Haven’t the Knicks Improved?

Earlier today, the Pro Basketball News featured an article on the Knicks on their front page. It was entitled “Same old New York” and claimed that “a closer look reveals that the Knicks aren’t any better in their first year under Mike D’Antoni than they were in their first under Isiah Thomas.” Intrigued, I copied the text of the article to my blackberry to read on the train ride in. Unfortunately during the trip I was so upset by the writing that I started making notes on the back of a magazine to write this blog about it.

The author, David Friedman, talks about the Knicks hot start and recent cool down. He shows D’Antoni’s current win percentage to be similar to Isiah’s first year, which I thought was odd since it’s more relevant to use the previous season. However I let it slide because Friedman promised to use “several key statistics” to prove his point.

The Knicks have improved from 21st in scoring last season (96.9 ppg) to fourth this season (105.6 ppg) but they have dropped from 22nd in points allowed (103.5 ppg) to 28th (108.2 ppg) and their point differential of -2.6 ppg ranks in the bottom third of the league (22nd), only a few spots better than last season (-6.6 ppg, 25th). The Knicks were last in field-goal percentage differential last season (-.036) and they are last again this season (-.038). Although Lee has emerged as a nightly double-double threat, the Knicks have markedly declined overall on the boards, dropping from 18th in rebounding differential (-.1) to 27th (-3.9). A team that consistently gets out-shot and out-rebounded obviously has no realistic chance to be successful, no matter how many points it scores or how many players post career high individual numbers.

Long time KnickerBlogger readers will know that Friedman’s choice of per game stats is a poor choice of rating a team’s ability. By using per possession stats, we can see that the Knicks are currently 15th & 23rd on offense and defense respectively. This is a clear improvement from last year’s team which was 23rd on offense and 29th on defense. It’s true that the rebounding has slipped, although the Knicks are better on the defensive glass. Although it’s not true that the team is worse off in shooting percentage. Using eFG we can see that last year the team had a shooting differential of -4.3%, which has risen to -1.9% under D’Antoni.

The author moves from talking about the Knicks to an overall indictment of D’Antoni’s style of play. He accuses the coach of “neglecting the defensive end of the court” (something that was refuted by Kevin Pelton earlier this year) and launches into a defense wins championships attack on D’Antoni. His proof is that the “[Chicago Bulls] consistently rebounded and defended well… en route to the 1996 championship the Bulls won seven of the eight playoff games in which Jordan shot .440 or worse from the field.” It’s true that those Bulls teams played great defense, but let’s not forget that they were fueled by their offense. Of their 6 championship teams, Chicago was ranked #1 on offense 4 times and #1 on defense only once. In the two years they didn’t win (without Jordan) the team still was strong defensively (2nd & 6th) but couldn’t muster the offense to sustain a playoff run (10th & 14th). As for Friedman’s example, in those 8 games Jordan averaged 25.9 pts, 9 fta, and 1.4 3pm. Hardly an offensive hardship for the team.

You can excuse Friedman for using archaic stats, but what’s not excusable is how he cherry picks the facts to support his argument. He specifically picks Isiah’s first season to compare with D’Antoni, because the numbers are much closer (.402 to .406) than comparing D’Antoni’s improvement over last year (.280 to .406). You have to wonder if he spelled out ‘fourth’ because saying the team improved from 21st to 4th is easier to process visually. And take for example his paragraph on the Knicks where Friedman ignores one key piece of evidence: point differential. By using points per game, he shows that the Knicks have improved by 4 points over last year (from -6.6 to -2.6). However this significant change is swept under the rug with “[it’s] only a few spots better than last season.” You get the feeling that Freidman made up his mind long before he checked the stats out. As a statistical sports blogger, I get a lot of readers new to the field that have a general distrust of numbers. Statistically dishonest articles like Freidman’s helps to reinforce this skepticism, and are a disservice to all sports writers.

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

Knicks Make Small Gains

New York pulled the trigger on two deals today before the NBA trade deadline. The bad news is that neither deal opens up any more cap space for 2010. The good news is that the moves will give the team a little more flexibility this year. In the bigger deal, New York acquired Larry Hughes for Jerome James, Tim Thomas, and Anthony Roberson. In a second deal, the Knicks sent Malik Rose to Oklahoma City for Chris Wilcox. Hughes will make $12.8M this year and $13.7M next year, while Wilcox’s $6.8M contract will expire this year. Hence from a salary cap perspective, this is a lateral move for the Knicks.

