Knicks Should Concede Season

New York’s Wednesday’s loss against the Nets was especially tough. The team had gone on a mini-3 game win streak before dropping one to powerhouse Cleveland, and beating the Nets at home would have helped them get back on the playoff track. Instead they suffered a disheartening 115-89 defeat. At halftime the Knicks were only down by 11, but New Jersey expanded the lead slowly over the third quarter and the game slipped away from the Knicks. With under 4 minutes remaining and the win out of his grasp, Coach D’Antoni conceded the victory and brought in reserves Samb, Wilcox, and Nichols.

Looking at the standings New York is 3 games out of the 8th seed with 15 to play. But they would also have to leapfrog 4 other teams to accomplish that goal. Exactly one month ago New York’s chances to make the playoffs were 8.9%, but today it stands at a only 1.7%. Just to give a visual of how small those odds are, if we round them up to 2% the Knicks chances of making the playoffs it looks like this:


Unfortunately the Knicks’ standings in the lottery haven’t improved much either. Back in February their chances of getting the overall pick was 1.3%, and today Basketball-Reference has them at 1.4%. While the playoff push was the right thing for D’Antoni to do, it seems that the time to get the 8th seed has come and gone. Much like the Nets game, the Knicks should concede the rest of the season and use the remaining 15 games to prepare for next year. One way is to allow Nate Robinson to be the starting point guard (which may have already occurred). Another is to give minutes to Wilcox, Curry (if healthy), Samb, and Nichols in order to better understand how they may help the team. For Wilcox and Curry getting court time might allow them to gain D’Antoni’s trust. For the latter two, getting minutes would help the front office determine if they are worthy of a roster spot.

And in the interim, playing the reserves would increase New York’s standings in the June draft. While the only team that they might realistically pass is Indiana (who is 1 game away from the Knicks), it’s just as important for New York to not allow any of the teams ahead of them to improve their draft day position. The Bucks, Bobcats, and Nets are all within 2 games of the Knicks. From any perspective the worst scenario would be New York passing all those teams in the standings without making the playoffs. If D’Antoni shifts his main focus from winning individual games to developing the end of his bench, New York would probably avoid such a undesirable fate.

Knicks 116 Pistons 111 (OT)

I actually got to watch the game live last night. That’s a tall order for someone who has a 2 year old child and an expecting wife. I didn’t watch the whole game, just the second half. During the fourth quarter when the Knicks had made the game close, I had turned to my wife and said I miss the Knicks being good. Maybe I’m nostalgic for the old days, but it seemed like when the Knicks were winning the city was a more exciting place. Even though they won, I felt something missing because for the most part it was a meaningless game.

Oh I know the playoffs are still a possibility, but a remote one. New York has to leapfrog 5 teams to get to the last playoff spot. Even if the Knicks make the playoffs, all they will have earned is a first round kick in the ass. Don’t get me wrong, at the end of the season I’d be happy if the Knicks make the playoffs. But there is a part of me that is saying I’ll regret that a year from now if the team missed out on a good young player because they drafted later than they should have.

I enjoyed watching yesterday’s game tremendously, but I couldn’t help to think what if it were a playoff game? For nearly a decade I’ve watched the NBA playoffs, but mostly from the perspective of a third party. Watching the NBA playoffs is like watching that show that your girlfriend likes. You get into it because you’re forced to watch it, and you eventually find something to relate to. But in the end it’s still not what you’d prefer to watch. The emotion you have for that show lasts only as long as your relationship with her. And deep inside you know that as your watching it.

On an odd note, I ran into Martin Johnson (formerly of the NY Sun, now of the Root) at the bar last night. Considering the number of times I go out, that’s a rare occurrence. I spoke with him about the Knicks and 2010, and we made a friendly wager. If the Knicks sign LeBron James, Johnson will agree to write a column for KnickerBlogger. If not I owe him a couple of beers. I feel like this is one of those PTI bets where the option is the favorite vs. the field. Of course it’s better to have the field, because it’s rare for one option to happen over the many. There will be a few teams opening their pockets to James, and New York might not be considered the favorite over his current team Cleveland. But I figured the bet was well worth it.

Samb A Low Risk For New York

Yesterday the Knicks signed Cheik Samb to a 10 day contract. Samb has played for 3 other NBA teams (the Pistons, Nuggets, and Clippers) but has only amassed 106 minutes in that time. His per minute numbers show him to be a strong shot blocker with a very limited offensive game. In fact his shooting numbers are downright laughably bad (TS% 30.5, eFG 27.3%)

Although I’m a big of a supporter of per minute numbers, 106 minutes isn’t enough of a sample to make a good conclusion. This is especially true with regards to a players shooting percentages, which vary more from game to game than their other stats. Luckily Samb has logged 500+ minutes for the NBDL, and his 14.7 pts/36 on 52.8% TS% in the minor league is encouraging. If you combine his numbers from the two leagues, he projects well for a backup center.

