Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Top 25 Favorite Knicks of the Modern Era: #2-1

We conclude our look at who you voted for as your top 25 favorite Knicks of the Modern Era (1979-present, also known as the “Three-Point Era,” as that is when the three-pointer was adopted by the NBA)! Every weekday we have revealed two more Knicks until we reached #1! And now we’re here! Click here for a master list of the top 25!

Enjoy!

2. Charles Oakley

Charles Oakley came to the Knicks in a big trade in 1988 for Bill Cartwright. It is rare to see players as good as Oakley and Cartwright traded for each other, particularly when the better player, Oakley, was six years younger than the other player. However, good centers are always in short supply in the NBA, so the Bulls were willing to give up a significant asset in Oakley to get one (the Bulls did move up in the draft in the deal, as well, getting the Knicks’ #11 pick for their #19 pick).

Oakley was just coming off a dramatic battle with Michael Cage over the rebounding title in the NBA, a battle Oakley just barely lost (Oakley led the NBA in total rebounds and rebound rate in both 1987 and 1988, but Cage edged him out on rebounds per game in 1988 and Charles Barkley edged him out in 1987, so Oakley never led the league in rebounds per game).

His rebounds were obviously curtailed as a Knick, what with him being paired with Patrick Ewing, but Oakley and Ewing combined to provide the Knicks with an extremely formidable center/power forward combo.

Oakley was not a particularly efficient scorer for the Bulls, but for the Knicks he upped his efficiency dramatically, becoming a very efficient scorer for the Knicks during his prime years (he had two years over 58% TS%!). He also was practically the Pope of the Riley Church of Hard Knocks. Oakley was the pre-eminent enforcer of the Riley Era. And he played well enough that he actually made an All-Star Game in 1993-94, a rarity for players of Oakley’s ilk (for instance, we all know how important Dennis Rodman was to the Chicago Bulls, but he never made an All-Star Game as a Bull). That season Oakley also made the NBA All-Defensive First Second Team.

Oakley’s second All-Defensive Second Team membership as a Knick came in one of his most impressive seasons as a Knick, not so much in stats (as his numbers were actually down across the board) but in the fact that he played center for the Knicks for most of the 1997-98 season. After that impressive year, though, the Knicks traded him for Marcus Camby, which was hard to take as a Knick fan at the time, but looking back, man, what a great trade – not only did Camby become a great player (better than peak Oakley, even), but Oakley also fell off a cliff the very next season. Talk about timing a trade well!

Oakley finished his career with three mediocre (but intimidating) seasons with Toronto, a terrible season in Chicago, a revitalized season in Washington with his old friend, Michael Jordan, plus a shockingly decent seven-game stretch with his old coach, Jeff Van Gundy, in Houston, at the age of 40.

In his ten seasons with the Knicks, Charles Oakley produced 67.6 win shares (fittingly, he was second on that list, as well). For more of his stats, check out his profile at Basketball Reference!

1. Patrick Ewing

You’d have to have a paper as long as Patrick Ewing himself to properly capture all the honors and accolades the long-time Knick center received during his career.

How about a Rookie of the Year Award in 1985-86, despite missing 30 games to an injury?

How about eleven All-Star appearances?

How about eight All-NBA teams?

How about finishing in the top five in the MVP balloting six times?

And yet, no matter how amazing Ewing was as a Knick, a great offensive player (he got his TS% over 60% in one season – and for a guy who took a sizable amount of outside shots, that’s really amazing) and a brilliant defensive player (three-time All-Defensive Second Team) who was the anchor for some of the best defensive basketball teams of ALL-TIME (that one got caps and bold!), fans still wanted more from him.

He never won a title as a Knick, and that weighed on him like the proverbial albatross. But, like other greats who never won titles, he was not fully appreciated until he was no longer there.

Now fans fully get how great Ewing was as a Knick. Double-digit Win Shares from 1988-89 through 1993-94, and still a valuable player even after his wrist was practically ruined in 1997.

Ewing was clearly the best Knick of the Three-Point Era, and now we know he is the favorite Knick of the readers of this website.

