What Stories Will You Pay Attention to in 2009-10?

Know that baseball is really my first love; since 1979 when I first started watching Mets games with my grandfather I have been a diehard Mets fan. So, given their 2009 from hell, my time away from the Knicks has been loooooonnnngggg and difficult. (And now my beloved Seattle Seahawks appear to be re-hashing their injury-riddled 2008 in 2009 just to ratchet up the pain a little more.)

I think most Knicks fans would agree that the team did not exactly exorcise all the ghosts of the Isiah Thomas era this off-season. So, the big question staring Knick fans in the face for 2009-10 is: given that we shouldn’t expect a huge turnaround, what will we pay attention to this year? Here’s my list. What’s on yours?

1. How will the young core develop? This of course raises the issue of who, exactly, is a part of the core. Whereas once upon a time David Lee’s and Nate Robinson’s inclusion in that core might have gone virtually unquestioned, the 1-year deals both recently signed suggests that Donnie Hoops is prepared to move forward without both or either. It will be interesting to see how each handles this season. On the other hand, Danillo Gallinari is unquestionably part of whatever constitutes NY’s young core. Everyone loves the talent but he’s also coming off back surgery; that’s back surgery, as in surgery on your back. We simply do not know impact that will have. We may all quickly forget he ever had surgery, and then again we may yet end up talking about Gallo’s back as if it’s like Mr. Garrison’s exploding testicles. Finally, will any of the other non-rookie players, from among Duhon, Hughes, Curry, and Milicic, be at all useful?

2. Which of the young guys steps up over 82 games? Jordan Hill probably has the best shot to play consistent minutes alongside David Lee, depending on what Milicic and Curry do. Even though I generally supported the Hill selection given what was available, I’m not sure he profiles to be much more than a decent rebounder and occasional shot-blocker–not that there’s anything wrong with that. On the other hand, Toney Douglas is probably the most exciting newcomer but he may struggle to see consistent minutes.

3. What, if anything, can Donnie do to change NY’s fortunes? To this point, Donnie Walsh has done a good Luis Castillo (circa 2009) impersonation. Walsh has been downright Slappy McSingleton-like in his all singles/no extra base hit profile. To his credit Walsh has hit actual singles in virtually every at-bat so far, staying away from the “sucker bets” that consistently fooled Thomas. He has also been pretty disciplined about not paying star money to guys that aren’t stars. Somewhere along the line though, NY’s gonna need some extra base hits to score some runs. He’s going to have to do something to alter the direction of the franchise. Hiring D’Antoni was a start. He’s going to have try to create cap space, possibly by finding a taker for Jared Jeffries’ (or– gasp–Eddy Curry’s) contract, or a young player ready to make the leap who doesn’t fit his team’s plans.

So that’s what I’ll be watching. What about you?

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Part-time blogger on the Knicks at Knickerblogger.net and Seahawks at FieldGulls.com. In my free time I hang out at the University of South Carolina and occasionally fill thirsty young minds with knowledge about various and sundry things related to consumer behavior and marketing.

65 thoughts to “What Stories Will You Pay Attention to in 2009-10?”

  1. DC– I like the “Slappy McSingleton” metaphor. Totally agree. Hopefully Walsh doubles Jeffries to Dallas, or Homers Curry to Houston!

  2. That’s a good list.

    The great thing about KB is that it does provide a reason to watch the games, to see how predictions and opinions lodged here are playing out in the real world.

    David Lee has been the biggest reason I tuned in the past two years, far and away. It’s a consistently satisfying experience to watch him pile stats up in a game. Every time I tune in I feel real fear that this is the game he is revealed as an ordinary player. Somehow, he never disappoints. I look down midway through the third quarter and he is 6-9 with 10 rebounds (and no blocks of course.)

    Danilo is going to be in that category this year I believe. He got off to a very hot start last year and showed a ton of potential, especially with his shooting. Tracking his progress is going to be very exciting.

    The Debate over Wilson Chandler – Every game will provide fresh fodder for the debate over how good he really is. Some of us think his versatility, and the trust his coach places in him, conceals the fact that he really is still a well below average player. Others think he is a lot better than that and perhaps destined for prominence.

    The LebronStakes – Tracking his chances of being here next year. (low in my book.)

    Curryfreude – For a while trashing Eddy Curry was a treasured pastime of mine because there were actually people around who thought he was an All-Star caliber player (just behind Dwight Howard I can remember someone saying ;-) I am looking forward to having him play this year and once again getting to revel in watching a trundling object lesson in how the ability to score points can obscure perceptions of true player value (and how dumb Isiah was). Curry is the biggest of many reasons we are in this mess and hopefully his presence can be a continuing advertisement for the value of advanced statistics.

    The Value of Mike D’Antoni – I think the Knicks are in for another very mediocre year and I think this may engender a modicum of debate over the value of 7 Seconds of Less specifically, and of coaches and systems in general. How much value does D’Antoni, or any coach, really add beyond the quality of his players? Yes, its an attractive style of play that players and fans love, but how does that translate to the win column?

    Jordan Hill – Isn’t going to be good.

    Jared Jeffries – The guy is so offensively maladroit (jeffrightened anyone) you have to tune in. i love wondering as he puts up a jumper whether it’s going to hit the side of the backboard or anything at all. The idea someone mentioned that he has developed his outside game? I am definitely tuning in to see that disproved.

    Darko – The guy has a blog named after him. Got to watch him. And definitely fits in to the charmingly maladroit category.

    There will be enough going on for me to tune in for about 50 games…

  3. I think what’s key this year is to prove that the players we will still have under contract come 2010 are good. Meaning Chandler, Gallo, Hill, Douglas, and possibly Jeffrightened. That’s why I think Hill and Douglas will get more p.t. than many people think- maybe not right away- but by the end of the year, they will be playing. There’s no guarantees anyone else will come back. Hopefully Chandler and Gallo can solidify themselves as above average starters, and Hill and Douglas can prove that they are legit rotation players.

