Draft Prospects, Part I

With draft night a little more than a week away I thought I?d take a fresh look at some of the players likely to be on Isiah Thomas? radar since posting this in early May. The Knicks, who have conducted pre-draft workouts in conjunction with the rival Nets, appear to have concluded them. Of course, additional workouts are possible, as today?s Post is reporting that the Knicks may be interested in DePaul’s uber-athletic small forward Wilson Chandler.

As one might expect of a team with only a late-first round selection none of the players New York worked out classifies as a collegiate or international superstar, though the list certainly includes some intriguing names. They include (in reverse chronological order): Aaron Gray (Pittsburgh), Herbert Hill (Providence), Jared Jordan (Marist), Marco Belinelli (Fortitudo Bologna, Italy), Daequan Cook (Ohio State), Nick Fazekas (Nevada), Artem Sabelin (Avtodor Saratov, Russia), Taurean Green (Florida), Trey Johnson (Jackson State), Dominic James (Marquette), Ron Lewis (Ohio State), DeVon Hardin (California), Marko Lekic (Vojvodina, Serbia), Jason Smith (Colorado State), Glen ?Big Baby? Davis (LSU), Josh McRoberts (Duke), Nick Young (USC), Stephane Lasme (UMass), Brandon Wallace (S. Carolina), Jamar Wilson (Albany), DeShaun Wood (Wright State), Derrick Byars (Vanderbilt), Sammy Mejia (DePaul), Demitris Nichols (Syracuse) and Curtis Sumpter (Villanova). Of those, Sabelin, Hardin, and James have reportedly withdrawn their names from draft consideration.

I’ll go position-by-position and highlight at most a handful of players who may be available when the Knicks select at #23. The players are listed in no particular order. Player stats come largely from draftexpress.net and team pages and links to player profiles are from nbadraft.net.

Point Guard

Whether you think PG is a position of dire need or a position that could simply use some depth the Knicks could not easily afford to pass over a down the road starter in this draft. Marbury is at the point in his career when he needs to play fewer minutes. Francis’ status with the team remains uncertain. Crawford’s offensive issues and recovery from injury leaves him ideally suited for a sixth man role. Collins remains such an awful shooter it overwhelms what he does well. And Robinson is a SG for all practical purposes.

1. Javaris Crittenton (6’5″, 194#, Ga. Tech)

Crittenton has a similar physical build as Steve Francis and draws favorable comparisons as a player. The comparison is strained for a number of reasons though not implausible. Crittenton is not the same kind of true shooter as Francis. He shot an “okay” 56%. He doesn’t have three point range (and to his credit doesn’t take an inordinate number) but he doesn’t get to the FT line much either (.39 FT/FGA). Crittenton is also a pedestrian decision-maker at this point (1.47 assist-to-turnover on almost 5 TOs/game). He’s clearly talented but far from a finished product. On the plus side the kid is built like a tank, has been widely described as unselfish, and is widely regarded as coachable.

2. Acie Law (6’3″, 195#, Texas A&M)

Law is a do-it-all scoring point, who is solid in every phase–an efficient scorer (60% TS) and a solid passer (1.92:1 assist-to-turnover on just over 3 TOs/game). He doesn’t take a lot of threes but shoots a good percentage. The knock on him is that he’s a slightly bigger Nate Robinson–a natural shooting guard miscast as a point guard because of less-than-ideal size.

3. Taurean Green (6′, 177#, Florida)

Green is a classic beauty-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder type. He is not unlike Orlando’s Jameer Nelson, though not as accomplished a college scorer. The major question, given his size limitations, concerns how well his game translates to the NBA. His meal ticket is probably his shooting. He shot a fantastic 63% TS last season, shoots it well from three-point range (40+%) and also gets to the FT line a fair amount (.48 FT/FGA) for someone that took almost 60% of his shots from behind the arc. Green’s natural tendency is to push the ball and look for something easy before pulling it out and running the halfcourt sets. I like that in a guard. Still, he’s a fairly pedestrian passer, as his 1.37:1 assist-to-turnover ratio attests.

