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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Knicks’ Defensive Stopper Dilemma

Originally I was going to write an article about David Lee’s minutes, or lack thereof. Even though Brian Cronin is the president of the “Free David Lee” club, I’m a card carrying member. This seemed like an especially good idea after Lee’s last game. The forward scored 20 points and led the Knicks in minutes, defensive rebounds, offensive rebounds, and free throws. Unfortunately Lee was given the playing time not due to his wonderful production, but because of the foul trouble of the Knicks frontcourt. Frye only managed to stay on the court for 10 minutes before earning his 6th foul; meanwhile Curry shot well (10-12 for 26 pts) but only grabbed a single rebound before hitting the bench for good in the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately for those that wanted to read more about David “Shallow Waters” Lee, my research led me in another direction. While some writers would have continued onward with their originally intended article, that’s not my style. I prefer letting the facts lead me, rather than distorting or ignoring them to fit my opinion. In any case I wanted to look at how Lee’s minutes affected the Knicks. So I singled out the games where he played a large amount of minutes & wanted to see how the team fared. To use as a comparison, I decided to do the same with another Knick: Jared Jeffries. And that’s when the data took me on a different journey.

Jeffries, Isiah’s most notable offseason signing, was brought to New York to boost the team’s porous defense. He missed the beginning of the year with an injury, and was suspended for 4 games when he returned. Due to his missed time, I have a good amount of data with and without Jeffries to get an idea of how he affects the team. In the 29 games that Jeffries played less than 20 minutes (or missed altogether), the Knicks defensive efficiency was 110.2. In the 12 games that the Knicks swingman played 20 or more minutes per game the Knicks defensive efficiency was 112.9. In other words with Jared Jeffries the Knicks allowed 2.7 points more per 100 possessions than they do without him. Unfortunately this isn’t the only data that shows Jeffries inability to improve the Knicks’ defense. 82games.com shows New York to be 5.3 points worse on defense when Jeffries was on the court.

The problem isn’t Jeffries per se. Last year the Wizards were 4.6 points better on defense with Jeffries on the court. And from what I’ve seen this year, Jeffries is a solid, but not spectacular, defender. So why aren’t the Knicks getting the same performance boost from their starting small forward?

Looking at Jeffries’ 82games.com page from last year, his top 3 most frequent floor units all included Brendan Haywood. At the time of the Jeffries signing, there was a general consensus that Haywood was Washington’s best defender. Pairing Jeffries with a strong defensive center in Haywood enhanced Jeffries’ effectiveness. This year, Jeffries has been paired most often with Eddy Curry, a notoriously poor help defender, and the results have been unfavorable.

Armed with this knowledge, the Knicks are in a quandary. Option one would be not to change their rotation. However it’s obvious that Jeffries alone isn’t enough to make New York a decent defensive team. Last year 20 players received at least 1 vote for defensive player of the year, and Jeffries wasn’t among them. He’s just not a lockdown on the level of Bowen, Artest, or Prince. Another option would be to try to emulate Washington’s success with Jeffries. Isiah could give more minutes to some of the defensive minded centers like Kelvin Cato or Jerome James. Unfortunately this would mean that it would cut into the minutes of Curry, Lee, and Frye. The third option is to limit Jeffries’ minutes. If Jeffries isn’t as productive defensively without a strong presence in the middle, then it doesn’t make sense to play him. The Knicks would be better off giving the minutes to David Lee and Balkman, who fared well when Jeffries was suspended.

At the time of this writing the Knicks are ranked 11th on offense, but only 26th on defense. If they seriously want to compete, even in a weak Atlantic, they’ll need to improve those numbers. Considering how bad they are, it’d probably be easier for New York to become more efficient on defensive. Jared Jeffries has shown that he can help on the defensive end, but the Knicks aren’t using him to his fullest extent.

70 comments on “The Knicks’ Defensive Stopper Dilemma

  1. jon abbey

    I don’t understand how that last paragraph fits with the rest of your piece, how exactly could the Knicks use Jeffries to “his fullest extent”? I hope you’re not actually suggesting that James or Cato play substantial minutes. also, the Washington comparisons leave out that their other three starters were the most lethal perimeter scoring trio in the league, so that makes it easier to live with Jeffries out there. clearly they don’t miss him at all this year.

    from what we’ve seen so far, I don’t think he’s as good a defensive player as advertised (although his block on the fast break tonight that was called goaltending looked like a good block, fantastic play). was he the one guarding LeBron when he scored at will in the playoffs last year? I assume he was.

    Newsday on the Marbury injury, this sounds a lot better than it looked at the time, keep your fingers crossed:

    “It is the same injury Marbury suffered here in the Dec. 15 loss. It has come and gone, but Friday night against the Nets he re-aggravated it.