The most obvious improvement is in the Wilcox/Rose deal. Malik Rose saw playing time early on, but has been racking up DNP-CDs since. The veteran has played in only three games since Christmas. Wilcox is 8 years younger, and has been productive. Although his PER is down this year (13.4), he’s had an above PER the two years prior (16.3 in 2008 & 16.6 in 2007). He should provide the Knicks with much needed depth at the F/C spots, and that alone will help the team this year. I’m not sure why the Thunder made this deal, unless they’re eying Rose for a coaching position.

As for the Knicks other deal, it’s not necessarily who they got that makes them better. Larry Hughes is an aging slasher/defender who perhaps was never a great defender despite his reputation. Kevin Broom and I used to discuss Hughes’ defense, and Broom thought that Hughes’ gambles on the defensive end hurt the team. As for the slasher aspect, Hughes averaged 6.9 FT/36 in 2005 and that number has decreased in every full year since (5.4 in 2006, 4.3 in 2007, 3.4 in 2008). That means he’s either not able or not willing to get to the hole more, which would explain his tumbling shooting numbers. This year has been a small rebound year for Hughes, as his TS% has increased nearly 60 points from last year (TS% 52.5%) But at this point it’s possible due to the small sample size instead of a real improvement.

What’s more important about the Bulls trade is that the Knicks unloaded three players for one. Much like Malik Rose (160 minutes played), Jerome James (10 min) and Anthony Roberson (253 min) have seen few minutes this year. With New York wasting roster spots on these three plus Curry (3 min) and Stephon Marbury (0 min), the team has been playing shorthanded nearly the entire year. With two new roster spots freed, the Knicks can grab two players from the D-League to fit specific roles (shot blocker?, point guard?) that the team needs.

In both of these deals New York has given up only one player who was in their rotation: Tim Thomas. The Knicks will be able to replace his role on the team with two players. The first is Wilcox who will give New York a big body to defend the post. The second is Gallinari who will provide scoring from the perimeter. Giving the rookie more playing time is the icing on the cake for the Knicks.

2009 Game Preview/Thread: Knicks vs. Bulls

Happy MLK day!  [This MLK day think about sharing your time and/or resources with those in need.]

New York (15-24) hosts Chicago (18-23) in the traditional MLK matinee today.

Chicago won the last meeting at home 105-100 in a game that featured some very poor shooting from New York. New York’s 45.2 eFG% was well below their current season average of 49.4%. New york also struggled from deep hitting only 6 of 28 three point attempts (21%). The three point shot is on of New York’s best offensive weapons so New York needs to get good looks from deep.

 

TEAM POSS EFF eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
New York Knicks-Offense 97 105.8 49.4 15.7 24.2 20.5
Rank 2 20 14 17.5 27 28
Chicago Bulls-Defense 93.4 108.1 48.8 15.4 28.8 25.3
Rank 8 18 8 15 27 21
New York Knicks-Defense 97 109.5 51.8 15.1 27.6 20.1
Rank 2 25 26 18 19 4
Chicago Bulls-Offense 93.4 104.8 48 15.8 26.9 22.4
Rank 8 24 25 19 14 22

What to watch for: Danillo Gallanari.  This is the only reason I’ll be watching the game.  Gallanari shot the ball well in his return from the sore back and if his shooting is as good as advertised, he should help the team.  Strong outside shooters often benefit from playing with a strong post player that can draw doubles.  New York lacks a strong post option, but New York does have a post player that makes good decisions with the ball in David Lee.  New York should use the strong 2 man game of Lee and Duhon to move the ball for open shots to strong outside shooters.

