Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Top 25 Favorite Knicks of the Modern Era: #8-7

We continue 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 will reveal two more Knicks until we reach #1! Click here for a master list of all Knicks revealed so far!

Enjoy!

8. Anthony Mason

On his Wikipedia page, there is a note that Anthony Mason was able to compete with other power forwards despite his relative short stature (he was under six foot eight) because he “compensated for his lack of size by his impressive musculature.” That’s true, of course, but wow, that’s quite a way to put it, huh?

In any event, Anthony Mason was a third round pick in the 1988 NBA Draft, but by 1990 he was effectively out of the NBA. He managed to work his way back to the league in the 1991 season, when the Knicks discovered him playing in the USBL. It is likely that Mason would have eventually caught on with a different NBA team, but he was especially lucky that his first year as a Knick was also Pat Riley’s first year. Mason fit in perfectly with Riley’s vision for the Knicks – a tough, hardnosed player who seemed to be more than the sum of his physical attributes – a player who, for a lack of a better cliche, truly “had a will to win.”

Mason slowly worked his way up the Knick depth charts, to the point where in the 1994 NBA Finals, it was Mason who guarded Hakeem Olajuwon, not Patrick Ewing. During the 1994-95 season, Mason won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award. That was Riley’s last season. The next year saw Don Nelson become the Knick coach, and he envisioned Mason as a point-forward, who the Knick offense would revolve around. You would think that being given so much responsibility would have made Mason like Nelson, but he really didn’t seem to and the two bickered constantly. Meanwhile, Ewing was also not thrilled with the whole “we’re making this other guy the focal point of the offense” deal, so Nelson was getting it from all ends. He was eventually fired and replaced with Jeff Van Gundy.

After the 1995-96 season, the Knicks dealt Mason to the Charlotte Hornets for Larry Johnson. Mason excelled for the Hornets for a few years (even making an All-NBA Third Team in his first/best season with the team). Eventually the Hornets dealt him to the Miami Heat where Mason made his first, and only, All Star team in his only season with the Heat. He actually started for the East in the 2001 All-Star Game! Mason then signed with the Milwaukee Bucks as a free agent, where his production inexplicably fell off of a cliff. I mean, he was 35 years old at the time, so a dramatic plunge in production is not shocking, but still, he was really good in 2000-01 and below average in 2001-02 then terrible in 2002-03 and bam – out of the league for good. It was kinda crazy (I mean, don’t get me wrong, I was rooting against the Bucks at the time, so I was sorta happy to see it happen, but still, way weird).

In his five seasons with the Knicks, Anthony Mason produced 37.8 win shares (which is a whole lot of Win Shares in just five seasons). For more of his stats, check out his profile at Basketball Reference!

7. Bernard King

Okay, try this on for size – it might more or less encapsulate why the Knicks have not had a whole ton of success in the past, oh, three decades plus. Since Willis Reed won the NBA Most Valuable Player in 1969-70, only one Knick has finished in the top two in the Most Valuable Player balloting. Just one. That one player? Bernard King, who came in second to Larry Bird in the voting for the 1983-84 award. Crazy, huh?

Anyhow, Bernard King came to the Knicks in 1982 after stints on the New Jersey Nets, Utah Jazz and the Golden State Warrirors. King was drafted with the seventh overall pick in the 1977 NBA Draft and made the NBA All-Rookie team. He quickly became the clear star on the Knicks, as he was a brilliant scorer, I mean a brilliant scorer – we’re talking about a .585 TS% in 1984-85 while taking over 24 field goal attempts a game!!! That was good enough to lead the NBA in scoring. His TS% numbers as a Knick were .566, .619 and .585 (.619, people!!! With a nearly 30% usage!!!). King made two All Star Games for the Knicks, but sadly, at the end of the 1984-85 season King blew out his ACL in his knee. He missed the entire 1985-86 season and only played 6 games for the Knicks in 1986-87. So Knick fans never got to see what it would have looked like to see one of the best scorers in the NBA in the 1980s play with a dominant big man like Patrick Ewing. The Knicks cut King lose before the 1987-88 season, and King signed with the Washington Bullets, where he eventually revitalized his career, even making the All-Star Game in 1991!

