Should Knick Fans Hope For Carmelo?

The NBA season is unique among American sport leagues, in that the action doesn’t come to an end once a champion is crowned. After the Finals, fans are bombarded with the draft, summer league, and free agency. One week after the Lakers won a championship, John Wall was drafted by the Wizards. Two weeks after that, LeBron James chose to leave Cleveland for the Miami Heat. If professional leagues were movies, the NFL and MLB would end with the cowboy gunslinger riding into the sunset. Whereas the NBA would show him entering the next town and sitting down at a card game. Fans of other sports can turn their thoughts elsewhere once the season is done. Meanwhile, basketball fans suffer from brain overload which might explain their overly speculative minds.

The overactive hoopster brain tends to imagine moves a team could make to get better. For Knick fans this summer, one such fantasy is New York building their own super powered team with Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony. These players are likely to seek max contracts, but are they worth it? New York has already signed Amar’e, so it seems pointless to discuss the merits of that deal. There is little doubt that Paul, when healthy, is one of the best players in the league. John Hollinger said midway into the 2008 season:

I submit that Paul is the MVP of the non-LeBron portion of the league thus far… Paul is on pace to have, arguably, the best season ever by a player 6-3 or smaller, and because of his small market and relatively unamazing per-game stats, absolutely nobody is even talking about it.

So it’s time for me to ring the bell. He plays before a minuscule fan base, gets zero national TV exposure and might not even make the playoffs, which is keeping his performance under the radar. But Chris Paul is having a historic season thus far. It’s about time somebody noticed.

But what about the third of the New York trioka, Carmelo Anthony? Is he someone Donnie Walsh should be targeting with a max contract? On the surface the answer seems to be an obvious yes. Anthony propelled Syracuse to a national title in his freshman year, and has been named to 4 All-NBA teams (thrice he was a third teamer and once a second teamer).

On the other hand, Anthony’s teams have failed to make a dent in the playoffs. In 6 of his 7 seasons, the Nuggets have exited after the first round. He’s a high volume scorer who doesn’t have great efficiency. Last year Anthony was a tad above the league average with regards to true shooting percentage (54.8%) but the year before he was under it (53.2%). When Carmelo can’t drive to the hoop he ends up settling for a long jumper. According to Hoopdata, last year he attempted nearly the same amount of shots in the paint (7.9 fga/36) as from 16-23 feet (7.1 fga/36). Carmelo might be an especially poor fit in Knicks’ offense. Coach D’Antoni’s teams take a fair number share of shots from behind the arc, and ‘Melo is subpar in that area. Only twice has he hit more than a third of his three pointers, and his career average is an anemic 30.8%.

Then of course is the question of his defense. Over the course of his career, it was thought that Carmelo was a subpar defender. Last year Kevin Arnovitz of TrueHoop delved deeper into the matter:

Individual defense is difficult to quantify, but I consult Aaron Barzilai to get a feel for what his +/- numbers can tell us about Carmelo’s D.

“Anthony seems to have been a liability in 2007-2008 but not in 2008-09,” Barzilai says. “Maybe that’s the story, he quietly became at least a neutral player on defense in the regular season.”

By liability, Barzilai means that the Nuggets were a little more than five points per 100 possessions worse defensively with Anthony on the floor in 2007-08. This season, though, it was a wash. (The numbers don’t s
how any appreciable improvement from the regular season to the playoffs). The numbers indicate that it might be a little early to start talking NBA All-Defense selection for Anthony, but a five-point bump in defensive adjusted +/- suggests real improvement, provided the trend holds for another season or two.

At the other end of the evaluative spectrum, I ask a scout for an NBA team to tell me if he’s seen the improvement in Carmelo’s defensive game we hear so much about during the broadcasts.

“It’s there. Carmelo’s buying into a role,” the scout says. “You see it when it comes to containing dribble-penetration and as a weak side defender off the ball. That’s one of the reasons his steals are up. Is he becoming a lockdown defender? No. But he’s grasping the team concepts in terms of defensive rotations, and that’s the big thing.”

This year, the Nuggets were 1.1 points worse defensively when Carmelo was on the floor. So it appears that Anthony is at best a league average defender, certainly nothing more. Considering that any path to the Finals will likely go through teams with LeBron James, Vince Carter, and Paul Pierce, having a mediocre defender at small forward is a liability.

