Round 2: NBA Blogger’s Bracket

With 2 rounds in the books, let’s take a look at the KnickerBlogger NBA bracket standings.

Rank Name Round1 ER2T1 ER2T2 WR2T1 WR2T2 Round2 Total
1 Kevin Broom 41 7 7 5 5 24 65
2 Kevin 37 5 7 5 7 24 61
3.5 Mr.BB 36 7 5 5 7 24 60
3.5 Ron Hitley 36 5 7 7 5 24 60
5.5 Roland 44 5 5 0 5 15 59
5.5 KnickerBlogger 35 5 7 5 7 24 59
7 Kelly Dwyer 41 7 5 0 5 17 58
8 Matt Bernhardt 34 7 7 0 5 19 53
9 Aaron Schatz 37 5 5 0 5 15 52
10 Justin Kubatko 34 5 7 0 5 17 51
11 Larry Fleisher 34 5 5 5 0 15 49
12 Brian Bassett 31 5 0 7 5 17 48
13 Martin Johnson 32 5 5 0 5 15 47
14 Kurt 29 5 5 0 5 15 44
15 Jeff 29 5 0 0 7 12 41

At the top are the two Kevins, followed by a tie between our international contributor and Ron from Hornets247.com. In fifth place is statmaster Roland Beech. Beech drops out of first place from the first round, and will keep on falling. Roland has the elimanted Dallas Mavericks has his champion. The New York Sun’s participant, Martin Johnson, also has the Mavs to win the West, but he selected the Pistons to take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Speaking of what is predicted in the next two rounds, here’s the remaining picks & scores of all the contestants.

Name URL ECC WCC CHAMP Champ Score TOTAL
Kevin Broom www.RealGM.com MIA in 7 SAS in 6 SAS in 7 92-86 65
Kevin www.supersonics.com MIA in 7 SAS in 7 SAS in 6 91-84 61
Mr.BB www.basketblogger.com MIA in 4 SAS in 6 MIA in 5 94-89 60
Ron Hitley www.hornets247.com MIA in 6 SAS in 6 MIA in 7 91-84 60
Roland 82games.com DET in 6 DAL in 6 DAL in 6 115-98 59
KnickerBlogger www.knickerblogger.net MIA in 5 SAS in 6 SAS in 6 94-85 59
Kelly Dwyer sportsillustrated.cnn.com/ DET in 6 SAS in 7 SAS in 6 92-83 58
Matt Bernhardt bulls.blogspot.com DET in 5 SAS in 5 SAS in 6 90-82 53
Aaron Schatz www.footballoutsiders.com MIA in 7 SAS in 7 MIA in 7 89-84 52
Justin Kubatko www.basketball-reference.com MIA in 7 SAS in 6 MIA in 7 91-86 51
Larry Fleisher knicks.mostvaluablenetwork.com DET in 7 PHO in 7 DET in 6 103-99 49
Brian Bassett www.thejetsblog.com MIA in 6 SAS in 6 MIA in 7 105-98 48
Martin Johnson www.nysun.com DET in 7 DAL in 6 DET in 7 85-79 47
Kurt www.forumblueandgold.com DET in 6 SAS in 7 SAS in 7 86-74 44
Jeff www.CelticsBlog.com MIA in 6 SAS in 6 SAS in 6 97-86 41

Brrr?. Is There a Draft in Here?

[While KnickerBlogger has been ignoring his blog by shmoozing it up with close friends visiting from out of town, KnickerBlogger’s Head College Expert David Crockett has been busy thinking about the Knicks future. In an attempt to become the Mel Kiper Jr. of the NBA, “Dr. C.” has gone over the Knicks’ needs for the June draft.

David Crockett is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of South Carolina, and can be reached at dcrockett17@yahoo.com.]

On May 24th the 2005 Draft Lottery will take place in the NBA studios. At that time the Knicks will know where they will draft in what is shaping up as a reasonably talented draft, depending on which early entrants hire agents and stay in the draft. Of course the playoffs will determine where the team?s second first round pick, obtained from the Spurs (via Phoenix), will be chosen. I knew it was time to think about a draft column when I got an email from a buddy of mine, a bona fide Jayhawk backer and Duke hater, comprised of three short sentences:

I hope you?re sitting down when you read this?
I just heard that Shavlik Randolph is going league.
I am incapable of rational thought right now.
So even though much is still to be determined between now and June I thought I?d fire up my Mel Kiper wig and dig into the NBA draft a bit.