  4. For me the stories to follow will be:

    1. Will Cleveland implode — D West went awol; Z indicating he may retire after this season.

    2. Will Walsh sign Lee to a long term deal during the season.

    3. How does Chandler’s game improve, and does he adjust to playing the 2.

    4. Does Gallo’s back hold up.

    5. How does the apparent rift between D’Antoni and N8 develop. [http://www.newsday.com/sports/basketball/knicks/d-antoni-puts-onus-on-nate-robinson-1.1508436]

    On a related note, a scathing preview for the season by HoopsHype. This guy was extra harsh on Duhon, which I found to be unjustified. I believe with Toney spelling him this year, Duhon will be a more consistent floor general.[http://hoopshype.com/previews/new_york.htm]

    Good times.

  5. DC,

    Your story lines are good/important ones.
    I would also note that Castillo’s OBP was a career high .418 in 2000: i.e. Donnie Walsh has been very patient. In the best case you have to hope that a better comparison is the entire Yankees line-up this season, where you’re patient and try to get a man on base where you can for some of the best bats in the business to come up and drive them in. (I’m referring to free agency 2010, LeBron, Wade, etc. if my analogy isn’t clear.) Of course, a lot of solo HRs (unexpected, one-off boosts in Knicks terms) are a key to the Yankees’ offense as well.
    “Finally, will any of the other non-rookie players, from among Duhon, Hughes, Curry, and Milicic, be at all useful?”
    Harrington is probably the most useful… If the Knicks 2009 “core” (Lee, Nate, Gallinari, Harrington, and maybe Chandler and/or Douglas) is firing on all cylinders then the Duhons, Curry/Darkos, maybe even Hughes/Jeffries may appear useful in their defined roles. Otherwise, those guys pretty much stink.
    If Douglas is as good as we think (which is basically good but not great) then I don’t think he’ll struggle to see minutes. Maybe not a lot of minutes, but Duhon and Hughes may be this team’s starting guards… I don’t see Hill playing much early, but I’m thinking a more athletic Kurt Thomas may be his potential: strong D, good jumper… If he can do that and use his athleticism to finish around the basket that would make him pretty valuable… I’m just not sure finishing around the basket is something that can be taught.

    Owen’s things to watch are also really good.
    DG has to be the most exciting thing going into the season.
    In terms of Wilson Chandler, I would say he has CLEARLY been below average to date, but also clearly has good athleticism and some skill. The question is whether he can get his stuff together and play with some aggressiveness/intelligence. Also whether he develops his outside shot, defense and other areas that are his “strengths” right now. We’ve been debating how likely he is to reach his potential, and now it’s getting to be put-up pr shut-up time… i.e. no more speculation, he has to go out and do it.
    “a trundling object lesson in how the ability to score points can obscure perceptions of true player value”
    Will be an even better lesson if some GM buys into the hype. I do hold out hope that Curry can help out a little as a one-dimensional role player.
    I think D’Antoni is a good coach. Overrated by most, but a good coach. A good coach can easily mean 5-10 wins over a total circus act like Isiah Thomas (07-08) or Larry Brown ran, but compared to another good NBA coach I don’t think D’Antoni does anything (hence why the Knicks returned to 06-07 level mediocrity). His roster was both very good and very well fit to his style in Phoenix, his roster is mediocre and somewhat fits his style here…
    Call me crazy, but I’m drinking the kool-aid on Jared Jeffries shooting between .325 and .350 from downtown.

    Ess-dog, also a good point. I think you’re right that Hill and Douglas might see more minutes late, both because they’re coming back and the Knicks will probably be out of it. Of course, there’s a good chance that they’re only like 5 games out of #8 and think they have a shot…
    One interesting thing is that even if the Knicks strike out completely in 2010 they’ve got a fairly balanced roster they could go forward with in rebuilding mode: PG: Douglas, SG/SF: Chandler/Gallinari + Jeffries, F: Hill, and C: Curry… They’d probably end up with a top 3 pick in 2011, but at least no one would be terribly out of position. (NBAdraft.net’s top 3 in 2011 are Harrison Barnes, John Henson, and Perry Jones btw.)

  6. TDM,

    Calling Duhon “one of the worst starting point guards in the NBA” was harsh, but I don’t think it was unjustified. PG is a plentiful position since six footers aren’t in short supply. Who is Duhon competing with? Ridnour/Jennings, Udrih/Evans, Russell Westbrook, Mike Conley, Derek Fisher, maybe Baron Davis depending on whether he decides to try this season, maybe whoever the PG is in GS (Ellis is grumpy and Curry is a rookie, neither is sure thing playmaking PG), Lou Williams, Mario Chalmers, Augustin/Felton…
    In the best case scenario he’s worse than 2/3 the starting PGs in the NBA. A few of those guys are young with a lot of upside. More likely he’s in the bottom 5. It’s conceivable he could be absolutely last, but I think he beats a few guys out. There are plenty of better back-up PGs than Duhon, though, including Nate Robinson.
    It’s not just about last season and him wearing down, the guy is a 5 year veteran. I think he was a good signing, but you better have 4 very good starters if you plan on being a good team with Duhon as your starting PG (extreme example: the Lakers with Fisher).

  7. “On a related note, a scathing preview for the season by HoopsHype. This guy was extra harsh on Duhon, which I found to be unjustified. I believe with Toney spelling him this year, Duhon will be a more consistent floor general.[http://hoopshype.com/previews/new_york.htm]”

    I stopped reading it after the words “proven scorer”.

  8. I know its a bit premature, but if we are talking about things to watch for this season, i thought it would be interesting to throw out a playoff prediction. 1-6 should be locks- cleveland, orlando, boston, atlanta, miami, chicago… after that, what teams really fit in?

    Most would probably put detroit in there, but i really see them continuing their self- combustion. Phili has been there the last two years, but I can see them really being hurt with the loss of Andre Miller. Toronto should is in the running as well, but they have really underachieved.

    I think the Knicks can definitely squeeze into the 7th or 8th spot ahead of these teams. I think that the team is going to have a much better chemistry than they did last season, when the lineup and roster was changed throughout the season cuz of trades and injuries. With some added height down low in Darko, who hopefully D’antoni’s system will favor, as well as TD to keep Duhon fresh, the knicks should be able to be a pretty competitive team. I think the team looks excited and fresh- the players actually look like they are having fun- which I haven’t seen in years.