If you’re still not convinced that Carmelo would be overpaid with a max deal, then I present his list of similar players:

z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS eFG PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
.000 Carmelo Anthony 2010 DEN 22.2 54.8 47.8 26.6 2.1 6.2 3.0 1.2 0.4 2.9
.075 John Long 1982 DET 17.4 53.5 49.3 24.7 1.5 4.2 2.4 1.1 0.4 2.7
.075 Xavier McDaniel 1989 SEA 18.6 53.3 49.3 25.3 2.7 6.5 2.0 1.3 0.6 3.2
.091 Dominique Wilkins 1985 ATL 20.9 51.4 45.8 26.4 2.7 6.6 2.4 1.6 0.6 2.7
.094 Kelly Tripucka 1985 DET 16.7 54.8 47.8 22.5 1.4 4.7 2.9 1.1 0.3 2.5
.098 Mark Aguirre 1985 DAL 21.3 56.3 51.5 27.4 2.5 6.4 3.3 0.8 0.3 3.4
.105 David Thompson 1980 DEN 19.0 54.9 47.4 24.4 1.6 5.1 3.6 1.1 1.1 3.4
.105 Eddie Johnson 1985 KCK 16.2 54.2 49.6 22.3 1.8 4.8 3.2 1.0 0.3 2.7
.111 Billy Ray Bates 1982 POR 17.8 53.0 48.1 24.4 1.6 3.2 3.3 1.2 0.1 2.7
.119 Junior Bridgeman 1979 MIL 18.8 54.4 50.6 23.3 2.1 5.4 3.0 1.6 0.8 2.5
.127 Purvis Short 1983 GSW 17.6 53.4 48.9 21.6 2.2 5.3 3.4 1.4 0.2 2.9

If the ceiling is Dominique Wilkins, then it’s a list that’s damning with faint praise. Like ‘Melo, the Human Highlight Film was an inefficient high volume scorer. The rest of the list contains above average players, but no one I’d mortgage the future for. Compare this list to Amar’e Stoudemire’s who was similar to multiple hall of famers (Kevin McHale, Karl Malone, Alonzo Mourning and probable future HOFer Dirk Nowitzki).

Perhaps Anthony’s appeal is partially linked to the comparison principle; that is objects can be made to look better or worse depending on the other objects they are grouped with. After a season of free agency with multiple All Stars, ‘Melo is the only sure-fire All Star available in 2011. Next year after Anthony the best obtainable players are Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Jason Richardson, Shane Battier, and Michael Redd; guys who aren’t exactly household names. Although Carmelo is the most popular player of the bunch, the Knicks would be best served in passing on him and waiting for something better to come along. Carmelo is a high volume scorer with average efficiency and little else, therefore he fits the typical stereotype of overpaid NBA star. It would be like renting Jonah Hex thinking all cowboy movies were like 3:10 to Yuma. Perhaps when dreaming of that championship team, New Yorkers should suppress their overactive imagination to exclude Carmelo.

2010 Report Card: David Lee

This year the New York Knicks added a new wrinkle to their offense. A good portion of their half court set consisted of keeping David Lee on the perimeter with the ball, allowing him to orchestrate the offense. I’m not exactly sure why this was done, perhaps D’Antoni wanted to bring the opposing center on the perimeter to open the middle. Or perhaps the Knicks coach wished to experiment during a meaningless season.

In any case the General was up to the task, and notched the highest assist rate of his career (3.5 ast/36). Lee actually has a good touch passing the ball. He’s capable of the cross court pass, and near the top of the key he could hit an open teammate on a diagonal. In 2010 he was basically playing the point guard role in the half court set, selecting where the ball would go. He complemented this move to the exterior with his jump shooting, which seems to be ever improving.

David-Lee-Shooting-Perc

The numbers above are from HoopData, which doesn’t include Lee’s rookie year. Lee’s mid-range game appeared in 2008, and this year he’s added the deeper jump shot. From the chart above, he’s about equally proficient anywhere inside of 23 feet. The ability to hoist it up has allowed Lee to become a more voluminous scorer, as his pts/36 is almost double his rookie year output (11.0 to 19.6 pts/36).

But these positives did not occur without any drawbacks. First is Lee’s offensive rebounding, which dropped for the 3rd straight season to a career low of 2.7 reb/36. Secondly, playing Lee as the center instead of power forward hurt the team’s interior defense. The paint might as well have been in the Delta Quadrant for Knick defenders, because on most nights resistance was futile. Lee had a Zach Randolph-esque rate of blocked shots (Lee: 0.5, Randolph: 0.4 blk/36) which would be more livable from the power forward spot. But from the center position it was a clear detriment to the team.