First, We Need a Guard
So what do our beloved Knickerbockers need heading into the 2005-2006 season? Well, in a sharp departure from many of the pundits I believe the Knicks? first priority is in the backcourt rather than at center.

Stephon Marbury had one of the finest offensive seasons by a New York Knick in recent memory in 2004-2005. Though he is not the league?s best point guard, a claim for which he was waaaay overcriticized, ?Starbury? demonstrated the kind of skill and maturity ? e.g., moving off the ball to facilitate Crawford?s development ? few thought possible. According to Knickerblogger’s stat page Marbury?s assist ratio (27.3 assists per 100 possessions) ranked him a somewhat pedestrian 14th in the league among those playing at least 25 minutes per game. However, he was one of only five players on that list who also had a turnover ratio under 10. 82games.com lists Marbury?s PER as a lofty 23.3 and Knickerblogger reports it as a tad below 23; both numbers are clearly in the high-rent district. Marbury?s efg was over 50% and he went to the line frequently, making 35 free-throws per 100 shots from the floor.

Of course, offense was not the problem at the world?s most famous arena this season. Offensively, the Knicks? 103 points per 100 possessions (offensive efficiency) was middle of the pack (16th) ? a far cry from Phoenix?s 111.8 but better than that posted by these playoff teams: Pacers, Nets, Bulls, Pistons, Sixers, and Grizzlies. Unfortunately, in an all too familiar refrain the Knicks sucked eggs defensively this season; just like last season. However unlike last season when the available statistical evidence failed to provide undisputable proof that the backcourt was the primary problem, this season?s stats are much more sympathetic to this point of view. Marbury and Crawford were, simply put, terrible. According to 82games, in 2003-2004 Marbury held opposing point guards to a surprisingly respectable 14.5 PER. (Average PER is set at 15.) This season he allowed an opponents? PER of 16.5. Marbury gave up more penetration (26% in-close FGAs vs. 21% in 2003-2004) and more free throw attempts per 48 minutes (4.7 vs. 3.6). His opponents shot 48.6% efg and had over 8 assists per 48. These incidental numbers strongly suggest that Marbury?s shoddy defense requires him to post phenomenal offensive numbers just to remain a net positive and that his offense comes at the price of major stress on the frontcourt to cover for his deficiencies.

Certainly, a large part of Marbury?s inconsistency and ineffectiveness on defense comes from his indifference. However, we are also starting to see the ill-effects of 8 consecutive seasons of 38+ minutes per game (mpg) on his body. He has fatigued at the ends of the last two seasons and his knee became a problem as this season wore on. Is it any wonder? He just completed his ninth season averaging 40 minutes per game and a career high in total minutes, 2nd only to Lebron James. Only in Marbury?s rookie season did he average fewer than 38 mpg. It would simply be foolish for the Knicks to continue to play Marbury 38-40 minutes per night without expecting his body to break down even more rapidly and eventually impact his offense. Marbury can be more effective playing fewer minutes. Jason Kidd has had seven sub-38 mpg seasons, including each season in New Jersey. Steve Nash has yet to average 38 mpg in any season. This season he averaged 34 (not even among the top 50), managing the league?s most efficient offense without a ?true? backup point guard no less. If these two guys are playing around 34-35 mpg Marbury should be playing no more.

At the shooting guard position Jamal Crawford looked every bit the ?instant offense? third guard he really is this season. At times he was indefensible but as his minutes increased to 38+ his warts became more visible. According to 82games.com, in his minutes at shooting guard Crawford shot almost 50% and had a more than respectable 16.8 PER. However his 18.2 opponents? PER made everyone he guarded look practically like Peja Stojakovic. Crawford, like his backcourt mate, gave up tons of penetration to opposing guards (26% in-close FG%), and ever the gentlemen, regularly ushered them to the free throw line (5.3 FTA per 48). Whatever additional pressure Marbury put on the frontcourt to mask his defensive shortcomings Crawford matched, only without the consistent offensive production. The Knicks don?t want to be forced to play Crawford more than 20-25 mpg, much less the 38+ he played this season.

The Knicks desperately need backcourt help. On a per 48 minute basis the opposing backcourt is taking more than half its shots from in close and taking 10 trips to the free throw line. The key to defensive improvement is cutting down on the penetration from opposing guards. A shot-blocking center that can erase penetration is a luxury; one most teams must live without. Such players are in woefully short supply and the Knicks would not be wise to pin their hopes on acquiring a ready made center in the draft or the free agent market.

