Game 1: Postgame Observations

The first pre-season game for the Knicks tipped off this evening in Columbia, SC against the Sixers. Living as I do in Columbia, around the corner from the Colonial Center no less, I strolled on up, bought a ticket and settled in for the first action of the season.

I had three main questions in mind to jot notes on during the game.

1. How does Zebo look physically?

2. Will the Knicks look to run?

3. How will Chandler, Nichols, and Jordon look?

Zebo. Physically, he looked noticeably trimmed down from last season and in pretty decent shape. I’ll have to see him on TV to do a fair comparison though. It’s possible that merely seeing him live took off 10-15 lbs. I doubt it though. He looked quick, bringing the ball up the floor on at least two or three occasions. Offensively, any lingering doubts I might have had about his ability to play alongside Curry and Lee were alleviated. Zebo played a mostly turn-and-face game in the 15-18 foot area, put the ball on the floor, and posted up only occasionally. He was quite active on the boards as well. (As of the time of writing–less than 60 minutes after the end of the game–the box score has not been posted.) On the downside, Randolph is not a good defender though, picking up 5 fouls. Having said that however, in what was a theme on the night, the Knicks starters were as committed to the defensive end as I can recall. Randolph defensively was certainly active, challenging shots, if not always in the right place. (Side note: Jamal Crawford was especially active defensively, using his long arms to get numerous deflections.)

Picking up the pace. It was clear in the first few minutes the Knicks were making a concerted effort to really push the ball up the floor. The starters (Marbury, Crawford, Richardson, Lee, and Randolph) played until about 3:40 left in the first quarter when Thomas made wholesale substitutions. The team continued to run despite several point blank misses early in the game by a variety of players. Nevertheless, it was refreshing to see the team look to run off makes and misses. In addition, the halfcourt sets early in the game featured what appeared to be more movement and cutting. It’s quite possible that there wasn’t more cutting, just crisper, harder cutting. To the naked eye though, it seemed like the Knicks had more motion in the halfcourt offense. The Knicks got out to an early lead and were hardly threatened on the night.

Chandler, Nichols, and Jordan. As you might expect the rooks were a mixed bag. Wilson Chandler saw by far the most minutes. It’s easy to see what the Knicks like in the youngster from DePaul. Much like what we saw in summer league Chandler flashed his athleticism with one monster dunk. He hit a three pointer (if memory serves). He rebounded well and defended Igoudala well in stretches. He also took numerous poor shots and ultimately fouled out. Nichols and Jordan interestingly entered the game for the first time in the 4th quarter with the Knicks attempting to hold on to a lead that was shifting back forth between 10 and 8. By that time the offense had far less continuity. Nichols did manage to hit the two three point shots he attempted (one attempt was nullified by a Philly foul). Not having seen Jordan until tonight I was unsure what to expect. Jordan was matched against Louis Williams, the uber-quick high schooler Philly drafted two seasons ago. Jordan’s got handles. Stylistically he’s more Luke Ridenour (similar build, similar crossover move) than I’d pictured. I believe Jordan hit his only attempt, a 20 footer up against the buzzer. He did make a behind the back pass to David Lee, who put the ball on the floor but was unable to finish the play. I don’t think Jordan would have been credited with an assist anyway. Defensively though, Louis Williams blew right past him. Jordan is quick but physically he’s built a lot like Ridenour. Defense is going to be a problem for him, but if the Knicks are as committed to picking up the pace as they led me to believe tonight this kid could come in handy. It’s obvious he has real court vision, a trait in very short supply in NY’s backcourt.

Finally, another “rookie” who got some burn tonight was Randolph Morris, who began the 2nd half with the starters. Since I anticipate nights where Curry is in foul trouble (or the Knicks are trying to protect him from foul trouble) I suspect Morris may see key minutes. On the plus side, he displayed some touch on his pick and pop jumper (from about 12 feet). He hit the boards hard. He also looks to be able to run. On the minus side, he’s got terrible, terrible hands. He fumbled everything he touched. And, although he’s reasonably athletic overall his feet are not exceptionally quick so he has trouble sliding over and rotating. Thus he’s prone to fouls. (By contrast, Philly rookie Jason Smith is a far more fluid athlete.) Overall, again, a mixed bag but enough good stuff to hope the Isiah buys out Jerome James and goes to the kid as the full time backup.