King is particularly known for his back-to-back 50 point games for the Knicks in 1984 and his 60 point game on Christmas Day 1984.

In this three seasons (and six games) with the Knicks, Bernard King produced 27.1 win shares. For more of his stats, check out his profile at Basketball Reference!

37 comments on “Top 25 Favorite Knicks of the Modern Era: #8-7

  1. Nick C.

    Bernard King was a God. I may be overstating it’s but he singlehandedly beat Detroit and then took the Bird, McHale, Parish, DJ, etc Celtics to 7 games. For those few seasons he was beyond words.

  2. Robert Silverman

    Side note to the Knicks release of Bernard King in ’87. They let him go to sign the immortal Sidney Green. I’m going on (a somewhat hazy) memory at this point, but I believe that they wanted to bring Bernard back after the Green acquisition, but the Bullets had already swooped in and inked him.

  3. d-mar

    IN my mind, Bernard is a solid #3 behind Clyde and Ewing. The man was totally unstoppable, I’ll never forget going to the Garden and watching him single-handedly (and I mean single-handedly, he was surrounded by some pretty marginal talent) will the Knicks to victory over a Celts team with 4 HOF’ers. I think that was right after Cornbread Maxwell was quoted as saying “the bitch won’t get 40″ after Bernard was done torching the Pistons, and he proceeded to dump 40+ on the vaunted C’s. My favorite Knick ever, just a ferocious competitor and tremendous scorer.

  4. daJudge

    Have to agree with d-mar. “B” was simply amazing. I have an old Nike poster hanging behind my desk called the “Supreme Court”. I see Bernard every day—what a dude. After the old Knicks, I would probably pick “B”, even over Patrick as my fav modern Knick. No disrespect to Patrick though.

  5. Brian Cronin

    The Rockets apparently are talking about dealing Yao. Would he make any sense on the Knicks? Would you trade Curry, AR and Mason for Yao? Could AR be the best player the Rockets could get for Yao?

    The notion would be that the Knicks could re-sign Yao to a short-term deal next season and hey, it’s not like Curry and AR are playing anyways, right?

    It probably doesn’t make sense, but it’s an interesting idea, at least!

  6. daJudge

    I saw that just earlier. Is Yao’s contract expiring like Curry’s? If so, is it really AR and Mason for Yao? From what I have seen, I have no problems with dumping or cutting Mason. The AR analysis is far more complex. It’s really too bad that there is little recent public information available to evaluate AR. Very hard to pull the trigger on a young 6′ 11″ dude for a chronically injured player, albeit with great skill. I would really need all of the reasons why AR is exiled to dog house land, i.e., attitude, skill, lazy practices, all of the above—-who knows???

  7. BigBlueAL

    I will admit since Im 30 yo and didnt start following the Knicks until the 89-90 season I didnt vote for Bernard King in my top 10. I know he deserves to be there though, hell probably higher than 7th.

  8. Z-man

    Without question, Bernard King was the single most exciting player the team ever had. I saw him play many times and he was arguably the best offensive player in the league, and the third best overall player next to Magic and Bird. Unfortunately, he played on some funky teams with overrated and overpaid veterans galore. It’s really hard to impress that on the younger fans because the game looks aesthetically different today. Funny, at the time, it looks as amazing and state-of-the-art as the best players do today. You can’t recreate the drama of the moment, but the game 5 Isiah-Bernard duel was as exciting a game as I have ever watched as a Knicks fan.

    King was virtually unstoppable in the low post, which is amazing considering that he was not all that big or tall. He had a remarkably quick release on his shot, and even when they knew it was coming, defenders were left on the ground. Because of that, he almost had a machine-like precision to his game, not as flashy as Bird, Magic, Jordan, etc, but just as effective. You could make an argument that he was the most talented offensive player ever to play for the Knicks during that all-too-short stretch, yes, better than Reed, Ewing, Frazier, and Amare. When he blew out his knee, it may have been my single darkest day as a Knicks fan. (it did get us into the lottery, though, and brought on the Ewing era.)