4. Gabe Pruitt (6’4″, 170#, USC)

Pruitt is a very athletic point guard who moved over from the SG for Tim Floyd after leading the Trojans in scoring as a freshman. His passing numbers look phenomenal (2.35:1 assist-to-turnover ratio) on only 2.2 TOs/game. A word of caution. Floyd’s offense features a high proportion of post-ups and isolation plays. So my inclination is to interpret those numbers as evidence of Pruitt’s penchant for NOT doing dumb things with the ball rather than evidence suggesting he is a “gifted” passer. I happen to love guards who don’t do dumb things with the ball, so that’s no knock on Pruitt. Pruitt’s also made himself into a good defender. One aspect of his game that does concern me however is what appears to be an overreliance on the three point shot (55% of his FGAs). Combine that with the fact that he doesn’t get to the FT line much and what you have is a decent-but-nothing-special shooter. Ultimately, I think Pruitt may be best on a team where he can backup both guard spots.

5. Aaron Brooks (5’11”, 160#, Oregon)

Brooks is an Eddie House-type shooter. He can put up points in bunches. He is quick enough to get his shot off despite his size. He is best suited to be a second or third guard. Although he is frequently compared to Earl Boykins because of his size he doesn’t quite have Boykins handle but is more athletic.

Up next: shooting guards and small forwards

Knicks 2007 Report Card (A to Z): Jamal Crawford

KnickerBlogger: In November of 2004, I wrote this about Jamal Crawford:

Jamal has an excellent handle, but there is nothing more frustrating than having Crawford settling for a jumper (which comprise 82% of his shots), after he?s faked his defender with a series of fancy dribbles. Crawford should force the issue towards the basket with his great passing and dribbling skills. In addition, he?d do well getting fouled driving to the hoop, since the guy makes a free throw shot look like a layup (86% FT).

Crawford?s only 24, so I hope the Knicks coaching staff can get Jamal to produce a little more before he becomes set in his ways. For someone that will likely be in New York for the next 7 years, I?d like for him to be able to give us a little more production, either on offense and defense. He has excellent skills to build on: quickness, dribbling, a good shot, and that three point buzzer beater shows his confidence. He just needs to be smarter with his shot, and work on his defensive fundamentals.

Three years later, and Crawford is still the same poor shot maker he was when he first arrived in New York. Last year Larry Brown seemed to recognize this and curtailed some of Crawford’s wildness. Under Brown, Crawford attempted the fewest shots per minute and had the highest TS% of his career. However under Isiah Thomas, Crawford reverted to his old self, making 2006 an aberration instead of a breakthrough. Last year among Knick guards, Crawford finished behind Marbury, Robinson, and Francis in both eFG% & TS%. He only edged out Mardy Collins, who has no jumpshot whatsoever. Despite his lack of efficiency on offense, Crawford led the Knicks with 16.1 FGA/40min.

On the positive side, Crawford’s familiarity with Curry allows him to feed the big guy in the post better than any of the other Knick guards. Crawford has the best handle and passing ability of the Knick guards. And he is fearless when it comes to taking shots.

On the negative side, Crawford hasn’t developed in the years you’d expect a player to realize his potential. Except for his age, everything I wrote about him three years ago still applies today. In just about every major category, except for free throws, Jamal Crawford has either stayed about the same or gotten worse since his last season in Chicago.

Per Minute eFG pts ast reb stl blk to fta
2004 0.449 19.7 5.8 4 1.6 0.4 2.7 3.4
2005 0.483 18.5 4.5 3 1.4 0.3 2.2 3.2
2006 0.474 17.7 4.7 3.9 1.4 0.2 2.7 5.6
2007 0.458 18.9 4.7 3.4 1 0.1 2.9 4.9

Crawford doesn’t earn a strong grade from my perspective because of the lack of game to game consistency from him. In consecutive games after his 52 point outburst, he only managed to make 9 of 24 shots and 5 of 15 shots. Prior to that 52 point game, he had a streak from January 5th through the 19th of 6 straight games where he connected on a pitiful 33% or less of his attempts.

The human mind is an interesting thing. We tend to remember strongly the very positive events (50 point games, game winning shots, flashy moves) or the very negative events (fights, Charles Smith). But we are poor at remembering the events that fall in between those two extremes. In other words humans are naturally bad at calculating probabilities (gambling, sports averages, lotto). Some may be shocked at my poor evaluation of Crawford, because he’s had his fair share of game winning shots, crossovers, and scoring outbursts. But the truth is he’s an inconsistent shooter who hurts his team more nights than he helps them.

KnickerBlogger’s Grade: C-

2008 Outlook: A scorpion wishes to cross a river, but is unable to swim. He sees a frog in the water and asks the frog for help. The frog is hesitant, since the scorpion’s sting would kill the frog. The scorpion pleads with the frog and tells the frog not to worry, that if he stung the frog, both of them would drown. With that logic in mind, the frog agrees and lets the scorpion climb onto his back. Half way across the river, the scorpion stings the frog. When the frog asks why he doomed both of them, the scorpion replies “I can’t help it, I’m a scorpion.”

