Knicks 2010 Season Preview Part 4

[Part 1 is here.]
[Part 2 is here.]
[Part 3 is here.]

Eddy Curry – Center/Big Contract

What the Stats Say
There are two Eddy Curry stats that Knick fans seem to care about right now:
1. $11,276,863 – Curry’s toxic 2010-2011 cap number, an amount which is to the summer of 2010 what a sudden, violent intestinal problem is to a date: impossible to cure, impossible to ignore, and sure to leave you alone at the end of the evening, dreaming of what might have been.
2. 318 pounds – Curry’s reported weight, 40 pounds less than it was at its peak last season and about 40 pounds higher than needs to be for him to effectively guard an athletic center.
But all jokes and criticism aside (if I have to), we shouldn’t forget that Curry is really, really good at exactly one thing: scoring. From inside 6 feet. When fed the ball in perfect position. Until he gets tired. Or into foul trouble.

What My Gut Says
“He’ll get shots,” say those in the know. Since objective #1 for the Knicks from this moment until the trade deadline will be to move Curry for an expiring contract, it only makes sense for D’Antoni to put him five feet from the hoop, paint a target on his chest, and tell Chris Duhon to throw the ball at it until the trade partners come a-calling. I suppose that this plan is fine, since the 2009-2010 Knicks season is a dress rehearsal with stand-ins in place of the long-awaited leading actors.

Curry had such an awful 2008-09, both personally and professionally, that it is impossible not to root for a career renaissance, even apart from our more selfish desire to see him enhance his trade value. But it is far more likely that Curry is who we think he is. If he can stay on the court, we can expect the usual pairing of good per-minute scoring statistics with dreadful rebounding, shot-blocking, and turnover numbers.

Darko Milicic – Center

What the Stats Say

Much has been made of Darko’s capacity to upgrade the Knicks defensive interior. The hype may be legitimate, if only because the odds are generally in favor of any alteration to something as bad as the Knicks shot-blocking last season. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s look at NBA centers’ offensive stats when guarded by the three Knicks who played significant minutes at the 5 last year:

Opponent Counterpart 48-Minute Production (At Center)

Player FGA eFG% FTA iFG Reb Ast T/O Blk PF Pts PER*
Milicic 14.7 0.576 5.2 51% 12.7 2.1 2.2 2.5 5.4 20.5 21.7
Harrington 14.2 0.482 6.4 63% 12.8 2.2 3.1 1.8 5.1 17.6 15.4
Lee 15.8 0.525 5.4 57% 14.7 2.4 3.2 2.5 4.9 20.5 19.7

Positional data isn’t perfect and I didn’t see enough of the Grizzlies last year to know if there’s a legitimate explanation for a guy developing a reputation as a plus defender while allowing an all-star caliber PER and an off-the-charts eFG% to opposing centers. I’m willing to hear out anyone who has such an explanation. But until I do – I mean, wow. Those numbers bum me out.

What My Gut Says
My immediate, and continued, response to the Darko Milicic acquisition is two words long: “Why not?” He’s a more formidable body in the middle than either Harrington or Lee and should keep up with D’Antoni-ball far more ably than Curry. The distribution of minutes among Knicks taller than 6’9″ remains TBD, but Darko is the rare Knick who doesn’t replicate the skill set of anyone else on the team. That alone is reason enough for constrained optimism – the minutes that he is on the court will look different from the minutes that he isn’t, and we’ve all become well acquainted with what the “isn’t” looks like.

Jared Jeffries – Center?/Forward?/Guard?

What the Stats Say
As with Eddy Curry, dollars and cents come up more frequently than points and rebounds when Knicks fans discuss Jared Jeffries. Of the two albatrosses on the Knicks payroll, Jeffries is taken to be by far the easier to move, which is probably accurate given his smaller contract and purportedly broader skill set. But it should be noted that, if Jared Jeffries is indeed a useful basketball player, the statistic capable of demonstrating that usefulness remains hidden. To wit, the following is a list of the 5 worst PERs among players who have played 10,000 minutes since the beginning of the 2002-03 season, Jeffries’ first in the NBA:

Rk Player Years G MP TRB/36 PTS/36 STL/36 BLK/36 FG% 3P% FT% PER
1 J. Collins 03-09 495 11995 6.5 6.2 0.9 0.9 0.409 0.185 0.639 7.0
2 B. Bowen 03-09 571 16992 3.6 7.7 0.9 0.4 0.425 0.408 0.575 8.1
3 T. Hassell 03-09 514 12935 3.9 7.9 0.6 0.6 0.453 0.271 0.767 8.2
4 J. Jeffries 03-09 440 10105 6.9 8.3 1.1 0.7 0.432 0.242 0.576 9.8
5 C. Robinson 03-07 364 10178 4.4 11.5 1 1 0.396 0.349 0.665 10.5

Critics will immediately point to Bowen’s inclusion on this list as evidence that PER massively undervalues defensive stoppers, which it undeniably does. And in the last two years, the Knicks have allowed between 2 and 3 fewer points per 100 possessions with Jeffries on the court than without him – a considerable improvement. But Bruce Bowen he is not, and Jeffries’ inclusion on this list underscores what we already know – that outside of very specific matchups, his total lack of offensive value likely cancels out whatever benefit his defense provides.

