GOTME (Part II): Point Guard

The Greatest PG Of the Modern Era: Magic Johnson

Player Best PER Avg 5 Best PER Career PER #1 PER # of top 10 PER
Magic 27 26 24.1 0 10
Stockton 23.9 23.3 21.8 0 6
Nash 23 22.6 20.1 0 2
Payton 23.6 22.7 18.9 0 5
Kidd 22.5 20.6 18.5 0 1
Paul 30 25.9 25.9 0 2


For those not old enough to remember Magic’s playing career, you can get an idea of how dominant he was by looking at his numbers. Johnson managed a jaw dropping TS% of 61.0, the 7th highest in the 3-point era. He contributed in multiple areas, averaging 11.0 assists, 7.1 rebounds, and 19.2 points per 36 minutes. Magic was a three time MVP and a three time Finals MVP. Johnson was so skilled that he came out of retirement as a 36 year old and still managed good production in a partial season (PER 21.1) despite being away from the game for 5 years and putting on a few dozen pounds.

Prior to his arrival the Lakers had been an average team, their last championship had been Wilt’s 1972 team. During Magic’s tenure the team averaged 59 wins per season, and he was critical to the team’s success. In his rookie season, Johnson stepped in at center for an injured Kareem in the Finals. He scored 42 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and dished out 7 assists bringing home the Laker’s first title in 8 years. When Jordan retired the first time, the Bulls still won 55 games the year after. After Magic hung them up, the Lakers only managed 43 wins. While the Lakers of the 1980s were a deep team, without Magic Johnson they weren’t a title contender.

For those who are fortunate to witness Johnson play, it’s hard to believe he was so efficient given his flashy style. Magic featured no look passes, going behind his back, spin moves, and long bounce passes. Usually players of that sort suffer from falling in love with the spectacular move that they loose track of how inefficient these kinds of plays are. But not Johnson. He was seemingly omniscient in the half court and lethal in transition. Johnson always found a way to get the ball to the open man and was the engine that fueled the offense. Additionally Magic brought a million dollar smile and a joie de vivre to the game, which made him likable on a national level.

But perhaps the most interesting thing about Magic’s career is how unlikely it was. A 6-8 point guard without three point range is unthinkable today. If you had to construct Magic from today’s players, you’d take Joe Johnson (minus the three point shot), give him Steve Nash’s passing and efficient scoring, add Ronnie Brewer’s steals, combine LeBron’s rebounding, and sprinkle a little of White Chocolate’s flash (from his Sacramento days). Just an unbelievable mix of attributes, and a truly unique athlete.

The Reserves: Nash, Stockton, Kidd, Payton
Young possibilities: Chris Paul

Stockton was almost as efficient with regards to scoring, was just as good a passer, and was a better defender. But he only averaged 3.1 reb/36 and 14.9 pts/36, and was never considered one of the best players in the league. Stockton’s longevity is a positive, but guys with a higher peak are more important to winning championships than those that stick around a few more seasons. Nash, a two time MVP, is 13th all time in TS%, but lags slightly behind the others in passing and much more so on defense. You could make a good case for Gary Payton as the #2 guy, especially when you consider how good of a defender he was. Both he and Kidd suffer from from inefficient scoring. Payton’s had only 4 years where his TS% was good (1995-1998) while Kidd only achieved this recently in Dallas. Meanwhile Chris Paul has gotten off to a great start, but I think we need a few more seasons from him to put his career into perspective.

2009 Game Thread/Preview Knicks vs. Suns

New York (16-24) hosts Phoenix (23-16).  Phoenix won the last meeting 111-103 in a game that featured a slow start from New York which the team could not overcome.  New York’s 43.8 eFG% that game was well below the team’s season average of 49.4%   Furthermore, Shaquille O’Neal had a bit of a break out game against New York scoring 23 points with 12 boards.  Of course against the New York front line Joakim Noah looks like Bill Walton (To the David Lee fan boys: That is not a slight against David Lee.  David Lee is awesome. Please stop sending me hate mail.)

