Pre-Draft Camp Mock and Draft Thoughts Part II: L-O-T-T-O!

If you haven’t already done so take a look at Part I, done prior to the lottery.

Now that the ping pong balls have bounced, leaving our beloved Knickerbockers no better or worse off than they’d have been just based on record, I’ll re-work the lottery picks and post the remainder of this first round mock.

1. LA Clippers – Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma: If Mike Dunleavy’s recent declaration of undying love for Blake Griffin is true then he’ll probably trade players to clear room for his new beloved. If it’s not true then the #1 pick may represent a rare opportunity to clean up a roster that is a mess, possibly in one fell swoop. (Previously: Ricky Rubio)

2. Memphis – Ricky Rubio, PG, Spain: Choosing Rubio has its advantages, regardless of whether he wants to play in Memphis. His rights become an asset for the asset-starved Grizz. Even though Memphis should do this, no player in this draft generates more ambivalence for me than Rubio. The talent is evident, but there are lots of reasons it may not work out for the team that drafts him. (Previously: Demar DeRozan)

3. Oklahoma City – Hasheem Thabeet, C, UConn: Thabeet may be a one-trick pony but his trick is precisely what OKC needs. He’s a defensive anchor, with a decent shot at becoming a more athletic Mutombo. The downside is that he will probably never be even an average offensive player. But, in this draft there’s something to be said for being fairly certain of a player’s “floor”. (Previously: Brandon Jennings)

4. Sacramento – Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy: Sactown will most likely take the best PG left on the board. I suspect Rubio would prefer Sactown over Memphis, and perhaps a deal can be struck. (Previously: Blake Griffin)

5. Washington – Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona: The Wiz is the team I think most likely to deal its pick. If they keep it they’ll be looking for depth that could help in a pinch, but with some upside. Hill is a lot like Chris Wilcox. (Previously: Hasheem Thabeet)

6. Minnesota – Tyreke Evans, G, Memphis: I think Minny opts for the highest upside player on the board regardless of position. It could be Evans, depending on workouts. It could also be Hill, Jennings, DeRozan, or Lawson. Almost literally nothing they do would surprise me, which I hope they interpret as a challenge. (Previously: Evans)

7. Golden State – James Harden, G, Arizona State: I’ve loved to watch this kid play since he was a junior in high school. To me he’s the 6’5″ Paul Pierce. Other mocks have him higher right now, but I expect that on draft night he’ll slide in between 5 and 8. (Previously: Jordan Hill)

8. New York – Ty Lawson, G, UNC: I almost pulled the trigger on Lawson in the previous version. Now that I think Nate Robinson most likely will be signed-and-traded this July, Lawson becomes a better fit. He used to be just a fly-down-the floor guard (and frankly, there is something to be said for that) but his screen roll game has really evolved. I expect him to shine in workouts. He may be this year’s Westbrook–an already well-regarded player who vaults up the board based on superior workouts. Oh, and I really hope Walsh can find a 2nd round pick this year. This draft has some potentially very useful role players. (Previously: James Harden)

9. Toronto – Stephen Curry, G, Davidson: Is it possible to NOT love Steph Curry’s game? He fits Toronto like a glove, even down to his weaknesses (i.e., lateral quickness, overall athleticism, defense). He’s also the right kid to play outside the lower 48. This is a makes-too-much-sense-NOT-to-happen move if Curry is available. (Previously: Stephen Curry)

10. Milwaukee – Dejaun Blair, PF/C, Pittsburgh: Blair’s rebounding and long arms may get him to the top ten. (Previously: Ty Lawson)

11. New Jersey – Demar DeRozan, SF, USC: I think DeRozan is the biggest gamble this draft. It’s just not clear if he’s really good at anything yet. Add to that, he may be leaving town one step ahead of the sheriff with allegations of payola hanging over Tim Floyd at USC. Having said that, I’d honestly be a bit surprised if someone doesn’t pull the trigger on him earlier. (Previously: Jeff Teague)

12. Charlotte – Gerald Henderson, SG, Duke: With Larry Brown making personnel decisions, there is simply no way to anticipate what he’ll do. What I can probably write down is “scrappy, hard-nosed defender with a high basketball IQ” and just wait to fill in the name. I like Henderson as a solid sixth man who plays both ends. (Previously: Gerald Henderson)

