Daily Knicks Picks: Media Round-up 7/27/10

  • Scott Cacciola of the Wall Street Journal on Anthony Randolph: Long, Lean, Unlimited. “How about his two violent dunks over the Houston Rockets’ Yao Ming during his rookie season? Or his epic two-handed block on a breakaway by Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant? These are the sorts of plays—flashes of brilliance, really—where Mr. Randolph unfolds his 6-foot-11 frame and hints at what he might be, could be, should be.”
  • And Randolph says there will be no more excuses, writes Tim Bontemps of the NY Post. “‘It’s all on me right now,’ Randolph said yesterday at the Knicks’ Summer Basketball Camp at Pace University-Pleasantville. ‘If I don’t succeed, it’s my fault. It’s not on anybody else. The head coach is gonna give me a chance to show what I can do, and if I don’t capitalize on it, it’s nobody’s fault but mine.'”
  • Lastly in Randolph-related news, the man of the hour is doing a fan giveaway for his autograph. Rules to follow?
  • From STAT TV: A video from Amar’e working at the Nike Skills Academy, with what appear to be cameos by Deron Williams and Andre Iguodala.
  • Pinnaclesports.com posts Amar’e as a +3568 long-shot to win the MVP, trailing favorites Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant.
  • Mitch Lawrence from the NY Daily News reports on Chris Paul’s meeting with the Hornets.”I expressed my desire to win and I like what they said about the direction that they want to take the team,” said Paul, who has been unhappy with the lack of additions to his supporting cast in recent seasons. “I have been a Hornet my entire career and I hope to represent the city of New Orleans and state of Louisiana for many years to come.
  • And finally, T-Mac with some insightful commentary on his future in the NBA, from Marc Stein and Chris Broussard. “I think, yeah, if I was the player that I was in a Knicks uniform, I would have no problem coming off the bench.”
  • From the Mailbox: T-Mac for 2011?

    Been a while since I’ve gotten a request from the old inbox, so I thought I’d take the time to answer.

    Do the Knicks have any interest what-so-ever in resigning Tracy McGrady? I know that most people think T-Mac will never be half the player that he once was, and there is more than enough evidence to support that. However, he won’t be worse than he was last year, and last year, even injured, he still always seemed to have the highest IQ on the floor, especially in a Knicks uniform. He can pass as good as anyone in the NBA, and hes clutch. Additionally, Wilson Chandler is a small forward, not a 2 guard. I like him, but he does not have the handling, or the jump shot the Knicks need at SHOOTING guard. Bill Walker is good, but i dont think he is ready to start just yet. So again, do you know if the knicks have any interest in T-Mac? Looking forward to your response!

    Thanks,
    James

    First, the reliable Alan “my sources say LeBron is going to Miami” Hahn tweeted that neither McGrady nor the Knicks were interested in a reunion. So it doesn’t seem like a likely possibility.

    Second, I’ll start this off by saying I’m not a fan of McGrady’s, and I’ll try to convince any New Yorker not to be either. Let’s look at what I said about him after the season ended:

    I had hoped that McGrady would benefit from a reduction in shot attempts upon arriving in New York. But even when he cut his FGA/36 to 12.6, T-Mac put up the lowest TS% of his career (46.6%). You know your career is over when you’re a former All Star trying to beat out Chris Duhon for a starting job, and you fail. Probably some team will sign him to a minor contract this year, I just hope it isn’t New York.

    How bad is a 46.6% TS%? Well Jared Jeffries managed a TS% of 52.4% for the Knicks last year. Chris Duhon was at 50.1%. Larry Hughes was at 47.3%. Darko Milicic 47.1%. This number is a personal low for McGrady, but poor shooting has been a staple of his late career. In 4 of the last 5 years McGrady hasn’t gotten his TS% above 50%. And mind you that 54% is the league average for true shooting percentage.

    I agree that McGrady has good basketball IQ with regards to passing. However the prerequisite for shooting guard is, as you aptly put it, “SHOOTING.” And hands down T-Mac was one of the worst in the league. If there is any role for McGrady to play in an NBA offense it’s point guard, but even then he’d need to be the basketball equivalent of Stephen Hawkin to make up for his poor shot.

