Although losing David Lee was painful for most Knick fans, New Yorkers should feel lucky that they received something in return. Another team could have signed Lee to a contract without compensating the Knicks. Instead New York got three players to fill useful positions. Ronny Turiaf should give New York a backup center that blocks shots. Kelenna Azubuike will provide outside shooting and defense at shooting guard. Both of these fill weaknesses at positions the team has had over the last few years.
However the real prize in the Lee trade is Anthony Randolph. The young forward can rebound (11.1 reb/36) and block shots (2.4 blk/36) at a rate worthy of an NBA All Star. Unfortunately he’s not an efficient scorer, averaging a TS% of 50.6% in his first season and 52.1% in his second. So why would such a poor scorer be valued so highly (at least by yours truly)?
The last time I looked at a young Knick big man was after the team acquired Eddy Curry. Back in 2006, the team had hopes he would develop into a franchise center. Curry could score at a high volume with a high efficiency. Unfortunately he did it at the expense of turnovers, rebounds, and blocked shots. Many thought he could improve on those areas, that at his age most players got better in most areas. By looking at how players did in those areas I found that Curry would never develop into a superstar. Players’ shot blocking only declined as they got older, their rebounding peaked slightly at around the age of 27-30, while turnovers improved with age.
Anthony Randolph is pretty much the anti-Eddy Curry. Although both entered the league at a very young age, Randolph is already an accomplished rebounder and shot blocker. His main weakness, shooting efficiency, was a Curry strength. So it doesn’t make sense to compare him to Curry, since the two have different skillsets. To gauge Randolph’s probable future, it makes sense to chart how TS% changes for players as they mature. One easy way to do this is to get an average TS% of all players at each age (for the 1980 season onward with a minimum of 1000 minutes played on the season).
As you can see the average player’s TS% is considerably lower at the age of 20, and rises to a peak at around the ages of 27-30. I considered that this list was possibly augmented by weak players who retire early, which would artificially inflate TS% for the older years. So I ran the numbers again; my second group consisted of players who had at least 8 years of service in the league. This should eliminate any artificial increase due to forced retirement.
As you can see, the chart looks pretty much the same with the peak in the 27-30 range. One difference is that players aged 21 or less struggled much more so. Which brought me to wonder if the bump at a later age is due to players coming into the league out of college. If there’s an influx of more skilled players at the ages of 22-24, then you would expect that to inflate the numbers at those ages. So I performed a third study consisting of players who played 1000 or more minutes in a single season by the age of 20.
The trend is almost straight line upwards because the players that started early and lasted to their mid-30s were probably very above average to begin with. Since it’s highly unlikely that players suddenly get better at that age, I cropped the list at age 33 for a more appropriate looking set.
Since these graphs all contain similar curves, it’s reasonable to conclude that the average TS% increases until the player is about 27 years old, levels off, then declines in their early 30s. Another way to look at this is figure out the player’s peak TS%, then list the other seasons as a percentage of that.
|Age||All Players||8+ seasons||20- year old rookies|
The chart above says that a 20 year old’s TS% will be somewhere between 93.4% and 97.2% of their peak TS%. Looking further down a few rows it seems that a young player struggles with efficiency until the ages of 23-25.
So what does this say about Anthony Randolph? It tells us not to put too much into poor shooting efficiency for very young players. Unlike Eddy Curry, Randolph is likely to fix his main deficiency as he ages. Since Randolph posted a TS% of 52.1% in his age 20 season, with a normal career path his TS% should be somewhere around the league average (54%) by age 24. Unfortunately, this change won’t happen overnight, and Knick fans are likely to have to sit through their fair share of bad shooting nights for the next year or two before Randolph puts it all together.