Knicks 93 Heat 115

The Knicks lost the 2010 opener in Miami 93 to 115. New York tied the game at 46 on a Lee layup with 2:49 left in the 2nd quarter. But the game fell apart for them shortly after. Miami would score 10 consecutive points in the next 2:19 and then outscore the Knicks 34-15 in the third quarter.

Some notes on the game:

  • Jeffries took the opening tip, but that’s the closest he came to being a center. Immediately after the tip, and for most of the game, he defended the SF position.
  • Continuing from last year, the Knicks continued their strategy of switching on nearly every pick. There were a few communication issues in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, where Miami got players undefended in the paint.
  • One quirk Darko Milicic has is to tip defensive rebounds to his teammates, which might explain his low rebounding numbers. He took hook shots with both his left & right hand, sinking both. And his passing is certainly underrated (3 ast in 17 mins), especially in the half court set. He could have had at least 2 more assists, but Knick players were unable to convert close to the hoop.

    The defense looked good with him on the floor, and the Heat did their biggest damage (late 2nd, early 3rd) with him on the bench. He didn’t register a blocked shot, but a few times players were unable to get a shot off or make their shot in the paint due to his presence. Milicic hurt his knee in the second half, but did return to the bench.

  • The Knicks were ice cold from three point land in the first half. They hit only 4 of 19 (21%).
  • Wilson Chandler’s first three attempts were all of the 18-21 foot variety, he hit only one of them.
  • In his first NBA minute, Toney Douglas committed a foolish foul on Daequan Cook’s attempted three pointer, running into him after the shot.
  • Danilo Gallinari got hot in the second half, and finished with 7 three pointers on 13 attempts. Most of them were wide open, but he hit one at least 5 feet from behind the arc. However he didn’t do much else on offense, and only had a single shot from inside the arc. It was a drive off of a three point head fake, and was blocked by Joel Anthony.
  • David Lee started off the game well, with some baskets in the paint and he hit a jump shot. But he picked up 2 fouls early, and had to sit out most of the first half.
  • Al Harrington had a Crawford-esque line: 5-14, 0 reb, 0 ast, 2 to. At one point when the Heat were pulling away in the 3rd, his inbound pass got intercepted by Dwayne Wade for a spectacular layup.
  • Jared Jeffries had 2 points in 35 minutes. He helped in other areas, (5 reb, 4 ast, 2 blk, 1 stl), but he also had 3 turnovers. Two of them for inexplicably stepping out of bounds near the three point line.
  • Knicks 2010 Season Preview Part 3

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

    David Lee – Power Forward/Center

    What the Stats Say
    Amid all the hubbub about David Lee “playing out of position at center” and the Knicks “needing to find a true big man so that Lee can move back to his natural position,” one simple fact has largely been lost: David Lee is better at playing center than he is at playing power forward. Don’t believe it? Check out this dichotomy (courtesy of 82games.com)

    David Lee 48-Minute Production by Position (2008-2009)

    POS FGA eFG% FTA iFG Reb Ast T/O Blk PF Pts PER*
    PF 13.7 0.491 4.1 67% 10.3 2.6 2.6 0.3 6.0 16.0 11.5
    C 16.3 0.552 5.7 68% 16.6 3.0 2.5 0.3 4.3 22.4 22.0

    Too small a sample size? Lee’s 2007-08 numbers, mostly compiled at the 4, tell a less extreme version of the same story:

    David Lee 48-Minute Production by Position (2007-2008)

    POS FGA eFG% FTA iFG Reb Ast T/O Blk PF Pts PER*
    PF 12.3 0.543 4.7 74% 14.0 1.8 2.1 0.6 4.0 17.3 18.7
    C 13.6 0.570 5.2 73% 16.7 2.2 1.6 0.5 4.8 19.6 23.4

    Pretty overwhelming, no? Combine the two seasons and Lee has a solid starter’s PER at the 4 and approximately Patrick Ewing’s career PER at the 5. But when you think about Dave’s game, it all kind of makes sense. Emergent 15-footer notwithstanding, Lee scores and rebounds way more efficiently when closer to the basket. He draws more fouls (and gives fewer fouls) against centers than against quicker, more explosive power forwards. And everybody’s offense improves when there’s no Zach Randolph or Eddy Curry on the floor.

    Given that Lee defends the five better than the four also (says so here), the idea that the Knicks can compete while playing a skinny young stretch 4 and a 6’9″ center may not be so crazy after all. (You know what, forget that I said that. It is crazy. Maybe not “We are completely confident that we can move Jared Jeffries’ contract “crazy, but certainly “Sure, Starks is 2 for 16, but I’ve got a good feeling about this next shot” crazy.)

    What My Gut Says
    It’s hard to be critical of a guy like Lee, who has been efficient, hard-working, and likable since day one. There’s no doubt that Dave is capable of being a key player on a championship team and, bless his heart, he actually seems to hope that team will be (a very different version of) the Knicks. His defensive shortcomings have been well-documented and his offense largely comes from put-backs and fastbreaks, but he’s excellent at what he does and there’s no reason to believe that he’s in line for a step back this year.