2007-08 DET  4  31  4.6 2.3 .500 3.5  8.1 0.0 1.2 2.3 1.2 9.3  8.1 12.0 .717 .750
2008-09 TOT 16  75 13.9 2.4 .600 4.3 10.6 0.5 1.4 4.8 1.4 3.4  7.2  7.2 .240 .207
NBA Career  20 106 11.2 2.4 .571 4.1  9.8 0.3 1.4 4.1 1.4 5.1  7.5  8.6 .305 .273
NBDL Career 20 508 12.7 2.8 .744 2.6  9.6 0.9 0.9 5.3 2.1 4.6 14.7 17.9 .528 .497
NBA+NBDL    40 614 12.4 2.7 .714 2.9  9.6 0.8 1.0 5.1 2.0 4.7 13.5 16.3 .490 .458

Samb holds up well when compared to some other NBA centers at approximately the same age/number of years in the league. His rebounding isn’t as strong as Ben Wallace or Andris Biedrins, and Big Ben was chipping in with nearly 2 blocks per 36 minutes. Additionally Samb compares poorly to the lot from an offensive standpoint (if you value his NBA numbers over his NBDL). However his blocked shots are the best of the bunch. In fact there have only been 54 seasons in which a player averaged more than 4.0 blocks/36 in 1000 minutes or more.

        Player   To   G   MP   FGA  FG% FTA  FT% ORB  TRB AST STL BLK TOV  PF  PTS
     Cheik Samb 2009  20  106 11.2 .273 2.4 .571 4.1  9.8 0.3 1.4 4.1 1.4 5.1  7.5
Samb NBA+NBDL   2009  40  614 12.4 .458 2.7 .714 2.9  9.6 0.8 1.0 5.1 2.0 4.7 13.5
  Jackie Butler 2007  69  848 10.8 .539 3.8 .775 3.1  8.7 1.3 0.8 1.3 3.1 6.1 14.6
   Jerome James 2002  72  991 10.8 .481 2.6 .500 3.5  9.0 0.9 1.0 3.3 3.0 6.7 11.7
  Steven Hunter 2004 145 1752  8.3 .506 4.3 .464 2.7  7.4 0.5 0.4 3.1 1.2 4.9 10.4
   Dan Gadzuric 2004 124 2020  8.8 .512 3.1 .500 3.4  9.7 0.7 1.3 2.8 1.3 5.5 10.6
Andris Biedrins 2009 309 7469  9.1 .602 3.2 .535 4.3 12.2 1.5 1.1 1.9 1.7 5.0 12.6
    Ben Wallace 1998 101 1321  5.7 .481 3.2 .347 3.7 10.4 0.5 1.9 2.3 1.3 3.9  6.6

The big question is will Samb ever see that many minutes? It’s hard to tell with D’Antoni. He seemingly coveted Chris Wilcox when in Phoenix, but now that the team has acquired him, the center has yet to see any real minutes. Wilcox has played in only 5 games, and has yet to play more than 12 in any game for New York. My gut feeling is that D’Antoni might throw Samb a few minutes early to see if he’s useful, but that you won’t see him again until the Knicks are officially out of the place race. It’s very likely that Samb won’t see any minutes this year at all. New York may just hold him on their roster for the summer league and re-evaluate him at that time.

To put things in perspective the last time the Knicks picked up a shot blocking center in Jerome James, the deal was 182 times longer than Samb’s. The shot blocker they picked up prior to James, helped them reach the playoffs (Dikembe Mutombo) in 2004. This is a good low risk-medium reward deal for the Knicks. It’s something that the team has been weak at considering the Roberson/Von Wafer mistake over the summer. If Samb can join the legion of NBDLers who have become solid NBA players he will give New York another cheap player to help the team win now. Additionally players like Samb could help New York field a competitive roster for 2011 without hurting them fiscally.

KnickerBlogger Turns 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Couple of Odds & Ends

Alan Hahn mentions this possible deal:

According to Broussard, Don Nelson told rookie Anthony Randolph, “You should have your agent start looking into trades, because this is not working out.”

The 19-year-old Randolph – yes, he’s only 19 – makes the rookie scale of $1.7 million which means you could probably — Bloghost note: to all you linking from HoopsHype, this is JUST a mere SUGGESTION on a BLOG not an actual REPORT of something factual! — could get him if you dangled David Lee. But that would definitely be a move that signals rebuilding over taking a shot at the playoffs…though Randolph does have tremendous upside as an offensive player and a big who can play in transition. However, we all know Nellie loves this style, too, so if he’s seeing flaws . . .