TEAM POSS EFF eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
New York Knicks-Offense 97 105.8 49.4 15.6 23.9 20.6
Rank 2 20 15 17 28 27
Phoenix Suns-Defense 93.4

109.7

49.4

13.7

28

22.2
Rank 9

26

14.5

29

22

8
New York Knicks-Defense 97 109.2 51.6 15.1 27.8 20
Rank 2 22 26 18 21 3
Phoenix Suns-Offense 93.4

111.2

54.3

17.3 25.5

26.4

Rank 9

4

1

28 20

4

Red indicates weaknesses New York should try to exploit.  Green indicates strengths the New York should protect against.

What to watch for: High percentage shots.  A few weeks ago I promised to dedicate at least one of the “what to watch fors” to defense.  I’ve changed my position after doing some research for New York’s mid season report (coming soon).  I found New York’s defense is actually pretty consistent (nearly always bad) from game to game.  The big gap between wins and losses is found in New York’s eFG%.  Details to come in the mid season report, but long story short:  New York wins when the shoot well from the floor.  New York could have an efficient offensive performance given Phoenix’s poor defensive efficiency (109.7, 26th), poor forced turnover rate (13.7, 29th), and poor offensive rebounding percentage (28%, 22nd).  Phoenix’s front line does not rotate well on defense, so the high pick and roll along with good ball movement should produce great results.  Lee andJJ should also look to secure offensive rebounds for second chance points.  Also, it would not hurt to shoot better than 5-37 (13.5%) on three pointers.

What to watch for 2: Nash vs. Duhon.  Duhon is still struggling with back pain so it will be interesting to see how well he keeps up with the ever mobile Steve Nash.  If Duhon can’t be effective against Nash, it will really expose New York’s lack of depth at the point position. 

What to watch for 3: Phoenix’s most efficient interior scorers Stoudamire (55.6 eFG%) and O’Neal (59.4 eFG%) are somewhat foul prone (3.2 and 4.1 fouls per 36 minutes respectively).  New York should try to get either of these players into foul trouble with drives to the lane.  With Stoudamire and O’Neal on the bench, New York’s interior defense becomes a bit easier.  Furthermore, Shaq still can’t defend the high pick and roll well.  New York should look to exploit this weakness.

The Worst Article of 2008

Long time fans know my least favorite articles are the ones where an author obviously has come to a conclusion and tries to put together facts to support it. In 2004 I railed against Frank Hughes, the next year Charlie Rosen caught my ire, and in 2007 I took a writer from paperbacknovel to task. This year’s KnickerBlogger worst article of 2008 belongs to Bill Simmons piece on D’Antoni/Nash, which was published just before the new year. Simmons begins by bashing D’Antoni:

D’Antoni’s Phoenix teams were wildly entertaining, consistently successful—and always heading home before the Finals. D’Antoni didn’t care that just about every NBA champ since the 1988-89 Pistons had won with defense; once teams slowed the Suns’ tempo and systematically broke them down, their lack of commitment to D always surfaced. Always. They had a fatal flaw. It took us four years to realize it.

Simmons logic is straight out of the internet trolls’ handbook in the chapter titled “Count the Ringz!!1!!” Since 1984, only 8 different coaches have won a title, and like many of his peers Mike D’Antoni isn’t in that select group. Jerry Sloan’s teams were consistently successful for nearly 25 years and he never won a championship. Neither have other respected coaches like George Karl, Don Nelson, Rick Adelman, and both Van Gundys. Winning a championship is a rare event, and failing to do so shouldn’t discredit a coach or style of play.