    Al Harrington – Forward/Sneaker Salesman

    What the Stats Say
    That players generally perform better against bad teams than against good teams is essentially a truism. It is the rare player who is able to elevate his game to such an extent that he puts up his best numbers against the league’s elite. For the most part, players show a weak but consistent inverse relationship between opponent quality and statistical achievement.

    And then there’s Al Harrington, whose shooting splits look like this:

    Player Opp Gm Min Fga Fg% 3pA 3p% Fta Ft% Pts
    Harrington Good 22 764 16.7 .398 6.2 .316 4.4 78% 18.6
    Harrington Average 27 983 17.6 .432 7.0 .349 3.9 82% 20.9
    Harrington Poor 19 632 15.8 .525 6.2 .436 4.4 79% 22.8

    That all rounds out to a .457 eFG% against good teams (which, were it his full-season mark, would have been good for 161st out of 181 eligible NBA players), .501 against average teams (102nd of 181), and a staggering .611 against “poor” teams (3rd of 181, trailing dunk-and-layup-only centers Erick Dampier and Joel Przybilla).

    The disparity in Harrington’s splits is by far the most extreme of any Knick, and likely tell the story of a player who feasts on open looks against undisciplined defenses but struggles to adjust his game when met with legitimate defensive resistance.

    What My Gut Says
    To watch Harrington in small doses is to wonder why he isn’t a superstar; to watch him every night is to wonder whether he could ever get serious minutes on a winner. His size, athleticism, shooting, and ball-handling ability provide him with an extremely rare skill set, but his streakiness, frequently poor shot selection, and puzzling inability (unwillingness?) to rebound suggest that he is less Dirk Nowitzki than (a poor man’s) Charlie Villanueva. He certainly fits the system, he seems to genuinely love being a Knick, and, on a bad team, he provides enough matchup headaches to be a net positive. But his long-term desire to remain in orange and blue will prove futile unless accompanied by a willingness to play for far below his perceived market value – he’s not an efficient enough scorer to be the second option on a contender, nor is he good enough at anything else to be an effective role player.

    Jordan Hill – Forward/Center

    What the Stats Say
    According to kenpom.com, Hill was the 14th best offensive rebounder in Division I last year, which, if it translates, will be a major addition to a Knicks team that ranked 27th of 30 NBA teams in offensive rebounding rate last year. But, as is often the case with bootlegged copies of foreign movies and the entire musical career of David Hasselhoff, the problem may lie in the translation. To quote John Hollinger’s pre-draft player evaluations:

    The other big surprise down here is Jordan Hill, who could go as high as No. 4 but rates 26th in the Draft Rater. Hill had solid rebounding and scoring numbers, but his percentages weren’t off the charts, and his poor assist and turnover numbers were a red flag. Although one might think that ballhandling categories wouldn’t matter for a power forward, apparently they do — pure point rating (a measure of how a player passes and handles the ball) is a pretty strong success indicator for frontcourt players, and only four prospects rated worse than Hill.

    Time will tell.

    What My Gut Says
    Hill’s summer league performance doesn’t have anybody jumping out of their shoes. He disappeared for long stretches and, even at his best, didn’t do anything to suggest that he has anything approximating star potential. But, as has been said before, if you’re 6’10” and athletic, you’ll get your fair share of opportunities. Hill should get some burn this year, but his true worth will be determined down the road, after free agency clears up the frontcourt logjam and the Knicks’ intended investment in two high-priced free agents places an added premium on the value of young, inexpensive talent.

    2009 Report Card: Donnie Walsh

    It was with fanfare befitting a peaceful transfer of power from despotism to enlightenment that Donnie Walsh inherited Isiah Thomas’ job as New York Knicks president of basketball operations in the spring of 2008.  But as with so many European monarchs, African generals, and Spinal Tap drummers before him, the excitement surrounding Walsh’s arrival soon gave way, at least in part, to the grim realization that the pitfalls of previous years had not all departed with his predecessor.  An impossible cap situation, a meddling owner, and a frequently unmotivated core of players were all holdovers from the Isiah era which Walsh has been forced to address, with varying degrees of success.

    Walsh’s first Knicks team finished with a record of 32-50, worse than three of the five Knicks squads that Isiah oversaw.  But Walsh’s job was never about 2009 and, unlike Isiah, he immediately proved willing to accept that short term failure was a necessary and acceptable side effect of true progress.  To this end, it is undeniable that the poker-faced Bronx native has moved a dysfunctional franchise in the right direction, but his advances have not come without missteps.  That these mistakes have come with little popular backlash is cause for gratitude to Isiah – critics of Walsh would be far more vocal had his hiring not come on the heels of such unmitigated failure.