13. Indiana – Jrue Holiday, G, UCLA: Holiday was probably among the most shocked when Darren Collison return to UCLA for his senior season. That moved Holiday to SG, where he struggled playing limited minutes out of position for a team with a style that doesn’t exactly fit his strengths. I’m not an “everyone should play one year!” guy, but Holiday should go back to school for another year. He’d definitely move to PG this year and could vault himself into the top 5 of next year’s draft. He may yet do so in this draft based on workouts, but the new format doesn’t allow as many chances for teams to see players as in the past. As of this writing he hasn’t hired an agent, but everything I have read suggests that he’s in the draft to stay. (Previously: Earl Clark)

14. Phoenix – Johnny Flynn, PG, Syracuse: The rumor mill says that Phoenix likes him. We’ll take that as a baseline pick. (Previously: Johnny Flynn)

15. Detroit – Earl Clark, F, Louisville: I am not a fan of Clark’s offensive game, particularly shot selection, but he’s a good defender. (Previously: Wayne Ellington)

Once we get out of the lottery, beauty will be in the eye of the beholder. I expect trades galore and one or two “who the hell is that guy!?” selections as well.

16. Chicago – Jeff Teague, G, Wake Forest: Teague is an undersized SG, a high-usage player both years at Wake but improved his TS% from 59% to 62% almost exclusively by getting to the line. He looks like Ben Gordon with a clue.

17. Philadelphia – Chase Budinger, SG/SF, Arizona: I posted a fairly extensive take on him at Arizona Desert Swarm. At this point in the draft he’s a bargain as a 6th or 7th man. It’s also worth noting that Philadelphia currently puts absolute blechhh! on the floor at SG.

18. Minnesota – BJ Mullens, C, Ohio State: This would be a reasonable gamble on size, athleticism, and potential in the high teens.

19. Atlanta – Terrance Williams, SG/SF, Louisville: Like his Cardinal counterpart, Williams brings much more to the floor in defense and other areas unrelated to scoring. For its part Atlanta doesn’t need another mouth to feed on offense. Williams could bring back a little of what they miss since Josh Childress left for Greece.

20. Utah – Sam Young, SF, Pittsburgh: He plays a similar game to Matt Harpring; a little jump shot and a lot of bruises.

21. New Orleans – Marcus Thornton, SG, LSU: I’m not a huge fan of Thorton as a playmaker, where he was often miscast in college. As the new (better) Janero Pargo I like him a lot better.

22. Dallas – James Johnson, F, Wake Forest: I think the Mavs take the most athletic front court player they can find at 22.

23. Sacramento – Tyler Hansborough, PF, North Carolina: Hansborough isn’t a first or even second option in the NBA, but he will rebound, run the floor, get to the line, and should be a decent pick and pop player. DraftExpress’ comparison to Luis Scola sounds about right.

24. Portland – Jermaine Taylor, SG, Central Florida: What Portland needs is a slashing small forward to better compliment Roy, but they won’t get one unless they trade. They’ll probably end up moving this pick, but if not Taylor is a player that could develop into the kind of slasher they need.

25. Oklahoma City – Darren Collison, PG, UCLA: He would join former backcourt mate Westbrook, and projects to a very solid backup PG.

26. Chicago – DaJaun Summers, SF, Georgetown: Gamble on upside.

27. Memphis – Wayne Ellington, SG, UNC

28. Minnesota – Eric Maynor, G, VCU

29. LA Lakers – Jodie Meeks, G, Kentucky

30. Cleveland – Gani Lawal, PF, Georgia Tech

Note: Austin Daye would definitely be in the first round, but right now I am unsure about whether he’ll return to Gonzaga. I hope he does. I love his game. He just needs to put on some muscle.

The Cost of Duhon

Reading through the KnickerBlogger forums, I came across a thread on Duhon where BigBlueAl stated he wouldn’t “mind keeping Duhon beyond 2010, but at what price?” Good question.

There’s no doubt that Duhon has been a good fit for D’Antoni’s system. Duhon is able to push the ball up the floor quickly in D’Antoni’s offense, he doesn’t turn the ball over much, and tries to get his teammates involved on offense. I would rate him as an above average defender. One bonus to Duhon is that he’s able to defend taller shooting guards, so you can pair him with an undersized SG. He does have trouble with quicker guards, but as Caleb noted guarding quick guards has been extremely difficult since the NBA instituted rules against hand checking.