    Now, it’s been no great secret that shooting guard has been a Knick weakness for the past few seasons. As you point out, Wilson Chandler is a forward masquerading as a guard and this summer didn’t do anything to improve Bill Walker’s stock. However, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Chandler finally addresses one of his offensive weaknesses (although I’m still waiting). Nor is it inconceivable that Bill Walker turns into an NBA starter at shooting guard. But if neither happens New York has more depth beyond them. Azubuike was a starter for most of 2009, and seems to be a great fit for D’Antoni. Douglas will likely see time alongside Felton, and either Fields or Rautins could surprise fans this year as well. Between Chandler, Walker, Azubuike, Fields, Rautins, and Douglas the Knicks finally have some better options to get some real production from the 2 spot this year.

    2010 Report Card: Tracy McGrady

    When a change occurs it always takes the mainstream a bit of time to adjust to the new idea. I recall watching a Knick game near the end of the year with the announcers talking about whether or not McGrady would be coming back next year. One of them (not sure who it was) said that McGrady would have to accept being a second star on a team.

    At this time, I’ll chose to reveal McGrady’s similarity scores before I continue.

    Similarity Scores:

    z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS eFG PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
    .000 Tracy McGrady 2010 TOT 12.2 46.6 42.1 13.1 1.2 5.0 5.3 0.8 0.7 2.4
    .090 Travis Best 2003 MIA 11.2 47.3 42.7 12.0 0.5 2.9 5.1 0.9 0.1 2.1
    .099 Henry Bibby 1980 PHI 11.1 49.1 41.0 13.1 1.1 3.7 5.4 1.1 0.1 2.6
    .110 Troy Hudson 2007 MIN 10.8 48.3 45.1 13.1 0.5 3.1 4.7 0.9 0.1 2.6
    .158 Bimbo Coles 1999 GSW 14.8 49.6 44.9 12.9 0.6 3.3 6.3 1.3 0.3 2.3
    .162 Bob Sura 2004 TOT 16.2 51.0 43.8 12.9 2.2 7.1 5.0 1.3 0.3 2.3
    .166 John Johnson 1978 TOT 11.9 45.3 41.5 16.1 2.0 6.1 4.2 0.8 0.4 3.3
    .171 Damon Stoudamire 2004 POR 14.8 50.8 47.7 12.7 0.6 3.6 5.8 1.1 0.1 2.1
    .174 Brad Miller 2007 SAC 13.5 50.8 45.9 11.5 1.6 8.1 4.5 0.8 0.8 2.2
    .174 Doug Overton 2000 BOS 10.5 46.6 42.9 12.7 1.2 2.7 4.4 0.8 0.0 1.7
    .176 Jim McMillian 1979 POR 11.9 49.9 44.6 10.7 2.1 5.1 4.3 1.3 0.4 2.1

    I know it takes a little time for perception to catch up with reality, but does that look like a list of players that should be questioning whether or not they are the second star of a team? To me that group should be worrying if they can keep their job as second string point guards. It’s been a long time since McGrady has been a top tier player, but there’s no doubt that he fell off Sandy Alomar Cliff years ago. Below is a list of his comparables by age, which reminds me of one those don’t use drugs posters.

    Age z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS eFG PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
    19 .244 Kevin Garnett 1996 MIN 15.8 52.2 49.7 13.1 2.7 7.9 2.3 1.4 2.1 1.7
    20 .121 Kevin Garnett 1997 MIN 18.2 53.7 50.2 15.7 2.3 7.4 2.8 1.3 2.0 2.1
    21 .098 Kobe Bryant 2000 LAL 21.7 54.6 48.8 21.2 1.5 5.9 4.6 1.5 0.9 2.6
    22 .072 LeBron James 2007 CLE 24.5 55.2 50.7 24.1 0.9 5.9 5.3 1.4 0.6 2.8
    23 .145 LeBron James 2008 CLE 29.1 56.8 51.8 26.8 1.6 7.0 6.4 1.6 1.0 3.0
    24 .121 Kobe Bryant 2003 LAL 26.2 55.0 48.3 26.0 1.1 6.0 5.1 1.9 0.7 3.0
    25 .053 Kobe Bryant 2004 LAL 23.7 55.1 46.8 22.9 1.5 5.3 4.9 1.6 0.4 2.5
    26 .114 Paul Pierce 2004 BOS 19.4 51.7 44.1 21.3 0.8 6.1 4.8 1.5 0.6 3.5
    27 .175 Grant Hill 2000 DET 24.5 56.5 50.1 24.7 1.3 6.4 5.0 1.3 0.6 3.1
    28 .083 Jamal Mashburn 2001 CHH 17.5 49.3 45.0 18.4 1.1 6.9 5.0 1.0 0.2 2.5
    29 .088 Derek Anderson 2004 POR 15.1 49.9 44.0 13.8 0.5 3.6 4.5 1.3 0.1 1.8
    30 .090 Travis Best 2003 MIA 11.2 47.3 42.7 12.0 0.5 2.9 5.1 0.9 0.1 2.1