Nonetheless Lee’s season was overall a success, especially when you consider that he made his first All Star appearance. Granted Lee isn’t an All Star caliber player like LeBron James or Dwight Howard are, but he showed that despite his flaws his strengths make him one of the league’s best big men.

Report Card (5 point scale):
Offense: 5
Defense: 1
Teamwork: 5
Rootability: 4
Performance/Expectations: 4

Final Grade: B+

Similarity Scores:

z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS eFG PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
.000 David Lee 2010 NYK 22.2 58.4 54.5 19.6 2.7 11.3 3.5 1.0 0.5 2.3
.058 Carlos Boozer 2008 UTA 21.9 58.1 54.7 21.8 2.5 10.7 3.0 1.3 0.5 2.7
.112 Brad Daugherty 1992 CLE 23.0 62.9 57.0 21.3 2.6 10.4 3.6 0.9 1.1 2.5
.180 Jack Sikma 1982 SEA 20.6 55.9 48.0 19.0 2.6 12.3 3.3 1.2 1.3 2.5
.184 Terry Mills 1994 DET 17.7 55.2 52.1 17.9 2.5 8.7 2.3 0.8 0.8 2.0
.195 Brad Miller 2003 IND 19.3 57.9 49.7 15.1 2.9 9.6 3.1 1.0 0.7 1.9
.199 Shareef Abdur-Rahim 2003 ATL 20.0 56.6 48.7 18.8 2.0 7.9 2.8 1.0 0.4 2.4
.206 Mike Gminski 1986 NJN 19.0 59.4 51.7 19.0 2.9 9.5 1.9 0.8 1.0 2.0
.207 Otis Thorpe 1989 HOU 15.4 59.1 54.2 15.7 3.1 9.0 2.3 0.9 0.4 2.6
.215 Craig Smith 2010 LAC 16.9 59.9 57.1 17.1 2.8 8.4 2.5 1.0 0.7 2.6
.218 Charles Oakley 1990 NYK 15.9 58.0 52.4 14.6 4.2 11.9 2.4 1.0 0.3 2.7

After last year’s similarity scores (Jerome Whitehead? Loy Vaught?), I was a bit afraid of what Lee’s future may hold. But this year he seems to be on the right track with that high correspondence with Boozer. The list seems to be an accurate representation of Lee; players who score efficiently and can handle the rock, but with questionable defensive skills. Since his high assist numbers are partly a function of his role D’Antoni’s offense, it’ll be interesting to see how he is used on another team should he bolt via free agency. Will another coach give him the freedom to manage the offense, or will he go back to his role as a pick & roll/pop power forward?

2009 Report Card: Chris Wilcox

The Knicks acquired Chris Wilcox in February in exchange for a barely used Malik Rose. It seemed that Wilcox was going to play center and push the undersized David Lee back to power forward, but instead Wilcox spelled Lee at center. Looking at his most frequent 5-man units from 82games, Lee doesn’t appear in any of them.

Watching Wilcox play, gave me a new appreciation of Lee. Both players have a similar style, but Wilcox lags behind in multiple areas. He was less efficient when it comes to inside scoring, and he was less able to stretch the offense. According to 82games, 80% of his attempts were inside. If the knock on Lee is his desire to stay near the hoop, then Wilcox must be tethered to it. And despite playing with the same support cast, David out rebounds Chris by a far margin. Wilcox’s one saving grace is his adequate block rate.

Name Jump eFG Inside eFG Inside % reb/36 to/36 ast/36 blk/36
Wilcox 35.0 57.3 80% 8.9 2.2 1.5 0.9
Lee 35.2 64.1 68% 12.1 1.9 2.2 0.3

Even though New York is still short on big men, they decided not to keep Wilcox for 2010. Newly acquired Darko Milicic and Eddy Curry are likely to take any minutes that would have gone to Wilcox. I guess the Knicks have filled their quota of lottery center busts.

Report Card (5 point scale):
Offense: 2
Defense: 2
Teamwork: 2
Rootability: 1
Performance/Expectations: 2

Grade: D F I was going to give Wilcox a D, until I remembered this. If I recall correctly, he did this more than once as a Knick.

