2008 Season Preview: The Frontcourt

The Frontcourt
This year the New York offense will center around their big men. Last year Eddy Curry shot efficiently, and was a good rebounder on the offensive end. But he struggled to find his teammates when double teamed and turned the ball over too frequently. It’s possible that Curry was overused on offense, and was force fed the ball more than he was comfortable with. This year Zach Randolph should be able to take some of the scoring burden off of Curry. Randolph and Curry’s games overlap in many of the same areas. Both can score in the low post, both are turnover happy, and both have trouble sharing the ball with their teammates. If you want to get more granular in the comparison Randolph isn’t as efficient with his shot, but he’s a better rebounder, passer, and turns the ball over less often.

Despite Randolph’s near All Star level offensive game, it’s unclear whether he will help the offense in 2008. Zach replicates much of Curry’s game, so the law of diminishing returns comes into play. Additionally he’s taking minutes away from the last year’s most effective Knick: David Lee. The second year player was a perfect compliment to his ball-needy teammates, providing excellent rebounding and finishing around the basket. Barring an injury to Randolph or Curry, Lee will be lucky to match his 2007 average of 29.8 min/g. On the other hand, Randolph will also assume some of the minutes the team gave to Channing Frye and Malik Rose, who were horribly unproductive last year. Lee’s injury was devastating to the Knicks not only because they lost his production, but because Frye & Rose had to pick up the slack. This year the Knicks are better protected against injury with their depth.

For all the optimism on the offensive pairing of Zach Randolph with Eddy Curry, there should be an equal amount of pessimism on the defensive end. Say what you want about Channing Frye, but Frye?s blocked shot rate (0.9 BLK/40) is greater than the sum of Randolph (0.2) and Curry (0.6). Knicks on the perimeter that are looking at the front court to erase their mistakes will be sorely disappointed. It’s possible that Curry could become more aggressive in the paint. His block rate nearly halved last year as he attempted to avoid foul trouble. With a second scorer, it?s possible that Isiah isn?t as reliant on Curry to stay on the court.

If you’re looking for a silver lining defensively, Randolph was nearly 1 defensive rebound per 40 minutes better than Frye last year, so that should help the defense slightly. David Lee is an average defender, but certainly not better than that. Compared to Randolph and Curry, Lee has good foot speed, but he has trouble with bigger players. Ultimately New York will give the Milwaukee Bucks (Bogut, Villanueva, and Jianlian) a run for the money when it comes to the NBA’s worst defensive frontcourt trio.

At the end of the Knicks’ bench will be Malik Rose and Randolph Morris. Rose will see time due to his defense. He’s a shrewd and tenacious defender, but he’s physically limited what what he can accomplish. On the other end of the court Rose is an awful shooter who frequently gets stuffed underneath the basket. Undersized for his position, Rose no longer has the lift to score down low. Ironically Rose’s best asset on the offensive end is his ability to pass the ball into the post, something the guards have trouble doing.

Nearly the opposite of Rose is Morris. At 6-10, Morris is able to play either forward or center, and only has 43 minutes of NBA action under his belt. In the summer he was able to face up players on the blocks and shoot from 12 feet. We’re still unsure exactly what his strengths and weaknesses are, but this year we should get the chance to find out. Jerome James will eat up a roster spot and anything with 3 feet of his mouth.

Liked it? Take a second to support Mike Kurylo on Patreon!

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).

26 thoughts to “2008 Season Preview: The Frontcourt”

  1. You dont even deserve to write about the Knicks.
    You are by far the worse(right up there with Isola)Knick blogger out of the bunch.Do us a favor and hang em up.

  2. Mike-

    I think Meth was a reviewer on my latest journal submission. I’d recognize that “You don’t even deserve…” and “You are by far the worst…” anywhere.

  3. Method my man,

    Did you skip the morning coffee today?

    Are you feeling alright?

    Do you need a hug?

    Then go hug a cactus!! What are talking about calling the Knickerblogger the worst? As fas as I am concerned, this site is required reading for all Knick fans. I visit daily and I post maybe 3 times a day. If my boss every found out how much time I spend doing this… Anyway I am getting off the point.

    Method you would do well to offer constructive critiques of the content. For example, when posts show up that go into all the crazy player and team stats, I usually tell Mike K. to dumb it down a bit for me. I don’t get all that eFG%, TS%, and BS. Guess what happened? Mike K. posts an article on stats that I can actually understand (thanks Mike K.).