    I get that longevity might keep him from being considered higher, but I would like to hear from KBers who were old enough to see them both to dispute the contention that he is at least #3. Please, please don’t tell me that David Lee deserves to be above him.

  9. Z-man

    Great read, massive. I have a problem with this kind of statement, though:

    “While he likely will never be more than a great role player, Fields can still continue to improve with his shooting and ball-handling, while more experience can only make him a smarter player than he already is.”

    It takes cojones to make the prediction that he will likely never be more than a great role player, especially after admitting that he was totally wrong about him at draft time. The analysis continually refers to the “system” being perfect for him. Why not say that what he has accomplished as an unheralded rookie indicates that there is no telling how good he will be. It’s not like the kid isn’t going to work on his game any more, and he’s already pretty close to a great role player, no?.

  10. villainx

    This is going to sound pretty lame, but does anyone here know of a site that has the complete box scores for any given day laid out in a single webpage?

    The effect that I’m going for is basically spreading out a newspaper and quickly perusing the box scores of various games. Versus what most sport sites require you to do, either open multiple tab/windows for the box score of each game or go back and click thru each game.

  11. massive

    I agree Z-man. I think Landry Fields is already a good to great role player, so saying he’ll never be more than that, is making the assumption that he will never improve. There is no telling how good he’ll be, but it sure will be fun rooting for him as a player on the New York Knicks. I think I’ll cry if we trade him for anybody.

  12. Z

    GHenman: Bernard was unstoppable!He should be no lower than #3.  

    It’s favorite Knicks, not best Knicks. I think Bernard was a little too long ago to beat out the Ewing era players (+ David Lee).

    @13 The system that Fields is flourishing in is a system that doesn’t like rookies, which makes his 30 minutes a game all the more insanely impressive!

  13. daJudge

    Good article about Landry, but the conclusion is not justified. I think Landry is really not a “role player”. He does so many things well. I define a role player as a teammate with a limited skill set who plays in certain situations. Like a Vinnie Johnson type shooting guard, maybe a guy like Nate or a player who comes in to block some shots. Landry is a Renaissance man—I mean player. His upside is huge. If he continues to improve and maybe learn some post moves (he’s a very tall 2), his scoring and assists will improve with kickouts. His shooting is good, but should also improve. He’s so old school he shoots a set shot from three! His athletic ability is, for some reason, vastly underrated. Maybe he needs more tats or deny publicly that he attended an Ivy League school. I think saying that he will max out as a great role player is sour grapes based on their own prognostic error. This is not to say being a great role player is a bad thing.

  14. Brian Cronin

    Yeah, I really didn’t get the point of the “role player” comment, either. It was almost like they were attempting to counter an opposing argument that did not exist. I think going to “sour grapes” is a bit too far, but whatever the motivation, it certainly was an odd thing to say. I mean, you just got finished talking about how he blew past all of your previous expectations for him (in just his rookie season) and then you throw in another dismissive thing about him? It just seemed like such a strange thing to put into the piece.

  15. Z-man

    Yeah, I think the issue is with the definition of role player. HOFers Bill Bradley and John Havlicek (for much of his career, he became a superstar later on) both could fall under a very broad definition of “great role players.” In today’s game, Ray Allen and Lamar Odom might fall into that category, even though they are both pretty complete players. I guess if you mean that he won’t attain the superstar status of the LeBron, Kobe, Durant, Wade level, I would probably agree. I still think the classification “role player” is less than flattering.

  16. daJudge

    If he went in the first round or, I dare say, in the lottery, many would now say his potential is limitless. Maybe “sour grapes” is not really what I mean. Rationalization is probably more accurate Brian.