What My Gut Says
Jared Jeffries is a good athlete, a hard worker, and a versatile defender. He is also a very poor jump shooter with an astonishingly high turnover rate (14th of 152 players with 10,000 minutes since his rookie year) for a player who rarely attacks the basket or gets assists. He is the kind of player that you want on the end of your bench to play 5-10 minutes a few games a year when particularly unusual matchups present themselves. He is not the kind of player to whom 5-year, $30 million contracts should be given by teams who already wallow in salary cap hell. Isiah is dead – long live Isiah.

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Kevin McElroy

Kevin McElroy watches the Knicks and owns a computer.

8 thoughts to “Knicks 2010 Season Preview Part 4”

  1. There is one other Curry stat that you are over looking.

    Same agent as Lebron.

    That means that however the NYK handle this situation, they can’t do it in a way that would upset the Lebron applecart. Because of this Curry will be given EVERY chance to succeed, short of that, if he is traded, it will only be in a situation the both he and his (and Lebron’s) agent sign off on.

  2. So Crawford and Hunter were cut but Landry made the team. Pretty cool.

    And now we have one open roster spot (and one more to open up in about six weeks).

  3. Kevin – re: Jeffries – I’ve been pleasantly surprised at what I’ve seen in the preseason – he’s actually finishing at the rim and making a few shots and not destroying the offense like he used to. Of course, it’s only preseason (take note DeJuan Blair groupies) so I won’t believe he’s evolved much as a player until I see him perform during the regular season. But something seems to have changed for the better about his overall game.

  4. I’m no longer a fan of 82games’ positional defense stats as they don’t tell the full story. They only tell us how the counterpart performed, not how the team performed.

    For instance, if someone is playing good team defense that occasionally leads to his own man getting extra points (due to offensive boards, an open look), I would consider that more valuable defensively than a player who is not offering help and still gets scored on when he stays at home on his man (i.e. David Lee at center).

    Also those Harrington #’s most likely belong to Jared Jeffries, as I believe JJ is in all the lineups where Harrington is listed at “center”.

  5. I believe’s DRTG is pretty basic and accurate. Defensive Rating = points allowed per 100 possessions while player was on court. Darko ranked 1st on his team in DRTG (among players w/ 1000 mins).

    I believe where a player ranks on a team is more important than the actual numerical rating, because a player’s teammates have such a huge impact on DRTG. Artest’s DRTG took a big hit when he went to the Kings from the Pacers, and then went back to normal when he joined the Rockets. He was the best defender on the Kings, it just so happened the poor defenders around him dragged his “rating” down.

    Grizzlies DRTG (1000+ mins)
    Milicic 107
    Arthur 107
    Gasol 108
    Warrick 110
    Gay 110
    Lowry 110
    Conley 111
    Mayo 112
    Ross 112

    Knicks DRTG (1000+ mins)
    Lee 108
    Harrington 110
    Chandler 110
    Robinson 111
    Jeffries 111
    Richardson 112
    Duhon 113

    I believe the reason front court players are towards the top is that the rebounds they get prevent offensive rebounds, which are usually converted at a high rate. Either way, adding the best defender on the #21 defensive team to the #23 defensive team can only help. It’s not a huge addition, just a solid one.

  6. Interesting. That could explain why Lee is tops on our list (defensive rebounding.) What is Darko’s rebound rate though? I don’t feel like it jumps off the page… but the shotblocking is there and you can see his ability to fill lanes.
    A Larry Brown team would definitely go with a Lee/Darko frontcourt, but it seems like that just flies in the face of what D’Antoni’s system is all about.
    What’s interesting about Channing Frye in Phoenix is that ironically, I could see D’Antoni wanting Frye to play next to Lee (the bet is that Hill will work out even better.)

  7. Denver has Lawson, Balkman of course (who has been tearing it up in preseason), they seem to be collecting a lot of player who could or should be Knicks. I would put Birdman on that list too.

    Here is a snippet from today’s article in the Denver Post…

    “Liking Lawson.

    Denver rookie Ty Lawson, the little point guard, again made the most of his time on the court, scoring six points (on 3-for-4 shooting) in 16 minutes, tallying an assist and a steal too.

    “He has an ability that we don’t have — he’s quick, you can’t keep him in front of you and he doesn’t ever lose control of his ability to find the play,” Karl said. “I’ve been amazed by his knack defensively — he gets his hands in on steals, he reads well and he’s a little tougher.”

    Karl has said there have been “sleepless nights” as he anticipates which point guard will play more off the bench — Lawson or Anthony Carter. Carter, a veteran, will likely get more minutes in the first couple of months as Lawson learns the pro game. Karl said there probably won’t be situations where Carter (6-feet-2) and Lawson (5-11) are on the court together, but there are times where Lawson will play with Chauncey Billups (6-3).”

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