodriguez, that’s a lot of young backcourt talent that shouldn’t be shelved when the Blazer’s goal this season is to develop, not compete.

Brian Cronin: Francis is one of the best examples of how individual statistics in the NBA are difficult to integrate into the overall game, as someone like Francis can produce very respectable statistical numbers, but at the same time, not fit in with the rest of the team well at all. That’s where scouting becomes so important.

In any event, I probably would give him a D+, but yeah, this was not a good season for Francis.

What’s interesting to me to note is exactly where will Francis end up this season if Portland does, indeed, end up cutting him.

Cleveland showed interest in him last year, but I think that would be a terrible fit.

As would Miami (another team looking for a point guard).

Houston would have been interesting, but then they picked up Mike James. How about Detroit? Indiana, maybe? Milwaukee if Mo Williams doesn’t resign?

I think those three teams would probably be the best matches I can think of – Detroit/Indiana/Milwaukee.

Any team I’m missing?

Isiah’s Latest Trade Is A No-Brainer

In terms of talent this trade is a no-brainer. Penny Hardaway is 6 years and 2 knees removed from his last good season. Meanwhile Trevor Ariza is a liability in the half court set, and unless you’re Ben Wallace it doesn’t normally work to play 4 on 5. Steve Francis can put the ball in the hoop, and is just a shade under 20 points per game for his career. He’s an excellent rebounder for a guard, and can dish the ball as well. In other words Francis is a nice addition to your fantasy team. But in the real world, Stevie Franchise joining the Knicks is a fantasy only for the rest of the league.

There’s more to consider about the Knicks’ latest trade than just talent. Francis comes with a franchise sized contract that tops out at $17M before expiring in 2009. Adding Francis’ contract to Marbury’s, Richardson’s, Crawford’s, and Jerome James’ means New York will be over the cap until 2009. Grabbing another long term deal in Francis shows the Knicks are committed to never being under the cap. If that doesn’t signal the end of the Knicks rebuilding plans, then there’s always the sobering reality that they traded a player who has yet to have his first legal beer for a 29 year old former All Star. With the deal boiling down to Ariza & a piece of paper with Penny Hardaway’s signature on it for Francis, it’s hard to argue that the Knicks are trying to get younger anymore.

Meanwhile it’s clear that Francis isn’t a complimentary player for this Knicks team. Just about the last player New York needs is another low percentage-turnover prone-needs the ball in his hands-player. Throw in that a Francis-Marbury backcourt means that every night one opposing guard will have an unobstructed view to the hoop, and it means that the Knicks defensive woes will just get worse. As for demeanor, Francis pouted his way through the first half of this season for a bad Orlando team under strict disciplinarian Bob Hill. I would have paid to see the look on Steve’s face when he was told he was sent to the only team in the league having the combination of a worse record and stricter coach. [KnickerBlogger ASCII artist rendition of that face :-\ ]

Ardent Isiah supporters point to how much more talented Francis is, and how easy it will be to move Taylor & Rose with their expiring contracts over the summer. But I have to ask, what kind of players will Isiah get by dangling those players in front of the league’s GMs? Don?t you think if Steve Francis was worth more than an expiring contract and a raw twenty year old, the Magic would have taken that deal instead? Using the expiring contract technique the Knicks have only been able to grab players who have one foot out the door in their current city. Marbury, Crawford, Curry, Rose, Taylor, James, Richardson, and Francis all come from teams desperate to get rid of them. The Knicks haven’t been able to get players that fit their needs. Instead New York can only acquire the league’s undesirables.

So while Francis is better than both players the Knicks shipped away for him, he’s doesn’t he add to the team’s trading flexibility. Nor does he become more valuable after another year in his third team. Nor does he fit into any rebuilding plans. Francis doesn’t even address the team most important on the court needs.

Yup sounds like a no-brainer to me.