    “It’s just tendinitis,” Marbury said.

    It wasn’t easy to come out of the game with his team trying to protect a lead. “But I would have been hurting the team,” he said. “I would have been a liability on defense and I wouldn’t have been able to really do what I normally do.”

    The Knicks are off Sunday and play the Heat in Miami Monday. Marbury says he expects to be ready for the game.”

  2. Nixluva

    Jared has been a disappointment so far. I think he’s not reacting quick enough. He should be moving a lot quicker and too often you can see that he’s getting brain lock and sticking too long with his man. He also hasn’t been good at judging how much space to give his man. On one possession against VC, he was too far off of him and then late in the game he was too close and VC blew by him. Clearly at the end of the game he would’ve wanted to back off him a bit so that all VC had was a long jumper and not a point blank shot at the rim that gave them the chance for a tip in as they got.

    Curry is the other problem, cuz he just doesn’t move. The guy isn’t slow footed, he’s slow reacting. When he clearly needs to step up and contest a penetrator he’s always a second too slow to react. Often he doesn’t even put his hands up to contest the shot. Frye is also a problem. Like Curry he reacts too slow and he also forgets to get his hands up. Both need to learn to go straight up instead of towards the shooter. I’d do drills with them on the basic aspects of blocking shots and develop their timing. Also a lot of slidestep work to build up the lateral leg muscles. Then a brain surgery to take care of the rest.

  3. mase

    The point of the article was that Jeffries is not effective on court with Curry(Caron Butler would help but not attainable unfortunately) so he should sit and Lee should get his minutes.

    When he was signed I think everybody scratched their heads wondering why we need another one-dimensional player, it seemed like Isiah was tweaking a roster that had come off back-to-back championship seasons.

  4. jon abbey

    “The point of the article was that Jeffries is not effective on court with Curry(Caron Butler would help but not attainable unfortunately) so he should sit and Lee should get his minutes.”

    I can read quite fine, I wasn’t asking someone else to help me, thanks. the concluding paragraph, which is generally meant to sum up a piece, totally contradicts this, so I was looking for a clarification of what he meant from the writer himself, Knickerblogger, not someone else.

  5. Seth

    Great article. I think the Knicks’ best one-one-one defensive stoppers might actually be Marbury and Q-Rich. Marbury’s better off-the-ball, but he’s clearly putting in the effort. I hope that knee isn’t too much of a problem.

  6. Jaime

    Good Article. I think you made a good point in the Haywood/Curry comparison when paried with Jeffries.

    As with others, I was scratching my head about the signing to a mid level defenseman with offensive inablities. I think Lee deserves more minutes in the just the fact he produces more. I would like to see the rotation shortened:

    Frontline:
    Curry
    Frye
    Lee/Jeffries in limited spot duty

    Perimeter:
    Marbury/Robinson
    Crawford/Balkman
    Qrich/Jeffries in limited spot duty

    I think if Isiah shortened his rotation, every one will know their duties, plus Lee would get the minutes he deserves. The only crux is limiting Jeffries minutes which seems unlikely since he was that coveted free agent.

    Inevitably,I would like to see robinson and jeffries packaged to a contender and either get money or some low level draft picks. It would pain me to see Jeffires here for another 4 years. UGH!!!

  7. K

    Although I agree with most of you that Lee should be starting for the Knicks at the “3″ spot, I’m not so sure we should be so down on Jeffries. He is only 25 years old and has a lot of upside. Personally, I like the fact that he concentrates his time on being a defensive player, allowing for the offensive players like Curry, Q.Rich., Marbury, and Frye to do their thing. Given some time and patience, I think he’ll turn into a pretty good player for the Knicks.

  8. Josh

    I think using Jeffries to his fullest extent is having him use his long arms to hand cups of water to better players returning to the bench. Or perhaps he can do party tricks like opening both doors in the back seat of a car all by his lonesome.
    I didn’t watch enough Wizard basketball to understand where his defensive reputation came from but it’s been unwarranted thus far in his Knick tenure. You’re onto something with Curry being a rough help defender and the Knicks could use work as a whole in that regard.
    I’m wondering why you’d slot Lee in at the 3 and not the 4 over Channing Frye. Frye’s regressed this season and unless the hope is to deal him I’m not sure why he continues to play so many minutes. The team’s biggest hole is at the 3 but Lee’s skills aren’t well suited to the spot as he’d struggle against more athletic perimeter players and doesn’t have the offensive package of a small forward.

  9. K

    Somewhere along the way I must have missed something. I never realized a player in his early to mid 20′s has no hope for improvement. From my point of view, I can see Curry, Frye, Lee, Jeffries, Balkman, Richardson, Collins, and Robinson all improving during the next couple of years. What do all these players have in common? They’re all under the age of 27, definitely before their prime.

