Knicks 2009 Summer League Roster

Looking over the Knicks’ roster there are 9 spots that are taken (Chandler, Curry, Duhon, Gallinari, Harrington, Hughes, Jeffries, Milicic, and Mobley). Two more are likely to be filled by Lee and Robinson. That leaves 4 spots possible for the summer league candidates, barring any offseason player movement.

Definites
It’s safe to assume that both draft picks Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas will be on the team’s roster come October. However it doesn’t mean the pair can relax in Vegas, as a poor showing could send them to D’Antoni’s doghouse before training camp even opens. Knick fans will expect both to make the rotation, Hill because of his status as lottery pick, and Douglas because of the lack of depth at guard. New York hopes both can help improve the team defensively, but they’ll need to prove that they’re capable on the offensive side as well. Both will need to play well now and in the preseason to make sure they aren’t sent to the D-League or practice squad. Considering their draft status and the competition, they should be able to give above average performances.

Probables
At the end of last year the team rotated in some NBDL players, and it looks like two stuck. Joe Crawford and Mouhamed Sene will be playing in the summer league, but they may need to prove their worth. Both of them combined for only 29 minutes last year, so the team isn’t committed to either. While Sene has more NBA experience, he’ll have tougher competition for playing time. New York has bolstered their front court by drafting Hill, trading for Darko, and hiding Eddy Curry’s Ring Dings. On the other hand Crawford will have less competition from the NBA roster, but might get pushed for playing time by Douglas and some of the other summer league guards New York. I wouldn’t bet on either player making the team, but they do have the inside track.

Possibles
One player that could push for a roster spot is Morris Almond. The Jazz selected him with the 25th pick in the 2007 draft, but Almond barely saw any NBA action in two seasons. However he was a prolific scorer in the NBDL, averaging 25.4 pts/36 over two seasons. Although this was due to his high usage (30.9%), to Almond’s credit his TS% was a robust 57.6%. One stat that did stand out in the NBDL is his free throw to field goal ratio. He hit .35 free throws for every shot attempted, and averaged 6.5 ftm/36. Clearly he’s skilled at drawing contact, and his 36.7% from downtown shows that he’s able to score from outside as well.

However Morris peripheral stats are weak. His rebounding numbers could be better for someone who stands 6-6, and his passing, steals, and blocks are weak for a shooting guard. Still he could provide some needed scoring off the bench and could be a poor man’s Allan Houston.

Another candidate is Blake Ahearn, a castaway from the Heat & Spurs. Like Almond, Ahearn dominated the NBDL, scoring 21.9 pts/36 on a sizzling 64.6% TS%. He connected on 43.4% of his three pointers, and was about as perfect as you get (95.5%) from the charity stripe. Unlike Almond, Ahearn has one peripheral stats that is above average, his 4.6 ast/36. At 6-2, Ahearn is more suited for point guard at the NBA level.

Doubtfuls
Yaroslav Korolev was drafted as an 18 year old by the Clippers in 2005 and spent two years in L.A. Yet even though he last suited up for an NBA game 3 years ago, he’s the second youngest player on the summer league team. Korolev is a 6-10 forward who’s father was a basketball coach and is rumored to have a sound all around game. At only 22 years old, he’s definitely young enough to be a “second draft” type of player.

Probably the last guy with a realistic shot at a roster spot is David Noel. He was a second round pick of the Bucks and didn’t play well in his one season. However he did well in the NBDL, scoring 17.1 pts/36 on 60.7 ts% and averaging 5.3 reb/36, 4.4 ast/36, and 1.7 stl/36. His free throw shooting was suspect (68.6%), but he was deadly from downtown (44.6%).

Please God No
Nokoloz Tskitishvili and Alex Acker are both 26 years old. Tskitishvili is looking for yet another chance at the NBA, while Acker is a combo guard who had 2 stints in the NBA (Pistons & Clippers). Nokoloz’s NBA numbers are laughably bad, while Acker’s D-League numbers aren’t very impressive (53.1% TS%).