I think Hahn is pretty good at getting inside information, but as a basketball analyst he’s pretty lacking. I don’t think Randolph has tremendous upside as an offensive player, in fact his offense is severely lacking. From Ed Weiland’s draft profile: “For PFs, scoring efficiently is probably more important than scoring often. A PF who can put up a high FG pct. from inside the arc is one who has a better chance of becoming an effective inside scorer in the NBA. Anthony Randolph was not an efficient 2-point scorer at LSU. Not even close. He hit .483 on two pointers and .105 on 19 three pointers. Not too many college stars go onto NBA greatness after hitting less than .515 on 2-point FGs. In fact, no one has.”

That said, Randolph has some potential. Although he’s played only 274 minutes, his non-scoring stats are good (2.8 BLK/36, 1.2 STL/36) and his rebounding is through the roof (12.2 REB/36). However that potential is tainted by his horrendous scoring (43% TS%, 3.8 TO/36). As said of him “He’s got a chance to be special, but in turn a higher than average chance of being a bust as well.” Why would the Knicks trade their best asset (David Lee) for a player that has a chance of becoming a colossal bust? Hahn seems to pluck this out of thin air, and he admits to there being no rumors to this deal even being discussed. Obviously Hahn thinks it would be a good deal for New York, or at least one worth considering. But at this stage of Anthony Randolph’s career, he’s not worth David Lee.

Marc Berman of the New York Post reports Eddy Curry may be healthy by next week:

Curry confirmed he is on track to join the team full tilt in practice in a little more than a week. After that, “It’s up to the coach when he thinks I’m ready to play,” he said.

Because of a bruised right knee, Curry hasn’t practiced since the regular season began but may start doing on-court drills on Christmas Day, when the club returns to practice.

In a rare interview, Curry told The Post he’s genuinely excited about this return. That is a departure from past interviews when Curry seemed resigned to his banished fate, despondent his knee was not healing. He ticked off the coaching staff originally by reporting to training camp well over 300 pounds.

“I’m excited, I’m ready to get back,” Curry told The Post. “I’m definitely excited.”

Knicks president Donnie Walsh said at practice yesterday Curry “wants to play” and thinks he’ll join practice in about one week.

The 7-foot Curry yesterday finished a three-week program during which he was injected with a shot in his knee once a week – a lubricant that has lessened his pain. His final injection was yesterday. In late September, he took a cortisone shot that failed to work.

“I talked to [D’Antoni] a couple of times,” Curry said. “He really assured me he wants me to be part of what’s going on and for me not to lose my concentration and stay in it mentally and keep trying to work hard so when I come back I’m not too far behind. I’m glad he’s anticipating my return.”

I can’t believe I’m typing this, but I’m looking forward to see Eddy Curry in D’Antoni’s offense. It’s not because I think Curry can reclaim his career as a possible franchise center. But I think that Curry can be a good reserve center in the right offense. And I think D’Antoni’s system would minimize some of Eddy’s weaknesses.

In the past New York’s offense centered around giving Curry the ball in the post and forcing him to score or find an open player. Curry’s turnovers spiked as he committed offensive fouls and failed to pass the ball back out to an open player. Part of the problem was the offensive set would often leave players motionless, the other problem was force feeding him the ball. In D’Antoni’s offense the ball and players are in continuous motion, which means 4 players won’t be standing around while Eddy tries to figure out what to do. With Duhon running the offense, Curry should get the ball in better positions to score.

Additionally Curry gives the Knicks some size. New York’s main weakness is interior defense, and although blocked shots is not one of Curry’s strengths, he does it better than the current Knick frontcourt. Curry’s career 1.1 BLK/36 is better than what Lee (0.3), Harrington (0.3), Jeffries (0.3), and Chandler (0.9) have given the Knicks on a per minute basis this year. Coach D’Antoni likes to use a smaller lineup, but it looks like the Jared Jeffries experiment isn’t what he thought it would be. Since he’s moved to center, Jeffries is sporting a PER of 3.8 and his turnovers and fouls have increased (5.0 TO/36, 5.7 PF/36). Curry would likely be an improvement over Jeffries.

Ultimately my dream scenario is for Curry to be productive enough for the Knicks to move him for a player that better fits their needs with a shorter contract. But even if he’s productive for 15-20 minutes a night that means the Knicks have one less dead roster spot.

[Edited: To correct Hahn’s first name.]