    This is what I wanted about 6-8 years ago when the Knicks players had an average age well over 30. Being a New Yorker it’s tough to talk about rebuilding, but this has become a reality. And as much as we like to blame Isiah, this all started well before he came to the Knicks. His first year things only got worse, but it seems to me he has figured out that he has to start from scratch, through the draft and signing young players.

    But than again, I must be be a little insane for having a positive attitute while not trashing each and every player and coach at every corner.

  10. Brian Cronin

    Just make your arguments.

    “You are too positive/you are too negative” is a pointless distraction that adds nothing to discourse.

    If you think Jared Jeffries will improve, fine, argue it.

  11. K

    Sorry Brian. This past year I turned 30. Any chance of me improving my “commenting technique” are long gone. Seems to me I made a point that young players need time to improve, they’re not all born with LBJ type abilities.

    This was the first time I commented on this site and this will probably be my last. In the end, I’m not sure how to respond to “perhaps he can do party tricks like opening both doors in the back seat of a car all by his lonesome.”

    You might want to look elsewhere in attempting to make this a better blog.

  12. Alex

    The Knicks are in a bind. Lee is undersized and lacks the perimeter touch to compliment Eddy Curry offensively as a PF. On defense he is below average as a PF. Hence, Frye is playing due to his length and lethal perimeter touch to compliment Eddy’s amazing postgame.
    Lee is not a good defender,athletic enough or have the perimeter game to match up with SF. Hence Jeffries starting because he (supposedly)offsets the defensive liabilities of both Frye & Curry.
    All this to remind everyone that Lee is a tweener and when you start him he provides a lot of rebounds but he also compromises the team either defensively, in length or perimeter scoring. I believe this kid will work his behind off this off-summer and he will return with a mid-range shot & quicker step defensively which will make him the starter at the three. Isiah sees this kid can grow if pushed. He is far from a finished product. Lets let him continue use his not starting to improve his game. He can be our very own Elton Brand.
    Balkman has too much upside for Jeffries to get minutes ahead of him neither. This guy has to play and Jeffries although a nice complimentary player must be moved.

  13. jon abbey

    Lee is undersized for what? maybe for center, but he’s a perfectly well sized power forward, he did a nice job on Jermaine O’Neal when he came in last night.

    no one needs to be moved, almost any injury makes Jeffries an important part of the rotation. but as I’ve said here a few times already, he shouldn’t be part of it right now, Lee should be starting and Balkman should be backing up. Jeffries is the 9th guy right now based on talent and need, Isiah just refuses to accept that reality.

  14. KnickerBlogger Post author

    “the concluding paragraph, which is generally meant to sum up a piece, totally contradicts this, so I was looking for a clarification of what he meant from the writer himself, Knickerblogger, not someone else.”

    I don’t see the contradiction. The stats show Washington had better success on defense when Jeffries was paired with a strong defensive center. The Knicks aren’t getting the same production from Jeffries on defense, hence they aren’t using to the fullest extent of his abilities. By pairing Jeffries with a strong presence in the middle, the Knicks would get a synergistic effect on the defensive end.

  15. Brian Cronin

    I was checking out the Offensive and Defensive Rankings, KB, and I see that the Knicks are really close to a couple of other teams in both Offense and Defense (where a slight improvement would leap them up a few spots), so I wonder, has it ever been shown to be easier to improve in one than the other?

  16. KnickerBlogger Post author

    The better you are, the harder it is to improve. In other words it’s much easier to improve when you’re bad or in the middle of the pack. But when you’re at the top, it’s much harder to get better.

    Put it this way, the Suns lead the league with 115.5 points/100 poss. They’re already operating at peak (or near peak) efficiency with respect to offense. Who would they have to add to that team to make them improve by 1 point? Kobe Bryant? It would be very difficult for Phoenix to improve their offense. However to improve their defense, they probably would just need to replace someone like Kurt Thomas with maybe someone like Cato. They wouldn’t need to add an All Star talent like Kobe Bryant, just someone that can defend better than Kurt Thomas.

    If you’re pretty good at something, the cost of improving is much higher because you already have quality players. But if you’re team is bad, then you probably have some bad players on your team, so you’d just need to get some league average players.

    Or in 15 words, it would be easier for the Knicks to improve their defense instead of their offense.

  17. Brian Cronin

    Fair enough.

    Man, checking out the comparisons between OE and DE, it is amazing how poor the East is, compared to the West.