 

What to watch for 2: Defense.  Chicago is not a strong offensive team ranking 24th in offensive efficiency (104.8 point per 100 possessions) and 25th in field goal percentage (48%). Of course, New York’s defense gives up 109.5 points per 100 possessions (25th) and allows a 51.8 eFG% (26th).  So, what happens when the resistible object meets the movable force?  Seriously, New York needs to focus on Derrick Rose in the same manner that disrupted Rajon Rando in the win over Boston.  Chicago’s offense starts with Rose so keep him moving laterally and do not let him gt into the paint where he can finish, draw a foul or dish.  Force Rose to play a long range/mid range game which he is not comfortable doing (0.3 3PA/ per 36 minutes).  New York also needs to stay with Ben Gordon and Andres \”The nose\” Nocioni as they each take 2.2 three pointers per 36 and they each connect at over 38%.

 

What to watch for 3: Drew Gooden.  The poor man’s Carlos Boozer really tore into New York last time out with 22 points and 16 boards.  Perhaps having JJ for significant minutes can slow Gooden down.

The Worst Article of 2008

Long time fans know my least favorite articles are the ones where an author obviously has come to a conclusion and tries to put together facts to support it. In 2004 I railed against Frank Hughes, the next year Charlie Rosen caught my ire, and in 2007 I took a writer from paperbacknovel to task. This year’s KnickerBlogger worst article of 2008 belongs to Bill Simmons piece on D’Antoni/Nash, which was published just before the new year. Simmons begins by bashing D’Antoni:

D’Antoni’s Phoenix teams were wildly entertaining, consistently successful—and always heading home before the Finals. D’Antoni didn’t care that just about every NBA champ since the 1988-89 Pistons had won with defense; once teams slowed the Suns’ tempo and systematically broke them down, their lack of commitment to D always surfaced. Always. They had a fatal flaw. It took us four years to realize it.

Simmons logic is straight out of the internet trolls’ handbook in the chapter titled “Count the Ringz!!1!!” Since 1984, only 8 different coaches have won a title, and like many of his peers Mike D’Antoni isn’t in that select group. Jerry Sloan’s teams were consistently successful for nearly 25 years and he never won a championship. Neither have other respected coaches like George Karl, Don Nelson, Rick Adelman, and both Van Gundys. Winning a championship is a rare event, and failing to do so shouldn’t discredit a coach or style of play.

Additionally Simmons claims “just about every NBA champ since the 1988-89 Pistons had won with defense.” After the Bad Boys won back to back titles, the Bulls won three championship teams by finishing 1st, 1st, and 2nd on offense. Then the Rockets won their first championship due to defense, but the 1995 team with Drexler was 6th on offense and 12th on defensive. Phil Jackson’s threepeat Lakers finished 4th, 2nd, and 2nd on offense. Although some championship teams were stronger on defense, most championship teams are good on both ends of the court and the exceptions generally even out. The 2005 Pistons won with their defense (18th on offense, 2nd on defense), while the 2001 Lakers were an offensive minded team (2nd on offense, 21st on defense). The claim that defense wins championships has been debunked before (namely here and here), and there has not been a defensive trend since 1989.

Simmons proceeds to belittle Steve Nash’s career . He says Nash was a “borderline All-Star” without D’Antoni and says Nash was only “slightly better than Mark Price.” The first is preposterous. Nash started off his career with 4 mediocre seasons, however he became a more productive player by improving his scoring. Nash’s pts/36 went from 11.3 to 16.5 to 18.6. He posted a healthy PER of 19.6 in 2001 at the age of 26. The next year he had a similar season (20.7 PER), became an All Star, and was voted to an All NBA team. This was when he was still in Dallas, before he played for D’Antoni. Nash was a late bloomer, but in Dallas he became a legitimate All Star.

As for the comparison to Price, I’m not sure what to make of it. During his career, Price was voted to 4 All NBA teams and received some consideration for the MVP award. So during his peak he was a pretty good player. However Price’s career ended early. He began to decline at the age of 30 and played his last season at the age of 33. On the other hand Nash has aged well. He won his first MVP at the age of 30, and last year at 33 Nash made the All NBA second team. Considering that Nash is still playing at a high level at the age of 34 (a point that Simmons makes by showing Nash’s numbers this season to be identical to his All Star year in Dallas), it’s clear that Nash’s career has already and will continue to eclipse Price’s. From my perspective Mark Price is to Steve Nash as Shawn Kemp is to Karl Malone.