Although Duhon is a good distributor, his lack of inside scoring hurts him. If he drives to the hoop and if the passing lanes are cut off, he usually ends up turning the ball over or missing the shot. According to 82games, Duhon hits only 43.1% of his shots that are labeled “inside” (compare to Nate Robinson’s 61.0%).

Fans and writers alike have speculated that the Knicks might trade their best asset, David Lee, in order to stay cap friendly for 2010. But the team doesn’t have many other good front court options for 2010. The Knicks would be taking an awful big risk hoping that Wilson Chandler or Danilo Gallinari will turn into a quality starting NBA power forward. Although the team would have more money to play with, they would have a barren front court, making them less attractive to prospective free agents. Even with Lee earning around $10M a year, it’s likely that the Knicks will be able to play free agency in 2010 and then again in 2011

With all the obsessing over David Lee, perhaps the pundits have missed the more pressing question. Maybe it isn’t which Knick forwards will still be wearing the orange & blue in 2010, but rather which guards. Just like with their front court, the team might not be able to lure a top free agent without some quality guards on the roster. New York missed out on grabbing a cheap guard when they chose Roberson instead of Von Wafer this summer.

So far just about every pundit has assumed the team would keep Robinson. In the summer of 2010, Robinson is scheduled to make $3M (qualifying offer) and Duhon $6M. Most likely Robinson will want a raise from his rookie contract, while Duhon may not seek more per year in lieu of a longer deal. So it’s possible that both players will ask for about the same amount of money or be within a million or two. And depending on their cap situation, the Knicks might not be able to afford both players.

Although Duhon may be more valuable to the Knicks, Robinson might be worth more to another team due to his youth and ability come off the bench and score points. It’s a dilemma for the team, and they may not be able to answer that question until after next summer. If the Knicks draft a point guard, then it makes more sense to drop Duhon and keep Robinson. But if they grab a shooting guard, then Robinson could be the odd man out. The Knicks would benefit more from the latter, because they could trade Robinson and receive something in return. It’ll be interesting to see how things turn out.

Knicks 2009 Season Preview Part V

Part I here.
Part II here.
Part III here.
Part IV here.

FRONTCOURT: (cont)

Hailed the franchise centerpiece upon his arrival in 2005, Curry now finds himself as the odd man out in the front court. In his three years in New York, Eddy Curry’s per minute stats have stayed the same, only his minutes per game has fluctuated. During 2007 the Knick center averaged 35.2 minutes per game, about 10 minutes more than the year before and the year after, hence causing a spike in his per game stats. This has led many to believe that it was a major step forward for Curry, when in fact little developmental gain was actually made.

But two years ago the only stat Curry had peaked in was his fouls per min (3.3 PF/36). Meanwhile he had career worsts in turnovers (3.7 TO/36), blocks (0.5 blk/36), and free throw percentage (61.5%). Last year Curry’s stats were about the same as his other two in Knick uniforms. His turnovers did drop to the lowest in 4 seasons (3.0 TO/36), but his rebounding hit an all time low (6.5 REB/36). Once he does release the ball he’s efficient (TS%: 57.8%, eFG%: 54.6%) but the high turnovers and low peripheral stats make him a below average player.

Curry’s injury in the preseason has left him a step behind everyone else, but you have to wonder if he wouldn’t be coming off the bench even if he were healthy. It seems that versatile players do well in D’Antoni’s system. There’s hardly any set plays and not much repetitiveness, just about every player needs to be able to read and react. So a unitasker like Eddy Curry, who for his whole career has been a go-to-the-post-catch-the-ball-shoot-the-ball guy, may have trouble adjusting. Since arriving in New York, he has been handed the Knicks starting center without having to earn it. For the first time in his career, Curry is being challenged. Steady Eddy has been stagnant over the last 3 years, but he’s only turning 26 so there’s still chance he could improve. Maybe this is the jolt he needs to develop as a player.

Malik Rose is still on the roster, but he’s not likely to get much playing time when the season starts. Most likely any time he gets early will go to Jared Jeffries once he’s healthy. Under D’Antoni Jeffries will be moved from the swingman role to a frontcourt spot. There’s no question that Jeffries is a limited player on offense (career: TS%: 47.3%, eFG%: 44.3%), and his only real contribution is rebounding (3.2 OREB/36) and defense. Power forward shouldn’t be anything new to Jeffries, since he played nearly half his minutes there last year. But playing center will be, and it’ll be interesting how Jeffries handles the change under D’Antoni.