Additionally Simmons claims “just about every NBA champ since the 1988-89 Pistons had won with defense.” After the Bad Boys won back to back titles, the Bulls won three championship teams by finishing 1st, 1st, and 2nd on offense. Then the Rockets won their first championship due to defense, but the 1995 team with Drexler was 6th on offense and 12th on defensive. Phil Jackson’s threepeat Lakers finished 4th, 2nd, and 2nd on offense. Although some championship teams were stronger on defense, most championship teams are good on both ends of the court and the exceptions generally even out. The 2005 Pistons won with their defense (18th on offense, 2nd on defense), while the 2001 Lakers were an offensive minded team (2nd on offense, 21st on defense). The claim that defense wins championships has been debunked before (namely here and here), and there has not been a defensive trend since 1989.

Simmons proceeds to belittle Steve Nash’s career . He says Nash was a “borderline All-Star” without D’Antoni and says Nash was only “slightly better than Mark Price.” The first is preposterous. Nash started off his career with 4 mediocre seasons, however he became a more productive player by improving his scoring. Nash’s pts/36 went from 11.3 to 16.5 to 18.6. He posted a healthy PER of 19.6 in 2001 at the age of 26. The next year he had a similar season (20.7 PER), became an All Star, and was voted to an All NBA team. This was when he was still in Dallas, before he played for D’Antoni. Nash was a late bloomer, but in Dallas he became a legitimate All Star.

As for the comparison to Price, I’m not sure what to make of it. During his career, Price was voted to 4 All NBA teams and received some consideration for the MVP award. So during his peak he was a pretty good player. However Price’s career ended early. He began to decline at the age of 30 and played his last season at the age of 33. On the other hand Nash has aged well. He won his first MVP at the age of 30, and last year at 33 Nash made the All NBA second team. Considering that Nash is still playing at a high level at the age of 34 (a point that Simmons makes by showing Nash’s numbers this season to be identical to his All Star year in Dallas), it’s clear that Nash’s career has already and will continue to eclipse Price’s. From my perspective Mark Price is to Steve Nash as Shawn Kemp is to Karl Malone.

It’s unfortunate because I understand Simmons’ point. Steve Nash’s assists ballooned under D’Antoni due to the style of play. Nash had the ball in his hand frequently due to the fast paced point guard emphasized offense. So Nash was able to rack up more assists than someone playing for one of the Van Gundys. This is common in just about every sport, but Simmons claims the opposite:

Which brings me to my point, and I swear I have one: Of the four major sports, only in basketball is the historical fate of everyone from borderline All-Star to borderline superstar determined entirely by his situation.

In football, we sometimes see great players trapped on abominable teams (Barry Sanders, Archie Manning) and good players hitting the team lottery (Jim Kelly, Franco Harris), but we can usually tell either way.

You have to wonder what Simmons was on when he wrote that. In the NFL, players are consistently a product of their situation. Kurt Warner is a prime example. When he played for the Rams, Warner was highly effective, twice throwing for more than 4300 yards and 36 TDs. But when placed on a Giants team with a different system, Warner’s play was so bad he lost the starting job. This year in Arizona, Warner was mentioned as a possible MVP candidate. So unlike Simmons’ claim, an NFL player can go from backup to superstar depending on their situation.

But a more appropriate example for Nash might be Tom Brady. In 2007 Brady threw for 50 TDs, nearly twice his career average. Did Brady all of a sudden become more talented? No. Rather the Patriots changed their offense which emphasized his strengths. And you can say the same thing for Nash. D’Antoni’s system increased his stats to the point where a PG in a traditional system might not be able to reach. However Nash still had to perform at a high level to attain those stats. Saying the system turned a regular starter into an MVP is a stretch whether you’re applying that to Steve Nash or Tom Brady.

Arguing D’Antoni’s system was ideal for Nash to win games and put up eye popping numbers seems reasonable. Arguing that Nash’s numbers were inflated by the offense that the team ran is also logical, and that he might not have been the best player in those two seasons is rational. Simmons could have written an article that showed that Nash and D’Antoni were fortunate enough to cross paths having a synergistic effect on each other.