It’s unfortunate because I understand Simmons’ point. Steve Nash’s assists ballooned under D’Antoni due to the style of play. Nash had the ball in his hand frequently due to the fast paced point guard emphasized offense. So Nash was able to rack up more assists than someone playing for one of the Van Gundys. This is common in just about every sport, but Simmons claims the opposite:

Which brings me to my point, and I swear I have one: Of the four major sports, only in basketball is the historical fate of everyone from borderline All-Star to borderline superstar determined entirely by his situation.

In football, we sometimes see great players trapped on abominable teams (Barry Sanders, Archie Manning) and good players hitting the team lottery (Jim Kelly, Franco Harris), but we can usually tell either way.

You have to wonder what Simmons was on when he wrote that. In the NFL, players are consistently a product of their situation. Kurt Warner is a prime example. When he played for the Rams, Warner was highly effective, twice throwing for more than 4300 yards and 36 TDs. But when placed on a Giants team with a different system, Warner’s play was so bad he lost the starting job. This year in Arizona, Warner was mentioned as a possible MVP candidate. So unlike Simmons’ claim, an NFL player can go from backup to superstar depending on their situation.

But a more appropriate example for Nash might be Tom Brady. In 2007 Brady threw for 50 TDs, nearly twice his career average. Did Brady all of a sudden become more talented? No. Rather the Patriots changed their offense which emphasized his strengths. And you can say the same thing for Nash. D’Antoni’s system increased his stats to the point where a PG in a traditional system might not be able to reach. However Nash still had to perform at a high level to attain those stats. Saying the system turned a regular starter into an MVP is a stretch whether you’re applying that to Steve Nash or Tom Brady.

Arguing D’Antoni’s system was ideal for Nash to win games and put up eye popping numbers seems reasonable. Arguing that Nash’s numbers were inflated by the offense that the team ran is also logical, and that he might not have been the best player in those two seasons is rational. Simmons could have written an article that showed that Nash and D’Antoni were fortunate enough to cross paths having a synergistic effect on each other.

Instead he uses old cliches and false analogies in attempt to assert his opinion. Simmons blames statistics for the problem, and says “stat geeks” as the ones responsible for falling in love with Nash’s inflated numbers. But as this APBRmetrics poll from 2005 showed most numerical analysts didn’t have Nash as a top 3 MVP candidate that year. Ironically if Simmons had a rudimentary understanding of statistics, he would have understood the concept of pace, and could have better articulated his position on Nash. Oh well, maybe next year.

Knicks’ Week in Advance 12/8/08

I’m toying with the idea of theme music for this weekly feature.

To the original theme from “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids”

Hey, hey, hey…. it’s Thoooooomas B.
I’m gonna preview some games for you.
And Mike might add a word or two.
We’ll have some fun now, looking at these stats.
I’ll talk about what to watch for based on PERs and other facts.
Nah, nah, nah going to get some stats now.
Hey, hey, hey!
Hey it’s Thomas B. coming at you with four factors and fun.
And if you’re not careful, you might learn something before we’re done. Hey, hey, hey.
Nah, nah, nah going to get some stats now.

Now that I have that out my system, let’s get on with the fourth installment of Knicks’ Week in Advance. The Knicks start a five game road trip this week with games in Chicago, New Jersey, and Sacramento. While tough, road trips can be a good thing for a team. The team gets to pull together and that is just what the Knicks need as Harrington, Thomas, and Jeffries find their place in the rotation. Let hope the Knicks can improve on the 2-7 road record.

Tuesday, December 9 @ Chicago [First meeting of the teams this year.]

TEAM POSS EFF eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
New York Knicks-Offense 98 105.5 50.1 15.8 23.6 19.1
Rank
1
19
12
15
28
30
Chicago Bulls-Defense 94.8 106 48.4 16.5 29 25.6
Rank
5
15
8
12
26
23
New York Knicks-Defense 98 109.2 51.2 14.5 28.3 18.9
Rank
1
24
25
26
20
2
Chicago Bulls-Offense 94.8 103.4 47.1 16.5 27.6 24.1
Rank
5
23
24
20
9
16

Another Tuesday brings another tough game for the Knicks. The Knicks are 0-4 on Tuesdays so far this year. Let’s see if we can turn this thing around.