Knicks 2007 Report Card (A to Z): Quentin Richardson

KnickerBlogger: By the numbers, Quentin Richardson’s 2007 season wasn’t all that bad, especially when compared to his 2006 season. Richardson’s rebirth seems to be based on two stats: his rebounding and shooting percentages. Richardson posted the highest per-minute rebounding average of his career (8.7 REB/40), solely due to an increase in his defensive rebounds (7.1 DREB/40). This made him the Knicks third best rebounder last year, which is impressive for a 6-6 swingman. Additionally Richardson had his best shooting season as well. His eFG (50.7%) and TS% (53.2%) were the highest of his career, and his three point percentage (37.6%) was his second best. Quentin lacks the foot speed to beat opponents to the hoop, but he compliments his outside shooting with a post up game. Therefore Richardson doesn’t get a lot of free throws (3.0 FTA/40), and the few he gets aren’t converted at a high rate (69.2% FT%). To the eye Richardson is an average defender, and the Knicks were 1.8 points worse with him on the court. Although the +/- data may be due to the exploits of Renaldo Balkman being a fantastic defensive reserve, Richardson doesn’t look to be better than a solid defender.

Unfortunately there is one more stat of Richardson’s that catches the eye: games played. Over the last 5 years Richardson has surpassed 70 games just once, and as a Knick he has missed 60 games in 2 years. Richardson’s balky back shut him down in mid March. One thing that may have contributed to Richardson’s breakdown is the heavy minutes he played. Quentin averaged 33.1 minutes per game, which may be more than his body can tolerate.

KnickerBlogger’s Grade: Omitting Injury B, Considering Injury C

2008 Outlook: There are two issues to consider with Richardson going into 2008. The first is which position will he play? Let’s assume the Knicks keep Chandler, jettison Fred Jones, and stash Nichols in Europe. The Knicks are likely to have a surplus of small forwards and a dearth of shooting guards. If you take Richardson out of the equation at small forward you can easily divide 48 minutes by Renaldo Balkman, Wilson Chandler, Jared Jeffries, and David Lee. The Knicks will be fine at small forward without Richardson. Shooting guard is another story. The depth chart is Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson, and occasionally Marbury (assuming that Collins would play the point on offense with any other Knick guard). Even if the Knicks kept Fred Jones, there still isn’t quality depth there. So it makes sense to have Richardson primarily at shooting guard, instead of small forward. Which brings us to our next issue: How many minutes should Richardson play? Considering how much time he has missed, the Knicks would be smart to use the McDyess strategy with Richardson. That is play him sparingly between 20-24 minutes a game. If you took Richardson’s 1621 minutes last year & divided that among 82 games, you’d get 19.8 min/g. I’d much rather have Richardson available for 20 minutes a night for the entire season than have him miss 30+ games.

If you combine the two, Richardson should start the season as the backup shooting guard. In a way this makes a lot of sense. First, moving Richardson to guard will make Balkman the starter at forward. Balkman exceeded expectations last year and had an eye-popping summer league. Stat heads like Balkman due to his phenomenal non-shooting stats, while the casual fans relate to his underdog draft status combined with his blue collar game. Second, putting Q’s name on the shooting guard’s depth chart will drive youngsters like Crawford and Robinson to play better. Isiah can quickly substitute in Richardson for some “veteran leadership” when Crawford launches his patented “22 foot crossover off-balance jumper” or when Nate Robinson decides to play 1 on 5. Richardson’s no nonsense game can be instructional for the two neophytes.

Third, the risk to overplay Richardson will decrease if he’s coming off the pine. If Richardson starts, the temptation will be too great to play him major minutes. Fewer minutes will keep Quentin fresh and ideally, available for a majority of the season. Taught to be tough and confident at every level, most professional athletes don’t like to take a reduced role even to benefit their own health. Being a “player’s coach” Isiah should be able to sell this concept to Richardson. To the public Quentin would be seen as the veteran selflessly sacrificing his personal stats for the good of the team. But behind the cameras Isiah can tell Richardson that this move will allow him to avoid the crippling injuries that an overused and oft-injured professional athlete will suffer in their twilight years.