    If Walsh’s patience and indecipherability are his greatest qualities in negotiation, they may also be his best assets in avoiding the kind of criticism that is typicaly heaped upon New York pro sports executives by media and fans.  His stern demeanor and unshakable calm suggest to observers, even at moments of seeming misjudgment, that he knows more about the situation than they do and so deserves their trust.  A move-by-move analysis of Walsh’s Knicks tenure reveals a well-reasoned overall plan that has been tarnished by some truly baffling decisions.  With the belief that the moves a general manager doesn’t make are as important as the moves he does make, I offer this chronological assessment of Walsh’s first season-plus on the job:

    May 10, 2008: In his first, and thus far best, major move as Knicks president, Walsh signed Phoenix Suns coach Mike D’Antoni to a 4-year, $24 million contract.  D’Antoni’s hiring has resonated with fans (seen in the sense of pride that came with a prized coaching commodity choosing the Knicks over a handful of other suitors, as well as the entertaining brand of basketball to which they are treated each night), Knicks players (seen in the career years put up by David Lee, Al Harrington, Nate Robinson, Wilson Chandler, and, for the first 50 games, Chris Duhon), and players around the league (D’Antoni’s relationship with soon-to-be-max-contract-signers LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Kobe Bryant may prove to be his most important asset as the Knicks’ coach).

    Grade: A, and if LeBron’s affection for D’Antoni leads him to New York, it becomes an A-plus.

    Draft Night, 2008: With the sixth pick, Walsh chose Danilo Gallinari, whose struggles with back trouble and flashes of promise have both been well-chronicled on this and other sites.  While the jury remains out on Gallo, we have a better idea about some of the guys Walsh could have taken.  Of the lottery picks remaining on the board at #6, Eric Gordon (chosen 7th, 14.98 rookie PER), Brook Lopez (chosen 10th, 17.94 rookie PER), and Anthony Randolph (chosen 14th, 16.94 rookie PER and an absolute monster of a summer league) have looked the most promising thus far.

    However, simply lining Gallo up against these three doesn’t quite create a proper lens for evaluating Walsh’s choice.  Looking back through Chad Ford’s archives reminds us that Gordon and Joe Alexander (chosen  8th, 10.19 rookie PER) were the two most likely Knicks picks had they passed on Gallinari, and the early returns suggest that Walsh may have dodged a bullet by passing on Alexander’s unique, but extremely raw, skill set.

    Grade: C-plus.  We all love Gallo and it’s tempting to give Walsh an incomplete here.  It’s also probably unfair to criticize Walsh for passing on Lopez and Randolph, as the former was universally regarded as low on upside and the latter as a potential bust.  Still, it’s impossible to ignore how well Gordon, Randolph, and Lopez would all fit into D’Antoni’s system, and one would be hard pressed to find a non-Knicks fan who would put an unproven 21-year-old who already has back problems on the same level as any of these three.  I think there are decent odds Gallinari will prove this grade wrong but at the moment this looks like an OK, but not great, pick.

    July 4, 2008: Walsh signed former Bulls PG Chris Duhon to a 2 year contract at the full mid-level ($12 million).  The price tag here looks high now, given the lower salaries being handed out this offseason and the incredibly frustrating second half to Duhon’s 2008-09 season.  Still, the Knicks have never minded paying out  luxury tax dollars and Walsh brought in a point guard who generally stays out of his own way and makes his teammates better on the offensive end.  If Duhon’s ability to create easy baskets can turn Curry into a tradable commodity this season (it’s a long shot, but hey, a guy can hope), it becomes a great signing.  Until then, Duhon is a player who doesn’t set his team back on the court, creates reps for a young core in need of development, and doesn’t set the franchise back in its hunt for prime talent in 2010.  Pretty good move for the mid-level in a lackluster free agent summer.

    Grade: B.

    November 21, 2008: Walsh put on his Kevin Pritchard hat for a day and swung two trades that cleared up $27 million in 2010 cap room.  In sending Zach Randolph to the Clippers and Jamal Crawford to the Warriors in exchange for a useful forward in Al Harrington, a useless forward in Tim Thomas, and a soon-to-retire combo guard in Cuttino Mobley, Walsh dismantled the slim playoff hopes of what was then an above-.500 team.  More importantly, however, he overhauled the team’s long term cap position, picked up a trade chip in Mobley’s tax-free contract, and rid the team of two shoot-first players who were almost certainly stunting the development of their younger, more promising counterparts.   A complete no-brainer.

    Grade: A-minus.  It’s a move any good GM would have made if it was available but, what can I say, it’s a good career move to succeed Isiah.

    February 19, 2009: An unstoppable force (the Bulls’ desire to trade Larry Hughes) met an immovable object (Jerome James’ contract) and the unstoppable force won as the Knicks flipped James and Tim Thomas for Hughes.  Largely seen as a garbage for garbage deal, the move was supposed to make the Knicks slightly better in the short run without helping or hurting their long-term cap situation and, mainly, sparing their fans the nightly sight of James smiling and joking around on the end of the bench during 20-point losses.  A mostly useless move in the long run and maybe a net negative, as Hughes took some minute that would likely have gone to Nate and Chandler otherwise.  Hughes also brought back some of the poor shot selection and general grumpiness that had mostly departed with Crawford and Stephon Marbury, respectively.  In the end, the trade’s impact, positive or negative, was minimal and we stopped having to listen to Jerome James jokes.

    Grade: C (in a one-credit class with little effect on overall GPA).