    8th seed in East.

  9. The first half of 2008, Duhon was at least a middle-of-the-pack point guard. The big knock on him is that he can’t get into the lane and finish with authority. But only the better point guards can do that, Deron Williams, Paul, Rondo… amazing athletes. There is more to the position than that, especially on a high-octane transition team like ours. He’s a very good 3 pt shooter now, and has great court awareness. He’s on par with an Alston, an older Gary Payton, Derek Fisher, Andre Miller… Wasn’t he 2nd in assists for most of the year? Actually, I think pg is the one position where you can get away with a more cerebral player and an above average athlete, depending on the system. He’ll probably be in the bottom half of starting pg’s for sure, but closer to the middle than not, especially if he can stay in front of the young guys like Rondo and Jennings on defense.

  10. I think the difference between the Knicks being a 33-35 win team and a 38-40 win team are players exceeding expectations. Lee, Duhon, Harrington, Nate – you pretty much know what you’re gonna get with these guys. As said by others before, it comes down to Chandler and Gallinari. If Wilson has the same year as last year, and Gallo is still a promising but not quite there player, we have about the same record as last year. What some of us forget when talking about the Knicks making the playoffs, is that in any close game down the stretch, the Knicks will lose to most teams because they have a go-to guy and we don’t. So we’ll probably be competitive on most nights, but lose games at the end of the 4th qtr. I still think they’ll be a fun team to watch though, for whatever that’s worth!

  11. I’d forgotten *all* about the debate over Ill Will. Good catch Owen.

    I suppose the other Curry-related story is who we *won’t* be getting in the draft this off-season because of the trade.

  12. ess-dog,

    I think that if you list all the starting PGs in the NBA you will not find Duhon in the middle of your list. There are a lot of variables including health and age (old guys like Nash/Kidd/Bibby may decline while young guys like Rose and 50 others may or may not improve).

    If court awareness means playmaking ability, then Duhon’s is certainly not great. He turns the ball over A LOT and doesn’t get many assists. His per game stats were high last season because he played a lot of minutes on a fast paced team, but on a rate or even per minute basis he doesn’t stand out as a playmaker (of course an assist is not the only way you can make a play… but it’s a universally excepted proxy). Duhon is a pass-first, solid defense, spot-up 3 PG. He doesn’t really stand out as excellent in any of those areas, though. I think he’s probably better than Fisher (at least today), but not better than Miller by a mile. Alston, maybe, but Alston is not a starting PG.

    Mo Williams
    Lou Williams
    Deron Williams
    Gilbert Arenas

    I don’t saw for sure anyone besides Fisher on that list is clearly worse than Duhon… even Ridnour: http://www.basketball-reference.com/fc/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&p1=duhonch01&y1=2009&p2=ridnolu01&y2=2009
    The guys I would consider are mostly guys like Conley, Stuckey, Westbrook, Evans, Lou Williams, Curry, Chalmers, Brooks who are young and should be expected to improve somewhat. Some of those guys will probably be worse than Duhon, but some will be better. (My money is on Lou Williams being worse and maybe Stuckey, but we’ll see. Maybe Brooks, too, I like Lowry better anyhow. Chalmers is fairly Duhonesque.)

    Duhon would be a great back-up PG or Fisher-like 5th starter and 6th or 7th most important guy in the rotation. As a starter Duhon is not ideal, though. TOs were his huge problem last season. If he cuts those maybe he’s an average starter.

    “The big knock on him is that he can’t get into the lane and finish with authority. But only the better point guards can do that, Deron Williams, Paul, Rondo…”

    This is not the only knock or even biggest knock I would make (TOs vs. asts/usage…), but I also hear it a lot too. I would not say that only those 3 get into the lane. Steve Nash shot an eFG% of .662 from close compared to Duhon’s of .471.
    Guys like Fisher and Ridnour are worse at finishing around the hoop (truly terrible), but the average PG is better. Even Beno Udrih smokes Duhon here, and I’ve never heard him called an amazing athlete by NBA standards.
    By the way, most PGs are amazing athletes because there are so many people between 5-10 and say 6-5 who would kill to play in the NBA. It’s a lot harder to be 6-0 in the NBA than 7-0.
    Guys like Nash and Calderon are among the most efficient finishers around the basket among PGs, though, while Russell Westbook has about as bad as Duhon. So, it’s about a lot more than just run-jump athleticism.

  13. d-mar,

    I agree with the first part of your point: Knicks fortunes come down to young guys developing/exceeding expectations. I would add role players like Darko/Curry, Jeffries… sadly that’s all I’ve got… to the list of guys who can exceed expectations my performing one or two roles well. There won’t be as much notice of those three playing well if the team sucks, but I think certainly hardcore fans and people around the league will notice. In all three cases I guess just playing period is exceeding expectations…

    I don’t know about the “go-to player” logic, though. I would say that a lot of teams will get in trouble by isolating a mediocre or even good scorer, and if the Knicks can just execute their offense down the stretch they’ll be fine. I would have to look into it a lot further to really feel comfortable commenting, though.

  14. Ted – I do not think you give Duhon enough credit, I am not a huge fan but I very much believe that he is passable as a starter and would bet he is a better PG than at least 8-10 players on that list next year:

    Curry/Ellis (not real PGs, better players worse PGs)
    Lou Williams
    Evans (will be good but more a 2 in college, not better yet)

    Thats 11 but one or two there should surprise.

    Duhon is a solid PG he had a TS% of 57% last year, a 3pt% of 42.2% (career 3pt% of 39.6%), is a solid defender and is usually a low turnover player. His turnovers were way up last year which I think you can partly attribute to his mid-season breakdown. He was 21st last year in a:to ratio but was 6th, 14th, 8th and 7th the four years before that.

    Duhon is by no means someone I choose to be starting for my team but he is passable and I would say a slightly below average starting PG. Long term I agree that many of those players will be better but next year I do not think so.