  18. Hudson River

    Although David Lee filled in at 3 last year it doesn’t make him a 3. He is not a good enough ball handler or a good enough shooter to play consistant 3, and he is also not quick enough to guard 3s as effectivly as he guards 4s. He is not close to undersized at the 4, espiecially with this new wave of 3/4 forwards in the game. David Lee almost fits this mold, he is a good passer, rebounder, runs the floor well, and is very athletic.

    With the exception of Jermaine O’Neal and Kevin Garnett is there any PF who is the classic post-up presence in the league? Bosh beats his man off the dribble at least as much as he posts them up, and every other guy i can think of plays center now. The NBA is in a new era were skilled players are more valued than huge players, so having David Lee at the 4 allows us to match-up with those skilled players.

    By the way i found this artical to be very intresting and lead to much of my comment.
    http://realgm.com/src_twoplusthefoul/134/20070120/slow_to_adapt/

  19. jon abbey

    “I don?t see the contradiction. The stats show Washington had better success on defense when Jeffries was paired with a strong defensive center. The Knicks aren?t getting the same production from Jeffries on defense, hence they aren?t using to the fullest extent of his abilities. By pairing Jeffries with a strong presence in the middle, the Knicks would get a synergistic effect on the defensive end.”

    and would totally destroy their offense. ludicrous conclusion, with all due respect, especially since you ignore who the other three Washington players were, which is the only reason that worked at all.

  20. jon abbey

    “it would be easier for the Knicks to improve their defense instead of their offense.”

    except defense and offense aren’t really independent, the same guys play both ends of the court (just to restate the blindingly obvious). it’s pointless to try to improve one if it hurts the other.

  21. confucius

    Hudson, nice article posted. It totally contradicts the mind numbing Striking Gold in the Alamo article.

    It proves that Isaih is moving the team in the right direction. Whether it be Balkman or jeffries, the Knicks will need a Bruce Bowen type player. Whether Lee starts or comes off the bench, I do not care as long as it results in a victory.

    Food for thought.

    Would anyone trade David Lee for Zach Randolh?

    Man is Denver’s JR Smith exciting to watch.

  22. Harlan

    Lee is playing the way he needs to play. Do any of you know where I can get his jersey online. It is driving me crazy. Please help.

  23. Hotdamn

    If there is a Free David Lee club – I would like to start a Free Renaldo Balkman subchapter. To a lesser extent – the play of Jefferies is limiting the minutes Balkman is getting. Renaldo looks exciting when they let him play. If he could hit a mid-range every now and then – he’d be a decent threat offensively and defensive upgrade from Jefferies.

  24. jon abbey

    he doesn’t even seem capable of laying the ball in the basket right now, but I agree, give him the minutes and let him develop, see what he can actually do if given 20 minutes a night.

    Curry/Lee/Frye/Richardson/Marbury with Crawford/Balkman/Nate off the bench, Jeffries and Rose shouldn’t play except in special situations. this seems really obvious to me at this point, assuming Marbury is OK.

    surgery for Richard Jefferson today (probably out 4-6 weeks) and NJ has 9 of their next 11 on the road, the Atlantic is still open.

  25. EP

    one of the things that I keep noticing about Lee, which is really starting to bother me is that he never contests shots.

    Last nights game alone I saw 3-4 occasions where a shooter went up right in front of him and Lee barely lifted his hand, let alone jump, to contest the ball.

    That sort of poor effort doesnt really fit Lee?s personality (hustler, rebounder?), but I have seen this same thing in other games.

    My point is that maybe Lee is a fantastic rebounded, but Isiah wants defense and he needs Lee to start making more of an effort there as well. Till he does, I think 25min a game is about right?

  26. jon abbey

    sorry, dude, but if you’re trying to tell me that you really believe giving James or Cato more minutes in place of Curry would improve this team, I’m sticking with what I said. I gave you a chance to clarify because I couldn’t believe it the first time I read it.

    Bucks lose tonight, so NY up to 10th in the conference, 9th if they somehow manage to beat Miami tomorrow.

  27. KnickerBlogger Post author

    I take offense to my article being labelled “ludicrous” which is defined by “causing laughter because of absurdity.” I can understand people disagreeing with a conclusion to an article. But there’s no reason to be so obnoxious about it.

    Just about everyone here is aware that players play both offense & defense in the NBA. To feel you have to remind the readers here of that smacks of pretension.

    In case you haven’t considered it, the Knicks are a good offense team, and an awful defensive one. If they can improve their defense by 3 points/poss while their offense drops only by 1 point/poss, then they’ll be near equal in their offensive/defensive efficiency. That would be an improvement. Considering that the Knicks primarily play 4 good offensive players, and only 1-2 good defensive players, maybe swinging towards a defensive mindset might improve the team.

    I’m not omnipotent in thinking that this is definately going to work, but I think it’s reasonable. At worst it’s an interesting concept, and a possibilty. Certainly outside the realm of “ludicrous.”