    You might note that at age 27 his most similar player is Grant Hill, but a score of .175 means they’re not very close. Actually McGrady rates close to these players because of his high usage. From ages 21-28 he averaged more than 21.1 pts/36, however his efficiency has been dropping since age 23. Usually guys with TS% south of 52% don’t get to take enough shots to average 20pts/36, but McGrady has managed that feat 3 times in his career (2006-2008). Speaking of his shooting efficiency…

    McGrady-TS%

    I added the red line, since the league average for TS% is around 54%. T-Mac had a very promising career, capping with a TS% of 56.4% as a 23 year old. A player’s career usually arcs up, levels off, then descends. But McGrady’s drops sharply and early at the peak, giving it the appearance of a mountain not the typical bell curve. If you looked at his career graph at age 23 and applied the normal career path, you’d think he’d be a perennial All Star. But as you can see that’s season was the exception, not the norm. It’s a shame, because McGrady is an exceptional passer and a capable rebounder. And he’s always been able to get to the line. Poor shot selection and an inconsistent three point shot (he’s been over 34% only once in the last 7 seasons) has kept him from achieving true greatness.

    I had hoped that McGrady would benefit from a reduction in shot attempts upon arriving in New York. But even when he cut his FGA/36 to 12.6, T-Mac put up the lowest TS% of his career (46.6%). You know your career is over when you’re a former All Star trying to beat out Chris Duhon for a starting job, and you fail. Probably some team will sign him to a minor contract this year, I just hope it isn’t New York.

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

    Final Grade: F

    The Grass Really Isn’t Greener

    Back in February, a lot of Knick fans were hoping for some kind of change to jump start their lifeless 2010 season. New York was 19-34 (.358) and seemingly stuck in a mire. By the 20th they had dumped Nate Robinson, Jordan Hill, Jared Jeffries and a bunch of draft picks for a winter rental of Tracy McGrady, Eddie House, Bill Walker, and Sergio Rodriguez. Some fans saw McGrady, a former All Star, as a potential great player. For instance a friend of mine on facebook wrote “T-Mac, now a Knick, hopefully he stays healthy and has a couple more good seasons left in him.”

    Since that trade New York’s record hasn’t gotten better as the team has won only 5 of the last 15 games. Neither McGrady nor his new teammates have been able to turn the tide. In fact the Knicks won the only game that McGrady missed (against the Hawks), so he hasn’t been as effective as my friend expected. Personally, I wanted the Knicks to change because the team had been monotonous, and after the trade the new players were intriguing to watch. But ultimately, to paraphrase Bill Parcels, you’re as interesting as your record. And the results from the new group of players has been just as bad as the old group.

    There are a few positives to take from this trade. The first is Bill Walker, who is playing reasonably well and could be a cheap and productive roster filler for 2010 and beyond. The second is New York’s first hand look at McGrady, House, and Rodriguez might prevent them from spending too much on any of these players. They haven’t looked particularly good, and although each may have something to bring to the Knicks past this year, none are playing well enough for the team giddily overpay them. The last positive is the extra minutes for Toney Douglas. Although it would have been possible for the team to play him without this trade, with D’Antoni’s mindset that may have not occurred. But the removal of Nate Robinson helped pave the way for his minutes, along with the equally poor play from Duhon/Rodriguez. With the team counting every summer 2010 penny, having two guys that make relatively little but that can crack the rotation will be key for the future.

    GOTME (Part IV): Small Forward

    The Greatest Small Forward of the Modern Era: LeBron James

    Player Best PER Avg 5 Best PER Career PER #1 PER # of top 10 PER
    LeBron 31.7 29.1 26.8 3 6
    Bird 27.8 26.1 23.5 2 7
    Erving 22.5 (28.7) 24.5 (26.8) 22.4 (23.9) 1 (5) 5 (10)
    ??? 23.2 21.9 18.6 0 2

    Here’s an interesting question: if LeBron James had to hang them up tomorrow would he be the best SF of the modern era? Consider that he led the league in PER the last 3 seasons, has been in the top 10 every year but his first, and he’s only 25 years old. Looking at what LeBron James has done up until this season, you could make the argument that he is better than Larry Bird. Larry Legend led the league in PER only twice and was in the top 10 PER 7 times, and LeBron has pretty much already equaled that. One critique of PER is that it doesn’t account for individual defense, an area where James has an advantage over Bird.