Instead he uses old cliches and false analogies in attempt to assert his opinion. Simmons blames statistics for the problem, and says “stat geeks” as the ones responsible for falling in love with Nash’s inflated numbers. But as this APBRmetrics poll from 2005 showed most numerical analysts didn’t have Nash as a top 3 MVP candidate that year. Ironically if Simmons had a rudimentary understanding of statistics, he would have understood the concept of pace, and could have better articulated his position on Nash. Oh well, maybe next year.

Knicks’ Week in Advance 12/01/08

Welcome to the third installment of “Knicks’ Week in Advance.” As always we will look at the Knicks’ Four Factors and compare them to those of their opponents. Based on each team’s stats I’ll offer suggestions for what the fans should watch for and what the Knicks should look to do that game.

Before we get into the match ups, I want to say a quick word on the importance of advanced stats. I think every fan would do well to understand how they work – especially in light of the style of play the Knicks adopted this year. For instance last week New York, the fastest pace team (98.7 possessions per game), faced the second fastest pace team in Golden State (97.2 possessions per game). Combine that with the fact that the teams are 26th and 27th in defensive efficiency (109.4 Knicks and 110.9 Warriors), and the Knicks’ rotation featured 7 players, you get the perfect storm for gaudy offensive numbers. That is how I predicted Lee could get 20 boards vs. the Warriors.

Of course that game Lee had 21 rebounds and Duhon 22 assists, prompting the casual fan to draw comparisons to Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Without it’s proper context, the average Knick fan might expect numbers like that from the pair on a regular basis.

Four games this week. Home games against Portland and Detroit bookend a road trip through Cleveland and Atlanta.

December 2 Portland [First meeting of the teams this year.]

TEAM POSS EFF eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
New York Knicks-Offense 98.8 107 50.3 14.8 23.5 19.3
Rank
1
11
10
10
27
29
Portland Trail Blazers-Defense 86.2 107.3 49.7 16.2 25.2 23.5
Rank
30
18
21
13
8
13
New York Knicks-Defense 98.8 109.4 51.5 14.5 28.8 18.8
Rank
1
26
27
25.5
25
2
Portland Trail Blazers-Offense 86.2 113.5 51.4 15.1 32.8 22.1
Rank
30
2
3
12
1
21

Terrible Tuesdays continue for the Knicks (four Tuesday games, four playoff teams), this time Portland comes to town. In some ways, the Blazers are the Bizzaro Knicks. The Blazers are dead last in pace (86.6 possessions per game), while the Knicks are first in pace (98.7 possessions per game). The Blazers are a great rebounding team (detailed below), while the Knick are not. The Blazers waived a highly paid, petulant, offensive minded point guard before a power play between he and management became a distraction. The Knicks… well you know the story.

What to watch for 1: Rebounding. The Knicks are going to have trouble keeping the Blazers off the glass. The Blazers are 2nd in offensive rebound percentage (32.6%), and none too shabby on defensive glass securing all but 25.1% of defensive rebounds (6th). The Knicks give up 28.8% of all defensive rebounds (24th), while securing 23.5% of available offensive boards (27th). Long story short: make the first shot; there will not be many second chances.

What to watch for 2: The neutralization of David Lee. Lee at center is not going to have the easy match ups he had against the Warriors. Oden and Aldridge are solid interior defenders and strong shot blockers (2.7 and 1.3 blocks per 36 minutes respectively). What Lee can do to help the team is work the pick and roll with Duhon and then hit the 15 footer with consistency (why don’t they run that more with Lee and Harrington’s mid range game?). If Lee can lure Oden out of the paint, it could open things up for drives to the lane (if only there was a Knick that liked to do that).

What to watch for 3: The Blazers are exceedingly efficient on offense (113.1, 2nd in the NBA) and from the floor (51.1 eFG%, 5th). The Knicks will need a solid defensive effort against this team.