Dave Crockett: Add to all the stuff KB notes statistically that Q-Rich is easily the Knick least likely to do something stupid with the ball. As much as anything it was comforting to know that the worst you would get from Richardson is a forced shot, and even then he was as likely to run down his own miss as anyone save Lee and Balkman. In the Richardson report card KB gets at precisely what I think is the most critical dilemma facing the team (given its current construction) heading into the 07-08 season. The shooting guard situation is a real concern. Q-Rich has bolted past that point of no return where his usefulness is now largely a function of how his minutes are managed. Given what he brings to the table Q-Rich is probably most valuable playing alongside the other projected starters, particularly if paired with Balkman to allow for defensive cross-switches. But, as KB points out, Richardson would breakdown quickly on starter’s minutes so it makes sense in the abstract to bring him off the bench.

The not-so-abstract downside to benching Richardson is to weaken the starting unit considerably. Jamal Crawford, a worse defender, presumably supplants Q-Rich as the backcourt starter alongside Marbury. This leaves the Knicks (to my mind) overly-dependent on his ability to mature into a reliable starter. I should note that I’m a Crawford fan. I enjoy watching him play as much or more than any Knick but he is clearly not the kind of starting shooting guard this team needs (i.e., a decent defender with a low turnover rate, moderate usage rate, and a good 3pt shooter). Crawford is far better suited to an “instant offense” role coming off the bench and left on a short leash.

It’s unclear how concerned the brass is about the shooting guard situation. Unfortunately, even if they did the Knicks lack clear in-house options to alleviate such concerns (though I’d not rule out the possibility that Nichols might develop into a real option). Additionally, when Reggie Miller and Allan Houston are making comeback overtures that are drawing legitimate interest it’s safe to say the market lacks attractive options.

Knicks 2007 Summer Roster

Random Summer League Thoughts:

* 6 Europeans! Well not really. Most are American born that are playing overseas. The exceptions are 30 year old center Bougaieff who is French Canadian and guard Ali Berdiel from the Puerto Rican National team. Even the most mundane player has an impressive youtube mix, but is this the best they can come up with for Bougaieff? Meanwhile Berdiel seems to have lost his starting job at Valpariso to Jarryd Loyd 2 games before the season ended. Berdiel’s biggest weakness is his propensity to turn the ball over.

* Olu Famutimi is the only NBDL guy. He’s a shooting guard with no three point range. According to a few reports, Famutimi is a physcially gifted athlete, and the numbers seem to bear it out. He rebounds well, can pick a few pockets, and averages about a 1 block every 40 minutes. It’ll be interesting to see what he’s like on the court.

* Does anyone think Nate Robinson has something to do with the inclusion of former Husky teammate Tre Simmons?

* If the starting 5 is based on who is under contract/draft position then it should be Collins, Nate, Balkman, Chandler, and Morris with Nichols as the 6th man. However the roster is thin on big men. There are 7 guards on the team, and that doesn’t include Nichols and Greene who are listed as G-F. Which means that the lineup might be Collins, Nate, Nichols, Balkman, and Morris with Chandler coming off the bench. It’s not a bad idea, since the Knicks are more likely to need Nichols this year than Chandler given their need for outside shooting and their depth at the forward spot.

* The Knicks have 6 guys on their summer roster that will make their NBA team next year. Although they had 5 last year, Frye exited early with an injury. Additionally Collins, Nate, and Balkman all have had substantial NBA time under their collective belts. So we should expect to see some wins this summer.

* Things I’ll be looking for:
1. Chandler – how does he fit in? When he & Balkman are on the court at the same time, who will take the bigger player? (Both players are listed as 6-8.) How is his jumper?

2. Nichols – Is he athletic enough to play at the next level? Can he score on his own? Is he a liability on defense?

3. Morris – Has he bulked up? Is he a turnover machine? Can he still block shots and rebound at this level? What methods does he use to score?