  15. Ted –
    “and if the Knicks can just execute their offense down the stretch they’ll be fine. ” Boy, that’s a huge “if”, not sure if I saw them do that much last year. As you know, with a minute left in most close NBA games, it comes down to handing the ball to a Wade, LeBron, Kobe, Pierce, Dirk, etc. etc. and watching them go one and one to either score or draw a foul. It’s not always pretty to watch, but that’s what teams do. Who’s our guy? I guess we’ll find out this season.

  16. d-mar,

    Those are a hand-full of guys, who also all happen to play on good teams. Their teams put them in those last minute spots and provide options for them to pass. Those are excellent scorers and players overall whose hand you want the ball in. Most teams don’t have those caliber guys, and in a lot of cases those guys’ teammates also make big plays.
    A lot of mediocre and bad teams get in trouble by trying to force some Jamal Crawford into the role of leading man.

    I hope that Danilo proves to be “our guy.” He’s someone whose hands I would like the ball in late since he’s a playmaker and shooter and was great at drawing fouls in Europe. If not, I would take Nate over Harrington or Chandler.

  17. Also, go-to guys don’t always have to shoot. Just the threat of them on the court can unbalance the defense. Bottom line is that if you single-team Wade, LeBron, Kobe, etc., you are usually toast. If you focus your d on them, someone is left open to take an open shot.

    I will say that Harrington, Nate and Chandler can all generate their own shots down the stretch. They don’t necessarily take good ones, or draw the foul, (or dunk without getting T’s for hanging on the rim) but with Gallo, those are 4 pretty good offensive players. So I don’t think not having go-to scorer is as much of a reason why we will lose close games as an inability to stop guys on D. I fear we will wind up on the short end of too many “they can ill-afford to trade baskets” scenarios.

  18. Ben R,

    That still makes him a bad starter, even if each and every one of those guys are worse. Most of the guys who mention are young, and can reasonably be expected to improve. Some were worse last season, but will they be this season?
    Also, Duhon’s career TO-rate is 18.5. If you’re a sensational playmaker like Kidd or Nash who always has the ball in his hands that’s acceptable, but Duhon’s not. He’s got a career ast-rate of 27 and usage rate below 15, while Kidd and Nash are around 40 and 20 in those metrics.

    Augustin: Far better scorer than Duhon. Flew under the radar a little, but he was a great scorer as a rookie. Could become one of the best scoring points in the NBA. Of course, with only one year to judge him on he might also pull a Channing Frye. Not asked to be much of a playmaker and probably not the defender Duhon is, although LB will probably get the most out of him defensively.

    Stuckey: I don’t really like him, but everyone else seems to. He’s not a scorer or a playmaker and doesn’t seem to be a great defender. I think he’s wowed everyone with his athleticism and scoring volume, but is in sort of a Wilson Chandler-esque position where he’s got to produce. He’s going to have to put-up or shut-up since Will Bynum (not a pure point either) and Chucky Atkins (35 years old) are their other points. Gordon is a good passer at the off-guard who can take some pressure off at least.
    I’m with you on this one, but at 22 he’s got room to grow.

    Curry/Ellis: I have no idea on Curry. He’s a scrawny rookie, but everyone is wowed by him. Ellis has never been close to a PG to date, so either Curry is or they’re just going PG-less. If Ellis returns to 07-08 form and Curry is as good as Don Nelson and Donnie Walsh think, then I think those two are so much better overall than Duhon that I wouldn’t worry about position. Those are huge ifs, though.

    Brooks/Lowry: Pretty good one-two punch. Not clear that either one is better than Duhon. I really like Lowry, though.

    Fisher: I think he’s the worst starting PG in the NBA in a vacuum, but a good fit for the Lakers.

    Conley: Actually had a pretty good second season. He led his team in WP48 and put up a slightly below average PER. His Roland Rating was negative, but a lot higher than Duhon’s. Not a very good playmaker, but on that team I don’t know if he’ll ever get the ball in his hands anyway… Given that he might have been better than Duhon last season and just turned 22 there’s a good chance he’s better next season.

    Chalmers: I think he’s pretty comparable to Duhon, and was only a rookie last season. Not a particularly high ceiling guy, so we’ll see if he gets any better. It’s pretty typical to cut your TOs after your rookie year, and maybe he hones the outside shot a little.

    Ridnour/Jennings: I don’t think Ridnour is much worse. I’ll give you Ridnour, though. Jennings could be a lot better or a lot worse, we’ll have to see.

    Westbrook: He was pretty bad last season. He did have a positive Roland Rating and has a very high ceiling. I also feel he’ll be worse than Duhon this season, but could see him being better.

    Lou Williams: Not much of a playmaker, but that matters less playing with Igoudala. Hopefully they don’t play more of Willie Green to take pressure off Williams. He’s a high volume scorer and not very efficient, I would take Duhon over him but could see him improving.
    There’s also the chance Jrue Holiday has a big rookie year, but I’m confused as to why Philly didn’t pick up a veteran point.

    Evans: I tend to agree Evans will be worse. Walsh just called him the second best player in the draft, though, so we’ll see what he’s got.

    I might have been a little harsh, but I still don’t think it’s unfair to call him one of the worst starting PGs in the NBA. Certainly I don’t expect all of the young guys to improve, so I would put Duhon at around the worst 5-10 starting PGs in the NBA.

  19. Which, BTW, is the story I think is the key to this year: Will we be any better defensively, esp. late in games?

    Darko, Jeffries, Harrington, Chandler, and either Duhon, Hughes, or Douglas? Or put Jeffries on the PG and insert Gallo for his great hands length and instincts? Or vs. quicker teams, keep Darko out and play Jeffries, Gallo, Hughes, Chandler, and one of the PG’s?

    I am hoping that I am right in believing that we are more capable of matching up with the variety of lineups we will face. Last year, we had some impossible situations, defensively speaking. Seems like any good team could throw something at us that caused a glaring mismatch somewhere. For example, with Darko, Jeffries, Lee, Harrington, Gallo, Chandler, and eventually Hill and Curry (hopefully!) teams can’t just simply overmatch us with a big lineup.

  20. “Which, BTW, is the story I think is the key to this year: Will we be any better defensively, esp. late in games?”

    In a word, no. I would think the chances of us not being in the bottom 10 in defense are slim to quite slim.