    Trade Deadline, 2009: The Knicks engaged in a well-chronicled negotiation with the Sacramento Kings, who asked for Nate Robinson and Jared Jeffries in exchange for Kenny Thomas’ soon-to-expire contract.  With the Knicks still loosely in playoff contention, Walsh turned down the offer and chose not to rid himself of the nearly $7 million committed to Jeffries in 2010.  A puzzling, disturbingly Isiah-esque move whose questionability has been compounded by the complete disinterest that Walsh has displayed in re-signing Nate this offseason.  If Robinson is truly so expendable, and it’s likely he is, then why endanger the future for only a few months of his services?  This inaction made little sense at the time and makes even less sense now.

    Grade: D-minus.

    2009 Draft, Lead-up: Another instance in which Walsh seemed to contradict his general mission statement of financial flexibility, as he reportedly rejected an offer of the #5 pick and some expiring contracts for Wilson Chandler, Jeffries, and Hughes.  This rumor always seemed a bit sketchy from the Wizards’ side, but if this offer was truly on the table, I can’t imagine Walsh’s resistance to it.  Trading Jeffries is a desirable goal, Hughes has no long-term value, and Chandler, while a promising young player, is more likely than not to become an effective wing who is generally indistinguishable from any number of other small forwards in the league.  The negligible , if even existent, talent drop off from Chandler to the #5 pick in the draft (which turned out to be Ricky Rubio, though no one would have guessed it at the time) seemed a small price to pay for the disposal of a considerable financial obstacle.

    Grade: D.  It’s worth noting that a few different versions of this trade were bouncing around during draft week, some of which would have been less of a windfall for the Knicks.  None of them, however, seemed particularly logical to reject as the Wizards displayed genuine interest in both Jeffries and Hughes.

    Draft Night, 2009: Walsh played the hand he was dealt at #8, picking Jordan Hill after watching Rubio and Stephen Curry disappear in rapid succession.  An uninspiring, but far from disastrous, summer league performance has left Hill as a general mystery to Knicks fans at this point, but he’s big and athletic and he got enough numbers in college (although his FG% leaves something to be desired, considering his layup-and-dunk-heavy shot selection) to suggest that he’ll be a useful role player at the worst.  Walsh’s bigger coup on draft night was the effective purchase of Toney Douglas’s draft rights from the Lakers, just the kind of low-risk, solid-upside maneuver that the Knicks never seem to make.  If Douglas develops into a serviceable back-up point guard with a jump shot and an above average defensive skill set, which seems likely, this pick is a success.

    In a final draft night move, Walsh acquired Darko Milicic from the Grizzlies by sending Quentin Richardson off on the first leg of his summer-long tour of NBA mediocrity.  Another low-risk move that might suit D’Antoni’s system well.  Given what he had to work with, a sound if unspectacular draft night for Walsh.

    Grade: B-plus for draft night in a vacuum.  However, if you consider that Walsh could have had Rubio or Curry at five had he made the Wizards trade, it’s a C-minus.

    Free Agency, 2009: I don’t know.  Do you?  I think Walsh was right not to pay for Iverson.  I would have loved a year or two of Nash at the mid-level, but I get the feeling that was never as close to a reality as we all were hoping.

    If Walsh wins his ongoing staring contest with Ramon Sessions (17.65 PER, 23 years old) and signs him for two years at a low 2010 cap number, it will be a way better long-term move than signing Jason Kidd (16.95 PER, 36 years old) would have been, as the Knicks will acquire a young, affordable point guard who can defer to his teammates and can wait until after the Knicks make their big free agent splash to receive his long-term payout.

    Additionally, Walsh has done well not to give in to unrealistic demands by either Lee or Robinson in a depressed market, but until their situations are resolved (ideally with Nate walking or taking a cheap one-year deal and Lee staying on for something near the mid-level), it’s hard to get a read on Walsh’s current plan or his level of confidence in the LeBron/Wade/Bosh sweepstakes next offseason.

    Grade: Incomplete.

    All told, Walsh’s tenure got off to a promising start but has suffered from several moments of seeming hesitance to take the final plunge and commit to any one comprehensive strategy.  Walsh has clearly leaned toward building for the future at the expense of the present, which is a welcome change from the Isiah era, but his unwillingness to part with anyone of value as a pot-sweetener in the unloading of bad contracts has stunted the Knicks progress toward an ideal 2010 cap situation.  As it stands, the team has a top-flight coach and more young talent and long-term financial flexibility than anyone could have realistically expected 16 months ago.  But one worries that Walsh has hedged his bets a bit too much and will fall short of a free agent jackpot next summer.

    Overall Grade: B

    2009 Report Card: Al Harrington

    Historically New York has had good luck with getting malcontents from Golden State. Back in 1999, the Knicks traded for Latrell Sprewell who was suspended by the Warriors for choking Coach P.J. Carlesimo. Spre’s strong defense helped New York reach the Finals that year. Nearly 10 years later, Golden State shipped another unhappy player to Gotham. Although the 2009 Knicks weren’t nearly as successful as their 1999 squad, the team benefited from Harrington’s presence.