    Method my man, the internet is vast, near limitless. Isnt it just easier for you to avoid this site rather than telling Mike K. to “hang em up?” Perhaps you should visit other sites. Let me make a recomendation…

    To help release those pent up feelings.

    To help you learn to play well with others.

    This site should help you deal with your other problem. (Okay that was low. I;m just kidding about this one.)

    The best thing about this site is that you free to disagree. That’s why I love it here.

    Yes boss, I’m closing the Williams file right now.

    Gotta go.

  4. even though jerome james jokes are so easy and predictable, they always at least get a chuckle out of me.

    why the knicks did not release jj (releasing either would be fine with me), i have no idea. i guess the only reason james is on the roster is in case of a severe injury to a frontcourt player. even though the knicks are well over the cap, an injury exemption could be used to sign up a scrub off the junk heap to fulfill james supposed role., right?

    is kelvin cato out of the league? he might make sense since he outplayed james last time he was on the team.

  5. “even though jerome james jokes are so easy and predictable, they always at least get a chuckle out of me.”

    You know I swore I wouldn’t write one, but it was just too tempting. They’re too hard to avoid – you really have to try. Unfortunately I don’t possess the willpower.

  6. David Lee should lead the team in minutes, with Randolph a close second. If there are 96 minutes at the 4 and 5 positions per game, Eddy should get 30 (a little less than last year), Zach should get 35 (his average last year), and Lee should get the remaining 31 minutes, plus 5 or 6 extra minutes at small forward. Teams need three or four contributors.

    I also believe that either Lee or Balkman should be on the court at all times, which means that Balkman must start at the 3 and Q must move to the 2.

  7. I think the Knick’s problems will lie in the backcourt; poor perimeter shooting percentage and
    perimeter defense will haunt them. The bigs will learn to work together with time; do you really think Magic Johnson would have a problem working with this unit, or Steve Nash for that matter?.
    The Basketball IQ of the Guards has to elevate this year to a higher level. They need to move the ball and hit open shots all season long. They are the coaches on the floor that spot matchup problems, and keep all their teammates involved. Their ability to break defenses down and get in the paint will create all types of easy baskets for the bigs. They need to score some easy baskets off of turnovers and take pressure off of Curry and Randolph. Crawford has to stop falling in love with the 3 point shot and play from 18 feet in. The Guards had an awful shooting percentage last year and this has to improve. I think the Curry/Randolph thing is a storyline to sell, as if 2 big people never played together in the history of Basketball. More importiantly, If the 2 bigs don’t defend and help each other defensively, they’ll be on the bench.
    Who cares who starts and finishes, the matchups will determine who plays with who. Winning will determine the lineup. Its up to Marbury, Crawford, Robinson and Collins to make this work.
    They have the ball.

  8. Anyone want to make an over/under bet on Randolph’s TS% for the year? I will set the line at 54%….

    The thing that continues to worry me about Randolph is that he really is not a very efficient scorer. I have made the point before, but his shooting numbers are pretty poor. Last year, he was actually less efficient than Stephon Marbury. He has had one year in which he was ove 55%, then his injury happened. His career number is pretty abysmal at 51.9%.

    The story of Eddy and Zach seems to be about the latter’s ability to shoot the mid range jumper. Bu there really aren’t that many people who shoot mid range jumpers efficiently in the NBA, and Zach is not one of them. Take away his high percentage inside opportunities, stick him on the perimeter shooting jumpers, and he could end up being extremely inefficient.

    Really, a lot of Randolph’s value comes from his rebounding. Otherwise, he so far has been a high volume, low efficiency scorer…

    Anyway, that, and everything I have said a million times about Curry, those are my frontcourt concerns.

    Unbelievable the season is finally starting…

  9. Cavs took D. Nichols off waivers. Nice fit.

    Owen, I’ll take the over, in the spirit of optimism for the new season. 54% is a good guess, though.

    His career mark is hurt by poor play in the seasons around the injury; he dropped off dramatically from his first years in the league.

    He was at 53.7% last year, and if you take the injury years into account, it’s more or less on line with his career arc. 54% is holding steady, and he’s young enough that I still expect some improvement.

    You’re right that it will hurt him to be further away from the basket. On the other hand, I won’t be surprised if Eddy misses a chunk of time, which will open up the middle.

    I also think Zach’s efficiency will improve a bit as his usage rate goes down, and as he’s surrounded by better offensive players than in Portland (not hard to find).

  10. “the Curry/Randolph thing is a storyline to sell, as if 2 big people never played together in the history of Basketball.”