  21. Once we took Jordan Hill, it made no sense to take Blair. We really needed a rotation caliber guard at that point. For me, the real issue is whether we should have taken a risk on a high upside guard (DeRozan, Jennings and Holiday were my favs among those still available) and then gone big with the lower pick (and had Blair fall into our lap; did anyone think he would last into the 2nd round?)

    Blair at #8 was a high risk pick, no matter how you look at it. The knees, the weight, the height, the attitude, the b-ball IQ will continue to be major concerns. Yes, he could wind up becoming Wes Unseld or Charles Barkley or Elton Brand; he could wind up being Paul Millsap; he could also wind up being Tractor Traylor, Mike Sweetney, or Oliver Miller. I was as high on Blair as anybody (see pre-draft chatter to verify.) There was no doubt in my mind that he was going to be a rebounding machine imediately and we already have one of those. At #30, he’s a great pick, but not at #8 and not at #30 when we just picked a PF at #8.

    One preseason game does not a career make.

  22. right, we should have taken Ty Lawson at #8. I’m still somewhat in shock at how badly Walsh fucked up draft day.

  23. Jon, respectfully, I appreciate the give and take, and would appreciate it even more if you could refrain from gratuitous profanity. My 7yo kid often reads over my shoulder when I peruse this site and, sad to say, knows the difference…some asterisks or something would be helpful.

    Back on point, I can understand why Walsh went big first (not that I agree with it.) He may have reasoned that getting a good big at the end of the first round is riskier that getting a goog guard, especially in what was considered by many to be a thin, and if anything, guard-heavy crop. I think he also needed DLee and Nate insurance in case those guys got unmatchable offers.

    Hopefully, Hill will blossom into an all star and the other teams will be thinking “how did we pass on Douglas?” sometime in the near future. I will say that I was all for rolling the dice on Blair at #8 and felt really stupid when he lasted so long. Now, not so much, although it is just one preseason game.

  24. Interesting post on Blair and the Spurs on Wages of Wins. It kills me that he fell to the Spurs… just when they are about to fade away.
    We could’ve bought a 2nd round pick and grabbed him. That would’ve been a coup. I would’ve traded out of the #8 if possible. It can be argued that Blair isn’t the best fit for us- I see him more as a Lee replacement than playing next to Lee.
    I don’t have much hope for Hill actually. I think we should give him the sink/swim test and see what he’s made of this year.

  25. I like Henry Abbott’s point a lot.
    I don’t know the intricacies of NBA front offices, but if you’re shelling out upwards of $100 million on a group of 15 employees you should definitely put up the pocket change it would take to have to have top flight front office talent who understand HR, psychology, statistics, and risk. I don’t think it’s logical to be making that kind of investment and just send someone to watch the guy play and then compare him to other players with his build and skillset… I would do my best to get inside the guy’s brain, his stats, and put together a coherent draft strategy. It requires top talent in those fields to do that. I’m convinced that a few million spent wisely in the front office can save tens of millions to put a similar or superior product on the court. You’re still going to make bad investments, but I think it would be a lot smarter than what most teams seem to do: pay one former player several million to make all the decisions and have a team of scouts and maybe a stats department as support.

    I think the Knicks absolutely could have taken both Jordan Hill and DeJuan Blair. They’re not in a position to be picky about which position a guy plays, they need talent. They’re not contending this season, so roster balance is a lot less important than talent. Of course, even if they were the Lakers I would still say take the best player available. By pick 30 it was pretty clear that Blair was worth the risk.
    I’m not upset they passed on Blair to take Douglas, though, because I like Douglas.
    The Hill pick looks like one of those obvious bad moves that makes you resent effectively paying the multi-million dollar salaries of the guys who made it through your fan dollars… I fear that I will resent them taking Hill over Blair, but I’m keeping the blind faith.

    Z-Man, you feel better about passing on Blair in favor of Hill now then you did before? Please explain…
    Donnie Walsh could use whatever reasoning he wanted going into the draft. At the end of the day drafting is about acquiring talent, and if he didn’t acquire the most talent that he could then he failed. Whatever his excuse. Time will tell whether he failed or succeeded.

  26. Speaking of Henry Abbot, loved his piece on Durant today. This time the stat expert consulted was Wayne Winston, who works for the Mavericks. He says Durant has been so bad on adjusted -/+ in his first two years that he would advise the Mavs not to take Durant even if they were offered him for free. It’s a long, good piece which finishes with an anonymous exec saying of Winston and his opinions: “he’s crazy.”

    Abbot does a nice job in this piece of crystallizing, through Durant, the essence of many stat debates, the difference between what we intuit from what we see happening out on the court and what the data says.

    Re Hill and Blair – I can’t even think about Blair or Lawson for that matter. It’s too painful.

  27. Ted,
    I didn’t say I felt better, only that I am not in second guessing mode just yet. I stated pretty clearly that at draft time I was gung-ho about taking him at #8, and that was not the prevailing sentiment at the time; in fact, only Caleb and I were noisy about it. If anyone on this site has license to criticize Walsh for not taking him based on what we said at the time, it’s us.

    I was trying to say is that I can appreciate the logic of 1) going big first in a guard-heavy draft, and 2) thinking that Hill is the safer “big” pick at #6. I can also appreciate that a sounder strategy might have been to go with a high-risk, high-reward guard like DeRozan, Jennings or Holiday (bad name to have today!) with the #8. I do think that it is comical that people are already concluding that Hill will be a bust and Blair will be a sure-fire star after one preseason game. Lots of people felt that Gallo was a dumb pick at #6 last year, but would those people trade him right now straight up for anyone picked below him? I sure wouldn’t.

    Would I trade Hill straight up for Blair right now? Based on Game 1 of the preseason and my inclinations on draft day, absolutely. But I don’t think Walsh had any illusions about Hill being an immediate impact player, so the question is, who was less likely to be a bust in 2-3 years? I am not going to crucify Walsh for playing it safe at #8 and not picking a guy with 2 ACL’s and documented weight issues already.