December 3 at Cleveland [Cavs won first meeting 119-101]

TEAM POSS EFF eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
New York Knicks-Offense 98.8 107 50.3 14.8 23.5 19.3
Rank
1
11
10
10
27
29
Cleveland Cavaliers-Defense 90.2 102.7 45.8 16.5 26.4 26.4
Rank
23
6
4
11
15
26
New York Knicks-Defense 98.8 109.4 51.5 14.5 28.8 18.8
Rank
1
26
27
25.5
25
2
Cleveland Cavaliers-Offense 90.2 114.8 52.4 14.4 30.4 25.9
Rank
23
1
2
6
5
7

The Knicks looked awful against the Cavs in the last meeting. It was the first game with new acquisitions Harrington and Thomas so maybe that had something to do with the Cavs one-sided victory. More likely, it was due to the Cavs being one of the best teams in the East.

What to watch for: Defense. When the Knicks last played the Cavs, I suggested that the Knicks pressure the ball and force the Cavs into poor shots and sloppy play. What did the Knicks do? They allowed the Cavs to post a 58.4 eFG% while only forcing 8 turnovers. The boys in blue have to do better. Hopefully, Mobley will be available to help the back court defense. I know the team should always play good defense, but it is crucial when playing a team as efficient as the Cavs.

December 5 at Atlanta [ First meeting of the teams this year. ]

TEAM POSS EFF eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
New York Knicks-Offense 98.8 107 50.3 14.8 23.5 19.3
Rank
1
11
10
10
27
29
Atlanta Hawks-Defense 90.1 107.8 48.4 14.9 28.2 22.7
Rank
24
21
10
22
21
11
New York Knicks-Defense 98.8 109.4 51.5 14.5 28.8 18.8
Rank
1
26
27
25.5
25
2
Atlanta Hawks-Offense 90.1 109.1 50.8 15.3 27.6 22.8
Rank
24
7
7
14
9
18

After a very hot start, the Hawks have cooled a bit but they are still a dangerous match up for the Knicks because their offensive efficiency (109.1, 6th) and eFG% (50.8%, 7th) exploits the Knick defense.

What to watch for 1: Pace. For a team with so many athletic players the Hawks don’t really push the pace (90.1 possessions per game, 25th). It will be interesting to see what the Hawks do if the Knicks push the pace.

What to watch for 2: Inside the paint. The Hawks, like the Knicks, lack a true center. Solomon Jones is solid interior defender (2.7 blocks per 36 minutes) but he is quite foul prone (5.5 fouls per 36 minutes). Josh Smith blocks the same number of shots per 36, but is more of a weak side defender than face up. If Duhon and Robinson can get inside they can open up a few easy baskets for Lee and Harrington when Smith comes to help.

December 7 Detroit [Pistons won first meeting 110-96]

TEAM POSS EFF eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
New York Knicks-Offense 98.8 107 50.3 14.8 23.5 19.3
Rank
1
11
10
10
27
29
Detroit Pistons-Defense 89.8 107.6 49.5 15.2 26.4 25.6
Rank
25
20
18
20
14
24
New York Knicks-Defense 98.8 109.4 51.5 14.5 28.8 18.8
Rank
1
26
27
25.5
25
2
Detroit Pistons-Offense 89.8 107.7 48.4 14.6 27.2 25.6
Rank
25
9
18
8
11
10

Last week I wrote that the Knicks needed to exploit the high usage/low efficiency of the Pistons’ offensive leaders. The Knicks did not do that in allowing the Pistons to post a 54.4 eFG%, which is 6 points higher than their season average (48.6%, 17th). Let’s try it again.

What to watch for: 12 p.m. opening tip. The Pistons will be on the road and maybe they partied a bit Saturday night in New York. Maybe they will be sluggish for this game.

I admit I’m reaching here, but I’ve been chasing two kids around all weekend. (Did you know that baking soda and rubbing alcohol can undo the work of a two year old artist who works in the medium of Sharpie on fine oak furniture?)

Read last week’s article, the same stuff applies.