    Like the player he was traded for, Jamal Crawford, Al Harrington’s most pronounced skill is shot creation. But unlike Crawford, Harrington actually is productive when scoring. Harrington’s true shooting percentage for the Knicks last year (55.5%) was 10 points better than Crawford’s best year in New York (54.5%) and 25 points higher than his career average with the team (52.9%). Last year he was just above his career average from three (2009: 36.2%, career: 35.9%), while attempting a career high nearly 7 per game (6.5 3pa/g, or 6.7 3pa/36). He can drive to the hoop and score from inside as well. Although not as skilled as Lee or Zach Randolph, Harrington is able to draw contact and score in traffic. Much like Eddy Curry, Harrington will continue with the ball towards the hoop no matter how many defenders follow. The difference between Harrington and Curry is that Al doesn’t bowl over defenders or lose the ball as often (2.3 to/36 to Curry’s 3.2).

    Unfortunately Harrington doesn’t pass well. Many of Harrington’s passes seem to bounce off his recipient’s hands or are caught awkwardly losing momentum. I have two theories on his sharing woes. The first is that his passes are usually near the hoop with the other player close by, so that his passes are too fast for the short distance. The second is that Al passes so infrequently that his teammates don’t expect the ball to come to them. Perhaps it’s a bit of both, since the passes occur so close to the basket the receiving player is gearing up for a rebound. In any case it’s something to watch for in 2010.

    As for the rest of his game, Harrington is a poor rebounder for his size and a below average defender. To put into perspective how bad Harrington’s rebounding is, David Lee nearly doubled his rebounds per minute (12.1 reb/36 to 6.4 reb/36) despite both players standing 6-9. Harrington’s blocked shot rate (0.3 blk/36) was also poor.

    Overall he was and will be a good fit for Coach D’Antoni’s offense. Harrington’s multifaceted and efficient scoring was a refreshing fit, considering the person he was traded for (Jamal Crawford) and the person whose minutes he inherited (Zach Randolph). But ultimately the lacking elements of his game make him unworthy of a large contract or a starting role. He’d be a fine bench player for the mid level, but considering the Knicks’ monetary crunch for 2010 and Harrington’s current salary ($8.5M) I don’t see many scenarios that would keep Harrington in New York after this year.

    Report Card (5 point scale):
    Offense: 4
    Defense: 2
    Teamwork: 1
    Rootability: 3
    Performance/Expectations: 4

    Grade: B

    Similarity Scores:

    z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS% eFG% PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
    .000 Al Harrington 2009 TOT 15.9 .547 .509 20.8 1.4 6.4 1.4 1.2 0.3 2.3
    .040 Josh Howard 2009 DAL 17.0 .532 .488 20.3 1.3 5.7 1.8 1.2 0.6 1.9
    .073 Nate Williams 1979 GSW 14.7 .542 .501 18.6 1.9 5.7 1.7 1.5 0.1 2.6
    .075 Jamaal Wilkes 1982 LAL 16.5 .554 .525 21.5 1.9 4.9 1.8 1.1 0.3 2.0
    .081 Keith Van Horn 2004 TOT 17.8 .564 .506 17.9 2.3 7.7 1.8 1.0 0.5 2.6
    .086 Wayman Tisdale 1993 SAC 15.7 .540 .509 19.9 2.0 7.9 1.7 0.8 0.7 1.8
    .092 Cedric Ceballos 1998 TOT 19.3 .560 .517 19.5 2.7 8.0 2.2 1.2 0.6 2.6
    .096 Lamond Murray 2002 CLE 16.7 .534 .487 18.3 1.3 5.8 2.4 1.1 0.7 2.2
    .111 Corliss Williamson 2002 DET 20.0 .567 .511 22.5 2.5 6.8 2.0 1.0 0.6 2.9
    .113 Richard Jefferson 2009 MIL 15.4 .554 .487 19.7 0.7 4.6 2.4 0.8 0.2 2.0
    .123 Chris Crawford 2004 ATL 15.8 .544 .495 17.0 1.7 5.2 1.3 1.1 0.6 1.6
    .128 George McCloud 1996 DAL 15.9 .543 .514 18.9 1.5 4.8 2.7 1.4 0.5 2.1

    2009 Report Card: Wilson Chandler

    Only one player in Knick history has averaged at least 33 minutes a game at the age of 21: Wilson Chandler. Albeit Chandler’s franchise record was more a result of necessity than talent. D’Antoni gave the youngster plenty of court time because of a scarcity of shooting guards/small forwards. Once the team traded Jamal Crawford, New York lacked a true shooting guard until they grabbed Larry Hughes late in the season. Considering that D’Antoni preferred Nate Robinson to come off the bench, the options were Chandler, Richardson, Jeffries, or Hughes. Chandler was obviously the right decision considering the team’s lack of defense and how much a developing Chandler could mean to the future of the franchise.

    One question that remains is how Chandler will develop. On the optimistic side, he did make strides in multiple areas in 2009. Chandler improved his free throw shooting (63.0% to 79.5%), three point shooting (30.0% to 32.8%), scoring (13.4 to 15.6pts/36), assists (1.7 to 2.2 ast/36) and fouls (4.4 to 3.3 pf/36). But these numbers are pedestrian. The young swingman doesn’t do anything great, and his rebounding, blocks, and steals are about what you’d expect from an average 6-8 small forward. His scoring volume is above average (15.6 pts/36) but his efficiency is below (48.0% eFG, 51.5 TS%). Perhaps that’s Chandler’s lot in the NBA: to be the generic player.

