Knicks 2009 Season Preview Part II

Part I here.

GUARD (cont):

If you wanted to guess which Knick guard will gain the most under D’Antoni, it should be Nate Robinson. The diminutive guard was thought of as a novelty by his last two coaches, and Robinson has struggled to find court time. Over his 3 years he’s averaged only 23.0 minutes per game. But D’Antoni sees Robinson differently from the previous regimes, and was even quoted saying “I love the guy.” One of the knocks on Robinson is his maturity, but it seems that coach D’Antoni is willing to work on this issue. For instance Nate argues with officials too frequently, and D’Antoni tries to intervene either by distracting him with instructions or talking to the official on his behalf.

If the Knicks are willing to give Robinson more playing time then they might be pleasantly surprised with the results. A look at both Robinson and Crawford’s per game stats appear to show Crawford as a superior player. However when looking at their per minute stats, they are nearly identical with two exceptions. Robinson has higher per 36-minute rebounding (4.2 to 2.3) and fouls (3.6 to 1.6). The fouls are an indicator of Robinson’s immaturity, since the 5-9 guard foolishly tries to block shots (he has grand total of 8 blocks in 4783 minutes). On the other hand getting a Crawford-esque player who rebounds for a fraction of the cost would be a boon for the Knicks. It’s not far fetched to expect Nate to get 30 minutes per game this year.

A month ago, many NBA pundits (including this one) thought Stephon Marbury would be wearing another team’s uniform by now. However Knicks President Donnie Walsh publicly stated he doesn’t like to buy out players, and kept Marbury on the roster. Of course this gave Peter Vescey the greatest thrill of his life, being able to call out Newsday’s Alan Hahn for wrongly reporting the story a week before. For those not familiar with New York Newspapers, that’s like Ted Stevens calling John Ford immoral for accepting bribes. Anyway the team didn’t change their plan of making Chris Duhon the starter and Marbury will come off the bench. Stephon has been a starter his whole career (812 of 823 games), so this is new territory for both him & the team.

If Marbury can accept his role on the team, it would be a boost to the Knicks. His talent has never been questioned, just his commitment to winning. Marbury’s production over the last 3 years (average PER: 15.2) has tailed off from his peak years ’99-’05 (average PER 20.7), but he’s still a threat to go to the hoop and finish with his right hand. Even in an off year, Stephon took 36% of his shots from “inside”. And Marbury is able to knock down the three (career 3P% as a Knick: 34.8%). Of course with Marbury it’s always worth mentioning that Mr. Hyde is lurking around the corner. But if he can contribute off the bench for a full season without a major incident (on or off the court), consider it a big plus for Walsh and D’Antoni for keeping him around.

Last and least is Mardy Collins. At 6’6 the Temple alum is the Knicks best perimeter defender and a strong rebounder. Unfortunately that’s about all the former Owl is good at. Over his career he’s been a miserable shooter (TS%: 41.7%, eFG%: 38.3%, FT%: 26.6%, FT%: 59.2%) and not great at running the offense (4.4 AST/36, 2.9 TO/36). In the three point era, only 5 players have played more than 1400 minutes by the age of 24 with a TS% lower than 42.0%: DeSagana Diop, Mark Macon, Junior Harrington, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, and Mardy Collins. That’s not a good group for an aspiring point guard to be in. It goes without saying that Collins will have to be a more efficient scorer to continue playing professional basketball.

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Mike Kurylo

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

16 thoughts to “Knicks 2009 Season Preview Part II”

  1. Wow! I did not realize Collins was that poor a shooter. I checked the NBA stats for lowest FG% last year and Mardy’s 32% from the floor was eclipsed only by Scalabrini’s 30% for players who appeared in at least 40 games.

    There were a number of pre=draft boards that had Collins as a projected lottery pick. Then the draft camps began and scouts saw that Collins could not shoot, or run a half court set well.

    At Temple Collins started as a SF, but Coach Cheaney moved him to point in order to better pressure the opposing guards in Temple’s full court press. Cheaney acrificed offense for defense, which made sense for his team since they lacked big scorers anyway.

    Moving Collins to PG probably got him into the NBA, as anyone can find a 6’6 defensive small forward. But the NBA loves size at just about every position, so a PG with the size of a SF was attractive. But when scoutss realized that Mardy was in fact an offense challanged SF who was playing PG because his college coach made him do it.