  28. I have seen a lot of bad basketball on my life but I don’t think anything I have ever seen tops the first quarter of the Knicks preaseason game. The only consolation is my joy in watching both Darko and Jared Jeffries on the floor together. It’s a beautiful thing.

  29. Guys, it’s preseason. One or two good performances by Blair during preseason mean nothing. It still doesn’t say anything about how he will hold up over a season, whether he will play well, whether he will play. How about we wait until the season starts before bashing Donnie Walsh?

  30. With Blair, the question was never whether he was a good rebounder, but rather would his body hold up. There’s no reason to think after 1 pre-season game his body would break down. A few years from now we’ll see what kind of contract he’s commanding…

    But bookmark the archives re: the 2009 pre-draft run-up. Love of Lawson and Blair was almost unanimous on this blog. It’ll be a good judge of weather good stats in college = good player in the NBA.

  31. “One or two good performances by Blair during preseason mean nothing.”

    I disagree. Summer league and preseason games actually have a fair bit of predictive value. Far more than say last years season for a baseball player. I have seen enough Wages of Wins and Br posts to know that. Sure the games don’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things, and yes they don’t tell you as much as regular season games, but this performance is, I believe, a pretty honest signal that Blair is going to be an excellent NBA rebounder, especially considering how good he was at in college. What that is worth is up for debate.

    For my money he has Reggie Evans written all over him, but with a lot more offensive polish, and that isn’t a bad thing.

    On the other side of ledger, Jordan Hill had a nice line tonight.

    (I know, I know, it’s preseason…)

  32. Hill looked nice tonight. (Yes, I watched through the 4th quarter of a preseason blowout v. the Celts. I need a whole team of therapists working round-the-clock.)

    Granted he was going up against Big Baby Davis and Shelden Williams for a chunk of his pt, but he was an active on the boards and finished strong. That fadeaway he takes isn’t pretty, though.

    I hear you Owen w/r/t Blair. Imagine an alternate universe where Walsh dealt the 8th pick for Minnesota’s 19th and a Jeffries/Cardinal contract dump, then took Lawson & Blair. Continuing my fantasy world, he then sign n’ traded Lee for R. Fernandez and Travis Outlaw. Helluva rotation:

    PG Duhon/Lawson
    SG Fernandez
    PF Chandler/Blair
    C Harrington/Milicic


  33. Don’t you just love it when people try to evaluate a draft after just 1-2 preseason games? Why even play the rest of the season? We can just hand out the rookie of the year today to Blair. Keep your heads up fellows. Douglas and Hill will come around.

    It is a long season, and a career is even longer. But this season will be the longest ever if Jared leads the team in 3PA and is dead last in 3PM.

    Jerome James announced his retirement in a statement released today…oh wait a minute, this retirement statement is dated July 14, 2005.

  34. Robert,

    That power forward/Center line up troubles me. It’s down right Don Nelsonian. That aside, not an awful way to go. What does it do to the 2010 cap room?

  35. I think we are actually focusing on the wrong draft here. Although the Blair / Hill thing might have been a mistake looking back later in the season. How about Gallinari? I have been as excited to see him play as anyone. He does not have NBA athleticism. He is not at all aggressive. All he does is stand in the corner hoping someone remembers he is there so he can shoot a 3. Nothing more to his game at all. Looks totally and completely afraid to compete out there.

  36. Anyone see the article on truehoop about Kevin Durant

    Basically, the article says that KD has incredible personal stats and talent, but that the +/- when he is on the floor is worse than whens hes outta the game. I still don’t fully follow advanced stats (will read the layman’s guide one of these days) but did anyone see that? Any superior statisticians make any sense of the argument?

  37. Both teams looked horrible in the first half. Celtics picked it up in 2nd. After the first game, I made a comment about the prospect of us taking 30+ 3’s a game. This is what we have o look forward to on off nights.

    That was the Jeffries we all know and love.

    Hill vs. Wallace was intriguing in that they looked physically similar. That might be the guy Hill should try to emulate (not to suggest that he will ever get there…). I will say that Hill looked more like an NBA player.

    In first quarter, it was clear that Perkins was going to go right at Lee. That’s 2 games in a row where Lee looked overmatched at center by good, but non-elite players (Lopez and Perkins.) Darko looked good defensively but his shot looked putrid. It didn’t stand out in the brick-a-thon that was last night, but his offensive game looks just plain bad.

    Sweetney was painful to look at. I can’t recall a guy ever letting himself go to that degree. Wish him well, though…

  38. Also, looks like Douglas got a lesson on defense vs. House. Can’t give the quick release pro guards an inch.

  39. Rayhed – I posted briefly on that piece above yours. Advanced stats encompasses both +/- and adjusted +/- techniques (what Winston uses) and advanced box score analysis like Win Shares, Wins Produced etc.

    I think any statistician will tell you that the hype, so far, far outstrips actual performance with Durant. He was solidly below average his rookie year, although he came on strong at the end. In his second year he was solidly above average but fell well short of achieving star levels of productivity. His stats were gaudy but flimsy, heavy on the scoring with pronounced weaknesses in non-scoring categories. (awesome fantasy player though.)

    There has been a long running debate about Durant between statheads and the rest of the world. It basically boils down to one side saying ‘this is what Durant has been so far,’ and the other side saying, that’s impossible, look at what he is about to become.

    Winston’s method, which I can’t say I understand completely, would try to account for strength of schedule, strength of lineups opposed, etc. However, one year is a tiny sample. You have to take that kind of opinion with a grain of salt, or at least say its empirical support isn’t rock solid.

    That said, it’s not hard to imagine why Durant might not have helped his team. The value of scoring ability, even efficient scoring, is easily diluted by a high turnover rate, which Durant certainly had last year despite improvement. And he adds very very little in other quantifiable aspects of the game, in addition to having a very poor defensive reputation.

    But if I were an NBA gm with my choice of Thunder players I would still draft Durant first off that team, though perhaps just because I would get killed if I didn’t…

  40. We almot have to think of this as Gallo’s rookie year. He really did not get man meaningful minutes lat year due to the injury. Lets see what he has. I dont he will continue to shoot that porrly, as i did not expect JJ to go 3-4 from deep every game this year. The great thing about this time of year is that you can be as upbeat as you want; your hopes wont be dashed until at least the middle of December–I hope.