The Bulls come into this game with numbers very similar to those of the Knicks. Like the Knicks, the Bulls push the pace with 94.8 possessions per game (5th). The Bulls’ offensive efficiency (103.4, 22nd) trails the Knicks’ offensive efficiency (105.2, 19th). Furthermore, the Bulls’ eFG% of 47.1 (24th) is well behind the Knicks’ 49.8 (13th). One reason for this could be the Bulls’ lack of inside scoring.

The Bulls’ big men are not efficient scorers from close range. Aaron Gray leads the big men with an eFG% of 46.6 in 14 minutes per game. Behind Gray, the Bulls have Noah and Thomas with eFG% of 39.6 and 34.4 respectively. Compare that to David Lee’s 56.2 eFG%, and *gulp* Tim Thomas’ 51.8 (I know, but what other big man do we have?). The Bulls’ inside scoring troubles bode well for the Knicks as they struggle defending big men who can score inside.

What to watch for: Defense. The Knicks should focus on limiting penetration from Rose and open looks from Gordon (51.1 eFG%, 37.3 3p%) and Hughes (53.2 eFG%, 47.7 3p%).

What to watch for 2: Q. Richardson vs. Hughes/Gordon. Nate Robinson’s injury has moved Q to the shooting guard spot. What Q gives up in speed, he makes up for in strength. Q should take the same approach he took with Jamal Crawford defending him and take Hughes inside. When Thomas or Noah help, move the ball for a good shot.

What to watch for 3: More of the high pick & roll. Seven Seconds or Mess did a great job showing how the high pick & roll worked for the Knicks against the Blazers. New York should should employ the same approach in this game. Inexperienced players usually aren’t good at defending the pick & roll, so the Knicks should go at Rose and Noah/Gray/Thomas early with it.

What to watch for 4: Chi-town ties. Q and Chandler are from the area so they should be comfortable for this game. Meanwhile former Bulls Duhon and Thomas may feel they have scores to settle against their old team. You ever notice how nobody ever leaves the Bulls on good terms? When have you heard, “I really enjoyed my time with the Bulls organization and I look forward to returning some day.”

Wednesday, December 10 @ New Jersey [First meeting of the teams this year.]

TEAM POSS EFF eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
New York Knicks-Offense 98 105.5 50.1 15.8 23.6 19.1
Rank
1
19
12
15
28
30
New Jersey Nets-Defense 91 111.3 51.3 15.3 26 29
Rank
22
27
27
20
11
29
New York Knicks-Defense 98 109.2 51.2 14.5 28.3 18.9
Rank
1
24
25
26
20
2
New Jersey Nets-Offense 91 110.2 50 14.4 26.8 26.8
Rank
22
5
13
3
15
4

The Nets are a team of contrast. New Jersey is bad on defense, and their efficiency (111.3, 27th), and eFG% (51.3 %, 26th) are among the worst in the NBA. On the other hand, the Nets are strong on offense (110.2, 5th) and they take care of the ball (14.4 Turnovers, 2nd).

What to watch for: The Nets are over .500 due to the great play they are getting from Devin Harris. Harris leads all Eastern Conference PGs in PER (27.6), and scoring (24.5/36 min, 5th overall). He averages 0.8 3PM/36, which means he does most of his damage on the inside and at the free throw line (9.2 ftm/36). I have not seen him play this year, but those numbers indicate that Harris drives a lot. The Knicks need to give Harris room to take the jumper rather than let him get into his comfort zone of driving.

What to watch for 2: Defense. I have said this every week, but the Knicks need a strong defensive effort against teams that are efficient on offense. The Knicks’ defensive focus has to start with Harris. Duhon will need to play smart (stay out of foul trouble) as he may not have Nate to back him up.