Jerome James is another player that was expected to be cut, but is still on the roster. James hasn’t played much over his Knick career, because of his incredible sense of humor. During games the camera always finds James making his teammates laugh on the bench. Obviously the Knick front office values such humor, and it’s unquestionable that camaraderie is one of those intangibles that plays a big part in winning. If the Knicks are going to turn the corner, they’ll need James to tell jokes on a nightly basis.

Unfortunately James’ tremendous contribution off the court has made the Knicks miss out on an incredible player on the court. Jerome James was easily the best Knick last year, on a per minute basis. In fact James led the league in PER, and his shooting was through the roof (TS%: 106.4%, eFG%: 100.0%). His PER jumped nearly 900% from the year before and if James continues with that kind of development, he should post a 407.7 PER this year. In other words what Jordan did in all his seasons combined (418.5 PER).

But perhaps the Knicks need laughter on the bench more than a player with a PER of the combined sum of an All Star team. Just look at any team celebrating winning a title, and you’ll see laughter. Losing teams rarely laugh. This correlation is too high to ignore. Since most of the other Knicks lack a proper sense of humor, it’s important for D’Antoni to keep him on the bench. New York can’t win a title with Jerome James on the court.

Knicks 2009 Season Preview Part IV

Part I here.
Part II here.
Part III here.

FRONTCOURT:

During the summer it was assumed that both Stephon Marbury and Zach Randolph would be playing for other teams once the season started. Yet somehow both managed to stay on the New York roster. Randolph was twice mentioned in trade talks, but both times it seemed that the other party wanted too much to take his contract off New York’s hands. Unable to move Randolph, it was thought that the Knicks would play him only to keep his trade value high.

But a funny thing happened on the way to salary cap freedom, Randolph has begun to fit into D’Antoni’s system. He has had the third most minutes in preseason, and was second in points per game. Like Crawford, Zach was fond of caressing the ball and pounding it into the hardwood for 10 seconds before shooting it. I thought that and Randolph’s lackadaisical running of the floor would make him a poor fit in the Knicks’ new offense. However Randolph has adapted his play and his efficiency in preseason has improved (TS%: 57.2%, eFG%: 53.9%).

The Knicks are still looking to move Randolph because he doesn’t fit into their long term plans. A good season (or half season) from Zach would benefit the team not just on the court, but in front office negotiations as well. As long as Randolph gives the same effort throughout the season that he has in preseason, and avoids any off the court incidents the Knicks should be able to move him to a team looking for scoring and rebounding. Already there are rumors that some teams are interested in acquiring him, and the season hasn’t even begun yet.

Randolph and Marbury weren’t the only two Knicks expecting to change zip codes. David Lee’s name was often named in trade talks, giving WOW loving Knick fans summer nightmares. It wasn’t that Walsh wanted to move Lee, but rather other teams saw him as the Knicks most valuable player. Lee’s skill set allows him to fit on just about every NBA team and make a positive contribution, hence why so many teams are interested in acquiring him.

A fan favorite, Lee doesn’t have many weaknesses on the offensive end. He’s great at finishing around the hoop, and he’s been able to slowly expand his repertoire away from the hoop. While Lee doesn’t have the bevy of moves that Zach Randolph does, he’s able to drive to the hoop from the mid post and finish with a handful of different moves. Additionally his jumpshot has come a long way since his rookie year, as Lee hit 40.5% from outside (compare to Randolph’s 38.9%). Critics of Lee’s low volume scoring (9.4 FGA/36) should note that his turnovers are low (1.5 TO/36) and his shooting percentages are through the roof (career: TS%: 62.1%, eFG%: 57.5).

Unfortunately Lee’s inspired play doesn’t translate to the other end of the floor. His blocked shots (0.4 BLK/36) and steals (0.8 STL/36) are low, and his man to man defense is suspect. Lee’s only contribution to defense is his tenacious rebounding (11.1 REB/36). If Lee were above average in any defensive aspect, he’d be an All Star. His mediocre defense will keep him on the caliber of NBA starter, albeit a very good one.

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.

Knicks 2009 Season Preview Part I

Just about every season preview begins with a wrap-up of the last year. I’m going to assume that if you’re here reading this, you don’t really need a review of last year. In fact, if you’re a Knick fan, you probably don’t want to review any recent history. So with that said let’s continue with what we might expect this year.