One 2009 Fantasy Tidbit

With the season still a month off there isn’t all that much action going on for NBA fans. Unless of course you’re one of those fans that plans on participating in a fantasy league this year. In that case now is the time to start thinking about your fantasy draft.

My first fantasy draft was for a football league back in the mid-90s. To date myself, the stats were done by hand, and there was no web page for the league. In fact I was the only person in the league that used the web at that time. There was one building on campus that had computers with internet access, and I’m pretty sure the other guys in the league never set foot into the Math/Physics building. Well except maybe on those cold and windy days to cut across campus.

As most people in their first fantasy league, I didn’t do very well. Today I have many fantasy rules that I adhere to, most of which I broke that first year. For instance don’t let home team biases affect your draft (especially if you’re a Jets fan). Also don’t let video games warp your judgment (especially if you’re kicking butt in an old version of Madden with Randall Cunningham). And remember that a player’s real value is not equal to their fantasy value.

For years after I joined fantasy leagues of all types. I remember walking into my first baseball draft with a laptop and being laughed at by everyone in the room. Today most drafts are done online with people sitting at their PC. Anyone walking into a draft only with a magazine they picked up along the way is probably in for a losing season.

Being that I’m at a unique position to have a basketball database at my hands, I usually take the time to put together a nice excel sheet for my draft, ranking players based on z-scores customized for my league. I also add a column for the player’s Yahoo rank, so I know approximately where each player should be drafted. Because my draft isn’t until the end of October and some of my opponents might be readers, I can’t reveal too much about my sheet or rankings.

However I’ll throw out one tidbit for my faithful KnickerBlogger readers in 9 category leagues (FG%, FT%, 3PTM, PTS, REB, AST, ST, BLK, TO). There’s a top 10 player whose ranking in my system is considerably worse: Dwyane Wade. In Yahoo’s ranking Wade is #9, and that does seem reasonable considering he’s one of the best players in the game. Wade averaged just under 25 points, 7 assists, 4 boards, 2 steals, and a block last year. So why should you avoid him in your league’s draft this year?

Wade averaged 4.4 turnovers per game last year, by far the worst in that category. To put this in perspective, Wade committed double the amount of turnovers as Chauncey Billups (Yahoo ranking #15). The closest person to Wade’s 4.4 in the top 100 is Steve Nash with 3.6, but the differences between the two punctuates Wade’s other weaknesses. Nash is fantastic in regards to FG%, FT%, and 3PM, while Wade is poor in all three categories. Wade is not a three point shooter, as his 0.4 3PM/G shows. His FT% (75.8%) and FG% (46.9%) were their lowest since his rookie season. Because of these four categories, Wade drops to 89th in my rankings.

A legitimate question to ask might be: what would Wade be ranked if he bounces back to his career averages? I plugged in his career per game averages for FG%, FT%, and TO, and Wade’s ranking only went up to 57. You may have high hopes for Dwyane because with the additions of Marion and Beasley to the offense Wade might be able to cut down on his turnovers. However you have to consider that he has missed a total of 62 games over the last 2 seasons.

Like most category killers (Dwight Howard, Okafor, Shaq), there is a special strategy to using them. You can treat them like a hot potato, closely monitoring the stat they kill (FT%, TO, FG%, etc.) and trading them at the right moment. Or you can punt that category and trade for players with the same weaknesses. Once you’ve given up on free throw percentage, players like LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Tracy McGrady become more valuable to your team.

Category killers worthy of a fantasy team usually offer something of great value to your team. For instance Howard will help your team with FG%, REB, and BLK. Steve Nash will give you FG%, FT%, 3PM, and is second in the league in AST. LeBron James will help in just about every category other than FT% and TO. Unfortunately Wade will hurt your team in turnovers, without offering any great help. You can make up PTS, AST, and STL elsewhere. Caron Butler (Yahoo #10), Baron Davis (Yahoo #12), and Allen Iverson (Yahoo #14) are comparable in those categories, and better overall. Wade is one of those players where his fantasy value differs greatly from his true value, and there’s no reason to grab him in as early as Yahoo suggests.