Since the Knicks acquired Crawford, I’ve wondered when he would become a smarter shooter. At this point I’m ready to conclude that like the scorpion, Crawford is either unable or unwilling to change who he is. Since he’s so inefficient, the Knicks would be smart to reduce either the amount of shots he takes or his playing time. He’s probably best suited coming off the bench, like he began 2007. But more than likely he’ll enter the 2008 in the Knicks’ starting rotation.

Michael Zannettis: Not only does the human brain cling onto extreme experiences, but even in the face of a damning criticism it holds onto whatever slight glimmer of hope it can imagine. I agree with Crawford’s report card, especially the grim outlook for his remaining Knick career. That being said, to say that Crawford is the best post-feeding guard on the entire Knicks’ roster is true…because someone has to be. The fact that Crawford “can” pass is made completely insignificant for the simple matter that he “won’t” pass.

Dave Crockett: I can’t help but agree with KB’s evaluation. Although I enjoy watching Crawford, whose game has a certain elegance, an aesthetic quality that can be a real pleasure, he is one of the most frustrating players on the roster. The gap between his dizzying array of skills and spotty production is as wide as anyone’s on the team. What is frustrating is that the kid is not uncoachable. The only year he got good coaching, under Brown, he seemed to take to Brown’s vision of turning him into more of a Rip Hamilton-style guard: more curls, fewer isolations and 3pt shots. Indeed his aberrant good-shooting year under Brown was, as I recall, due almost entirely to taking fewer 3pt attempts.

Thomas’ failure to build on what Larry Brown began with Crawford is to my mind his biggest player development failure–and I tend to think player development is one of his strengths. But Thomas legitimately blew it with Crawford this year by explicitly repudiated Brown’s vision for him, encouraging him to return to his 18-crossover, freelancing ways. (This is ironic considering that Thomas eventually wised up and basically embraced Brown’s vision for a more disciplined Stephon Marbury.) So, although I agree with the grade I have to give part of it to Thomas.

One matter I will quibble with a bit is Michael’s assertion that Crawford won’t pass. His career assist rate is 20.5. This past season’s 18.2 was a career low for him. He’s not a gifted passer but he’s certainly no Ben Gordon. His passing isn’t a liability. The bigger issues are that his usage rate is too high and he’s turnover prone. I think we can all agree though that with Crawford less would be more in 07-08.

Brian Cronin – I differ from KB in the sense that I think Crawford HAS changed from three years ago, if only because of his one season with Brown. Had that season never existed, then sure, I’d definitely agree that Crawford will never learn – but since we saw that he actually CAN play the “right” way, I think that is a nice sign for his future progress. He will most likely never capitalize upon it, but the option is there, and I do not know if I ever thought it WAS there before Brown came to the Knicks.

I also am looking forward to Crawford in 2007-08 because I am foolish enough to think that having seen the Knicks play for a season, Thomas will realize how to best use Crawford.

Anyhow, I think Crawford was basically a little better than the median NBA player last season (even though his PER dipped below “league average” for the first time since his rookie season), so I’d give him a slightly higher grade – I’d view him as a C+.

Could Eddy Curry Cost the Knicks Kobe Bryant?

It’s as official as unofficial gets. According to ESPN.com news services, Kobe Bryant has met with Lakers owner Jerry Buss and re-iterated his desire to be traded. According to ESPNNEWS, Kobe is willing to go to 1 of 3 different teams: Phoenix, Chicago, or New York. Of course it makes sense that the Lakers would refuse to trade Kobe to Phoenix, a Western Conference rival, so essentially it would be a 2 team race.

There’s a lot of speculation concerning possible Kobe deals. Chris Sheridan wrote that New York is a possible front runner, offering Jamal Crawford, David Lee, Channing Frye, Nate Robinson, Randolph Morris, Renaldo Balkman, and a pair of picks (’08 & ’10). Funny thing is, according to ESPN’s own’ trade checker, that deal isn’t possible, since the Knicks would be about $1.5M short with not enough small salaries to match. Even if they did a sign & trade (Cato?) to make the deal cap-frienldy, it would leave the Knicks with a roster similar to Kobe’s current team; one severely devoid of talent. New York’s depth chart would look something like:

PG: Marbury/Collins
SG: Kobe/Francis
SF: Richardson/Jeffries
PF: M.Rose/Jerome James
C: Curry/James/Cato?