4. Collins – Can he shoot? From 3?

5. Balkman – Can he shoot? Any post up moves?

6. Robinson – Can he act his age?

No Player Pos Ht Wt Born College 2006-07 Team Yrs
32 Renaldo Balkman F 6’8 208 Jul. 14, 1984 South Carolina New York (NBA) 1
38 Ali Berdiel G 6’6 200 Dec. 27, 1983 Valparaiso Hainaut (Belgium) R
45 Alex Bougaieff C 6’11 235 Apr. 15, 1977 Rice SPO Rouen (France) R
25 Mardy Collins G 6’6 220 Aug. 4, 1984 Temple New York (NBA) 1
21 Wilson Chandler F 6’8 230 10-May-87 DePaul DePaul (NCAA) R
9 Brian Greene G/F 6’7 225 Aug. 30, 1981 Colorado State Villeurbanne (France) R
30 Olu Famutimi G 6’4 207 Feb. 21, 1984 Arkansas Arkansas (NBADL) R
5 Randolph Morris C/F 6’11 260 Jan. 2, 1986 Kentucky New York (NBA) 1
35 Demetris Nichols G/F 6’8 216 Sep. 4, 1984 Syracuse DePaul (NCAA) R
44 Dylan Page F 6’9 240 Mar. 28, 1982 Wisconsin-Milwaukee Drac Inca (Spain) R
4 Nate Robinson G 5’9 180 31-May-84 Washington New York (NBA) 2
17 Tre Simmons G 6’5 200 Jul. 24, 1982 Washington Gran Canaria (ULEB) R
6 Kelvin Torbert G 6’4 210 5-May-83 Michigan State Euphony (Belgium) R
8 Roderick Wilmont G 6’4 203 Jul. 28, 1983 Indiana Indiana (NCAA) R

Draft Prospects, Part II

If you missed Part I highlighting PGs who may be on the Knicks’ radar screen during this upcoming draft click here.

I?ll go position-by-position and highlight at most a handful of players who may be available when the Knicks select at #23. The players are listed in no particular order. Player stats and profiles come largely from draftexpress.net and nbadraft.net.

Shooting Guard

The Knicks have a number of players that play at least some time at SG, though none exclusively. Francis and Crawford play the lion’s share of minutes as undersized combo guards while Quentin Richardson is a classic swingman. All three have serious injury red-flags entering next season. So the Knicks will almost certainly consider a number of prospects, as this is the deepest position in a deep draft.

A little factoid: last season New York shot 34.6% on threes. Opponents shot 37.6%. But the raw numbers for some reason are even more dismaying to me. Opponents were +99 on 3-pt. makes (+153 on 3-pt. attempts) last season. That cannot all be attributed to the SGs but hopefully Thomas & Co. will consider prospects that can both shoot and defend the three pointer.

1. Derrick Byers (6’7″, 225#, Vanderbilt)

Byars is an intriguing prospect despite mediocre shooting numbers (57% TS, 54% eFG). Vanderbilt’s offense is, by design, very dependent on the 3-pt. shot and I thought an odd fit for his mid-range, up-tempo skill set. Byars took 47% of his attempts from behind the arc, and not surprisingly didn’t get to the FT line very often (.27 FT/FG). However, his 1.45:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, playing primarily as a SF, belies the impression that he’s gunner. NBAdraft.net compares him to Shane Battier but Byars is more of a classic swingman than an undersized PF. A more apt comparison, I think, is James Posey with better offensive potential though he’s not quite the same caliber of defender.

2. Marco Belinelli (6’6″, 190#, Italy)

Belinelli is a do-it-all combo guard with a little sizzle in his game. He looks like he can play. But everyone looks like they can play on their youtube highlight package–though admittedly throwing down a 360-degree dunk in a game got my attention. (Who even tries stuff like that other than Nate Robinson?) I don’t imagine Belinelli is on NY’s radar screen since Thomas has clearly shied away from international talent. The Knicks got fleeced pretty regularly on international players in the recent past (recall the names Weis, Trybanski, Vranes, and Lampe) and Thomas has been in no hurry to get back into that market. The key to finding international players that stick seems to be in cultivating relationships with the right people in the right leagues at the ownership level not just the executive level. New York doesn’t have those kinds of relationships. Irrespective of whether that’s entirely Thomas’ fault I’d be surprised to see him make much of an investment in an international rookie over a comparable college rookie.