Similarity Scores:

z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS% eFG% PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
.000 Chris Wilcox 2009 TOT 13.2 .517 .496 15.3 3.3 9.5 1.6 0.9 0.5 2.6
.024 Pat Cummings 1983 DAL 14.6 .526 .493 15.8 3.5 10.4 2.2 0.9 0.5 2.5
.032 Rick Robey 1982 BOS 11.0 .511 .493 13.8 3.5 9.0 2.1 0.8 0.4 2.8
.033 Marc Jackson 2001 GSW 16.1 .534 .471 16.2 3.0 9.2 1.5 0.9 0.7 2.4
.045 Mike Jackson 1976 VIR 13.2 .549 .499 15.8 3.4 9.8 1.8 0.7 0.5 3.1
.046 Jason Caffey 2000 GSW 12.4 .515 .479 14.2 3.2 8.0 2.0 1.0 0.3 2.8
.054 Kenny Carr 1982 TOT 14.7 .543 .504 16.7 3.1 9.9 1.6 1.2 0.4 2.8
.061 Kenny Thomas 2004 PHI 15.9 .527 .469 13.4 3.5 10.0 1.5 1.1 0.4 2.3
.071 Armen Gilliam 1991 TOT 15.5 .542 .487 16.9 3.0 8.1 1.4 0.9 0.7 2.4
.073 Dwight Jones 1979 HOU 10.9 .505 .458 13.6 3.3 9.7 1.7 1.0 0.8 3.0

2009 Report Card: Jared Jeffries

It’s hard to believe that Jared Jeffries averaged a half a game’s worth of minutes (23.4 mpg) for the Knicks last year. It’s hard to blame D’Antoni because Jeffries was able to defend multiple positions, and the Knicks have been short on defenders at every position. Prior to the season start, D’Antoni wanted Jeffries to play center, but that never materialized. At some point during the season, the Knicks used the 6-11 forward to cover fast point guards. The idea worked for a short while, as Jeffries’ combination of length and quickness was able to disrupt the rhythm of smaller players. However it was short lived as eventually they just sped past him to the basket.

Other than defensive versatility, Jeffries doesn’t bring anything else to the table other than offensive rebounding (3.5 oreb/36). He doesn’t block a lot of shots or rebound well enough for a 6-11 guy. His scoring is dreadful, both in volume (8.1 pts/36) and efficiency (ts% 47.3%). By the way, if you hear rumors that Jeffries is working on his jumpshot this offseason, don’t get excited. Last year reports came in that Jeffries practicing his jumper, and he shot 26.9% on them, almost identical to the 26.7% the year before. New York could use to move Jeffries this season because it would give the team an extra $6.9M in free space next summer, but even D’Antoni’s offense can’t make Jeffries look good.

Report Card (5 point scale):
Offense: 1
Defense: 3
Teamwork: 2
Rootability: 1
Performance/Expectations: 1

Grade: F

Similarity Scores:

z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS% eFG% PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
.000 Jared Jeffries 2009 NYK 9.4 .473 .441 8.1 3.5 6.3 2.2 1.3 0.9 1.8
.067 Joel Kramer 1983 PHO 8.8 .459 .423 8.0 3.2 6.9 2.9 1.2 0.5 1.7
.077 Danny Vranes 1986 SEA 7.8 .475 .461 6.9 2.6 6.4 1.6 1.4 0.7 1.3
.096 Reggie King 1985 SEA 6.9 .477 .423 7.0 1.8 5.1 2.2 1.2 0.5 1.8
.112 Keith Askins 1995 MIA 12.3 .493 .442 9.7 3.6 8.3 1.6 1.5 0.7 1.1
.113 Eduardo Najera 2004 DAL 11.5 .483 .451 8.8 3.3 7.8 1.2 1.7 0.9 1.4
.124 Mark Madsen 2003 LAL 9.3 .458 .423 8.0 4.0 7.3 1.8 0.7 0.9 1.2
.137 Johnny Baum 1974 TOT 11.6 .480 .450 12.1 2.4 5.9 1.8 1.1 0.5 1.4
.142 Jaren Jackson 1995 PHI 8.7 .446 .397 9.8 2.5 5.9 2.7 1.3 0.7 2.4
.144 Jabari Smith 2005 NJN 8.4 .482 .422 9.2 1.6 6.2 2.1 1.4 0.8 2.2
.145 E.C. Coleman 1978 GSW 9.1 .493 .475 9.3 2.3 7.5 2.0 1.3 0.5 1.9

Looking at the year column on this list, there aren’t a lot of players of Jeffries’ mold these days. Perhaps the almighty dollar has taught youngsters that developing scoring (at least in volume) is more important than other abilities. Or perhaps this list shows us that if you’re really tall, you contribute almost nothing and still be in the NBA. The difference between Jared Jeffries and Eduardo Najera or Mark Madsen is that they were fortunate enough to play on good teams. Had the Knicks been a great team in the last 5 years, trading Jeffries probably wouldn’t be as difficult.