    Collins shows that Isiah really messed up in the draft that year. It happens sometimes-Atl took Sheldin Williams 5th clearly hoping for another Boozer-but Marcus Williams was the better prospect at PG and should have been the 20th pick. In full hindsight, perhaps Rondo should have been the pick. Thomas could have still taken Balkman at 29 if he REALLY had to have him, and even if he did not, who would have cared on draft night? I bet fewer than 5% of the fans were aware that Balkman was in the draft. Had Thomas taken Steve Novak or Paul Millsap at 29, would the fans have been anymore upset? Probably not. I’d love to have Millsap with Lee. Oh well.

  2. “but Marcus Williams was the better prospect at PG and should have been the 20th pick. In full hindsight, perhaps Rondo should have been the pick.”

    Correct. It is hindsight, and I think Balkman was value at 20th, but Rondo was definitely the pick since Balkman would have been on the board at 29 and Collins would have been available in the second round, along with much better players like Millsap. Marcus Williams has yet to do anything in the league, and is currently third on the GSW depth chart.

    I think the Knicks would be pretty well off if they had Rondo at point right now and Balkman as one of their small forwards. Their defense would be much better and so would their cap situation, and Crawford and Randolph could be a little more useful in their scoring roles. But anyway…

    As for Balkman, George Karl was quoted saying that Balkman is behind Kleiza and Howard on the depth chart. However, there have also been a lot of positive reports about Balkman on various Nuggets blogs and in the press out there. He has a lot of trouble staying healthy, that is definitely becoming clear….

  3. So given Mardy’s horrible shooting and poor ball movement, how likely is it that he maybe let go, given the way it clashes with D’antoni’s system? Even with his defensive skills, I don’t think we could ever put him on the floor at PG without disrupting the offense. Plus, I doubt he fits into any long-term plans, so why not let him go now in favor of taking a chance on PEJ?

  4. talking about Rondo is hardly hindsight, and Marcus Williams is irrelevant. Balkman was picked 20th (not on anyone’s board), Rondo 21st, so it’s pretty clear who the choice there should have been.

    but taking Channing Frye over Andrew Bynum (again, not really hindsight, as they were both big man prospects and Bynum was taken just after) is a way bigger deal IMO.

    can you imagine a team that started Bynum, Lee, Chandler, someone and Rondo? I can, and it makes me sad.

  5. Didn’t even notice the new post….

    The analysis of Nate is very interesting. I hadn’t thought that about him trying to block shots, but it is true. He loves to showcase his leaping ability, which I would too if I could jump like that.

    I think the difference in rebounding ability between Crawford and Robinson is very significant and overlooked by most people who compare the two players.

    I also think its worth mentioning that Nate breached the 55% ts% in his second season, something Crawford has never done in a full season. Last year, it fell back to 52.6%. The reason for that was the decline in Nate’s 3pt shooting percentage, from 39% to 33.2%. If he had maintained the percentage he posted in his first two seasons, he would have scored 18.4 points per 36 on a ts% of 55.3%.

    Crawford can create his own shot, but frustratingly he has never been a great 3pt shooter. His highest percentage for a full season was 36.1%, which would have been good for 60th in the league last year. His fg/fta % also has dropped dramatically since hitting a high point in 05-06 under Larry Brown at 12.4/5.

    To be efficient as a shooting guard you basically have to do one of those two things, 3pt shooting and fg/ft ratio, because shooting 2 pt jumpers at an above league average rate is difficult.

    If Robinson can regain the 3pt shooting touch of his first two years, or better it, he will be a very effective scorer for the Knicks this year, offering more in my book, given the quality of his peripherals, than a much more highly touted player like Ben Gordon.

    I am slightly encouraged by Mardy’s performance in the preseason, but then again preseason means nothing. Still, he seems to have realized that going to the hoop and converting is a good formula, since it doesn’t require a jump shot or a foul shot, things he has trouble with. Although I guess he did can 3-3 last night, so maybe he really is developing on that front. I doubt it but we shall see….

  6. Mardy Collins was looking pretty good in that preseason game against the nets. i saw him make like 3 3pointers. he’s definitely gotten in better shape and worked on his jumper. i think the team should trade away jamal because he actually has value, and run a guard lineup with duhon, nate, marbury, and collins. nate and duhon could start with the others coming in. i think with minutes nate can make up for jamal, and anyway we would be able to get more inside shots for lee and randolf. at SF i hear he’s injured or something, i’m not sure but chandler should deff play, with Q gettings some minutes, but only until gallinari comes back. once he’s back we run


    i think thats good and young and it would kick ass.