  28. KnickerBlogger Post author

    “but if you?re trying to tell me that you really believe giving James or Cato more minutes in place of Curry would improve this team,”

    I gave three options. Only one was to give more play to Cato/James more often (and I would greatly prefer Cato), and it doesn’t have to be at only Curry’s expense. Also I prefaced that sentence with “unfortunately”. Obviously you’re stuck on only one of the options. Read the article again before you’re so dismissive of it.

  29. T-Mart

    “Jared Jeffries has shown that he can help on the defensive end, but the Knicks aren?t using him to his fullest extent.”

    Here is where you isolated your position that James and Cato would have to play more in your conclusion. You did offer 2 other options, but you concluded by stating that if the Knicks are going to be better defensively, they will have to “use him to his fullest extent”, which was predicated on playing James and Cato. And yes, that is a ludicrous idea.

  30. jon abbey

    exactly, thank you.

    and you’re too hung up on where they rank in offense and defense, I really don’t think those numbers matter much when separated like that. not to mention, this isn’t the same team defensively that it was in November, if only because of Marbury’s development as a sometimes-stopper, so using season-long numbers also doesn’t reflect current reality.

    any minutes that James and Cato get would impact the offense negatively decidedly more than they’d impact the defense positively, that’s the reason your proposal “causes laughter because of absurdity”. the Haywood/Jeffries combo worked because Washington runs their offense through Arenas/Butler/Jamison, they didn’t need much production from the other two spots (although again, they’re improved this year without Jeffries on the team). we run our offense through Curry, we need him on the floor as much as possible. if the defense at center is going to improve (which I agree would certainly be very helpful), it’s going to have to come from Curry, not anyone else.

  31. Ben

    The Knicks do not need the extra offensive production that Lee playing the 3 would provide compared to the loss of defensive production it would cause. Lee is a total liability guarding SFs(Jefferson, Pierce, Igoudala he has no chance against those three and that is just in the Atlantic).

    Jeffries should start not because he is great, because he is not, but because he is a better starter at the three than Lee or Balkman. Balkman should still get minutes, he is just too inconsistant and inexperienced to get starter or crunch time minutes.

    So that leaves Q who can play the three. Unfortunatly we need Q to play the two, because if he does not then that forces Crawford to start and then Nate to get major minutes completely killing Balkmans time. I believe Nate is the biggest problem. He is a terrible defender and most of the time we do not even need his offense (which has gotten less effective since we started focusing on Curry). Don’t get me wrong Nate will become a good player but he is an “instant offense” player on a team dying for defense not offense.

  32. jon abbey

    with a Curry/Lee/Frye frontline, I’d have Frye guarding more SFs than Lee. is it an ideal defensive lineup? no, of course not, but it’ll cause just as many defensive problems for the team on the other end. Lee is generally our best bet to guard PFs, as you saw last game when he did a pretty good job against O’Neal. put the best five players on the floor and make the other team worry about matching up with us as much as we worry about matching up with them.

  33. Hudson River

    If the Knicks put Q at the three they could always just sub in Balkman and move Q to SG. Balkman is faster, more athletic, more intense, and a better ball handler than Jefferies. Playing him would help him to reach his potential, which is really high because of his hustle and athletisism. Looks to me like Isiah was right not drafting Josh Boone or Marcus Williams. Below is a good artical about Renaldo.

    http://realgm.com/src_goaltending/114/20070121/the_forgotten_man/

  34. jon abbey

    looks like there’s a chance we won’t see Wade or Shaq tonight, that would be a beautiful thing:

    http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/sports/basketball/16515375.htm

    I don’t think I’d trade Curry for Gasol, no. he’s two years older and they’re fairly similar players, great post scorers and less than stellar in other facets of the game. Curry is still developing, no reason to make a lateral move and sabotage any minimal chemistry we’ve managed to build so far.

  35. jon abbey

    I’m right there on that Balkman piece until this:

    “Despite possessing no jump shot, he excels at scoring in transition and on put-backs under the basket. ”

    no, he excels at getting shot attempts in those situations, he’s pretty dreadful at actually finishing them. but yeah, let him play, DNP Jeffries, I’m all for that.

  36. np

    jumping in late on this, but i tend to follow the kenny smith line of reasoning about stats: there are so many intangible things statistics cannot possibly measure that sometimes you need to step back from all the stat analysis and just look at the actual oncourt playing. and my instinct is also balkman over jeffries: yeah, balkman’s a mess but he definitely raises the energy level, and i really haven’t seen anything coming from jeffries at all.

    that aside: any word on the marbury injury? don’t really see much online, is he expected to play this eve? watching him leave the court was worrying — those last three plays were a pretty good indication that the knicks just can’t function without him.