    They’re not even that big. A center, PF tandem that averages 6’10” is pretty small considering many teams boast small forwards that height.

    They are wide bodied, though, and play similarly flawed games, so the story line is there.

    “If the 2 bigs don?t defend and help each other defensively, they?ll be on the bench.”

    In favor of who? Lee at center, Balkman at PF?

    J. James is the best interior defender on the team, but alas, his injuries are catching up with him…

  11. I just read that our old friend Stevie Franchise, who was expecting to be the starting PG this year, has failed to even make the rotation in Houston…

  12. Francis sucked. We all could see he was a shadow of his former self.

    I have a feeling that Curry will be out a lot this year. Lee is going to get a lot of minutes, if for no other reason, Zeke wants to preserve his job.
    The fact of the matter is, if the Knicks have another bad year, he’s gone.
    Lee, as has been argued here ad infinitum, is the most efficient and well-rounded player on the Knicks. As a result, he is a great complement to either Curry or Randolph, who require the ball.
    Balkman also will be a big contributor this year, and I predict he will displace Q at the three.
    The Knicks weakness is their dumb guards. Crawford for all his tools doesn’t have much basketball IQ in the attic. I cringed at a story today in the NY Post where Isiah was saying Crawford wasn’t taking enough shots in the preseason…He shouldn’t be shooting more than 10 times a game at the rates he shoots at! He should be a juice guy off the bench.
    And Marbury is just not that bright, period. He is not a great passer, has too many TOs, his physical skills are diminishing and he is a poor defender.
    Crawford and Marbury are terrible defenders.

    That leads me to believe Isiah has two key decisions that need to be made:
    Isiah must decided to start Robinson at the one at some point this season, or at least give him the majority of minutes there. He defends well, has learned to distribute, and has learned to control his emotions. And he’ll get you 6 to 8 boards a game ala Jason Kidd because of his strength and explosiveness.
    Q, Crawford and Marbury would then have to wrestle for major minutes at the 2.

    If you don’t have D on the perimeter, you have a disaster waiting to happen. The Knicks are a bottom five defensive team and that will more than offset their improved offense.

    That means unless they decided to get Robinson and Q playing heavy minutes at the guard positions, the Knicks will be a less than .500 team and outside looking in at the playoffs.

    Whether Isiah has the moxie to make those calls remains to be seen. But there is great wisdom in admitting you’re wrong if it leads to wins. He’s been wrong on Marbury and Crawford.

  13. I cant help but laugh when people try and pin Curry and Zachs problems on the guards.

    They dont make others better but its okay because they shouldn’t be the focus of the offense anyway .they should be major cogs but no one on the knicks teams should be an offensive focal point.You have 5 guys capable of scoring so thats the philosophy you use.All it takes is really good scouting and game plan preparation.

    How is anyone declaring Nate as ready based on preseason ?The only place to prove anything is during the regular season.Crawford had great pre- seasons the last two years only to not start.He easily outplayed Francis and Qrich the past two seasons but didnt get the nod because starters dont lose their jobs over preseason games .They have to really stink it up in practice to do so.Come regular season if Crawford doesnt show then he sits but any changes based on stats in meaningless games is ridiculous .

    Back to the front court I wouldve put the emphasis on not posting Eddy and Zach up but having them do nothing but screen,cut,pass and allow them to get a good game scenario feel for one another.make it equally more important for them to set the correct screen at the correct time as is for them to get good post position.

    Crawford and Marbury got Nazr and Kurt to double figures with them being able to do only that just think what they could do if Curry and Zach added bigman skills to their games.

  14. As much I have despised Nate Robinson in the past, I have to say that it looks like he was trying to push the ball and make the quick pass.

    I think the key to the knicks will be defining roles. This team is very deep, but I feel like it as the potential to be a jumbled mess. We have to feed it inside, and allow our best player, David Lee, to clean up on the boards. Our PG play and david lee will be what drives us this year.