The wiser course of action is to look to the draft for backcourt help. The value appears to be at point guard, with high-quality collegiate point guards available into the 2nd round. The shooting guard position looks weak by comparison. Which point guards and shooting guards should the Knicks consider with their three picks? I?ve listed a few players the Knicks might consider just to whet the appetite. More will come after the Chicago pre-draft camp and workouts. (Note: comments on college players only.)

Point Guards

Name/College Availability? Comment
Chris Paul, Wake Forest Early first round, 2nd (New Orleans) to 6th (Milwaukee), depending on team needs and workouts Paul was perhaps the most efficient offensive perimeter player in the nation this season. He absolutely lived at the free throw line; amazing for a sub-six footer. On the other hand, Paul doesn?t defend. The Knicks don?t need anymore of that.
Deron Williams, Illinois Early first round 4th (Utah) to late lottery 16th (Toronto) depending on workouts I really like Williams even though he doesn?t fit Isiah?s ?athleticism? mantra. He?s a high IQ, instinctive player. He?s a bit like Andre Miller without the post-up game but a much better jump shooter. He?s best-suited to run a half-court screen-roll or a passing and cutting offense but he can get up and down too.
Raymond Felton, North Carolina Early first round 4th (Utah) to mid-lottery 12th (LA Clippers) No college player is better than Felton at pushing the ball at the defense. He?s smart, fearless, he defends, and his jump shot is developing. He?s tailor-made for an uptempo team that asks its point guard to penetrate-and-kick. He strikes me as a comparable, though better prospect than T.J. Ford because of his strength.
Jarrett Jack, Georgia Tech. Mid-lottery 8th (Knicks) to end of round 1 30th (Knicks) depending on workouts Declared but hasn?t hired an agent. Opinions are all over the place on him. His detractors generally point to his turnovers. I love Jack?s all around game, particularly his on ball defense, and his athleticism. If he goes to Chicago and plays well he could solidify his status in the mid-to-late lottery.
Nate Robinson, Washington Early 2nd round Robinson is an exceptional on-ball defender and may be the best pound-for-pound athlete in the draft. Unfortunately, he also may have hurt his draft status more than any other player with a disappointing NCAA tournament.
John Gilchrist, Maryland Early to mid 2nd round He has everything you could ask for from a physical standpoint. His basketball IQ just isn?t there yet. He should have gone back to school.
Luther Head, Illinois Early-to-mid 2nd round Luther is a combo guard who will find his way onto a team as an excellent passer, defensive stopper, and a guy who will take a big shot.
Aaron Miles, Kansas Late 2nd round/free agent Miles has all the intangibles ? basketball IQ, pure point guard skills, feel for the game, leadership, toughness, unselfishness ? but lacks size and anything resembling a jump shot. He?s small and light. He has to find the right situation, or as I heard someone put it recently, ?Hit the Chris Duhon lottery.?

Of the point guards listed I think Williams, Felton, and Jack have the most to contribute to the Knicks immediately. Each could run the second unit. Each pushes the ball and thinks pass-first, but can score if needed. Most importantly, each will play their first NBA summer league game as a better on-ball defender than Marbury or Crawford is right now.

Shooting Guards

Name/College Availability? Comment
Antoine Wright, Texas A&M Late lottery #10 (Lakers) to #30 (Knicks) Played his entire career on really awful teams but put up good numbers. He?s a willing defender and a potentially dynamite scorer. He has an NBA ready body.
Kennedy Winston, Alabama Late lottery #10 (Lakers) to #30 (Knicks) There is a lot to like. Winston has a great body and a great stroke, but can be lazy defensively and is turnover prone.
Francisco Garcia, Louisville Late first round #20 (Denver) to #30 (Knicks) Garcia is the Deron Williams of shooting guards. His basketball skills and IQ are his biggest assets. He?ll need to go to a team that values those things and is willing to live with his athletic deficiencies.
Salim Stoudamire, Arizona Early 2nd round More Steve Kerr (pure shooter) than Eddie House (scorer). Unlike House or Kerr though, Stoudamire?s defense will allow him to stay on the floor. Also, he can run the point for a few minutes a night.
Tiras Wade, LA-Lafayette Mid-late 2nd round Big-time scorer with nice size from a small conference.
Alex Acker, Pepperdine Late 2nd round/free agent Alex is another combo guard. An athletic 6?5? with some legitimate point guard skills he could conceivably work his way into round 1.