  37. confucius

    Curry For Gasol – no. Gasol is injury porned and yet to play on full year.

    New York Post Reports Steph to play thru pain. He aggravated the knee injury from last year.

    Post also reports Malik Rose is upset with playing time and may request a trade. SWEEEET, lets trade him for a draft pick or some sharp shooter/defensive player rotting on someone’s bench – ala Isiah’s ( Indiana) signing of Jermaine O’Neal while he rotted on Portland’s bench.

    One thing we I haven’t heard mentioned is practice. Is it possible playing time is dictated by how well someone performs at practice? That might explain alot. If Balkman wants playing time then he should establish himself ala David Lee.

  38. Caleb

    I still think the Knicks would be better off finding a serious defensive-minded guard a la Earl Watson. Let Marbury play more at the 2, which would minimize his defensive problems (I know he’s been pretty good the last few games, but it took so much effort chasing quick guards around that his knees are coming apart).

    To get a Watson type, I think Jeffries is expendable… not that he’s terrible, but Balkman is just as good or better, not to mention the upside of a 22-year-old is a lot more than a 25 year-old.

    The other day I suggested offering Jeffries and Crawford for Watson and a soon-to-expire deal like Danny Fortson.. still think it would make the Knicks better and help out the future cap flexibility at the same time.

  39. Dan Panorama

    Rashard Lewis is the only Seattle guy worth trading for – Crawford, Nate, and someone else to make the salaries work. He’d be a deadly 1-2 combo with Curry. Marbury, Q, and Lewis on the floor would mean open season from the 3 point line every time Curry is doubled. Include Frye in there and the floor is spread even further. Damn – that would be awesome.

  40. jon abbey

    Frye, Crawford, Robinson and Malik Rose for Lewis and Earl Watson works for salaries, I’d be happy to do that. it would leave us with:

    Curry/Lee/Lewis/Q/Marbury, Jeffries/Balkman/Watson off the bench, maybe Jerome James could find a few minutes then also. not much offense off the bench then, but the starting unit would be decidedly improved.

  41. confucius

    I dont like Earl Watson – he is another undersized guard. We need a long defender that can defend multiple positions – oh dip Jarred Jeffries.

    Seattle is gotta to be crazy to let Lewis go. Althoug I prefer Ray Allen, I will take Lewis. But arent Lewis and Frye similar in players in different stages of their career. But still again another player that is not known for his defense.

    David Lee\Channing Frye for Andrei Kirilenko.

  42. jon abbey

    Utah has too many PFs already. Lewis can opt out of his contract after this season, and is likely going to.

  43. Dan Panorama

    Seattle knows Lewis will probably leave and they’re packing it up for this season so he might be available at bargain basement prices at the trade deadline.

  44. KnickerBlogger Post author

    I apologize. You’re right in that there is a disconnect in the last paragraph.

    I don’t mean to imply the only solution is to play Cato & James more. But it’s pretty clear, from either the numbers or from watching the games, that the Knicks don’t play defense well. If Jeffries isn’t helping out the Knicks’ defense, then he shouldn’t be on the court because he’s too much of a non-factor on offense.

    However it seems that the Knicks can improve their defense by giving Jeffries some help. That could be in the form of Cato for a couple of minutes a night (either when Curry is on the bench or even alongside him), or even Renaldo Balkman who seems to be a fine weakside shot blocker. A Jeffries-Balkman tandem could work fine at the 2-3 or the 3-4. Granted this might affect the Knicks on the offensive end, but let’s say spreading the floor with an inside-out combo of Curry & two shooters (Richardson, Frye, Nate?, Crawford?) might offset some of the offensive loss. Additionally Balkman’s rebounding might be able to get the Knicks a few of their misses back.

    I think the Knicks have a few different options. They can shore up their defense (see last paragraph). They can improve their offense (start Lee instead). Or they can keep the same lineup. I think the above article shows that Jeffries really isn’t effective with this current lineup so I’d prefer they went with one of the other two options.

    Heh maybe I should have written that the first time out. ;-)

  45. John

    KB,
    Great article, I visit your site all the time.

    I agree that Jefferies’ lack of impact this year is due to the Knicks’ lack of inside defensive presence (For example, both the Nets and Wiz games were one with layups/dunks). Unfortunately, remedying this situation would mean not playing Lee or Curry together and rotating in a defensive presence at the 4 and 5. One option (your option 2), without sacrificing too much offensively could be:

    Cato/Curry/Jefferies/Richardson/Marbury

    with Lee getting 30min off the bench when Curry/Cato inevitably get tired. If not the starting unit, this is the Knicks best defense unit, and could be subbed in for defense in close games or when the opposing team goes on a run.