    You could argue that Bird won more championships, but look at the supporting cast. Larry Legend played along 3 Hall of Famers for the early 80s in Nate Archibald, Robert Parrish, and Kevin McHale (although Archibald was past his prime) and had much stronger teammates than LeBron. This year will be James’ best team, and he only has one Hall of Fame caliber player, Shaq, who is well past his peak.

    My intention of stating these facts is not to prove that James is absolutely better now than Bird was over his entire career. Instead I think there’s an argument for either side. And with that in consideration, you have to give the edge to James because he’s got a lot of basketball ahead of him.

    Barring a injury-plagued future, LeBron is on track for a spectacular career. Even if James does suffer such a fate, he’ll still be the modern era’s best small forward. I took two career arcs and applied them to LeBron’s current production rate. In the chart below of PER by age the red triangles are Michael Jordan, the blue squares are Grant Hill, and the brown circles are LeBron James. The yellow triangles are LeBron’s projected career using Jordan’s arc and the orange squares are James’ career with Hill’s arc, both adjusted for LeBron’s production.

    LeBron-Projection

    By either projection, he’s got about 5 more seasons with a PER over 25, even accounting for a Hill-esque tragic arc. So by a conservative estimate, James will still have a lot of highly productive seasons. And although it’s possible that LeBron suffers from a worse fate than Grant Hill, it’s reasonable to think that missing multiple season is a pessimistic view. It’s more likely that he proceeds on a normal career path.

    And should James continue on a standard progression, he could rival Jordan for the GOTME captaincy. As I outlined in Part III, James will need a lot of luck to match Jordan’s string of championships. However LeBron will have one avenue where he could fall short on championships and still surpass Jordan. If James plays to his late 30’s or even early 40s, he could be close enough to Jordan in peak and surpass him longevity. If you’re questioning LeBron James’ place here at thie time, consider that he could end up as the three point era’s most productive player.

    Reserves: Larry Bird, Dr. J, and ???

    There have been a lot of good small forwards in the league since the 1980 season, but none come close to Bird and Erving. Although the pair are icons of different styles and eras, their numbers were amazingly similar. They are nearly identical in career PER (23.6 to 23.5), PTS/36 (23.9 to 22.8), and TS% (56.4 to 55.8). Bird has an edge in rebounds, assists, and turnovers, while Erving was better in blocks and steals. Of course this includes Dr. J.’s pre-1980 and ABA numbers. Two reasonable people could argue all day which player was better. I think a more fruitful debate would surround the fourth best SF.

    There are 4 guys that are in the conversation: Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Paul Pierce, and Scottie Pippen. Compared to LeBron, Bird, and Erving these guys are clearly riding in coach. So how to assess them? McGrady led the league in PER in 2003, and totaled four times in the top 3. However his TS% is the lowest of the bunch (52.0%), and he averaged nearly 17 missed games a year due to injuries (which doesn’t include this season where’s he’s sat out 30+). Secondly McGrady’s playoff record is just abysmal. Carter is next on the list by career PER, but only cracked the top 10 twice. Here’s an indictment against Air Canada/Jersey/Orlando: he’s on only 2 All-NBA teams, and was never a first teamer.

    So it’s down to Pierce and Pippen. Pierce has the offensive edge with 2 points of PER (20.8 to 18.6), nearly 30 in TS% (56.4% to 53.6%), and 5 pts/36 (21.7 to 16.6). Pippen is the better passer (5.4 to 3.7 ast/36) and defender earning 10 All Defensive Team awards. Normally I’d take the numbers and go with Pierce, but there’s one interesting thing to note. In Jordan’s absence, Pippen took on the main load and increased both his scoring volume (20.5 pts/36) and his efficiency (55.5% TS%). The 1994 team won 55 games, which is more than Pierce’s teams ever won with him as the centerpiece. So I’m inclined to add Scottie instead, because perhaps playing alongside Jordan stunted his numbers (although enhanced his legacy). In either case his body of work is sufficient enough to give him the edge as the fourth SF.