The power forward depth chart would be a ghastly Malik Rose/Jerome James combo. The inevitable injury to Quentin Richardson would mean major playing time for both Jared Jeffries and Mardy Collins. New York wouldn’t have a draft pick to shore up their needs until the next Republican president. Glued to the bench for 35 minutes a game, Steve Francis would probably have his third career “in-season vacation”, and trading him would only leave a hole at reserve shooting guard. Isiah Thomas would only be left with the mid-level exception to build the team, and his previous acquisitions of Vin Baker, Jerome James, and Jared Jeffries wouldn’t instill me with confidence that he could acquire enough spare parts to build around Kobe.

Chad Ford imagines an interesting scenario: a 3-way deal concerning Los Angeles, Washington, and Chicago. The Bulls would send Ben Gordon, Tyrus Thomas, P.J. Brown to make the salaries match, and this year’s #9 pick. The Wizards would send their disgruntled superstar (Arenas) to the Lakers, and receive the Bulls’ young players. Meanwhile Chicago would net Kobe with enough of a team remaining to be highly competitive. This would be a more palatable deal for Los Angeles, who get a star in Arenas in return. Even if Washington isn’t interested in moving Arenas, Chicago can offer this deal to Los Angeles directly. Either Arenas or the Bulls package would give Los Angeles bigger name recognition and more talent than the one Sheridan proposed above

From a Knick perspective, what’s most curious about Ford’s proposal are the Chicago players involved. Chicago received Tyrus Thomas and the #9 pick from New York in the Eddy Curry trade. So with the rival Bulls in a much better position to get one of the premiere talents in the NBA, I can’t help to wonder if the Knicks would be in a better position to get Kobe had they not made the Eddy Curry trade? In this alternative world New York could send David Lee, who would fit Gordon’s role as young possible All Star, and Steve Francis who would not only match Kobe’ salary, but would be a useful replacement. An offer of David Lee, Tyrus Thomas, the #9 pick, and Steve Francis is just as good if not better than Ford’s trade. In this scenario, the Bulls wouldn’t have Thomas or the #9 pick to compete against New York’s offer, and instead Chicago would be the lesser player in this negotiation. New York could still increase the offer by including youngsters Balkman, Robinson, and/or Collins. In such a trade, New York’s depth chart would look like:

PG: Marbury/(Robinson/Collins)
SG: Kobe/Francis/Crawford/(Robinson)
SF: Richardson/(Balkman)/Jeffries
PF: M.Rose/(Balkman)
C: Frye/James/Cato?

Assuming that the Knicks don’t have to sweeten the pot with their young trio, the franchise would have better depth and more assets to trade than in Sheridan’s scenario. Crawford and Francis would both be expendable, and could be used to upgrade the F/C positions. Even Balkman, Collins, or Robinson could be moved to fit the team around Kobe’s needs. New York would finally have the marquee player they’ve sought since Ewing was traded. But most importantly, the Knicks would have a powerhouse team to end their 6 year declinasty.

Of course this is just speculation. The Wizards may wish to reconcile with Arenas. The Bulls might be forced to make a stronger offer containing Deng. A third team like the Pacers or Timberwolves might try to acquire Kobe. Or Kobe might rescind his trade demand and stay put. But if, or I should say, IF Kobe does get traded to Chicago for a package that included the fruit of the Eddy Curry trade, I’d spend a lot of time wondering if Eddy Curry cost the Knicks Kobe Bryant.

I’m Not So Sure the NBA Playoffs Need Fixing

In his June 14th column in the NY Sun, the excellent Martin Johnson penned this proposal (paid subscription req’d) to fix the NBA playoffs; increasing from two conferences to three for the regular season then seeding the teams 1-16, irrespective of conference, for the playoffs. Johnson’s proposal is a minor twist on an idea introduced by Golden State Warriors broadcaster Bob Fitzgerald.

I like the three conference idea for improving the quality of regular season play by making travel less onerous. However, I don’t think there’s anything about the NBA playoffs that needs fixing; not even after San Antonio’s rather inglorious sweep of the we-had-no-business-being-here Cleveland Cavaliers. The NBA playoffs don’t need administrative restructuring because at root this current spate of Western Conference dominance is a competitive issue–not an administrative one. As such only competitive dynamics can resolve the “problem” (if you choose to see it as such). Administrative tinkering with the playoffs is just as likely to unleash an unholy backlash of unintended consequences as it is to resolve any perceived imbalance.