  7. Jon – You are absolutely right. I had forgotten about Frye/Bynum. I think Bynum will emerge in the next two years as one of the top 3 centers in the league. It really is sad.


    And scorers to be named later….

    It would be a lot of fun in the Garden right now, no doubt….

  8. I added up the pre-season +/- stats. Here is what I came up with.
    Player Total
    Chandler 15
    Collins 38
    Crawford -42
    Curry -5
    Duhon -19
    Ewing 10
    Lee -53
    Marbury 48
    Randolph -24
    Roberson 8
    Robinson 29
    Rose 49

  9. I added up the pre-season +/- stats. Here is what I came up with.
    Player Total
    Chandler 15
    Collins 38
    Crawford -42
    Curry -5
    Duhon -19
    Ewing 10
    Lee -53
    Marbury 48
    Randolph -24
    Roberson 8
    Robinson 29
    Rose 49

    Proving that raw +/- is pretty useless.

  10. I always knew Nate had it in him to put up nice numbers. He just has to stay under control. I cant wait to see Gallo play. Its just going to add a little something different to the bench. I hope to god they dont cut Jr. Hes is what the garden needs right now. The boy makes plays.

  11. Bynum was the best player in the draft so nine other teams whiffed, too. No one had him going top-10.

    Balkman v. Rondo — sure, in hindsight we know the better player. But Balkman is still one of the 12 or 15 best players in that draft (I know some people laugh), and we got him at 20, so I can’t knock the pick. Maybe we’d have gotten him at 29, but in the 20s you’re looking at end of the rotation guys anyway — if you see a potential defensive stopper and legit starter, you take him.

  12. Owen – I am encouraged by Mardy’s performance as well. I agree with Thomas B that Collins is not a PG, and he does seem better suited to play off the ball. He seems very comfotable as the 4th/5th option on the floor. I do not think he has the talent or confidence to be a primary ball handler or scorer, but he seems to realize that.

    As for his three point shooting he has hit all five of his 3pt attempts in preseason. I know he is still not a great shooter but on all five of those shots he was wide open, he should be able to maintain a high percentage if he continues to only shoot when wide open. He seems to really understand his shortcomings and is only shooting when he is open and only attacking the basket when he has an open lane. If he continues to be as selective of his shots I do not see why him maintaining a high level of efficiency is out of the question. I do not expect the 17.8 pts per 36, 72.7% TS% or 100% 3pt% to continue but I do not see why something along the lines of 10-12 pts per 36 with 55-60% TS% and 35-40% 3pt% is out of the question if he continues to display the same good judgement.

    I feel like a bad person but when Gus said Q was in the locker room with a hurt knee I was happy and part of me was hopeing he would need surgery.

  13. “Bynum was the best player in the draft so nine other teams whiffed, too. No one had him going top-10.”

    I sort of doubt Utah and New Orleans are regretting their picks…
    To Isiah’s credit, he did consider Bynum at #7 but his impatience once again got the better of him.

    “if you see a potential defensive stopper and legit starter, you take him.”

    I hadn’t seen him much before the draft, but even at that time I think it was fair to say that’s exactly what Rondo was. He was regarded as the best backcourt defender in the draft, and some mock drafts had him going as high as #5. He was raw but his defensive talent and quickness were obvious: I think it’s fair to rip the decision makers who passed on him.
    If Joel Freeland had magically turned into the next Dirk they get a free pass for missing that one, but Rondo went to Kentucky. Not exactly out off the scouts’ radars.
    I’ve seen a youtube clip of Bryan Colangelo calling every GM with a pick during the draft and saying he wants to trade for their pick to get a PG. He never says which one he wants, but given his track record I wouldn’t be suprised if it was Rondo.

    Ben R,

    Basketball IQ has always been Mardy’s perceived strength, maybe you’re right and he’s experienced enough now to use it on the court.

  14. I hadn’t seen him much before the draft, but even at that time I think it was fair to say that’s exactly what Rondo was. He was regarded as the best backcourt defender in the draft, and some mock drafts had him going as high as #5. He was raw but his defensive talent and quickness were obvious: I think it’s fair to rip the decision makers who passed on him.