Hey I Got Free First Row Tickets to the Summer League!
The summer league might be happy days for Valparaiso’s Ron Howard. Rashaad Singleton is a 7 footer, but barely played at Georgia. According to Wikipedia, Warren Carter plays in Spain and thinks Allen Iverson is the NBA’s best player. Wink Adams shot 26.9% from trey his last year at UNLV.

Who Am I Rooting For?
I think there’s the possibility that the Knicks could find a decent player here. I don’t think there are any NBA starters here, but certainly a few guys could contribute as reserves. After reviewing their numbers, Blake Ahearn is at the top of my list. I have a soft spot in my heart for snipers, and the Knicks really need more depth at point guard. I like Almond, but he scares me at the same time. His number suggest a typical me-first-shooter that’s indifferent to the other aspects of the game.

As for the rest, I hope Sene sticks around, even if it’s in the NBDL until New York moves Curry or Jeffries. Korolev has the most intriguing story, but his numbers are so bad as a teenager it’s hard to see him being good at this level. I don’t want Acker or Tskitishvili, and I sure hope the Knicks don’t fall in love with someone who is hot for a few games (*cough* Roberson *cough*). So that leaves Crawford or Noel. Perhaps Noel would be the better choice, considering D’Antoni had Crawford last year & barely used him.

I Want To Draft Like It’s 1999

An NBA draft where the #1 overall consensus is a power forward, and a ton of guards are to be had including an intriguing foreign guard? No I’m not talking about this Thursday’s NBA draft where Blake Griffin is likely to go #1, there is a lot of depth at guard, and everyone is wondering where Rickey Rubio will land. I’m talking about the 1999 draft where Elton Brand went first, guards were taken in 7 of the next 10 picks, and Manu Ginobili quietly landed to the Spurs in the second round.

Of the top 10 picks, 9 of them had solid to spectacular careers, but only one of those stayed long enough to be seen as a success for the team that drafted him: Shawn Marion. A lot of these players were traded to other teams before they could really help the team that drafted them like Brand, Francis (a draft day holdout), Odom, Hamilton, Andre Miller, and Jason Terry. Number 5 pick Jonathan Bender never lived up to his potential due to injury. Wally Szczerbiak stayed with Minnesota, but was taken too high at #6. Baron Davis stayed with the Hornets for 5 and a half seasons, but was traded midyear to Golden State where he engineered one of the biggest first round upsets in history.

Although there was plenty of value at the top 10, the next 10 was filled with busts. Only Ron Artest (#16), Corey Maggette (#13) and James Posey (#18) were worth noting. As for the rest of the draft, there were two European superstars taken late in Kirilenko (#24) and Manu Ginobili (#57), and a few fillers (Jeff Foster #21, Kenny Thomas #22, Devean George #23, and Gordon Giricek #40).

Knick fans remember this draft for grabbing Frederic Weis one pick before Ron Artest, but that may not have been the biggest bust of the draft. As I previously mentioned the top 10 all netted solid players except for Bender. If you want to excuse him for injury, then nearly every pick 11-14 (except for Maggette) could be seen as failures as well. Trajan Langdon at #11 is a candidate, although he’s had a good career overseas. Aleksandar Radojevic (from the powerhouse Barton County Community College) was taken 3 picks prior to Weis. And the Timberwolves struck out the pick before New York’s with Duke’s William Avery.

So how might this draft have turned out? Here’s my re-draft, not necessarily in order of how they should have been taken. But rather in how one alternate earth might have been for the first 16 picks.

#1 Chicago – Elton Brand
The Bulls made the right pick. Actually in our reality they made 2 right picks with Artest at #15. The problem was that they gave up on that team too early. Chicago could have been a mid-west powerhouse with Brand, Artest, and Brad Miller with a supporting cast of Jamal Crawford, Fred Hoiberg and Jake Voskuhl. The problem was the team was still young & surrounded with little else. Marcus Fizer? Khalid El-Amin? Corey Benjamin? Bryce Drew? Michael Ruffin? Dragan Tarlac? Dalibor Bagaric? No wonder they won 15 games in 2001.