  46. jon abbey

    yeah, I’m with you on all of that, thanks for the rewrite. :)

    it would be nice if James could be a backup center along the lines of what Mutumbo has done this year in Houston, but he’s shown pretty much no signs of that since coming here, he’s just been a sluggish foul machine. Cato did look good at times when forced to play in the wake of the brawl, but I don’t think you can count on that consistently.

    also, there’s a fourth option: starting Lee, giving Balkman 20 minutes off the bench, and benching Jeffries entirely. this is what I’m in favor of currently. this doesn’t mean that signing Jeffries was a mistake, it just means that the way he’s playing and the way the rest of the team is playing, he doesn’t belong in the 8 man rotation right now. it’s a long season, he’ll get more chances. but Isiah doesn’t listen to me (sadly), so moot point…

  47. jon abbey

    “Cato/Curry/Jefferies/Richardson/Marbury”

    this could be worth a shot, but would get killed on the pick and roll or by any big man with a 15 footer. but yeah, could be worth a shot occasionally.

  48. TDM

    Regarding potential trades, Seattle could be tempted with a package including Nate and Craw, since they are both local guys. Taking AK-47 off of Utah’s hands would be a mistake imo. Too injury prone, not to mention, huge contract without the stats to justify it. That said, I agree with standing pat with our current roster.

    Is there anyway Crawford could just be brought in for the last 5 minutes of a game. It seems like he’s always going 3-13 until late in the 4th, then he occassionally lights up the boards. Would he be able to handle a role like that is probably the better question.

    I think it may be too early to give up on Jeffries. I think he is a competitor and will continue to try and improve his game. He has all of the intangibles to be a good defensive stopper, he just needs to pull it all together.

  49. jon abbey

    when he’s on, Kirilenko can shut down the other team like no perimeter defender except Artest. I remember in Marbury’s first year here, he was running the pick and roll with Kurt Thomas and just killing people, they were getting 50-60 points combined for a few weeks, no one could stop it. then Utah came to town, Kirilenko shut it down singlehandedly, and they never really got it going again after that. he’s a way better version of Jeffries, I think, but it’s true that there are certainly question marks there, he hasn’t played nearly as well for whatever reason this year (I know he’s unhappy about his lack of role in the offense).

    but no way we can trade with Utah, our trade bait is undisciplined guards and Frye, when they already have Boozer and Okur. can you imagine Jerry Sloan trying to coach Nate? hehehehe…

  50. dave crockett

    “can you imagine Jerry Sloan trying to coach Nate? hehehehe?”

    yeah. somebody should sell tickets.

  51. Josh

    TDM –
    I do think that Crawford could be part of a deal with Seattle involving Allen but why would they care that he’s a local guy? Owner is from Oklahoma City and wants to move the team there so by that reasoning Knicks should sign Bryant Reeves and offer him up.
    Confucius –
    If Frye ends up being anything like Rashard Lewis the Knicks will be lucky indeed. Lewis has shown a lot more game than Frye and you have to remember halfway through his second season Lewis was 19 not 23.
    Jon Abbey –
    I’m with you on benching Jeffries outright but don’t see it happening. I’m not sure if I’d want Kirilenko on this Knick team – he wants more offensive involvement and Isiah wouldn’t give him that – but not worth thinking about, as you say, because no way the Knicks are getting him.

  52. Robert Dyson

    The Nicks are right where a team with there history should be at this time. They are aking continual progress and gaining confidence in the way the approach the business of basketball. I too think defesne is key but for once I think we need to develop what we have and not make a trade which causes us to give up some of what we have. Anyone who has played know how fragle team chemistry is and for the first time in a long time we have some form of chemistry. This team is buying what the coach is selling and so my thoughts are let’s keep the team and coach together for one or two more seasons. Also please don’t worry about the rotation because nobody wants to win more than Isiah so he will make the move at the right time to give us the edge when we need it most.

  53. jon abbey

    “nobody wants to win more than Isiah so he will make the move at the right time to give us the edge when we need it most.”

    wanting to win and knowing what to do to win aren’t exactly the same things, the other teams in the league mostly want to win too (not so sure about the Celtics and Sixers at this point, Oden/Durant fever there). one thing I give him a lot of credit for that’s not mentioned much is dumping Maurice Taylor and Jalen Rose in preseason, it drove me nuts how much Lame-Ass Larry insisted on using Taylor down the stretch of games last year. so at least we’re talking about the right set of nine players this year, even if he doesn’t quite have it where we’d like it yet (ahem, START DAVID LEE!).

    so officially, no Wade/no Shaq tonight, this is a must-win now no matter how Marbury actually feels (I’m guessing we’re going to see more of Nate again starting tonight). don’t give Kapono any space ever, that dude is deadly.