GUARD:
For 2009, the guard position should be the Knicks deepest. Duhon and Crawford will start, at least for now, while Marbury, Robinson, and Collins will provide ample depth. Even though D’Antoni says he likes to keep the rotation short, I envision a scenario where the top 4 will see a lot of playing time. In fact it’s entirely possible that all 5 will be in the rotation. Between D’Antoni’s predilection for going small and the fast pace the Knicks will play, it makes sense that they’ll need as many guards as possible.

Newly acquired Chris Duhon will supplement Marbury as the starting point guard this year. In Chicago Duhon was below average offensively but was an able defender in the backcourt, something the Knicks have been sorely lacking. He’s a capable long range shooter (35.6% 3P%), but is a poor finisher around the hoop. According to 82games Duhon had 24% of his “close” shots blocked, nearly double that of Stephon Marbury (13%). Think of Duhon as the NBA’s version of the game managing QB (Trent Dilfer). He’ll run the offense, take the open three, play half decent defense, but not score many points.

Some people mocked New York for giving Duhon an $11M dollar deal, including a few of Duhon’s former fans. The good news is that the deal is only 2 years, so the Knicks are looking at him as only a stopgap fix at point guard. New York isn’t going to contend for much over the length of his contract. The Duhon’s deal is a far cry from the 5 year (Jeffries & James) and 6 year (Curry & Crawford) contracts that were handed out by Isiah Thomas.

Jamal Crawford remains the incumbent at the shooting guard position. Many Knick fans still have hope that Jamal will shed his poor shot decision making ways and become a more efficient player. Under D’Antoni’s seven second offense, many assume that Crawford would blossom into a more efficient scorer. ESPN’s Daily Dime called Crawford the Knicks sleeper pick for fantasy basketball.

However it hasn’t turned out that way in preseason (TS%: 51.6, eFG%: 45.2, through 6 games), and Crawford may not flourish in this offense. Jamal’s strength is being able to create his own shot in the half court set, but D’Antoni’s offense uses movement to make shots for everyone, hence it diminishes Jamal’s contribution. Crawford, much like Zach Randolph, likes to hold ball and dictate the offense, and he has never been a great catch & shoot guy. His best season occurred under Larry Brown where he took 21% of his attempts from “inside” as opposed to only 14% last year.

Time will tell if Jamal will progress under D’Antoni, or if he’ll be the same frustrating off-balance shot taking player he’s been for the last 8 years. Considering the Knick coach doesn’t need his skill set on offense, and will expect more from Jamal on defense than the previous Knick coaches it’s possible that Crawford will see a reduction in minutes this year. Certainly Crawford isn’t likely to average the 39.9 minutes per game he played last year, and that will hurt his per game averages.

2008 Game Thread: Knicks at Wizards

Check out this article by Kevin Broom on the Arenas-less Wizards

http://realgm.com/src_goaltending/133/20080117/are_the_wizards_better_without_gilbert_arenas/

This season, the Wizards are indeed a bit better than they were last year — overall. The improvement is not in any of the commonly cited reasons (improved ball movement, better shot selection, more “sharing” of the ball), however.

Has the team’s shot selection changed significantly? According to 82games.com, this season, 68% of the team’s field goal attempts have been jumpers; 26% have been “close”; 4% dunks, and 1% tips. The numbers for last season are identical. In broad terms, the team is getting the same kinds of shots they’ve always gotten.

Is the team’s shot selection “better”? This is tougher to quantify because “better” can be subjective. One of the best ways is to look at results. And here again, the numbers don’t support the notion of better. Last season, the Wizards had an effective field goal percentage (which accounts for the effect of the three-point shot) of 49.2%. This season — it’s 48.7%.

Shooting percentages on dunks and tips are basically unchanged. This season, the Wizards are shooting worse on jumpers (.407 to .424), but a bit better on close shots (.605 to .586). This change is almost certainly related to Arenas being out. Wizards jump shots are now being taken by less proficient shooters, while a greater proportion of the inside shots are being taken by higher percentage guys such as Brendan Haywood.

Are the Wizards “sharing the ball” more this season? Again, the numbers say no. Last year, 54% of the team’s field goals were assisted — this season, it’s 53%. In addition, the Wizards are turning the ball over more frequently without Arenas. In 06-07, they were second best at protecting the ball; this season they’ve dropped to eighth.