#2 Vancouver – Lamar Odom
Vancouver didn’t deserve Steve Francis, but they didn’t really need him either. They had grabbed Mike Bibby in the draft before, and as New Yorkers learned Francis didn’t play well with other point guards. Instead they should have grabbed Odom. The Grizzlies had an awful team, but Bibby, Odom, and Shareef Abdur-Rahem would have been a respectable threesome. Looking at their history, they were doomed to failure by their poor drafts Reeves #6, Abdur Rahim #3, and Antonio Daniels #4 is hardly the core you want to build a franchise on.

#3 Charlotte – Baron Davis
Davis was the right pick here.

#4 Los Angeles Clippers – Steve Francis
Now these two deserved each other.

#5 Toronto – Ron Artest (traded to Indiana)
The Raptors originally drafted Bender and traded him for Antonio Davis. Why would Toronto do such a thing? They have Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, and Doug Christie. So there goes the shooting guards and small forwards. They could use a point guard, but that isn’t a priority with Carter & McGrady taking up a big share of the offense. They need a big man, but there really aren’t any in this draft (Jeff Foster?). I see why they traded this pick, they had two dynamic scorers and needed some front court depth (past Charles Oakley). So I have the Raptors trading this pick still, and Indiana selecting Ron Artest instead. The Pacers would end up with Ron after a few seasons later anyway. The Pacers would have Artest to defend Allan Houston in the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals (which Indana won) but they could also use him to shut down Kobe Bryant in the Finals (which they lost in 6).

#6 Minnesota – Manu Ginobili
I’m going to go out on a limb here. Before Garnett went to Boston and won a title, people argued how the league would have been if he had swapped teams with Tim Duncan. That the two were equally good, and Duncan won those championships because of his supporting cast. So let’s see how Garnett would have done with the Argentine at his side. Also in this Bizzaro universe Kevin McHale would be a genius.

#7 Washington – Rip Hamilton
Washington really sucked. It doesn’t matter who they draft here. The guy is going to be gone by the time Jordan arrives. Might as well be Rip so that the Pistons improbable championship still occurs.

#8 Cleveland – Shawn Marion
Cleveland took who they thought was the best guy on the board, Andre Miller. And normally I agree with such a signing, except the Cavs had two young (but undersized) guards on their roster already: Brevin Knight and Earl Boykins. Miller’s arrival meant that both would be gone within a year. Cleveland let Boykins go, but traded Brevin Knight for Jimmy Jackson, Anthony Johnson and Larry Robinson. All three would be off Cleveland’s roster by the next season. I hate it when a team overloads at one position and fails to net anything substantial from trades. If we’re not taking Andre Miller here, then you can have an up-tempo team with Knight/Boykins. So I think Shawn Marion is the right fit here.

#9 Phoenix – Corey Maggette
The Suns are probably crushed that they didn’t get Marion. They have Jason Kidd, and are about to offer Anfernee Hardaway to a huge contract. Maggette’s scoring and rebounding would be adequate in lieu of Marion’s energy game.

#10 Atlanta – Trajan Langdon
The Hawks have Mutombo and Rider and are in dire need of a point guard. So with Andre Miller on the board, they’re going to draft Trajan Langdon. This way by 2005 they’ll have learned their lesson and take Deron Williams or Chris Paul with the #2 pick instead of Marvin Williams.

#11 Cleveland – Jason Terry
With the Cavs comitting to an up-tempo offense with their #8 pick, they should take Terry here. Knight, Terry, Marion, and Donyell Marshall are undersized, but should make for a laser fast offense. With Zydrunas healthy in 2011, that’s not such a bad team.

#12 Toronto – Aleksandar Radojevic
As I said earlier, the Raptors really need front court depth, so this is why they reached for the 7-3 Euro. And this is why you don’t draft for need.

#13 Seattle – Wally Szczerbiak (traded to Orlando)
The Magic who acquire this pick in a trade have Darrell Armstrong, Bo Outlaw, and Ben Wallace. They need someone who can score, and don’t care about defense. Wally fits the bill here.

#14 Minnesota – James Posey
In this world, McHale is a genius, and the best player on the board is Andrei Kirilenko. But taking Kirilenko after reaching for an unknown in Ginobili would get him fired. Also having Kirilenko and Garnett on the court at the same time would be too weird. That’s like 60 combined feet of skinny arms & legs. Terrell Brandon, Manu Ginobili, James Posey, Kevin Garnett, and Rasho Nesterovic – that’s a nice team for 2000.