Overall, I?m not so sure this is the draft the Knicks will find an heir apparent to Houston at shooting guard, particularly once Wright and Winston are off the board. I?m assuming Isiah isn?t silly enough to consider a schoolboy shooting guard (Gerald Green or Martell Webster), particularly since defense rather than scoring is the problem in the backcourt. The Knicks may be best off continuing to develop Ariza as a swing man rotating him with Crawford and Penny.

Coming Soon: We Need a Center Too

Under Pressure

“Down 2-0, the pressure is on the Sonics to win game 3 in Seattle.”
“The Sonics eked out a victory, but the pressure is still on them to tie the series up.”
“With the Spurs heading back to San Antonio at 2-2, the pressure is back on them to win and maintain home field advantage.”

Can someone name a situation in the playoffs where there is no pressure on both teams? I can’t imagine a single scenario where there is stress on one team but not the other. Even before the opening tip, there is stress on both teams to win game 1, not just the home team. If the low seed steals one of the first two games, there is “pressure” on the other team to reclaim the home field advantage. But there is “pressure” is on the low seed to keep that advantage, especially against what was a better team in the regular season.

It’s obvious that any team that is facing a single game elimination is under “pressure”. When a team is down 3 games to 2, there is “pressure” on them to win in order to keep their season alive. However they’re not the only ones carrying the load as a team up 3-2 suffers from the burden of not allowing a pivotal game 7. The same can be said of being up 3-1, since you don’t want to let the other team “back in the series.” One game from a sweep there has to be pressure on that team to earn that distinction. And of course no one wants to end there season losing 4 straight, so there is pressure on them as well.

1-0. 2-0. 2-1. 2-2. 3-2. 0-1. 3-1. Quite simply in the playoffs, for every game played there is “pressure” on both teams to win.

NBA Action Is Fantastic!

Last Tuesday I bemoaned the lack of excitement in the second round of the NBA playoffs. Since then, the playoffs has been everything I could have asked for. The second game of the Suns-Mavs series went down to the wire, and the third was one of the fastest paced games I’ve seen since Paul Westhead roamed the sidelines in Denver. A blink might have made you miss a possession, a sneeze could have cost you a 6 point swing. Phoenix has become the new Dallas, complete with the Mavs’ old point guard. Their offense is so efficient, they just run the ball up the court trying to make the game as many possessions as possible because they know they can outscore anybody. Meanwhile the Mavs have tried to distance themselves from the run & gun club they were just a few years ago. They’ve gone so far with that mentality that they chose Dampier over Nash, convinced that they couldn’t go any further without balancing the scale a little.

The philosophy clash. Nash vs. Dirk. Joe Johnson crashing face first to the floor. Uptempo scoring in a defensive league. What else could you want in a series?

Indiana made it a series when Jeff Foster had a not-really-a-triple-double in game 2 with 14 points, 10 offensive rebounds, and 10 defensive rebounds. Not only did the Pacers win game 2, but they took #3 as well. Although Sunday night Detroit fans could sleep better knowing the contest was tied at 2 games apiece, the volatile nature of the first 4 games has shown this series could go in any direction.

In the Pacific north, the Sonics have lost Radmanovic for the series, Ray Allen for half a game, and Rashard Lewis for game 4, but they’ve managed to tie the series at 2-2. In Game 4, Seattle gave 150 minutes to 4 guards: Allen, Ridnour, Daniels and Wilkins. In turn they received 86 points on a very efficient 66% eFG. Any coach that is without two key players, who decides to go small against the strangling defense of the Spurs and wins a pivotal game 4 should have won coach of the year. No disrespect to Mike D’Antoni, but Nate McMillan has had much tougher choices to make this year than when to play Bo Outlaw, Paul Shirley, and Jake Voskuhl. (The answer to that question is when the crowd starts making its way to the parking lot).

As bad as the first few days were, the last few days has been as good. Except for the Heat which swept the Wizards without Shaq, every series has had something to offer for every fan.

Six Games Of Stinking

 

I’m a big fan of all sorts of games like casino games that can be played at 666casino and sports, and I really like the thrill of playing these games and watching all kinds of sports. Just a few days ago I thought there was going to be some exciting action in the NBA. Saturday had two game 7s to finalize the first round, while the next two days would be filled with the initial offerings of the second round. It was reasonable to consider given those matchups, there would be at least a few exciting games out of those six.