    What I find really cool is this–If you told me last Summer that the Knicks were adding: (1) a near all star calibre point guard; (2) a bonafide MVP candidate; (3) a lottery pick 2 guard; (4) a vastly improved Chandler; and (5) a really nice role playing center who speaks French–I would not be surprised by the Knick’s success. Is this really happening? I have been following this team since 67-68 and cannot remember a year where so many unanticipated good things happened. I do remember the opposite Karma.

  17. Brian Cronin

    Yeah, I think the issue is with the definition of role player. HOFers Bill Bradley and John Havlicek (for much of his career, he became a superstar later on) both could fall under a very broad definition of “great role players.” In today’s game, Ray Allen and Lamar Odom might fall into that category, even though they are both pretty complete players. I guess if you mean that he won’t attain the superstar status of the LeBron, Kobe, Durant, Wade level, I would probably agree. I still think the classification “role player” is less than flattering.

    Good point. I think it was the context that the term was used that makes it sound worse. It is one thing to say “I think Landry Fields will be a great role player in the NBA” and it is another to say “While he likely will never be more than a great role player.” The latter context sure sounds dismissive, right?

  18. Z-man

    Agreed. That said, no matter the context, I just think that “great role player” means that you do certain things very well but that there are holes in your game that separate you from the “great players.” It’s a dis no matter how you slice it.

  19. d-mar

    Love this quote from LeBron in today’s Post: “For me the Knicks haven’t been good in my reign since I played basketball…” Wow, he really does believe he is a king, what an a-hole.

  20. Brian Cronin

    Wow, that sure is quite a quote. That guy really does need to work on how he talks about himself. “I’m taking my talents to South Beach,” etc. Yeesh.

  21. tastycakes

    Man, y’all are sensitive, that is one *glowing* article about our boy Landry!

    And shit, teams need “great role players” to get to the promised land. Who was the last one we had, Marcus Camby? LJ?

    I don’t see that phrasing as being negative — it’s unlikely that Fields turns into LBJ, or Havlicek for that matter — a guy that can influence the game without being a primary offensive weapon? We are super lucky!

  22. Z-man

    Yeah, tasty, the article was generally “glowing” but there were some back-handed compliments that tarnished it a bit for me. My definition of a “role player” is someone who has a flaw of some kind. LJ was a 6’5″ PF with a bad back; he was not the player he was earlier in his career. Camby was a limited offensive player who was exceptional at running the floor and blocking shots. Fields has thus far proven that he can be a prototypical big 2 guard with all the tools to be the equivalent of a “5-tool player” in baseball:

    He can dribble
    He can pass
    He can shoot from the perimeter
    He can take it to the hole strong with either hand
    He can create his own shot
    He rebounds well on both ends
    He can defend
    He can be effective in the uptempo or the halfcourt
    He plays well in the clutch and will tke and make the big shot
    He has a high b-ball IQ
    He makes intangible plays

    There are no glaring holes in his game, and not a single area that can make you fairly say, “well, he’ll never be very good at this for his position.” (for example, it seems clear that David Lee will never be a good shot-blocker) In fact, the areas in which he needs improvement are precisely those that can be remedied with hard work: ball-handling, one-on-one moves, FT shooting, etc.

    The article also made negative statements about his athleticism, especially lateral quickness, but does that seem fair? He has made one exceptionally athletic play after another. As a rookie who is still making rookie mistakes, he has been a huge asset at the 2 guard position, where he is going up against some of the best athletes in the league. His +/- is the best on the team, even though you would think that opposing teams would exploit him defensively. He is leading all NBA guards in rebounding. He remarkably consistent.

    Here’s a Fields mix:

    http://fromthebaseline.com/video-mixes/mixes/New-Landry-Fields-Highlight-Video-Mix-2/0/153/1

    This guy is NOT a role player!

