11/22/04 Odds & Ends

If you watched the Mavs game Friday night, you know the Knicks had two chances to win the game. Down by two, Marbury passed on a three to give an ego boost to Tim Thomas by letting him attempt the final trey. Thomas missed but the ball went out of bounds and the Knicks had another chance. Still down by 2, they threw it to Crawford who missed his newly patented 50 footer.

Down by only 2 points, New York attempted two three pointers and missed both. Isn’t it logical for them to have tried for a 2 instead? I thought about this hard, and the best I could come up with is no. Let’s assume that you’re an NBA coach and have the option of a two pointer or a three pointer with a few seconds left and your team is down by two. The NBA average for three pointers is about 35%, and let’s assume the average NBA two pointer is about 50%. So let’s compare the two options:

A. Attempt 3 pointer:
Chance of winning = 35%

B. Attempt 2 pointer & try to win in OT.
Chance of hitting 2 pointer = 50%
Chance of winning in OT = 50%
Chance of winning = chance of hitting 2 pointer * chance of winning in OT
= 50% * 50% = 25%

With these general odds, it looks like the three pointer is a better chance. However what if we account for the home court advantage? We know that the chance of winning at home is 61%. So the odds of playing for the two and winning in OT at home rise to 30% (50% * 61%). On the road it drops to 20% (50% * 39%). There are hundreds of values you could put in this equation: accounting for the shooters you have, their ability to get open, whether the opposing team has better perimeter or paint defenders, what the defense gives you, how effective your team is getting open, etc. However from what I saw that night, the Knicks had a good open look (actually they had two if you consider Marbury passing on his attempt), so the odds should be just about equal to the player’s ability to hit the three.

Quick Trivia: In per game averages, which Knick is 4th in scoring, 3rd in rebounds, 2nd in free throws (attempted & made), and 1st in eFG%?

Is it me or are the Knicks forcing themselves to play Tim Thomas more? In his first 5 games, Thomas never went over 25 minutes. In the 4 games since, he’s done it 3 times. The Knicks don’t want his value to slide to nothing whether they’re trying to move him, or if he’s coming off the bench. The only problem is his time has come at the expense of Ariza’s. Inversely to Thomas’ minutes, Trevor played 20+ minutes in the Knicks’ first 5 games, but he hasn’t topped that mark since then.

The SF position has become even more cloudy, as Jerome Williams is starting to make a name for himself. Lenny Wilkens put him out there for 24 minutes against Nowitzki, and the Junk Yard Dog lived up to his name by hounding the 7 foot German. Throw in Penny Hardaway who according to 82games.com plays 1/3 of his minutes at SF, and New York has a real logjam. There doesn’t seem to be a clear solution in sight. Thomas and Hardaway are nearly untradeable due to their large contracts, while trading Ariza would be insane due to his potential. I’d hate to see Jerome Williams go, because his game is uniquely different from anyone else’s on the team. So maybe everyone stays until the summer, when Hardaway and Thomas become more attractive as $30M in expiring contracts.

How long before message boards fill up with Artest to (insert poster’s team) trade scenarios?

Getting back to Tim Thomas, his per minute averages are about the same across the board except for points & assists. The drop in his assists go hand in hand with his poor shooting (34% eFG%), because he’s really not involved in the offense these days. This makes me think the problem may not be physical due to the back injury he suffered last year. If it were, I would expect his stats based on physical ability (steals, rebounds) would see the biggest change.

Guest-KnickerBlogger David Crocket said Tim Thomas “may be staring over the edge of the same cliff Roberto Alomar dove off.” Since his decline seems to be related primarily to his shot, maybe he took a turn down Chuck Knoblauch Lane? OK, so he’s hasn’t regressed to the point where Thomas is hitting fans in the stands with his jumper. But he’s suddenly & inexplicably lost his ability to make a shot. Watching Thomas it’s hard to tell if he’s mentally unhappy, since his usual game looks uninspired (not rebounding, not hustling, etc.) It’ll be interesting to see if he can snap out of his shooting funk because everything else is right where it should be.

The Knicks’ still haven’t put out a good defensive effort with respect to shooting percentage. Their last two opponents shot an identical 49.4% (eFG), still well over the league average (47.3%). That makes them 3-0 when they outshot their opponent, and 1-5 when out-gunned.

Before the year started I predicted the Knicks odds of their first 20 games. It looked like they would be most likely to win between 8 & 9 games. Of their next 10 games, only 2 are against winning teams. They play the victorically challenged Hornets, the perennially awful Hawks twice, and expansion team Charlotte. Given that they play 8 games against losing teams, it wouldn’t be ridiculous for them to win 6 of their next 10 and bring their record up to a respectable 9-9.

Trivia Answer: Michael Sweetney. The Knicks second year PF is putting up great numbers, despite being 7th in the team in minutes. He’s also 2nd in blocks per game, and 4th in steals per game.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of KnickerBlogger.net. His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

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