#15 New York – Andrei Kirilenko
Ahhh to dream. The Knicks dared to take a European, but clearly the wrong one. In 2000, Kirilenko would have fit in well with that Knicks team giving them so much depth. The starters would have been Ward, Houston, Sprewell, LJ and Ewing with Camby, Kurt Thomas, Childs and Kirilenko off the bench. That’s one scary team defensively. Additionally AK-47’s arrival might have prevented the team from trading Ewing for Glenn Rice, keeping the franchise from self destruction via salary cap. Perhaps the 2001 Knicks with Camby starting, Ewing coming off the bench, the addition of Mark Jackson, and Kirlenko instead of Rice could have given the team another title run.

#16 Chicago – Andre Miller
Here are your early aughts Bulls: Andre Miller, Jamal Crawford, Toni Kukoc, Elton Brand, and Brad Miller. Not a bad rebuild post-Jordan. Try not to break that team up this time.

Who Will Win the Western Conference?

According to at least one gambling site, the Lakers are by far the favorite to win the West. But how far ahead of the rest of the field are they? Los Angeles was 11 games better than any other Western team. But the Lakers are only 55 win percentage points better than the Trailblazers, .739 to .684, when using expected win percentage based on run differential. That’s a bit closer than the 134 point difference when looking at actual win percentage. Additionally the Lakers are most likely going to face the Jazz, Blazers, and Spurs/Nuggets. Certainly that’s tougher than the Pistons, Hawks/Heat, and Magic/Celtics that will meet Cleveland in the East.

So what do you think, can any Western team derail the Lakers?

{democracy:27}

Indexed: Al Harrington

As a Knick fan, Al Harrington can be frustrating at times. Some nights he can explode like he did against Cleveland for 39 points. Other times he can just kill New York’s chance of winning, like he did recently against the Clippers (19 points on 24 shots, including 1-10 from three).

Harrington is a talented scorer at times. He can take his man off the dribble, hit the outside shot, or score in traffic. But what he can’t do it is pass, which becomes more apparent when he drives to the hoop. Often when he gets the ball, I get the feeling that he’s going to force up a shot. Because he doesn’t

Last night was a great example. In overtime against the Spurs, Robinson was hot in overtime, but gave the ball to Harrington twice in a row. Both times Harrington took shots. The second one was a prime example of the bad side of Al Harrington. There was a minute left in OT, and New York was clinging to a 5 point lead. The Knick offense was just setting up when Harrington just drove to the hoop with his head down. He missed the shot and opened the door to a possible Spur comeback.

That play inspired me to create this:

Seven Seconds or Mess: Play of the Week 1/15/09

Kelly Dwyer writes:

How people can keep underestimating David Lee, thinking that he’s a product of a lousy team, easy shots, porous defense, uninspired opponents, lefty fetishism, Chris Duhon, the Washington Wizards … it boggles the mind.

30 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two steals, zero turnovers in 41:28; that’s a player. That’s someone that’s worth your time. It was true in 2005, it’s true today.



The Wizards get really caught up here and leave the most important man unguarded.

The Expected

Sometimes a commenter makes an point that inspires an article. I could have written this in the comments section, but I think it deserves an post of it’s own. Yesterday BigBlueAL wrote:

Look I have praised David Lee alot this season because he has improved his offense alot in terms of hitting that baseline jumper a bit more consistantly and being able to drive more often w/o getting his shot sent into the stands. But his numbers to me are a huge reflection of this system and Randolph being traded. Defensively he is still horrible and is not going to be anywhere near worth what his salary will most likely reach if you are trying to put together a championship caliber team.

Again I like David Lee and dont like ripping him, but please he is not a starting PF on a championship team. He is what his and Nate’s role should be, 20-25 minute players who bring energy off the bench. Those players are very important on good teams, but they are easier to find than go-to, superstar type players which is clearly what the Knicks are lacking and have lacked since Houston/Spree were together.