    Milwaukee 83 – New York 67, The Good And The Bad

    You didn’t have to look too deep last night to see examples of the opposing extremes. In a night where the franchise honored the 1970 championship team, their modern day heirs put up a 67 point stinker. Another polar event was the benching of Chris Duhon, who despite being third on the team in minutes played racked up a DNP in favor of newcomer Sergio Rodriguez. The Knicks scored 118 (albeit in overtime) against the #3 defense just two nights prior, but struggled to put up half that against the Bucks. Newly anointed savior Tracy McGrady followed up a 26 pts on 17 shots masterpiece with a 15 pts on 14 shots clunker.

    But it wasn’t limited to T-Mac, as the entire team looked bad shooting. Chandler and Gallo, two youngsters who were supposed to thrive with the addition of talented passers, were a combined 4-14. Eddie House put up a Crawford-esque 4-16, Al Harrington was a meager 3-9, and Sergio Rodriguez made his predecessor look like a viable option with his 2-8 night.

    The 1970 Knicks were known for their teamwork and fundamentals, as many of the telecast’s guests pointed out, and last night’s team failed to play as a unit. Rodriguez had lots of energy, but nearly too much for his teammates. He racked up 8 steals, and often pushed the ball up the floor. The problem was he was met by superior opposing numbers as the rest of New York jogged their way up the floor.

    Other than cohesiveness, the Knicks lacked one other crucial aspect. With Lee bringing his game out to 15 feet and adding a long range bomber in Eddie House, the Knicks lack scoring in the paint to open the exterior. One play that stuck out in my mind was when Tony Douglas received the ball right under the hoop, but was unable to even get a shot off. Al Harrington can drive to the hoop, but he rarely passes the ball in that scenario. We’ve seen Tracy McGrady get the ball in a mid-post iso, but I’m not sure if he has that first step to get past his defender. The team is lacking someone that can really slash to the hoop. Perhaps they’ll get a view of one tonight as they face Nate Robinson and the Celtics.

    One Months Time

    “Oh well I look at you and say
    It’s the happiest that I’ve ever been
    And I’ll say I no longer feel I have to be James Dean
    And she’ll say
    Yah well I feel all pretty happy too
    And I’m always pretty happy when I’m just kicking back with you”
    –“Five Years Time” Noah and the Whale

    For the first time in years, there is optimism for Knick fans. Looking at the reaction on Twitter, fans are eager to grab T-Mac jerseys first thing tomorrow morning from the NBA store. The Daily News put the words “Former All Star” in the title of one of their articles describing T-Mac. Even an old friend on my facebook seemed to wonder why I was so down on grabbing such a big name as Tracy McGrady.

    My grades from yesterday’s post reveals that I’m less than pleased with how the team did on the trade deadline. While there seems to be a euphoric fog following the team, I’m curious how people feel things will work out. So I propose the following question: “In one month, what will the starting lineup and rotation look like?”

    My optimistic side says:
    Rodriguez
    McGrady
    Chandler
    Gallo
    Lee
    bench: House, Harrington, Douglas

    This lineup would mean that McGrady and Rodriguez are playing well, which from a long term perspective isn’t such a bad thing. Nothing would make me happier to have Rodriguez and Douglas relegate Duhon to the bench for good. I’d settle for Sergio starting, and Duhon coming off the bench, but that doesn’t bode well for Douglas’ future. Actually I could also live with House starting at point guard, and letting the offense run through McGrady. I imagine that might be the Knicks “best offensive 5” team, which could prove useful considering their lack of size. What I would hate to see is this:

    My pessimistic side says:
    Duhon
    Chandler
    McGrady
    Harrington
    Lee
    bench: Gallo, House, Bender

    Duhon remains entrenched as starting PG, and between him and McGrady there’s no need for another PG, leaving Douglas and Rodriguez out of the rotation. D’Antoni finds Gallo/Chandler too small for the 4, and inserts Harrington into the starting lineup instead.

    Somewhere in the middle lies:
    Rodriguez
    McGrady
    Chandler
    Gallo
    Lee
    bench: House, Harrington, Douglas, Bender

    Yes a 9 man rotation wouldn’t be out of the question, although I don’t see a lot of minutes for Douglas/Bender. Chandler and Gallo rotate at the 4 defensively so neither are continually over matched. Duhon is nowhere to be seen, and the Knicks have 2 scorers off the bench in House & Harrington.

    So how do you see the lineup in one month?