Addition By Subtraction?

Here in Georgia, we’ve struggled with drought for several years. Last fall, folks with lakefront lots on Lake Lanier saw their boats sitting on mud flats, and Atlanta was down to its last 60 days of water.  Governor Sonny Perdue decided to organize a prayer circle and pray for rain. (He also sued Florida and Alabama). A few hours after the group prayer on the steps of the state Capitol, the clouds burst and Lo! there was rain. What does this have to do with basketball? Well, the Knicks have gone through a long drought….

But I promised to talk about “addition by subtraction.” Posters offered: 1) trading Stephon Marbury for Jason Kidd; 2)  trading Marbury for Steve Nash; 3) trading Zach Randolph for Steve Francis & Channing Frye; 4) trading Isaiah Rider for Sean Rooks & change; 5) trading Dennis Rodman for Will Perdue; 6) Firing John McLeod (!) and  7) trading Allen Iverson for Andre Miller.  

It’s clear that to most people, “addition by subtraction” means “trading a star player.” But usually, a player “subtracted” means others “added.” After all, Channing Frye’s mother doesn’t refer to “the Zach Randolph trade.” In some of these examples, one team did get a lot better – but the key was clearly the addition (MVP Nash, 2nd-place MVP Kidd) — NOT the subtraction.  Other examples are more complicated. The Blazers got substantially better after dumping Randolph, as did the 76ers after buying out Webber. The Sixers also improved after trading their superstar for a supposed role player. Are these examples of better chemistry? 

The year he was cut, despite a high usage rate of 23.4, Webber had a TS% of 40.9 and was one of the worst defenders in the league. Not surprisingly, his replacements were better. Randolph’s minutes were largely taken by LaMarcus Aldridge; some of his shots went to Brandon Roy. Both players are more efficient shooters than Randolph, and better defenders. Portland also got back the services of Joel Przybilla, who missed 2006-2007 due to injury. While Randolph is an excellent rebounder, Przybilla is even better – a rebound rate almost 20 percent higher. He’s also a good defender. Meanwhile, as Ted Nelson noted, even before the trade some people considered Andre Miller an equal or better player to Allen Iverson.

Which brings us to Stephon Marbury. Some suggest that the Knicks would help themselves most with a buyout, rather than letting Marbury sit on the bench or trading him. In theory, Marbury offers terrible “intangibles,” and cutting him would improve team chemistry, leading others to play better. 

Paraphrasing Dave Berri, in sportswriter-speak “intangibles” are everything but scoring, measured by points-per-game.  The Knickerblogger reader knows better.  “Intangible” just means we can’t measure it. About the only statistic for which we don’t have a pretty reliable measure, is off-the-ball defense. With that in mind – Stephon Marbury doesn’t have bad “intangibles.” He’s just a mediocre player: a slowing 31-year-old: average on offense, abominable on defense and offering little else. Four statistical ranking systems all tell the same story: a steady decline over the past three years, from a starting point either slightly above or slightly below average. 

PER: 16.52, 15.36, 13.84  (15 is average)

WP/48: .092, .070, .050  (.100 is average) 

Roland Rating: +1.5, 0.0, -4.6

Adjusted Plus/minus:  7.57, 2.88, TBD

The Knicks will defend better with Chris Duhon on the floor, and they might play better overall. But that’s not saying the team would play better with Marbury in Boston, or sitting home. Back in Georgia, Sonny Perdue thanked the powers that be for sending rain. Do you prefer a simple explanation, or the intangibles? 

p.s. The Timberwolves improved 14 games the year after trading Isiah Rider. They had several similar players take his minutes; they also gave an extra 800 minutes to Kevin Garnett and replaced Spud Webb with the rookie Marbury. The Spurs didn’t really improve post-Rodman until Tim Duncan arrived.