Unlike baseball where I have vast knowledge of sabermetrics and such in basketball I dont look at stats beyond the basics as much as I should, although being an ESPN Insider I do like reading John Hollinger and becoming more aware of more analytical basketball stats.

I have a theory on why David Lee is underrated from a visual perspective. Two of the things he does well are “expected”: rebounding and finishing around the hoop. Every time the other team misses a shot you expect your team to get the rebound. So when David Lee comes flying in to secure the rebound, it’s expected that the he does it. It’s not an act that is remembered or noted because it’s counted upon. Compare this to when Jamal Crawford sinks an impossible shot. Those memories usually stick in someone’s mind because of the rareness of the act. Yet most people don’t remember when Crawford misses a shot, since missing a shot is commonplace and an expected result.

But watching last night’s game against the Thunder, down the stretch Lee’s defensive rebounding was excellent. If you were concentrating on him, it was amazing watching his positioning and tenacity. There were a few rebounds that I don’t think any other Knick (or most big men in the league) would have secured. I honestly don’t think the Knicks would have been in yesterday’s game at the end if it weren’t for Lee’s rebounding.

The same goes for his inside scoring. Fill in the blank in the following sentence: Chris Duhon drives the lane and is double teamed, so he passes to an open David Lee who…

{Have your answer?}

Depending on your imagination you might say:
* dunks the ball.
* makes a reverse left handed layup.
* draws the foul for 2 shots.
* makes the buckets and draws the foul.

Now fill in the blank on this sentence: Chris Duhon drives the lane and is double teamed, so he passes to an open Jared Jeffries who…

{Have your answer?}

This time your answer will probably differ from Lee and you might say:
* fumbles the pass.
* blows the layup.
* scores with a nice finger roll (Jeffrightened style!).

Depending on the player you would have a different result. Yet Lee doesn’t seem to get credit for being able to catch a pass in traffic and score around the hoop. It’s because it seems to be such an easy act that it’s expected that he does so. Yet few players in the league can be as successful Lee, when performing this action. Now if you think I’m using a strawman argument with Jeffries, then replace Lee with Chandler or Curry. Chandler is more likely to take a turnaround jumper instead of going inside and isn’t very likely to draw a foul. Meanwhile Curry is more apt to either fumble the ball or commit an offensive charging foul.

David Lee’s rebounding and efficient inside scoring (without turning the ball over) is valuable because there aren’t a lot of players in the league that do those things at such a high level. That makes him a valuable starter level player, even with his defensive shortcomings. Hence why the Knicks have entertained so many offers for Lee from other teams. Of course everything depends on context, he would need to be paired with a strong defensive center. But as for Lee not being a good starter on a championship team, don’t you think the Spurs would love to have him on their team right now? Currently their PFs are Matt Bonner, Kurt Thomas and Fabricio Oberto (who pushes Duncan to PF).

However, the more relevant point I’m trying to make is that it’s hard to catch these things with the naked eye. As Michael Lewis wrote in Moneyball:

One absolutely cannot tell, by watching, the difference between a .300 hitter and a .275 hitter. The difference is one hit every two weeks. It might be that a reporter, seeing every game that the team plays, could sense that difference over the course of the year if no records were kept, but I doubt it. Certainly the average fan, seeing perhaps a tenth of the team’s games, could never gauge two performances that accurately-in fact if you see both 15 games a year, there is a 40% chance that the .275 hitter will have more hits than the .300 hitter in the games that you see. The difference between a good hitter and an average hitter is simply not visible-it is a matter of record.

Similarly observers might not be able to differentiate between a player has a TS% of 60 and one that has a TS% of 55. And the value of player who averages 11.7 reb/36 might not be noticeable. But it’s undeniable that these stats correlate to winning, more than the naked eye would believe. To make an analogy to baseball David Lee might be the .280 hitting shortstop with a handful of few home runs, but has a strong .OBP, hits a lot of doubles, and doesn’t make a lot of errors (but maybe doesn’t have a lot of range or a great arm). For decades things like OBP, SLG, etc. were not valued by generations of baseball fans. And much like baseball, unless you’re looking at the advanced stats, you might not be able to see the value David Lee gives a team.