And I’ll end with a quote from 2002:

Question: Is there a player in the NBA right now who you can compare your game to?

Jeffries: I’d say Danny Manning, a Dirk Nowitzki-type. I’m 6-11, so there are a lot of different things I can do as far as handling the ball and shooting, passing.

2009 Report Card: Al Harrington

Historically New York has had good luck with getting malcontents from Golden State. Back in 1999, the Knicks traded for Latrell Sprewell who was suspended by the Warriors for choking Coach P.J. Carlesimo. Spre’s strong defense helped New York reach the Finals that year. Nearly 10 years later, Golden State shipped another unhappy player to Gotham. Although the 2009 Knicks weren’t nearly as successful as their 1999 squad, the team benefited from Harrington’s presence.

Like the player he was traded for, Jamal Crawford, Al Harrington’s most pronounced skill is shot creation. But unlike Crawford, Harrington actually is productive when scoring. Harrington’s true shooting percentage for the Knicks last year (55.5%) was 10 points better than Crawford’s best year in New York (54.5%) and 25 points higher than his career average with the team (52.9%). Last year he was just above his career average from three (2009: 36.2%, career: 35.9%), while attempting a career high nearly 7 per game (6.5 3pa/g, or 6.7 3pa/36). He can drive to the hoop and score from inside as well. Although not as skilled as Lee or Zach Randolph, Harrington is able to draw contact and score in traffic. Much like Eddy Curry, Harrington will continue with the ball towards the hoop no matter how many defenders follow. The difference between Harrington and Curry is that Al doesn’t bowl over defenders or lose the ball as often (2.3 to/36 to Curry’s 3.2).

Unfortunately Harrington doesn’t pass well. Many of Harrington’s passes seem to bounce off his recipient’s hands or are caught awkwardly losing momentum. I have two theories on his sharing woes. The first is that his passes are usually near the hoop with the other player close by, so that his passes are too fast for the short distance. The second is that Al passes so infrequently that his teammates don’t expect the ball to come to them. Perhaps it’s a bit of both, since the passes occur so close to the basket the receiving player is gearing up for a rebound. In any case it’s something to watch for in 2010.

As for the rest of his game, Harrington is a poor rebounder for his size and a below average defender. To put into perspective how bad Harrington’s rebounding is, David Lee nearly doubled his rebounds per minute (12.1 reb/36 to 6.4 reb/36) despite both players standing 6-9. Harrington’s blocked shot rate (0.3 blk/36) was also poor.

Overall he was and will be a good fit for Coach D’Antoni’s offense. Harrington’s multifaceted and efficient scoring was a refreshing fit, considering the person he was traded for (Jamal Crawford) and the person whose minutes he inherited (Zach Randolph). But ultimately the lacking elements of his game make him unworthy of a large contract or a starting role. He’d be a fine bench player for the mid level, but considering the Knicks’ monetary crunch for 2010 and Harrington’s current salary ($8.5M) I don’t see many scenarios that would keep Harrington in New York after this year.

Report Card (5 point scale):
Offense: 4
Defense: 2
Teamwork: 1
Rootability: 3
Performance/Expectations: 4

Grade: B

Similarity Scores:

z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS% eFG% PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
.000 Al Harrington 2009 TOT 15.9 .547 .509 20.8 1.4 6.4 1.4 1.2 0.3 2.3
.040 Josh Howard 2009 DAL 17.0 .532 .488 20.3 1.3 5.7 1.8 1.2 0.6 1.9
.073 Nate Williams 1979 GSW 14.7 .542 .501 18.6 1.9 5.7 1.7 1.5 0.1 2.6
.075 Jamaal Wilkes 1982 LAL 16.5 .554 .525 21.5 1.9 4.9 1.8 1.1 0.3 2.0
.081 Keith Van Horn 2004 TOT 17.8 .564 .506 17.9 2.3 7.7 1.8 1.0 0.5 2.6
.086 Wayman Tisdale 1993 SAC 15.7 .540 .509 19.9 2.0 7.9 1.7 0.8 0.7 1.8
.092 Cedric Ceballos 1998 TOT 19.3 .560 .517 19.5 2.7 8.0 2.2 1.2 0.6 2.6
.096 Lamond Murray 2002 CLE 16.7 .534 .487 18.3 1.3 5.8 2.4 1.1 0.7 2.2
.111 Corliss Williamson 2002 DET 20.0 .567 .511 22.5 2.5 6.8 2.0 1.0 0.6 2.9
.113 Richard Jefferson 2009 MIL 15.4 .554 .487 19.7 0.7 4.6 2.4 0.8 0.2 2.0
.123 Chris Crawford 2004 ATL 15.8 .544 .495 17.0 1.7 5.2 1.3 1.1 0.6 1.6
.128 George McCloud 1996 DAL 15.9 .543 .514 18.9 1.5 4.8 2.7 1.4 0.5 2.1