    Thing is Ted, Rondo was a HORRIBLE offensive player on a horrible offensive team at Kentucky. Some of the hype about him going in the top 5 was based on what he did in high school. Although Rondo was an amazing defender at Kentucky–on a team full of guys that could get in your shirt he stood out–he was generally considered a disappointment there. They thought they were getting the next Jason Kidd, such was the hype surrounding him coming out of high school. It became obvious his jump shot needed complete reconstructing, but then he never made the expected impact as a playmaker either. (We now know that much of that was because he was surrounded by scrubs offensively.) It’s hardly as if the Celts thought they were getting what they got, given that Rondo was added to a gaggle of other PGs. The Celts made a nice pick AND they got really lucky. That happens, just not to us it seems.

    My suspicion is that Thomas saw Rondo and Collins as comparable but favored Collins’ size and versatility. Of all of Isiah’s swings and misses this is among the most understandable, given his philosophical preference for combo guards over true PGs. So the criticism there is philosophical then if you’re gonna say he should have taken a different guard. He chose the only “true” combo guard between the three.

    Passing on Bynum was unfortunate, but I think you have to account for risk. I hardly want to take the position of defending Isiah, but I doubt the GMs who passed on Bynum failed to see his talent. My understanding is that he absolutely wowed in his workouts. But the risk was about his clock. How quickly would he mature? The fact that Bynum has matured so smoothly and quickly has obscured how big a gamble that really is when thinking about taking a young big man. As we constantly discuss in this forum, the NBA woods are filled with young big men who never develop for reasons that simply aren’t obvious when you draft. (Curry and Darko should be better but they aren’t.) Bynum’s maturation–not just his talent–is really the exception. This isn’t Yao Ming or Gasol, coming to the league with tons of international experience. A more normal maturation curve would probably have us predicting a breakout year for Bynum this year but he’s already a star.

    The impact of not taking Bynum is bigger than I care to think about but that sort of pick is the equivalent of taking a quarterback with a top 5 or 10 pick. If that guy doesn’t develop–and quickly–you’ll be looking for a job.

  15. Dave C – Rondo has been pretty much exactly the same player in the pros that he was in college. His assist averages and fg% last year were almost identical to what he posted his second year in college. Win Score had him rated as the sixth best player in college, basically because of his extraordinary ability to dominate possession from the point guard position with a fairly unique combination of steals, turnovers, and rebounding. He still has no offensive game but nonetheless is easily a top 15 point guard in the NBA.

    What can you say about Bynum? He didn’t play in college, so you basically had to judge him on measurables and visuals only. Frye had good stats in college, i think he averaged two blocks per game. It’s an excusable mistake. What’s galling though is the thought that Isiah passed on Bynum because he felt that Curry was going to be our center for many years to come. Perhaps the same thought process with Marbury led Isiah to pass on Rondo.

  16. Dave,

    I wasn’t criticizing Isiah in particular. “If you see a potential defensive stopper and legit starter, you take him,” describes Rondo pretty well to me.
    He might not have lived up to the hype he had coming out of Oak Hill, but his talents–and weaknesses–were pretty obvious.
    As far as the Knicks’ pick, if Isiah was looking for a stopper and potential starter Rondo would have been a good choice. However, I think that as usual he was drafting to look smarter than everyone else and for need. Just as he tripled up with James, Frye, and Curry when he “needed” a center, he doubled up with Balkman and Jeffries when he “needed” a defensive stopper at the 3.

    The difference isn’t really between the guards, because he apparently thought Balkman was gone to the Suns if he didn’t pick him. Although, he could have picked Balkman and then tried to outbid the Celtics for the Suns’ pick (using the pick that ended up being Collins in some sort of 3-way or unofficial 3-way if necessary). It has always fascinated me that the Knicks throw so much money around but never buy the Suns (or anyone else’s) draft picks.

    I’m more apt to criticize Isiah for taking Balkman over Rondo than Frye over Bynum, because I think Rondo was an obvious choice (if not Marcus Williams) while, as you say, Bynum was a total wildcard. Given the number of workout warriors and bigman busts I would probably have been against picking Bynum (and obviously incorrect). I think it’s a credit to Isiah’s eye for talent that he pretty much hinted he would have taken Bynum except he thought the kid wasn’t ready for the NYC spotlight, which really meant he was being impatient and wanted an immediate impact. If Isiah could have gotten out of his own way, I think he would have taken Bynum (and concentrated on drafting rather than wasting money and high draft picks, in general, leaving the Knicks in a much better position).


    I don’t think the Frye over Bynum decision came down to Curry. As I remember, he was still a free agent and Jerome James had just been signed.

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