3. Aaron Afflalo (6’5″, 215, UCLA)

Afflalo is one of the few SGs ready to play NBA caliber defense immediately. His athleticism is decent though not jump-out-of-the-gym overwhelming. In the halfcourt he doesn’t offer a lot of offense outside his catch and shoot game, and as we saw two straight years in the Final Four his jump shot is apt to leave him without prior notice. He still managed a 59% TS%, punctuated by many a layup at the other end of a strong defensive effort. He should be a solid enough offensive player to stay out on the floor but his bread and butter will be defense.

4. Morris Almond (6’6, 215#, Rice)

If efficient scoring from the SG position is what you are after Almond is your guy. In those categories it’s hard to fuss with what he did at Rice. He shot it well (63% TS). He shot it well from the perimeter (46% 3-pt.). He got himself to the FT line (.52 FT/FG). He improved his rebounding each season (7.9 per 40 as a senior). On the downside, it’s not clear that Almond brings anything to the table other than scoring. That makes me wonder what he can contribute playing with a center who–to put it kindly–has yet to master passing out of the double team. Almond is not himself much of a passer (0.34-to-1 assist to turnover), nor is he an adept ball handler (11% TO-r). I have no idea what kind of defender he is but suffice it to say I’ve read little commentary about his defense.

5. Rodney Stuckey (6’5″, 207#, E. Washington)

Stuckey is an athletic combo guard. NBADraftExpress.com has a TON of material on Stuckey, including a pretty extensive write-up, which is as thorough as anything I could write. They also include his stats as part of a point guard comparison. I think the odds are fairly small that he’ll be on the board at #23.

6. Daequon Cook (6’5″, 210#, Ohio State)

Cook is thought by many to be a more explosive version of Morris Almond with higher upside. Cook’s shooting numbers should hardly elicit shame (55% TS, 42% 3-pt., .21 FT/FG), especially considering that he was not the first option on offense. However, I had to slap the “caveat emptor” tag on him once I looked at his game logs. After exploding onto the scene Cook never scored more than 12 after the first week of January. He took at least 5 attempts in 22 of the 27 games he played in calendar 2007 so it’s not like he wasn’t shooting. When a kid is billed as an explosive scorer and spends virtually half the season NOT scoring I am inclined to say, “No thanks. Really. I’m trying to cut that out of my diet.”

Small Forward

Based solely on Hollinger’s PER small forward was the least productive position on the team (14.3) and the only one below the league average set at 15 (if we round SG and PF up from 14.9). It also had the largest differential from opponent’s PER of -3.7. This is one of those instances where the stats confirm what we plainly observed: SF sucked a bit more than the other positions on the team. The Knicks hope Richardson’s back will be less problematic this year and that Balkman continues to develop, but the team could clearly use some help. In this draft there appear to be more swingmen than undersized power forwards.

1. Jared Dudley (6’7″, 225#, Boston College)

I love Dudley’s game, which exists almost exclusively from the neck up. His basketball IQ is, to my mind at least, exactly what the Knicks need. Dudley was a 66% true shooter on 44% from 3-pt. range and .55 FT/FG. What I love is that he went from 16.5 ppg as a sophomore to over 19 as a senior on essentially the same number of shots per 40 (between 12 and 12.5). His gains were all on efficiency. Offensively, observation tells me his best attribute is his passing, though his meager assist-to-turnover (1:1.15) belies this observation. Previous seasons, when surrounded by more talent, his assist-to-turnover ratio was much better. On the downside Dudley is barely an NBA caliber athlete, if at all. He reminds me of Luke Walton more than any other NBA player. Like Walton, Dudley has replacement-level talent but is a perfect fit on a team where he can feed a low-post player. On a roster with no low-post player he’s not as helpful. That makes Dudley a gamble at #23. As much as I like him I’m not sure I’d take it.