Boy was I mistaken.

The Pacer-Celtics game was 35-32 at the half, which should have triggered some flashbacks of my freshman English teacher instructing me on the definition of foreshadowing. While the game required an offenisve shot in the arm, it appears that only the Pacers were innoculated. They were up by 14 by the start of the fourth, where they outscored the New Englanders by 13 more. The Celtics failed to score more than 20 in any quarter, and the luck of the Irish were with them as they shot 39.7% eFG. The luck of the 1840s Irish, that is.

At least the first game was close at the half. The final deciding game of the first round was a 116-76 snoozer. The Mavs were up by 15 by mid game, and it got so out of control in the second half, that Jeff Van Gundy sat Tracy McGrady in the early 4th. Watching this game you might have forgotten that after the first two games, Houston was heading home up 2-0. Did the players forget their coach was slapped with a house-sized fine for over-zealously campaigning for a few extra whistles to benefit his team? Or maybe that was on their minds, instead of stopping the Mavs from putting the pretty orange ball in the hoop. Visit this weblink and play your favorite games of this season.

As for Sunday, despite the Heat turning over the ball 15 times, their best player fouling out (Shaq), and 48 points from Washington’s backcourt, the Wizards still lost by 19. The tale of the tape was the bench, as the Miami reserves outscored their Washington counterparts 46-5. In the second half of the doubleheader, Ray Allen’s injury in the second quarter meant doom for the Emerald City. The Sonics didn’t regroup until the third quarter, but by that time the Spurs already had a commanding 27 point advantage.

The song goes “whenever Monday comes you can find me cryin’ all of the time,” which accurately described my basketball life by Monday night. After opening a can of whuppass against the Celtics, the Pacers were on the back-end of the humiliation as they failed to outscore Detroit in any quarter. When Ben Wallace drops a blackjack on you, you know you’ve been Punk’d. Finally, the Nash-Nowitzki, high-powered, octane-fueled, nitro-charged Mavs-Suns game was highlighted by Avery Johnson’s one man Three’s Company tribute. In the third quarter, with the game already out of hand, the Lil’ General stepped on the court protesting a non-call against his team during play, and proceeded to fall on his ass in a way that would have made John Ritter proud. Johnson got up and went into an angry Mr Furley berating the ref, which earned him an early trip to the showers. In an ode to the 5th season of Threes Company, Johnson exited stage left ala Suzanne Somers.

Six games, three nights, six stinkers. Tomorrow night doesn’t seem to offer any solace. While I’m not a gambler, I doubt even Pete Rose is desperate enough to take Washington or Seattle for even money. The NBA could easily extend this streak to eight for eight. What Tuesday night viewers need is a little magic from the Wiz, and a healthy dose of a Ray Allen.

Round 1 Trivia Answers + A Secret Surprise At The End

The answers to yesterday’s trivia:

1. Which player had the highest PER in the first round?
A. Ray Allen

2. Of the four, which Miami player had the highest PER?
D. Dwyane Wade

3. Of the four, which Miami player had the lowest PER?
C. Shaquille O’Neal

4. Which team had the best offensive efficiency?
C. Phoenix Suns

5. Of the two, which team had the better defense?
A. Boston Celtics

6. The best defensive rebounding team was?
C. New Jersey Nets

7. Which series had the fastest pace?
A. CHI/WAS

Congratulations to Ben who won the contest with 3 correct guesses. Not only was Ben the winner, but he was also the loser and the median, as he was the only one to participate in the contest. Of course this will keep me up all night wondering what percentage of my users are really shy and which surf the web without the aid of their keyboards.

While some of the answers should be a bit surprising, that I was able to come up with the questions themselves should be interesting. If you’ve seen the equation for PER, you might be wondering why someone would go through all the trouble to calculate it for the entire Miami Heat just for some silly trivia. Well instead of busting out my abacus, I just tweaked my stat site and have created the official KnickerBlogger.Net 2005 playoff stat page. The old stat page is still there, as the playoff one has it’s own web page.

So if you’re a blogger looking for some interesting stats to write about, a message board addict looking for numbers to silence a troll, or an idiot savant looking for a new bunch of numbers to memorize, feel free to dig around the 2005 playoff stat page.