New York Ponders Point Guards

It’s been a quiet offseason for the New York Knicks. The team made one personnel move (trading Quentin Richarsdon for Milicic) and they failed to nab any of the big names during the draft (Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas). Restricted free agents David Lee and Nate Robisnon have hung in limbo while just about every available first and second tier players have settled on their 2010 home. But perhaps this silence might change in the coming days. New York is flirting with both Jamaal Tinsley and Ramon Sessions, and they recently claimed Jason Williams off of waivers. So how do these players stack up? I’ll invoke similarity scores to see what kind of players we might expect.

z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS% eFG% PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV Age
.000 Jason Williams 2008 MIA 12.7 .502 .472 11.2 0.2 2.5 5.9 1.6 0.1 1.7 32.0
.041 Rafer Alston 2009 TOT 13.7 .494 .454 13.2 0.5 3.3 6.0 1.6 0.1 2.1 32.0
.082 Derek Harper 1994 TOT 12.3 .485 .456 12.9 0.3 2.3 5.5 2.0 0.1 2.2 32.0
.086 Rory Sparrow 1991 SAC 12.4 .524 .511 12.6 0.7 2.8 5.5 1.3 0.2 1.9 32.0
.090 Jerry Sichting 1989 POR 8.8 .474 .457 9.4 0.8 2.7 5.4 1.4 0.0 2.3 32.0
.095 Sedale Threatt 1994 LAL 15.3 .524 .485 15.3 0.4 2.4 5.4 1.7 0.3 1.7 32.0
.096 Vinny Del Negro 1999 MIL 12.3 .481 .446 9.3 0.5 3.4 5.7 1.1 0.1 1.8 32.0
.096 Scott Brooks 1998 CLE 13.9 .528 .462 9.1 0.7 3.5 5.7 2.1 0.3 1.4 32.0
.100 Antonio Daniels 2008 WAS 13.7 .549 .478 9.9 0.4 3.4 5.7 1.1 0.0 1.5 32.0
.126 Michael Cooper 1989 LAL 11.9 .549 .512 10.9 0.6 3.5 5.8 1.3 0.6 1.7 32.0
.129 Doc Rivers 1994 NYK 12.9 .523 .508 10.3 0.3 2.8 7.2 1.8 0.4 2.1 32.0

Jason Williams last played two years ago so I used his 2008 stats for comparable players, and Rafer Alston couldn’t be more similar. Both are flashy passing, meager scoring, three point chuckers. At 34 years of age, you’d have to question why the Knicks are pursuing Williams. Perhaps they’re not happy with Douglas as the backup point guard, because it’s hard to imagine Williams signing to sit on the bench as the third quarterback. Granted they could do worse off the bench, but J-Dub offers a lot of attributes the Knicks don’t need. He’s three point happy, but his success rate is below average (32.5%). He doesn’t score a lot (13.1 pts/36) and is allergic to the free throw line. His FTM/FGA (.15) is lower than Wilson Chandler’s (.16). It’s not an ideal fit, but I guess the team could do much worse like…