  15. Luke:
    Nate had a great preseason and was a dominant player in the summer league. And he didn’t dominate in the summer league and preseason play because of his energy and scoring. He was that dominant because he was a sharper passer, had few turnovers, and ran the offense efficiently. He also controlled his emotions unlike he had done before.
    While that isn’t regular season play, he was doing all the things well that had been seen as weaknesses of his.
    On the other hand, Crawford and Marbury were no shows. In a season that is as defining for Zeke and the Knicks as this one will be, you would have expected both guys to come out breathing fire every game. But as usual, they seemed to mail it in when it counted the most.
    I’m not sure I understand why people are so into Crawford, frankly. He’s a guy that can score 30 on any given night, and yet is is almost as likely to shoot 3 for 15 and get 8 points, which is interesting given he averaged something like 17 per, shooting 40 percent, with 4 APGs, and almost 3 TOs per game, virtually no blocks per game, and 3 RPGs.
    I mean, if he is your starting two with those numbers, you have a bad team…and, oh, yeah, he played for a shitty Chicago squad and a shitty Knicks squad. What a shock.
    And well, then there is Marbury, your starting point guard. He gets 16 ppg, at a lights out 41 percent shooting, 5 assists, almost 3 RPGs, virtually no blocks, one steal, and 2.4 TOs.
    If that is your starting PG, you suck.
    And, oh yeah, everywhere the guy has played his teams have sucked. What a shock.

    Nazr and Thomas scored in double figures, again because someone had to get some points for the Knicks. I mean, if those guys are scoring in double figures on your team, well, you probably suck.
    And the Knicks did. What a shock.
    In fact, any time either of those players played on a decent team, I don’t even think they were starters.

    Watching Marbury try to pass into the post last year was painful. Watching Crawford heave up prayers like he did was awful.
    And watching either give up on defense made my stomach churn.

    I can tell you this: we have seen what Crawford and Marbury can do, and it ain’t that impressive.
    What I have seen of Robinson so far this year is more balanced: more committed to defense, a more dangerous scorer, a far, far better rebounder, and better passer, and a player with the ability to turn it on or off when his team needs it.
    In my view, he won a starting role this summer and this preseason.
    I was a Robinson critic. You can read back on my posts. I have been very critical. But so far this year, he’s showing something none of us had seen in the first couple years.

    How often do we all have to make excuses for guys like Crawford and Marbury, who time and time again leave us all feeling underwhelmed at their commitment, their intensity on defense and their basketball acumen.

    Their upside is gone and they’re both on or near the backsides of their careers. Each is destined to be the best player on bad teams…

    This Knicks team has outgrown them. There are young guys who are playing hard and well who will sub-plant them this season.

    Zach and Curry, guys who need to be fed the ball – let’s face it, like most big men – need guards that understand how to use their strengths and offset their weaknesses.

  16. Nate has been a better player than Crawford the past two years, and a better offensive player than Marbury, too… so I love the guy. But, I don’t think he can run the point, responsibly, full-time. He’s a shooting guard in a little man’s body, and he has a long way to go before he’s even average on defense. (as for D – you could say the same for Crawford & Marbury).

    If I could make one semi-feasible move to improve the team – it would be finding a pass-first point guard who can defend a little bit. I’m thinking of guys like Calderon, Jarrett Jack, Chris Duhon… Marbury could move to the 2, to be a scorer and not have to chase quick PGs on his bad knees. Nate would be a potent 3rd guard. If they weren’t gone in the trade (good luck getting anyone to take them), Q would still get minutes at the 2 and 3 and Crawford would take notes.

    I would make pretty much anyone on our roster available, depending on the quality of the PG coming back. A better option may be waiting until the draft, and getting our PG of the future in that 10-15 range.

  17. What team survives with guards shooting 40-41 percent and getting only 4-5 assists each?
    And neither rebounds much or plays any D to speak of?

    Maybe I’m overreacting, but holy crap! There are still people who are like Crawford is great! and Marbury is misunderstood!

    Look at their statistics. They are at the bottom for their positions at key areas of their games:
    Assists, TOs, rebounds, steals, and blocks.

    They do one thing: score, but at a very low shooting percentage.

    That spells failure for the Knicks if the status quo continues.

  18. Here is the Knicks net production at the point as per 82games.com.

    Knicks’ point guards underperform their opponents at 8 of 11 categories.

    FGA eFG% FTA iFG Reb Ast T/O Blk PF Pts PER*
    0.8 -.023 1.6 11% -0.5 -2.5 -0.2 -0.1 -0.1 1.0 -2.0

    I can’t stand it.

  19. Channing Frye had an inauspicious debut for Portland.

    9 minutes, 0 for 3 from the field, 2 fouls, but at least two board (one offensive, even!).

  20. Frank O. – I completely agree that our guard play is terrible and is the root of many of our problems but I am going to save many of those critisisms for the backcourt preview.

    So on our frontcourt, I think it has definite potential but I would actually love to see Randolph shipped out for a good starter at SG. But alas that is not going to happen so we will see Curry, Randolph and Lee splitting the time.