    For Chandler to make strides and become a genuine NBA starter, he’ll need to make another step in his development. One area could be his three point shooting. Connecting once on every three attempts is too low especially for someone that’s likely to see a lot of attempts in D’Antoni’s system. But a more critical leap would be for Chandler to get to the line more often. Last year he was second to last on the team in FTM/FGA, a measure of a player’s ability to draw contact on the offensive end. Frequently when he gets the ball in the paint, he ends up with a turn around jumper, instead of making a strong move to the hoop. Chandler needs to summon “Ill-Will” when he’s within 6 of the basket.

    In order to get a glimpse of how his career might pan out, I queried a list of players comparable to Chandler at the age of 21, and this is the best I came up with. While names like Drexler, Mashburn, and Stackhouse appear, so do Gary Trent, Lamond Murray, and Rex Chapman. Using my similarity scores, I came up with a second list. Again there are a few players with above average careers: Richard Jefferson, Rasheed Wallace, Dirk Nowitzki, and Charlie Villanueva. But two very similar to Chandler show a cautionary tale. Shawne Williams is clinging to a roster spot in Dallas, and Chucky Brown never had a seasonal PER above 14. One thing to note about the below list of similar players is that Chandler’s TS% is almost the lowest of the bunch (except for DerMarr Johnson and Jeff Green).

    z-Sum FLName Year Tm PER TS% eFG% PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
    .000 Wilson Chandler 2009 NYK 12.9 .515 .480 15.6 1.2 5.9 2.2 0.9 1.0 1.8
    .037 Shawne Williams 2008 IND 12.8 .522 .485 16.3 2.0 6.6 2.2 1.0 1.0 2.2
    .059 Richard Jefferson 2002 NJN 13.4 .524 .468 13.9 1.6 5.5 2.6 1.2 0.9 2.0
    .076 Chucky Brown 1990 CLE 11.9 .525 .470 14.7 2.2 6.2 1.3 0.9 0.7 1.9
    .080 Marvin Williams 2008 ATL 14.5 .540 .462 15.4 1.5 6.0 1.8 1.1 0.4 1.7
    .082 Rasheed Wallace 1996 WSB 11.8 .530 .511 13.2 1.9 6.1 1.7 0.8 1.1 2.1
    .093 DerMarr Johnson 2002 ATL 11.3 .513 .479 12.5 1.2 5.1 1.7 1.3 1.2 2.1
    .097 Al Harrington 2002 IND 14.3 .526 .476 15.8 2.6 7.6 1.5 1.1 0.6 2.1
    .104 Dirk Nowitzki 2000 DAL 17.5 .564 .513 17.6 1.2 6.5 2.5 0.8 0.8 1.7
    .105 Charlie Villanueva 2006 TOR 16.4 .521 .500 16.1 2.8 7.9 1.3 0.9 1.0 1.5
    .108 Jeff Green 2008 SEA 9.9 .492 .443 13.4 1.6 6.1 1.9 0.7 0.8 2.5

    I’m inclined to give Chandler a good grade this year because he was a 21 year old who played out of position & made improvements over his first year. However the bar is now set higher on the expected returns for 2010. I won’t be as charitable in his next report card if he doesn’t show more signs of development.

    Report Card (5 point scale):
    Offense: 2
    Defense: 4
    Teamwork: 3
    Rootability: 4
    Performance/Expectations: 4

    Grade: B+

    NOTE: I found a flaw in the similarity scores, and corrected it.

    The Siren Song of the NBA: Creationism

    Yesterday the Knicks beat the Hawks at home, and I had one thought on my mind during most of the game. Earlier that day I had read Alan Hahn’s live chat where a questioner said the following:

    “Is David Lee overrated? Double-doubles are great, but not when they don’t impact games. IMO Nate is more valuable to the Knicks right now in that he has the ability to carry a team on his back when he erupts for 20 pts in a single quarter…”

    Now, I like Robinson and have been lobbying for him to get more playing time from his first season. I hope the Knicks will keep him around for a few more years at a reasonable price without hurting their chances for a couple of major free agents. And I don’t want to get into a discussion about who is the most valuable Knick, because it’s tough to answer that question. For instance what does “most valuable” mean? It could mean if you were building a team, which player you would choose first. It could mean which player, if removed, would hurt the team the most.

    What I want to talk about it the siren song of the NBA – the creative scorer. As a fan who watches many games, it’s easy to understand the lure of the volume scorer. The average fan focuses on the guy with the ball, and the scorer tends to have the ball in his hands more often than his teammates. Additionally he is able to create the shot by his own ability, independent of his teammates. It’s easy for the fan to see the benefit of the scorer’s efforts, since it connects directly to the main goal of the team: points. Rebounds don’t change the point totals on the scoreboard. When the news covers the game, usually you hear something like “Robinson led the Knicks with 29 points, while Duhon and Hughes chipped in 19 each.” You don’t hear about the other stats unless it’s a phenomenal number (20 rebounds). And the players listed are in point order, even if they score 19 points on 20 shots.