z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS% eFG% PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV Age
.000 Jamaal Tinsley 2007 IND 15.2 .465 .424 14.8 1.0 3.9 7.9 1.9 0.4 3.2 28.0
.107 John Bagley 1989 NJN 11.3 .467 .427 11.0 0.8 3.2 8.6 1.6 0.1 3.5 28.0
.120 Warren Jabali 1975 SDA 13.9 .501 .440 14.5 1.4 5.0 6.9 2.2 0.4 3.6 28.0
.120 Terrell Brandon 1999 TOT 19.5 .463 .430 14.8 0.8 4.0 9.1 1.9 0.3 2.2 28.0
.128 Mike Bratz 1984 GSW 12.9 .483 .423 14.1 1.0 3.6 6.4 2.1 0.2 2.7 28.0
.129 Haywoode Workman 1994 IND 12.9 .490 .443 10.5 0.7 4.3 8.5 1.8 0.1 3.2 28.0
.137 Larry Drew 1987 LAC 13.1 .490 .441 17.0 0.6 2.4 7.5 1.4 0.0 3.5 28.0
.138 Johnny Moore 1987 SAS 13.4 .495 .467 13.8 0.9 2.9 7.3 2.4 0.1 3.0 28.0
.159 Brian Shaw 1995 ORL 10.4 .468 .437 9.8 1.0 4.7 8.0 1.4 0.4 3.6 28.0
.160 Pooh Richardson 1995 LAC 12.6 .459 .442 11.0 0.5 3.3 7.9 1.6 0.2 2.1 28.0
.160 Darnell Valentine 1988 LAC 13.5 .474 .432 12.4 0.8 3.4 8.4 2.7 0.2 3.3 28.0

There’s a lot of similarity between Tinsley and Williams. Both have been out of the league for a bit and both are inefficient scorers. However Tinsley is much worse in multiple areas. Most prominent is his poor efficiency (Tinsley’s 47.4 TS%, Williams 50.3% TS%), his dreadful three point rate (30.7% to Williams’ 32.5%), and his high turnover rate (3.2 to/36 to Williams’ 2.6). Just look at this list compared to the one above, and it’s clear Tinsley is a poor option. The Knicks would be better off with an NBDL player, or maybe someone off the street.

z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS% eFG% PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV Age
.000 Ramon Sessions 2009 MIL 17.6 .525 .449 16.2 1.1 4.5 7.5 1.4 0.1 2.5 22.0
.070 Kenny Anderson 1993 NJN 16.6 .487 .439 16.6 0.9 4.0 8.0 1.7 0.2 2.7 22.0
.092 Mo Williams 2005 MIL 14.1 .504 .460 13.0 0.8 3.9 7.7 1.2 0.2 3.1 22.0
.094 Raymond Felton 2007 CHA 13.5 .481 .434 13.9 0.6 3.4 6.9 1.5 0.1 2.9 22.0
.097 Tyus Edney 1996 SAC 12.7 .505 .448 12.5 0.9 2.9 7.1 1.3 0.0 2.8 22.0
.111 Mike Bibby 2001 VAN 16.8 .525 .500 14.7 0.5 3.4 7.7 1.2 0.1 2.8 22.0
.115 Dee Brown 1991 BOS 13.2 .523 .470 13.2 0.8 3.4 6.4 1.5 0.3 2.5 22.0
.116 Damon Stoudamire 1996 TOR 16.7 .528 .485 16.7 0.7 3.5 8.2 1.2 0.2 3.4 22.0
.117 Terrell Brandon 1993 CLE 16.7 .530 .489 16.1 0.8 4.0 6.7 1.8 0.6 2.4 22.0
.119 Kenny Smith 1988 SAC 13.3 .537 .486 14.0 0.7 2.3 7.2 1.5 0.1 3.1 22.0
.122 Baron Davis 2002 CHH 18.2 .498 .480 16.1 1.0 3.8 7.6 1.9 0.5 2.7 22.0

At only 22 years of age, Sessions obviously has the most upside. There are some good point guards on that list, and a few that never met their potential. On thing to notice is that Sessions is among the best of the group with regards to turnovers, shooting efficiency, and rebounding. Even if he doesn’t learn to shoot threes, he’s likely to continue to contribute in those areas.

He should fit in with New York’s current roster and would compliment Duhon well, perhaps like a change of pace running back (I’m thinking Thomas Jones and Leon Washington). And I can’t help to think he would be good for years to come as well. Granted you want to space the floor with a player like LeBron James, but you also need someone to take the scoring pressure off his shoulders. With the Knicks in need of cheap players to build around, Sessions could solidify a young core (Sessions, Chandler, Gallinari, Hill, Douglas, hopefully Lee, and possibly Nate). The million dollar question is how much Sessions worth, and will Milwaukee match?