  41. I think all the Blair talk is more of an “I told you so” response than evaluating him as a draft pick based on 1 preseason game. There’s a good chance he won’t see many minutes this season for SA.
    Personally, my reaction was more about how he fell to 37 than really against Walsh. I do think Hill has more bust potential than Blair, although who knows about the knees thing… I have a lot of hope for Hill, but I would call it blind faith–like with Wilson Chandler–because we’re hoping for an improvement instead of finding someone in the ruff who is already a diamond. Then again, if Hill becomes a good defender, that would be plenty for me. Could take a few years, though.
    I think Z-Man’s comment about emulating Sheed (besides the whole technical foul and I only try when I feel like it things) is a good point. Sort of a more athletic Kurt Thomas with a longer shooting range really, which is the comparison that’s been floating around. Would like to see him be a more efficient scorer than Sheed, of course, but even if he’s not if he can be the kind of quite defensive presence Sheed has been than it was a great pick.
    I just think it has the feel of the typical mid-lottery why did they just take the best bigman available pick… I’m certainly hoping it wasn’t. The way Hill was hyped leading up to the draft it could also prove to be a everyone projected this guy as a top 5 or even top 3 pick, why did teams pass on the sure thing pick.


    My main point was just that my draft philosophy is to take the best player available. I wasn’t trying to say Walsh made the wrong calls on talent, I’m just saying that if it turns out he did make the wrong calls then the reason is pretty irrelevant to me (unless it’s a freak injury or unforeseeable off the court issue). Maybe that’s unfair, but I just can’t feel too sorry for a guy who gets paid millions a year to do what I take to be a pretty simple job.
    I definitely think Walsh made the right call passing on Blair at #8: he could have had him later, even before the unexpected slide. I think Walsh was in a pretty touch spot at #8 and I really don’t know what I would have done. My inclination is that I would have tried to get good value trading down, but who knows what was available and if Hill was the top guy left on your board I guess you take him.
    The huge difference, to me, between Gallo and Hill is that Gallo performed well against tough competition while there are some questions about Hill’s college performance on a hugely underachieving team. Most of the people who thought Gallo was a stupid pick had never even seen him play (maybe for the national team…) or heard of advanced stats.

    cgreene, I think you are completely off base on Gallinari but time will tell…

    “It’ll be a good judge of weather good stats in college = good player in the NBA.”

    There’s a huge sample out there with which to examine this, you don’t have to limit it to two players. Certainly the draft involves a high amount of risk, but when you look at the historic college player rankings of someone like Hollinger or Doerr it’s pretty hard to argue that there’s no value to examining college stats.

  42. PG Duhon/Lawson
    SG Fernandez
    PF Chandler/Blair
    C Harrington/Milicic

    W/this rotation you have Lawson, Fernandez, Gallo, Blair and Chandler (and of course Big Eddy) under contract. It’s basically where we are now minus JJ plus 1million or so for Rudy F (Outlaw has an expiring deal). Depending on the cap, that’s 25 million or so in space.

    Regarding Gallinari, yeah he looked lost v. Boston, but I’m not ready to start pining for Gordon or Lopez or A. Randolph yet. I think he’ll have a very solid 2nd year – 16 ppg, 5 rpg, 2 apg – a lot like what Nowitzki did in year 2 w/Dallas. Their stats for their rookie year (when both were 20) are remarkably similar, actually:


  43. I can’t add much to Owen’s comments on Durant, but a few points:

    -The value of +/- is debated. I think there’s some value there to seeing man defense but I haven’t looked into it nearly enough to understand how exactly.

    -I think it’s fair to say that Durant hasn’t been as good so far as people think he has, but that he’s got a lot of potential (as Owen pretty much says). He plays on a bad team. It would be best to play on a great team, obviously, but he could shine in a Larry Brown 76ers type team built around one scorer with a bunch of defenders and good passers around him.
    Slightly reminicent of Iverson, but what was really impressive about last season was that he was basically the only scorer on his team and still scored very efficiently.

    -His TO-rate is actually pretty low because his usage is so high… His TOs/36 were actually equivalent to LeBron’s last season, his TO-rate a bit higher (LeBron is higher usage).

    -There’s a lot of offensive talent there, but when you’re expected to be an all-time great the way Durant seems to be it’s hard to live up to expectations. Presti has a lot of work to do surrounding him with talent. Harden could be a nice running mate to Durant.

  44. The other thing to consider w/r/t Blair is that historically (or at least in the 80’s/90’s when PF’s were expected to be 6’9″ at the minimum), undersized PF’s tend to peak very early and then fade rapidly (Barkley being the exception that proves the rule). Larry Johnson, Elton Brand, C. Weatherspoon, Danny Fortson, Reggie Evans, Calvin Natt, Malik Rose all had their best seasons at age 27 or younger.

    What the reason is for this I can’t say for sure. Possibly b/c once they lose any athleticism (either due to age or injury), a small PF becomes overmatched. Coupled w/the fact that Blair doesn’t have any ACL’s, a good comparable would be the aforementioned Danny Fortson – a tough, wide yet small PF who put up great rebounding #’s for a few years but was out of the league by age 30.

    Hill, on the other hand, if he develops, could have a Dale Davis/Kurt Thomas/PJ Brown-type career (Ol’ Crazy Eyes was called a bust, if y’all recall, when Miami drafted him w/the 10th pick back in the 90’s). The 6’10″+ PF’s tend, when they’re good, to remain effective for longer in their careers.

    And yeah, this is waaaaaayyyy too much speculation after two effing pre-season games.

  45. My observation (not scientific at all) is that +/- is harsh on guys who play big minutes on bad teams. It’s partially their fault that the team is bad, but a lot of it’s circumstantial.
    Durant played 39 minutes per game for 74 games. No idea what happened the 8 games he missed (who they played if they played better or worse and why…). For the 9 mpg he was on the bench we might be talking about the last minute or two of a quarter, the last 4 or 5 minutes of a blow out loss, etc. If OKC is down 20 and finishes a quarter with a 4-0 run in the last minute of the quarter or goes on a nice 8-2 run at the end of the 4th it makes Durant’s +/- look pretty bad. I don’t know anything about Winston’s method, but people try to correct partially for this by using quality of other guys on the court, etc. Know idea how effective that is.