    What strengthens the bond between the fan and the scorer is that sometimes the scorer performs in an amazing manner. Watch any NBA game and you’re likely to see a few spectacular shots, most by the high scorer. Hence it’s easy for the average fan to relate to the leading scorer. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the most important event on the court. Other things lead to a team’s victory, including defense, rebounding, turnovers, and free throws. But most of these aren’t as sexy as the made basket. When was the last time you saw a spectacular rebound? Has there even been a spectacular free throw? A turnover can excite the crowd, but unless it’s followed by a score the buzz is lost.

    Now I’ll agree that the double-double is an overrated stat, but is it that much more overrated than points per game? Or even the ability to create your own shot? This final component seems especially important for the average fan who plays basketball. At the level of the average fan, being able to create your own shot is more important than many other attributes. In other words your neighborhood version of Al Harrington is worth more at the park than the NBA’s version is to his team. In the Hawks game thread, a game that Robinson missed due to injury, “ess-dog” commented “Now this is the kind of game that makes me wonder if Nate’s scoring and penetrating is overrated.”

    During Isiah’s tenure New York was stuck with two players that could create their own shot, but do little else. Crawford & Curry seemed to divide Knick fans between creationists who worshiped their ability to make shot attempts, and those that covered their ears to the siren song of YouTube highlights. This year the team has traded one and marginalized the other, and their record is on track to improve by 10 games. It’s no coincidence that this improvement has occurred by replacing the inefficient ex-Bulls’ minutes with the more efficient Robinson and Lee. Additionally the latter pair gives the team more than just field goal attempts. Lee provides rebounding, while Robinson sprinkles the stat line with rebounding, assists, and steals.

    As advanced statisticians already know, at the highest levels of basketball shooting is the most important factor with regards to a team’s chances of winning. But it’s not shooting volume that we use to measure it, but rather shooting efficiency. If a team can shoot at a high percentage and prevent their opponent from doing the same, they’re going to win a lot of games. Creating a shot does have value, but it must be taken in the proper context of the ability to make the shot. On the night the Knicks won without their best creative scorer, Golden State got blown out by the Bulls. They were ‘led’ by Stephen Jackson 19 points (on 20 shots), Corey Maggette 14 points (on 16 shots) and Jamal Crawford 11 points (on 15 shots).


    Per 36 minute stats comparing last year’s creationists to their 2009 counterparts.

           Player  Season  Age  G  MPG  FGA  ORB TRB AST STL TOV  PF  PTS  TS%
    Jamal Crawford 2007-08  27 80 39.9 15.7 0.4  2.3 4.5 0.9 2.2 1.6 18.6 .528
     Nate Robinson 2008-09  24 52 1561 16.9 1.7  5.1 4.7 1.7 2.1 3.4 21.1 .559
     
           Player  Season  Age  G   MP  FGA  ORB TRB AST STL TOV  PF  PTS  TS% 
        Eddy Curry 2007-08  25 59 1530 12.8 2.6  6.5 0.8 0.3 3.0 3.7 18.4 .578
         David Lee 2008-09  25 60 2134 11.9 3.2 12.1 2.0 0.9 2.0 3.4 16.7 .599
    

    KnickerBlogger Turns 5

    This week marks the 5th anniversary of KnickerBlogger. When I started this venture, I didn’t imagine it would last this long. Five years ago, blogging was still in its infancy. There were less than 2 million blogs when KnickerBlogger came into existence. Just six months after, the number of blogs had doubled. Today it’s unknown how many blogs there are. One estimate is 200 million. Many of them are powered by individuals like myself.

    More important than the number of blogs is the role they perform. Once derided by the mainstream media, just about every newspaper, magazine, and network hosts their own blog. They are now an essential part of the world’s information and entertainment. Blogs fill an important niche in the world. Previously the only avenue for the common man to voice his opinion was through those who held the keys to kingdom. Often his voice was not heard by the public. Blogs have taken the words of the everyman and projected them from the world’s tallest soap box.

    Five years ago my goal with KnickerBlogger was to create a platform for those who felt their opinion was not represented in the mainstream. Judging by the other readers who come here to share their thoughts and my affiliation with True Hoop Network that allows me to bring these voices to the mainstream, it seems that I have succeeded. I can only wonder what KnickerBlogger will be in five more years.


    To celebrate this anniversary, I’m announcing the KnickerBlogger Quinquennial Team. To assist in this matter, I’ve looked at the overall PER and the single season PER for that period.

    Stephon Marbury, PG – As painful as it is to admit, Marbury has dominated the team in many ways during the lifespan of KnickerBlogger. As his career with the team comes nearer to it’s disappointing end, it’s hard to remember that he was a productive scorer early on. He has the highest single season PER (21.9 in 2005) as well as the highest PER (18.4) during the KnickerBlogger era. His defense was mediocre and his contract was suffocating, had the two been reversed he would have been a shoe in for the Hall of Fame.
    Reserves: Chris Duhon, Nate Robinson, Frank Williams.