2. Julian Wright (6’6″, 210, Kansas)

I find Wright very intriguing. I won’t be surprised almost no matter where he goes off the board. Wright reminds me of a taller Renaldo Balkman. Both are outstanding rebounders. Wright is a better passer and ballhandler but he’s not the same kind of finisher or shot blocker. Of course neither can hit a jump shot past 12 feet with any consistency. Wright’s strengths and weaknesses are fairly clear cut. So where he goes is a question of whether a team likes what he can do well enough to live with what he cannot. I think Wright would benefit most from sliding down the board into the 20s and going to a team that doesn’t expect him to score.

3. Thaddeus Young (6’8″, 217#, Georgia Tech)

In an earlier post on draft picks a reader had this to say:

Coming out of high school people were talking about Thaddeus Young in the same breath as Kevin Durant. By comparison he suffers mightily but if he hadn?t been so hyped, he would have been impressive. Everyone gripes about his shot, and it?s not pretty, but he actually shot 40 percent on threes so it doesn?t seem like that big a problem. He would probably be a Top 10 pick next year so if he slides to 23 – or even close, where we could trade up – he?d be a steal.

I didn’t see much Georgia Tech at all so I don’t have much observation to go on, only parts of a couple games. But Young’s statistical profile makes me think Channing Frye more than Kevin Garnett. The lefty Young did shoot 42% on his 3s this season, and without taking an inordinate number (25% of his FGAs). Yet his TS% is a pedestrian 56% because he didn’t get to the line much at all (only .19 FT/FG). What should set Young apart is his athleticism. He’s a chiseled 19-year old with room to grow but the two places athleticism should pay off are FTAs and rebounds (6.2 per 40), and they are clearly not strongsuits.

4. Wilson Chandler (6’7″, 220#, DePaul)

Reputed to have been offered a promise by the Knicks at #23, Chandler is a jumping jack out of DePaul who hasn’t been on many people’s radars until recently. I have never seen nor heard of him until last week. So I will point interested readers to this write-up on draftexpress and this on nbadraft.net. Suffice it to say there is nothing about his statistical performance in any area that makes you say, “this is the guy.” Although the same is true of Balkman he was a non-scorer at S. Carolina. Chandler by contrast is a very inefficient one (52% TS). Let’s hope this is all a smokescreen because drafting Chandler would be the very definition of asking for it.

5. Marcus Williams (6’7″, 205#, Arizona)

The sophomore campaign at Arizona was disappointing for the 6’7″ swingman largely because the team disappointed. Williams clearly regressed as a 3-pt. shooter (43.5% to 28.8%) but otherwise his numbers were almost identical to his freshman season. He is a better rebounder than generally given credit at about 8 per 40 but doesn’t get to the line as often as you’d hope (.30 FT/FG) for someone who isn’t a deadeye perimeter shooter. I’m not certain Williams has the makings of a special player but I’d be surprised if he’s not a league average or slightly better player by his second year. He’s smart, has a lot of skills, and understands how to get open and how to get his own shot.

Draft Prospects, Part I

With draft night a little more than a week away I thought I?d take a fresh look at some of the players likely to be on Isiah Thomas? radar since posting this in early May. The Knicks, who have conducted pre-draft workouts in conjunction with the rival Nets, appear to have concluded them. Of course, additional workouts are possible, as today?s Post is reporting that the Knicks may be interested in DePaul’s uber-athletic small forward Wilson Chandler.

As one might expect of a team with only a late-first round selection none of the players New York worked out classifies as a collegiate or international superstar, though the list certainly includes some intriguing names. They include (in reverse chronological order): Aaron Gray (Pittsburgh), Herbert Hill (Providence), Jared Jordan (Marist), Marco Belinelli (Fortitudo Bologna, Italy), Daequan Cook (Ohio State), Nick Fazekas (Nevada), Artem Sabelin (Avtodor Saratov, Russia), Taurean Green (Florida), Trey Johnson (Jackson State), Dominic James (Marquette), Ron Lewis (Ohio State), DeVon Hardin (California), Marko Lekic (Vojvodina, Serbia), Jason Smith (Colorado State), Glen ?Big Baby? Davis (LSU), Josh McRoberts (Duke), Nick Young (USC), Stephane Lasme (UMass), Brandon Wallace (S. Carolina), Jamar Wilson (Albany), DeShaun Wood (Wright State), Derrick Byars (Vanderbilt), Sammy Mejia (DePaul), Demitris Nichols (Syracuse) and Curtis Sumpter (Villanova). Of those, Sabelin, Hardin, and James have reportedly withdrawn their names from draft consideration.