    On the negative side for Durant, maybe he’s got a bit of a Curry effect. Bad defender plus focal point of the offense to the point where his efficient scoring is counteracted by how insanely insistent the offense is on trying to get him the ball: no movement, everyone mostly standing around and trying to get the ball to that one guy.

  46. Let’s not flip out over Blair just yet, lots of people have good preseasons that don’t translate immediately to results. Marco Belinelli was scaring the shit out of people his first preseason, for example, and he’s not a star yet even he has some promise. I think Blair, even before the preseason, looked like he had an extremely good chance of being a solid role player on San Antonio or any team, but it’s super early.

  47. Is anyone else concerned that D’Antoni’s already calling out Gallo’s game shape? I assume that means Gallo won’t be in the starting lineup, at least for the first month, maybe less. I would like to see a line up of: Duhon, Chandler, Harrington, Lee, Darko.
    Lee obviously can’t defend centers and Harrington has slimmed down enough that maybe he can play the 3, switching on D with Chandler if need be. This is a pretty tall lineup with good shooting and good passing big men and hopefully some shotblocking from Darko. The forward D is a little soft, but it could be a well rounded starting lineup, at least until Gallo starts to show his promise.

  48. After 2 meaningless pre-season games most of the Knicks beat writers are calling Gallo a bust and a major problem for the Knicks. Amazing.

  49. “Dajuan Blair put in 28 in 26 minutes on 11-13. hmmmm the force is strong in this one.”

    Someone keep Jon from the sharp objects, me too.

    Just pisses me off so much…

  50. Just pisses me off so much…

    If the stories are true that the Knicks decided to trade with the Lakers specifically to get Douglas, so when Blair suddenly popped up still available at that pick (when he should have been scooped up by then) they felt they should stick with the move they had acquired the pick for…well, I would not be pleased.

    Hmmm…I guess that should not really irritate me any more than them just plain ol’ deciding that Douglas was a better pick than Blair.

  51. You would hope GMs and all their staff would change their draft selection based on the talent available and not some pre-draft position. I guess they wanted to get some help at point–kids don’t draft for need, get talent–and Douglas was the best option. But with Blair available, take Blair and look for a point with a trade of FA. Of course in a perfect world Hill goes the GS, we take Curry, we take Blair, and that short length of rope in my basement goes unused this season.

  52. I think we all really need to chill a little on Blair until he’s actually played one regular season NBA game. Let’s see a body of work before we burn Donnie Walsh in effigy. The same folks who are criticizing writers like Mark Vermin for burying Gallo after 2 preseason games are willing to anoint Blair the next Karl Malone. Contrary to rumors, the sky is not falling, can we wait until the season starts to start panicking?

  53. I should point out that Blair’s line last night–28 in 26 on 11-13–was against a heat front line that features Beasely, Haslem (17 minutes), and 1 of the 2 centers the Heat got with their “buy-1-center-get-1-free coupon” (Joel Anthony). So maybe Blair took advantage, but its still impressive even if it does not count.

    On the other hand, can any Knick fan envision Hill putting up that line other than as a ringer in a Pop Warner basket ball league?

  54. “I think we all really need to chill a little on Blair until he’s actually played one regular season NBA game. Let’s see a body of work before we burn Donnie Walsh in effigy. The same folks who are criticizing writers like Mark Vermin for burying Gallo after 2 preseason games are willing to anoint Blair the next Karl Malone. Contrary to rumors, the sky is not falling, can we wait until the season starts to start panicking?”

    I don’t think anyone was calling Blair the next Karl Malone. It seems that the bar right now is set at Toney Douglas, which is significantly lower.

    As for Blair’s long term hopes, who cares if he’s good in 5 years? Aren’t the Knicks hoping to compete now? If so and Blair will only give you 4 very good years, isn’t it worth more than getting a Kurt Thomas type player for 8 years?

  55. And it’s not like it’s “Wow, Blair had two good preseason games, he must be good!”

    It’s “Blair was great in college, and looked to have the exact skills you need to translate into a good NBA player (just maybe not one who will last long because of injury issues), and then had two good preseason games where he showed the exact same skills we thought he’d have in the NBA.”

  56. No Brian, Dejaun Blair is more than a player who looks to have the “exact skills you need to translate into a good NBA player and then had two strong preseason games.”

    Dejuan Blair just beat Chuck Norris 11-7 in 1 on 1. Chuck freakin Norris!!

  57. That’s very funny…

    And I totally agree with this.

    “who cares if he’s good in 5 years? Aren’t the Knicks hoping to compete now? If so and Blair will only give you 4 very good years, isn’t it worth more than getting a Kurt Thomas type player for 8 years?”

    Whether a guy is going to break down long term is something you worry about when you sign him to his first free agent contract, not when you are signing him to a rookie contract.

  58. d-mar, it’s not just about Donnie Walsh but NBA decision makers in general. Walsh is just the only one Knicks fans are particularly mad at about it. It also hurts other teams’ fans that much more that the same team that out-foxed the rest of the NBA on moves ranging from Manu to Parker to Bowen seem to have done it again, only this time when everyone with their eyes open saw it coming. The interesting part is that with Duncan, Bonner, Mahinmi, McDyess, and Ratliff all on the roster Blair might not even see the court much this season.

    Douglas looks like he can be a solid player if he ever gets his shot going, so I’m not too worried about taking him over Blair.

    The one thing that does worry me about Walsh’s decision making is how tied he seems to be to D’Antoni’s system: he gave away the team’s best defender (Balkman) and has drafted largely in line with guys who might fit a system. Talent should be the first criteria and fit the second. If someone has no talent the fit is completely irrelevant. I’m not saying Walsh is putting fit first, but if he is that’s a huge mistake. Roberson was an example of going for fit over talent, as well as probably just an example of completely misjudging talent. Roberson and Balkman are fairly small stakes deals, but if Walsh passed on better players in the draft that could be huge.

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