    David Lee, PF – It may shock many to see Lee here, but those that have watched him play aren’t surprised that he’s been the second most productive Knick by PER standards over the last 5 years. Looking at things from a objective standpoint it’s hard to find a more deserving PF. Randolph’s PER is the same and his weaknesses are similar to Lee’s (blocked shots, defense). However, Lee has played 4000 more minutes while costing the team $10M less. After Randolph are Mike Sweetney and Kurt Thomas. Sweetney ate himself out of the league, and Thomas wasn’t nearly as productive on the offensive end. Of all the starters on this list, Lee is the one who is most likely to also appear on KnickerBlogger’s Decennial team as well.
    Reserves: Zach Randolph, Kurt Thomas, Mike Sweetney.

    Nazr Mohammed, C – Surprised it’s not Curry? Nazr played exactly 81 games for the Knicks in 2 seasons, and would rank 4th in Knicks PER over the KnickerBlogger era. Mohammed was a great offensive rebounder, pulling down 4.0/36 oreb/36. To put that in perspective that’s a higher rate than Lee’s career 3.6. During the Isiah era, Nazr was eventually replaced by Eddy Curry. Comparing the two, Nazr was outscored by Curry (19.2 to 13.7), but Curry did it with almost double the turnovers (3.5 to/36 to 2.0). Additionally Mohammed had nearly double the blocks (1.3 blk/36 to Curry’s 0.7), triple the steals (1.4 stl/36 to 0.4), and more rebounds (10.6 reb/36 to 7.4). With that in mind, it’s clear that Nazr deserves the nod here.
    Reserves: Eddy Curry, Dikembe Mutombo.

    Van Horn/Renaldo Balkman, SF Keith played only 47 games for New York, but he put up some good numbers while he was here. Van Horn was criticized for being a tweener that had trouble defending, but he rebounded well and scored efficiently. However Van Horn only played 1500 minutes for New York. That’s about as much as Al Harrington. If that’s too little for you, then Balkman is next on the PER list. Considering how PER doesn’t account well for defense, then it makes sense that he was probably unrepresented by his stats.

    One note on Keith Van Horn: shortly after Isiah Thomas took over the team, he traded Keith Van Horn. At the time Van Horn was a popular player who had just been acquired that summer, so the trade felt hasty. Since then New York has suffered through instability at the small forward position, something I’ve called “the Curse of Keith Van Horn”. The list of small forwards since the Knicks jettisoned Van Horn: Anfernee Hardaway, DerMarr Johnson, Tim Thomas, Trevor Ariza, Shandon Anderson, Jerome Williams, Matt Barnes, Jalen Rose, Ime Udoka, Qyntel Woods, Jared Jeffries, Quentin Richardson, Renaldo Balkman, and Wilson Chandler. Hopefully the curse will be broken in 2010
    Reserves: Tim Thomas, Junk Yard Dog.

    Jamal Crawford, SG – The default pick, since there really haven’t been many other shooting guards in recent Knick history. Robinson is the only other one that merits any mention. Crawford can drive Golden State fans crazy for the next few years.
    Reserves: Nate Robinson

    Lenny Wilkens, Coach – I’d like to choose D’Antoni, but he’s only been around for a half season. Wilkens got the team to the playoffs until they tuned him out a year later. In retrospect that should have signified there was something wrong behind the scenes. In his latter years, Wilkens was an adequate coach, which says a lot about the coaches the Knicks have had over the last 5 years.

    Most Minutes 5: Curry, Lee, Richardson, Crawford, Marbury
    Least Minutes 5: Trybanski, Randolph Morris, Matt Barnes, Jamison Brewer, Jermaine Jackson

    Best Defensive 5: Mutumbo, Kurt Thomas, Balkman, Ariza, Frank Williams
    Worst Defensive 5: Curry, Randolph, Jalen Rose, Crawford, Marbury

    Drafted 5: Frye, Lee, Balkman, Ariza, Nate
    Toughest 5: Kurt Thomas, Balkman, Collins, Robinson, Frank Williams

    Best Shooting 5: David Lee, Tim Thomas, Van Horn, Nate, Marbury
    Worst Shooting 5: Bruno Sundov, Malik Rose, Balkman, Shanderson, Collins

    All Name 5: Cezary Trybanski, Othella Harrington, Qyntel Woods, Anfernee Hardaway, Moochie Norris
    Scrappiest 5: David Lee, Jerome Williams, Renaldo Balkman, Jermaine Jackson, Frank Williams

    If I had to choose a Starting 5 from this era: Nazr, Lee, Balkman, Robinson, Duhon.
    Reserves: Mutombo, Van Horn, Ariza, Sweetney, Frank Williams, Gallinari, Chandler.
    Coach: D’Antoni

    It’s sad but I think this is the best the Knicks could do combining all the players over the last 5 years. I’ve left Marbury off for obvious reasons. New York would have a tremendous rebounding starting lineup, with enough balance of offense & defense on the bench. If you wanted, you could substitute Randolph or Kurt Thomas for Sweetney. But this being KnickerBlogger, I thought it’d be good to give the guy a second chance. The same goes for Frank Williams, who is playing well enough in the NBDL to get another shot at the NBA. Gallinari & Chandler make the list because of their youth. If this team were looking at a title, then I might choose Tim Thomas and Crawford. But I think this is a .500 team that will need some youth.