  54. Robert Dyson

    I think the stats we demonstrate that Isiah is a good x’s and o’s coach. It’s hard to argue that he is not a good coach, and it is also in my view hard to question his ability to evaluate talent.

    Waiting until Gilbert start his move to the left side to send the delayed double team was a smart coaching move, it was beautiful designed the problem was that someone had resposibility to cover Caron down load which would have forced the winning shot to be come from outside.

    Let’s give Isaih a chance, something at this point is clicking with the Nicks and when it is all said and done I believe the Nicks will win 38 games. Unfortunate it may not be enough to win the their division. Yet I can’t wait to see them after another training camp.

    Come on let’s give this team and coach a little credit they are doing better. Yes, let’s keep Isaih away from the check book, but he is a decent coach.

  55. TDM

    Josh:

    Crawford and Nate are from the NW. If Seattle were to get them via trade, it would put asses in seats. Even if your rumor of moving the team to Oklahoma City were confirmed, increasing ticket sales creates value.

  56. Brian Cronin

    so officially, no Wade/no Shaq tonight, this is a must-win now no matter how Marbury actually feels (I?m guessing we?re going to see more of Nate again starting tonight). don?t give Kapono any space ever, that dude is deadly.

    Hehe…

    Gotta laugh to keep from crying. ;)

  57. Gfreeze

    It’s ridiculous to say that Jeffries would be a better player if he had a better center to back him up… that he is somehow “under-utilised” because of… Eddy Curry. Jeffries was brought in as a defensive stopper… he’s supposed to be the well from which help to other players springs. The logic of this talk is: ‘he would be a good defensive stopper, if only he had a defensive stopper to help him.” Jeffries was a bad signing, full stop. As a Wizards fan who watched his sorry, overrated, zero-offense game for years, I am thrilled to watch my team flourish with Deshawn Stevenson at 20 per cent the cost and twice the game. As for alleged ‘upside’, Jeffries has none. He’s been in the league for years. His one talent, effort, speed and pestering on the perimeter, will only decline with age. His offfensive game will not all of a sudden materialise. It’s as ugly as it’s been since he first joined the league and found he had to play men his own size. It is ineffective at best, downright aimless, clueless, reckless and useless at worst… always aesthetically painful. At some point, we pay hard-earned money to watch the beauty of the game, and Jeffries’ offensive game is downright ugly. It will wear on you after a year, it it hasn’t already. Do you really think he will suddenly ‘blossom’? For that money, you could get some real help… could’ve kept your young center, could get a young big, get a defensive player who actuallly plays… defense. The real issue, of course, is not Jeffries, but Thomas for paying so much for him. Do you really have to wait until the end of the year to dump him? Dolan said he had a year to turn things around, but when is this season a write-off and a failure? New York needs class management – it’s good for the league. Do it a favour and move on! the NBA needs a great New York team.

  58. Ted Nelson

    I think Balkman has got to get some more minutes because he’s clearly the Knicks’ best defender and he brings an infectious energy on the court with him. Not to mention that Jared Jeffries looks ridiculous on quicker 6-5 wings all night: I think his biggest value as a defender lies in his ability to guard quicker bigmen and provide a longer option to throw at wings.

    One thing I don’t see mentioned here is that the Knicks appear to be a much better offensive team with Jeffries on the court. I realize that he hasn’t played many games, but according to 82games the Knicks’ offensive efficiency is +7.8 with Jeffries on the court. The only Knick even close to that is Lee at 7.7. People seem to get hung up on the fact that these guys don’t score and label them as bad offensive players. While, in fact, on a team that already has so many guys who can get (if you’re Crawford that doesn’t mean make) shots at will these two guys with relatively high basketball IQs who understand spacing and play within the offense and hit the offensive glass seem to be very valuable. (If either of them could add a perimeter, or at least mid-range, shot next season it would be very nice.)

  59. jon abbey

    I’ll buy one if it’s even semi-attractive. maybe a pic of him behind bars, throw Balkman in there also… :)

    Phoenix doing to Washington pretty much what Miami did to us last night, 41-20 after 1. tomorrow night is going to be brutal.

  60. Robert Dyson

    All of the inconsistent play is really hard to take. One night this teams plays hard and looks like they might can make up the four game gap and then they let teams whom they should beat. The fact is we need a win streak and we need one bad in order to make things very interesting. Yes I know we are not true contenders but I think we can at least position ourselves to be in the mix.

    We need defense, offense and a healthy consistent dose of both night in and night out.

    I am going to bed I am so upset about getting beat by Charolett that I am can’t sleep. One thing for sure I can’t count wins to go to sleep.

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