    As the only Curry apoligist I actually think we have two above average and one great frontcourt player (Lee is the great one). I would love to see Lee getting the majority of minutes because our frontcourt will only get so many shots so the fact that Lee is low usage does not hurt us. You do not want two low usage frontcourt players but having one does not hurt. Lee is the most efficient and helps the offense by keeping the ball moving and getting lots of offensive rebounds so he should get the most minutes. (Unfortunatly he won’t)

    I would love to see Randolph taking a sixth man role much like what Jamison did in Dallas or McCale in Boston. Curry was good last year (on offense) but next to Lee he was dominant.

    While Lee was on the floor, Curry per 40:
    25.1 pts 64.2% TS% 4.1 TO’s 7.6 Rbs
    When Lee was not on the floor, Curry per 40:
    20.6 pts 57.7% TS% 4.1 TO’s 8.3 Rbs

    Also Curry was the only Knick (who played the 4 or 5) to not see a signifigant decrease in rebounding, just 0.7 rebounds per 40, while playing next to Lee. In fact no other Knick (who played the 4 or 5) averaged more rebounds per 40, while playing next to Lee, than Curry.

    So since playing next to Lee makes Curry much better we need to make sure they play as many minutes together as possible. Also I believe that this year Lee and Randolph will steal rebounds from each other. In fact I would not be surprised at all if there is only a little difference in rebounding between the Lee/Curry frontcourt and the Lee/Randolph frontcourt.

    So I would start Curry and Lee and let Randolph get 30 minutes off the bench. I think Randolph is better suited to come off the bench than Curry because I think Curry needs to start to maintain his focus and confidence.

    As for defense I think we are poor at the 4 and 5 but to call us Milwaukee bad is a bit much. In my opinion: Lee is average at defense (both on his man and at help defense) Curry is average at defending his man but very poor at help defense. Randolph is unfortunatly bad at both though better at help defense than Curry.

    So I think we can aspire to be slightly below average at frontcourt defense as long as our perimeter defenders do their job, if they fail at their job, like they have in the past, then our frontcourt defense becomes much worse and starts slipping into Milwaukee territory.

    Also Mike K. I want to thank you for running the best Knick website I have found. I do not think it can be said enough. The discussions are always well informed and alot of fun.

  21. Neither Zach nor Curry are strong O rebounders, so the lack of foot speed (Lee not the quickest either) in our frontcourt may hurt us against a few of the agile squads out there (okay, the Hawks may be lousy, but it will be interesting to see if their strategy is to have their fleet bigs try to run our guys off the floor — just one example, there are plenty of others).

    As the Knicks work hard to improve the perimeter D in half court sets, some teams may just try to run us.

  22. Ben. R – thanks.

    BTW regarding Curry’s defense, while he is adequate manning up in the paint, he suffers tremendously against centers that can shoot from 15 feet or more. He’s also pretty bad against the pick & roll as well.

    So if you look at Curry’s defense, he’s OK in one area, and poor in many others. And if you look at how many times a game he has to defend against penetrators in the lane, the pick and roll, a center that can hit from the outside vs. the times he has to defend against a low post center – the ultimate sum is a negative effect on the defense.

  23. Id like to see Marbury-Q-Balkman-Randolph-Curry starting 5 with Nate-Crawford-Lee getting the most time off the bench.

    Crawford shouldn’t be starting for us, he was a good 6th man a couple of years back, and Lee shouldnt start at SF as he wasnt that productive there. Isiah seems pretty set on the the other big man to start anyway.

  24. Mike K. – I was not trying to imply Curry was even average on defense though I still think he is better than Randolph. However even though Curry ranges from below average to terrible in many aspects of his defensive game, the fact that he is okay guarding his man, lets the team hide him defensively if they have good defenders around him, much like what Chicago did.

    The problem is we have many other poor defenders that only magnify Curry’s weaknesses.

    I do think we have good perimeter defenders (Balkman, Richardson, Chandler, Jones, Jeffries, Collins and sometimes Nate) so if we want we can surround our weak inside defense with good perimeter defense. I think for this reason a Curry/Lee frontcourt or even a Randolph/Lee frontcourt can be solid enough defensivly as long as our poor defenders like Crawford and Marbury(although Marbury sometimes steps up his defense) are out there less and never together. Also Curry and Randolph should not start together because they are bad on defense and together they would be unbearable.

    Unfortunatly it looks like Isiah wants to put our two worst perimeter defenders and our two worst inside defenders all on the court at the same time.

Comments are closed.