I’ll go position-by-position and highlight at most a handful of players who may be available when the Knicks select at #23. The players are listed in no particular order. Player stats come largely from draftexpress.net and team pages and links to player profiles are from nbadraft.net.

Point Guard

Whether you think PG is a position of dire need or a position that could simply use some depth the Knicks could not easily afford to pass over a down the road starter in this draft. Marbury is at the point in his career when he needs to play fewer minutes. Francis’ status with the team remains uncertain. Crawford’s offensive issues and recovery from injury leaves him ideally suited for a sixth man role. Collins remains such an awful shooter it overwhelms what he does well. And Robinson is a SG for all practical purposes.

1. Javaris Crittenton (6’5″, 194#, Ga. Tech)

Crittenton has a similar physical build as Steve Francis and draws favorable comparisons as a player. The comparison is strained for a number of reasons though not implausible. Crittenton is not the same kind of true shooter as Francis. He shot an “okay” 56%. He doesn’t have three point range (and to his credit doesn’t take an inordinate number) but he doesn’t get to the FT line much either (.39 FT/FGA). Crittenton is also a pedestrian decision-maker at this point (1.47 assist-to-turnover on almost 5 TOs/game). He’s clearly talented but far from a finished product. On the plus side the kid is built like a tank, has been widely described as unselfish, and is widely regarded as coachable.

2. Acie Law (6’3″, 195#, Texas A&M)

Law is a do-it-all scoring point, who is solid in every phase–an efficient scorer (60% TS) and a solid passer (1.92:1 assist-to-turnover on just over 3 TOs/game). He doesn’t take a lot of threes but shoots a good percentage. The knock on him is that he’s a slightly bigger Nate Robinson–a natural shooting guard miscast as a point guard because of less-than-ideal size.

3. Taurean Green (6′, 177#, Florida)

Green is a classic beauty-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder type. He is not unlike Orlando’s Jameer Nelson, though not as accomplished a college scorer. The major question, given his size limitations, concerns how well his game translates to the NBA. His meal ticket is probably his shooting. He shot a fantastic 63% TS last season, shoots it well from three-point range (40+%) and also gets to the FT line a fair amount (.48 FT/FGA) for someone that took almost 60% of his shots from behind the arc. Green’s natural tendency is to push the ball and look for something easy before pulling it out and running the halfcourt sets. I like that in a guard. Still, he’s a fairly pedestrian passer, as his 1.37:1 assist-to-turnover ratio attests.

4. Gabe Pruitt (6’4″, 170#, USC)

Pruitt is a very athletic point guard who moved over from the SG for Tim Floyd after leading the Trojans in scoring as a freshman. His passing numbers look phenomenal (2.35:1 assist-to-turnover ratio) on only 2.2 TOs/game. A word of caution. Floyd’s offense features a high proportion of post-ups and isolation plays. So my inclination is to interpret those numbers as evidence of Pruitt’s penchant for NOT doing dumb things with the ball rather than evidence suggesting he is a “gifted” passer. I happen to love guards who don’t do dumb things with the ball, so that’s no knock on Pruitt. Pruitt’s also made himself into a good defender. One aspect of his game that does concern me however is what appears to be an overreliance on the three point shot (55% of his FGAs). Combine that with the fact that he doesn’t get to the FT line much and what you have is a decent-but-nothing-special shooter. Ultimately, I think Pruitt may be best on a team where he can backup both guard spots.

5. Aaron Brooks (5’11”, 160#, Oregon)

Brooks is an Eddie House-type shooter. He can put up points in bunches. He is quick enough to get his shot off despite his size. He is best suited to be a second or third guard. Although he is frequently compared to Earl Boykins because of his size he doesn’t quite have Boykins handle but is more athletic.

Up next: shooting guards and small forwards