In my humble opinion, the big advantage Western Conference clubs currently enjoy resides primarily in their front offices. Of course, an executive talent advantage is the best kind to have, since executive talent begets roster talent. But, it is also the toughest advantage to maintain over the long term. Competitive market pressures tend to ensure that executive talent diffuses to other teams. Nevertheless, at the risk of over-generalizing to the point of stereotype, I think the Eastern Conference still has more than its fair share of stodgy old franchises resistant to this unfamiliar talent. If this is the case, the market will simply continue to hammer them for it. Cleveland and Toronto have raided San Antonio’s and Phoenix’s front office personnel and assistant coaches in attempts to do something different and get better. In the process they’ve bolted past a number of the Eastern Conferences franchises that are happy stuck in their ruts.

Even though it is obvious that the Western Conference is better, it should be equally obvious that such things are not built to last. In fact, the west’s “dominance” is disproportionately reliant on a couple of great (poor) drafts by a handful of teams. Had just a handful of Eastern Conference executives shown better backbone, foresight, and most importantly talent evaluation skills in the past six-to-eight drafts the conference power imbalance would be minimal or perhaps non-existent. The east’s perennial playoff teams over that time period have missed on clear-cut opportunities to make themselves stronger over the near- and long-term through the draft and have paid a dear price. I highlight the draft because it is the clearest indicator of talent evaluation independent of other skills. It’s easy to show with a couple of illustrations how perfectly plausible alternative draft choices by two very good Eastern Conference teams might have made them far stronger, in Detroit’s case probably champions. My point isn’t to beat their GMs soundly about the head and shoulders with 20-20 hindsight, rather it is to illustrate how naturally tenuous so-called dominance really is in a league where the gap between the very best and very worst player isn’t very big compared to international ball or college ball.

Detroit – Had Joe Dumars’ gotten anything at all out of his drafts other than Tayshaun Prince that alone might have changed the tenor of the current discourse about conference power imbalance, at least at the top. For everything there is to like about Dumars it’s only fair to say that he was brutal in the 2003 draft and it cost his team dearly in 2005 and 2006. I don’t hammer Dumars for passing on Carmello Anthony in 2003 as much as I do for passing on Chris Bosh (for Darko Milicic) and Josh Howard (for Carlos Delfino). It is difficult to fathom a talent evaluation process that spit out Milicic and Delfino as the superior players to Bosh and Howard respectively. That 2003 draft may well have cost the Pistons at least one ring and it’s not like Dumars has done much in the draft since then. Not coincidentally, his Pistons have clearly run out of gas the last two post-seasons.

New Jersey – Rod Thorn is generally solid with his picks but his misses in 2003 (Zoran Planinic over Howard or Leandro Barbosa, and trading Kyle Korver to Philly for cash) and 2005 (Antoine Wright over Danny Granger or backup guards Jarrett Jack or Luther Head) left NJ with virtually no bench to compensate when the rash of injuries hit. New Jersey isn’t championship caliber in my opinion but given their core and style of play had they drafted better prior to last season they’d be the kind of team that would be a 50-win team in either conference.

Neither of these “what if” scenarios suggests that San Antonio, Dallas, and Phoenix wouldn’t still be the class of the NBA. But they do suggest that people may be overstating the case to claim that a) the Clippers are better than the Magic, but the Magic gets a playoff berth only through the good fortune of having been born in the East; so therefore b) the playoffs need to be restructured to address the competitive imbalance between the conferences. Just because part a is true shouldn’t lead one ipso facto to accept that part b is true. The practical difference between the Magic and Clippers lies almost exclusively in the gap between the two men who built their respective rosters: Otis Smith and Elgin Baylor. The talent gap separating those men and their rosters is real but it is also dynamic. Players come and go, as do GMs, as do talent gaps between rosters.

If I could play David Stern for two weeks, rather than tinker with playoff formats I’d look to find ways to replenish the pool of talented executives entering the league. Fundamentally, the competitive imbalance the west enjoys over the east right now derives primarily from the two teams best able to produce their own executive talent (i.e., San Antonio and Phoenix). It’s hardly a coincidence that both have not been shy about looking internationally, outside the relatively closed world of NBA lifers, to develop executive/coaching talent first; not surprisingly success at finding international players has followed.