In his fifteen seasons with the Knicks, Patrick Ewing produced 123.0 win shares (fittingly, he was first on that list, as well). For more of his stats, check out his profile at Basketball Reference!

That’s the countdown! I hope you enjoyed it!

7 comments on “Top 25 Favorite Knicks of the Modern Era: #2-1

  1. BigBlueAL

    All I have to say is its great to see Ewing, deservedly, voted as our favorite Knick!!

    I have a feeling if this poll was taken 10 years ago he wouldnt have won the vote but the misery of the last 10 years has allowed everybody to see and realize how truly great Ewing was.

  2. DS

    I realized I prob. seem like an ingrate. Great job! This list was a great idea and was wonderfully executed.

  3. Z

    I’m guess i’m glad P-Ew was #1, even if he wasn’t in my top 10. A great player, he deserved better than what obnoxious fans like me were willing to give him. As much as I respect a man’s desire for privacy, I found it difficult to love a player who’s greatest insight in post game interviews was “we got the job done today,” or, in the event of a loss, “we just didn’t get the job done today.” Is it too much to ask our players to show just an ounce of personality? I know they can’t all be Clyde, or Oak, or Spree, but at least broaden the cliche-pool a little bit during your 16 years in one media market.

    Standing on the press table with his arms up after dunking the putback on Starks’ drive to end the ECF in 1994 was the only time he ever asked to be loved, so it was the only time I ever gave it to him.

    Maybe if he’d hit that finger roll 1 year later, I’d have given it to him again. But, alas, he “just didn’t get the job done”… :)

  4. Caleb

    I’m a little surprised to see Ewing #1 “favorite” – there was such a love-hate relationship with the fans. I wonder if he would win the poll with a broader group of fans. But it’s amazing – we (even me) would focus on how he wasn’t as good as David Robinson, or wasn’t one of the top 3 or 4 players in the league. Amazing what a long, long drought will do to your perspective.

    Oak? What can I say? Maybe that you are even underplaying how good he was. What makes you say that Camby’s peak value was higher?

    Oak was the best defender at his position, hands-down. He led the league in rebounding. He was, as you note, a good offensive player – efficient, and a terrific interior passer.

    And of course he regularly crushed Horace Grant in their one-on-one playoff matchups…

  5. Brian Cronin

    Figuring that Oak’s 1993-94 was his peak and Camby’s 2000-01 was his peak, Camby has the advantage in TS%, Block Rate (a giant advantage), Turnover Rate (a giant advantage), Rebound Rate (not a huge advantage) while Oak has a giant advantage in Assist Rate (both guys had basically the same Usage).

  6. Caleb

    @6
    Camby’s TS% edged out Oak if you just compare those two years, but it was easily the best of Camby’s career while Oak posted higher numbers several times – up to .585.

    On rebounding, again Camby has the edge between those two seasons but Oak’s career-bests are better – he was over 20% three times, and over 21% twice (all with the Bulls) while Camby only hit 20% once (with Denver). Your suggestion in the original post, that Oak’s board numbers were hurt by Ewing, makes intuitive sense. Of course rebound numbers usually go down with age (except Camby!)

    Defense is an interesting comparison. Of course Camby was an awesome shot-blocker while Oak never blocked anyone – but I’m not sure he wasn’t a better defender anyway. The early ’90s Knicks as a team had the best defensive efficiency of all-time, and were actually last in the league in blocks once (even with Ewing). So there’s something going on there.. Sadly +/- doesn’t offer an answer, and neither does my Magic 8-Ball.

    re: assists and turnovers, basically Oak had a bigger responsibility as a passer which led to more assists AND more TOs.

    Oak’s game changed a bit over time, as he became less of a single-minded rebounder. I’d still take him over Camby, as a pretty easy call. But also fair to say he was perfect for the rules and officiating of the late 80s / early 90s, while Camby was a better fit for the game 10 years later.

    Decide for yourselves:
    http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/c/cambyma01.html
    http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/o/oaklech01.html

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