  23. ess-dog

    It’s funny because they primarily credit his move from a 1st scoring option to a 5th scoring option as the reason behind his success, but his win shares coming out of college were at the top of his class (something that Cock Jowles alerted us to during the draft.) And he led the Pac-10 in scoring and was at the top in rebounding. He was clearly good in that role as well (actually, maybe it wasn’t clear!)
    Maybe he can’t carry a team on his back, but can anyone really? Could Kobe before Gasol joined him? As has been discussed ad nauseum, even MJ needed help.
    I think he’s just a good basketball player. I agree that a role player should be defined as a guy that does his “role” like shoot threes (Kapono) or block shots (Ibaka) but I think they meant “glue player” as in an all-around good player that does the dirty work that “stars” can’t be asked to do. Fields is definitely that but real stars do everything as well, think Wade, Lebron or Kobe. The only difference is that those guys are also volume shooters and crunch time scorers.
    There’s no proof that Fields can’t do that yet, as he hasn’t been asked to.

  24. tastycakes

    Here’s a fun comparison – Ginobili’s rookie year (at age 25) vs Fields’ thus far:

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&p1=ginobma01&y1=2003&p2=fieldla01&y2=2011

    And too young to know Havlicek’s game, I ran his rookie season vs Landry’s:

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&p1=havlijo01&y1=1963&p2=fieldla01&y2=2011

    Obviously stats are missing, but it’s clear it’s the “rebounding guard” thing that has people seeing Hondo. Except that Fields is much more efficient (at much lower usage).

    Worst case, he’s a very good role player (which he is today). Best case .. I’ve got to stop, I have stars in my eyes….

  25. Z-man

    Tough to compare across eras, but having seen all three play, I think Fields is more like Hondo than like Ginobili. All three are F/G hybrids, but Manu leans more towards SG (better ball skills) and Landry/Hondo are more towards SF (more physical, better rebounders.) Still, I love the comparison, especially in that Ginobili and Fields were both passed over until well into the 2nd round.

    I wonder if Treutlein would classify Ginobili as a “great role player…”

  26. daJudge

    The fact that we’re having this discussion is awesome. Not sure about tonight’s game though. I’ve got the yips.

  27. Z-man

    I did some searches and it seems like Fields is a hard player to find matches for. What throws things out of whack is his rebounding. To put things into perspective, his rebounds per 26 are the same as Oscar Robertson’s as a rookie. Fields is listed as a F in B-R, so searches become complicated. Three contemporary names that seemed to pop up a lot were Wally Szczerbiak, Andre Iguodala and Richard Jefferson. Here’s a comparison of their stats up to age 22:

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&p1=iguodan01&y1=2006&p2=szczewa02&y2=2000&p3=jefferi01&y3=2003&p4=fieldla01&y4=2011

  28. hoolahoop

    Bernard was best known for his open floor game. He was an unstoppable slasher – the best the game has ever seen. My memory of him is having the ball on the wing on a break and scoring every single time. He could slash left or right, always with the same outcome. Unstoppable.
    However, as a fan, I thought he screwed the knicks in the end.
    After his injury, he prolonged his non-playing- except for six games he needed to play in order to collect his full year compensation. Then, after not playing for two seasons and getting fully compensated (big money), he played hardball with the knicks for his new contract, when it was questionable if he was able to come back. Then, he signed somewhere else. I thought it was sleazy move, and as a fan, I realized what he was all about.

  29. daJudge

    hoolahoop: “prolonged his non-playing” Never remember that about Bernard. I kind of thought it was the other way—I remember thinking the Knicks didn’t want Bernard after the ACL. It was a pretty tough injury back then. Not like today. My own perception was that he was pure class, guts and game face and kind of got screwed over by the Knicks. His rehab was not easy. Also, “getting fully compensated”–his contract was guaranteed, right?

    Maybe I’m wrong about “B”. Either way, it’s my story and I’m sticking with it! He’s really one of my hoop heroes and I loved his game.

  30. Z

    I think “role player” is pretty much defined by usage rate. Low usage players are “role players” and high usage players are “stars”.

  31. Nick C.

    @35 I thought my memory was skewed about Bernard being the best finisher on the break in the game. Thanks.

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