Knicks 2007 Report Card (A to Z): Mardy Collins

KnickerBlogger: Mardy Collins’ first season was almost a disaster. As late as mid-February it seemed as if Collins would be remembered as a seldom used rookie that triggered the fight with the Nuggets. However injuries down the stretch ravaged the Knicks backcourt, and Collins was thrown into the fire. He was the starting point guard for the Knicks last 9 games, averaging 44 minutes per game in that stint. The 6-6 guard earns his keep on defense, where his size allows him to defend both point guards and shooting guards. Collins was second on the team with 1.6 steals per 40 minutes, and was the best rebounding guard, grabbing 5.4 rebounds per 40 minutes. According to 82games, the Knicks were 2.5 points per 100 possessions better on defense with Collins on the floor.

Unfortunately that’s where the positives end. Mardy Collins is a poor shooter. His shooting percentages (41% eFG, 44.5% TS%, 27.7% 3P%, and 58% FT%) were dreadful for a guard. Collins is able to run the offense, but the problem is when the ball comes back to a wide open Mardy who is unable to connect from outside. Additionally he was a bit careless with the ball, as Collins turned the ball over 2.9 times per 40 minutes, which is too high for a player that scores only 12.1 points per 40 minutes. Turnover rates are usually higher for rookie point guards trying to adjust to NBA offenses, so it’s something that’s likely to improve as he matures.

KnickerBlogger’s Grade: C

2008 Outlook: Like Collins’ draftmate Renaldo Balkman, Collins is a strong defender who struggles in the half court set. His three point percentage is almost passable, but he wasn’t a strong bombardier in college (29%), so it’s unclear if he can actually develop that shot in the NBA. Collins’ poor free throw shooting doesn’t bode well for his potential to develop a midrange shot. Like Balkman, if Collins can’t find a way to contribute on offense he’ll be nothing more than a bench player for the remainder of his career. Being the Knicks’ best defensive guard, he does have value in that capacity. Unless Isiah makes a big shake-up at either guard position, Collins will likely find time as a part time defender and injury substitute.

Michael Zannettis: The hope of developing a jump shot seems to me to be the holy grail of basketball player development. Off the top of my head I’m hard pressed to think of one productive professional athlete who entered the league incompetent at shooting, then developed a reliable game. As such, I’m fairly down on Collins. It’s not like his athleticism shoots through the roof. That being said, can anyone think of a poor shooter when they entered the NBA that then developed their shooting skills?

Brian Cronin: If you want to know why we won’t love him so – it’s there in his misses!

(Is it in his D?)
Oh no! You need to see!
(Is it in his size?)
Oh no! You make believe!
If you wanna know
Why we won’t love him so
Its in his misses
(That’s where it is!)

Seriously, Collins’ problem is just extremely straightforward. The guy doesn’t have an outside shot. Imagine if he DID, though? How awesome would he be? Good defender, nice size for a guard, if he could shoot, he’d have the total package.

As it is, Collins had a month of counting stats convince a lot of sportswriters that he was actually a good player. At the moment, he is not. And since, as Michael mentions, it is unlikely that he will suddenly become a good shooter, Collins is probably never going to be more than a good defensive back-up guard. That, to me, is worth a C, so I agree with KB’s grade.

Knicks 2007 Report Card (A to Z): Kelvin Cato

KnickerBlogger: Cato played only 95 minutes this year, the fewest in his 10 year career. It’s a shame because his skill set is complementary to that of Curry’s, and Cato could have helped the Knicks in spot duty. Cato is a very good defender, and the Knicks desperately needed help in that area. New York finished 24th in defensive efficiency.

KnickerBlogger’s Grade: Incomplete

2008 Outlook: The Knicks would be lucky to resign Cato, and give him whatever minutes they gave to Jerome James. For his career he doesn’t block shots as often as James (2.6 to 3.2 blk/40), but he commits less fouls (5.1 to 8.3 pf/40), turnovers (1.7 to 3.4 pf/40), and is a better rebounder (10.8 to 9.2 reb/40). Unfortunately Isiah has James signed until 2010, so James will eat up the deep bench center minutes. Most likely next season Cato will find a team that will actually play him.

Brian Cronin: Looking back, I guess the market out there for Kelvin Cato just wasn’t as big as one would think, because why else would he sign with the Knicks? Talent-wise, it’s a great fit, as Cato is the type of strong defender that the Knicks really could use (and he can still move quick enough that he could hang with the Lees and Balkmans of the world…well, maybe not, but still better than Curry! In other words, this isn’t a big stiff we’re talking about here), but manpower-wise, he had to know he wasn’t going to get to play, so I guess no other team had a need for him, which is too bad, as I think he could help out a number of teams. I really liked what little we saw of him this year. But yeah, any grade other than “Incomplete” would be silly here.