2009 Report Card: David Lee

After 3 years of coming off the bench, David Lee finally earned a starting spot in 2009. Lee started 74 of 81 games (D’Antoni toyed with a Randolph/Chandler front court in November), 19 more than in his 3 previous seasons combined. On the court, Lee expanded his repertoire showing some new moves in the low and mid post while adding a jump shot. This, along with being emphasized in the offense with pick and rolls, allowed his pts/36 to increase to a career high of 16.5. However it’s not necessarily the scoring increase that elevated Lee from reserve to starter. KnickerBlogger readers and stat savvy fans understood that for a few years David Lee has been the most productive of the Knick front court players.

Much like his draftmate Nate Robinson, the expanded role exposed a flaw in Lee’s game: his defense. Lee’s block shot rate hit the lowest of his career (0.3 blk/36) and was similar to that of another notoriously bad defender in Zach Randolph. Granted in Lee’s defense, Coach D’Antoni played him as an undersized center (6-9), but even at PF, Lee’s help defense is sub par. Ideally the Knicks (or whoever signs Lee) will want to pair him with a center that can turn back some shots.

Overall Lee had a typically good season. He provided efficient scoring with excellent rebounding, and didn’t eat up too many possessions. He silenced his critics who said the half court set would stall with Lee in the mix. D’Antoni frequently featured Lee with pick & rolls, and the New York offense increased to the middle of the pack (17th, 108.1 pts/poss). Lee was 4th among Knick regulars in points per minutes, so talk about him being a garbage man is unfounded. There are a lot of players in the NBA with the ability to create a shot in isolation, but too often they do so at the high cost of missed shots, turnovers, and a lack of fundamentals. Thank goodness David Lee isn’t one of those players.

Report Card (5 point scale):
Offense: 5
Defense: 2
Teamwork: 5
Rootability: 5
Performance/Expectations: 4

Grade: B+

Similarity Scores:

z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS% eFG% PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
.000 David Lee 2009 NYK 19.0 .590 .549 16.5 3.3 12.1 2.2 1.0 0.3 1.9
.095 Jerome Whitehead 1982 SDC 16.7 .599 .559 16.2 3.8 10.8 1.7 0.8 0.7 2.3
.115 Loy Vaught 1994 LAC 16.0 .566 .537 14.9 3.7 11.2 1.3 1.3 0.4 1.6
.116 A.C. Green 1989 LAL 17.8 .594 .532 15.6 3.7 10.6 1.5 1.3 0.8 1.7
.134 Michael Cage 1987 LAC 17.1 .579 .521 15.5 4.4 11.4 1.6 1.2 0.8 2.1
.161 Chris Wilcox 2008 SEA 16.3 .554 .524 17.1 2.6 9.0 1.5 1.0 0.7 2.1
.162 Tyrone Hill 1994 CLE 18.4 .590 .543 15.0 4.6 12.4 1.1 1.3 0.9 1.9
.166 Tom Owens 1975 TOT 19.4 .565 .527 16.9 4.0 12.3 2.8 0.5 1.1 2.1
.166 Brad Daugherty 1991 CLE 19.9 .583 .524 20.1 2.2 10.1 3.1 0.9 0.6 2.6
.166 Kenny Carr 1981 CLE 17.0 .560 .511 16.9 3.6 11.5 2.6 1.0 0.6 3.2
.174 Calvin Natt 1982 POR 19.0 .622 .577 18.4 2.7 8.5 2.1 0.9 0.5 1.9

For Knick fans that envision David Lee as a borderline All Star (including his agent), this has to be a disappointing list of comparable players. But overall this isn’t such a bad list to be in. The top 4 players (Wilcox is still active) were all in the league for 11+ seasons, with Green & Cage banging until their late 30s. And there is one other ray of hope: Lee outclasses most of these players.

At his current age (25), Lee has already become a league leader in his key strengths (rebounding & scoring percentage). In the two seasons he’s had enough minutes to qualify for league leaders, Lee has been in the top 10 in fg% twice, and in his first season as a starter he was in the top 5 in both offensive and defensive rebounds. By the age of 25 Cage was in the top 5 in offensive rebounding once and Vaught was among the top 10 in field goal percentage. Other than these two instances, none of Lee’s other top 5 comparable players accomplished either of these goals by the same age.

So what to make of this list? Clearly Lee’s defensive inefficiencies put him in a lower tier of players. To use a food analogy, this group of players are the hamburgers of the league. They’re not something that you’d necessarily look to build around, but if you were deprived of them, you’d feel something was missing. There aren’t many White Castle sliders (Wilcox?, Carr?) and there are some Jackson Hole Wyoming savory burgers (Green, Cage, Daugherty). And although David Lee is still a hamburger, he’s made of Kobe beef.