Saturday, December 13 @ Sacramento [First meeting of the teams this year]

TEAM POSS EFF eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
New York Knicks-Offense 98 105.5 50.1 15.8 23.6 19.1
Rank
1
19
12
15
28
30
Sacramento Kings-Defense 92.7 112.9 52.8 15.9 29.5 25.8
Rank
10
29
29.5
13
29
25
New York Knicks-Defense 98 109.2 51.2 14.5 28.3 18.9
Rank
1
24
25
26
20
2
Sacramento Kings-Offense 92.7 103.7 49 17.2 26.7 21.7
Rank
10
21
16
25
16
21.5

The Kings are rebuilding around Kevin Martin, John Salmons, and uh…not much else. Sacramento is one of the worst defensive team in the NBA. They are 29th in defensive efficiency (112.9), tied for last in defensive eFG% with Golden State (52.8), and they don’t do well on the defensive glass giving up 29.5% of available defensive boards (29th). Only one team does it worse – you guessed it, the Warriors again. Their leading shot blocker is Hawes (1.8 per 36 minutes).

What to watch for: The Knicks should take the same approach they took against the Warriors with one exception – play better defense. The Kings are not strong on offense coming in 21st in offensive efficiency (103.7) and 15th in eFG% (15th). The Kings frequently turn over the ball (17.2, 24th), so added defensive pressure should bring those numbers up.

What to watch for 2: The Knicks should run the high pick & roll with Lee and Duhon against the Kings’ slow frontcourt players.

What to watch for 3: Push the pace. This game is the second of a back to back for the Kings. The Knicks come into this game on two days rest. The Knicks should push the pace and try to wear the Kings down. Hopefully, Nate, JJ, and Mobley (I’m still holding out hope) will be able to give us around 20-25 a night and help us keep the pressure on the Kings.

J C Ya

Ahhh Jamal Crawford we knew ye well. Crawford came to New York in a sign & trade with Chicago in 2004. It was one Isiah’s early moves, and I didn’t say much at the time of the trade:

In Crawford, New York gets insurance for Allan Houston, and I’m guessing will be his eventual replacement. (Or else why would the Knicks sign him for so long?) Crawford isn’t nearly the shooter that Houston is, but is able to play the point as well.

Back in 2004 New York’s options at shooting guard were an injured Allan Houston, Shandon Anderson, and Penny Hardaway. So there was a need to stabilize the position. Crawford had a good amount of promise to the naked eye. He had just come off his first starting season for the Bulls at the age of 23. He was a combo guard that could score and run the point.

But less than a month in a Knick uniform, it was easy to spot Crawford’s flaws:

Thankfully, the primary backup for Marbury is the Knicks’ new acquisition Jamal Crawford (16.1, 21.6, +2.4). He has been good offensively, but his defense is porous. Crawford’s thin frame is ill-suited to fight through picks, and too fragile to slow down a drive once the other team gets a step on him. Jamal has an excellent handle, but there is nothing more frustrating than having Crawford settling for a jumper (which comprise 82% of his shots), after he’s faked his defender with a series of fancy dribbles. Crawford should force the issue towards the basket with his great passing and dribbling skills. In addition, he’d do well getting fouled driving to the hoop, since the guy makes a free throw shot look like a layup (86% FT).

Crawford’s only 24, so I hope the Knicks coaching staff can get Jamal to produce a little more before he becomes set in his ways. For someone that will likely be in New York for the next 7 years, I’d like for him to be able to give us a little more production, either on offense and defense. He has excellent skills to build on: quickness, dribbling, a good shot, and that three point buzzer beater shows his confidence. He just needs to be smarter with his shot, and work on his defensive fundamentals. The Knicks announcers always make me chuckle with the line “he gets his hands on a lot of balls”, and Crawford’s one positive aspect on defense is creating turnovers (2.1 STL per 40 minutes).

Comparing Jamal Crawford’s first year as a Knick and to his last full year shows little development. The only real improvement he made was getting to the free throw line more often. But even that gain was offset by his drops in steals, blocks, and rebounds. And his defense has always been awful.

Age Tm G FGA FG% 3PA 3P% FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PTS PER TS% eFG%
24 NYK 70 14.7 0.398 6.9 0.361 2.9 0.843 2.7 4 1.2 0.3 2 16.6 15.2 0.521 0.483
27 NYK 80 15.7 0.41 5.6 0.356 4.3 0.864 2.3 4.5 0.9 0.2 2.2 18.6 16 0.528 0.473

Crawford was the kind of player people either loved or hated. His dribble and ability to get open made him look like an All Star at times. His love for the fade away jumper and one dimensional game drove others crazy. Some will always remember Crawford’s time in a Knick uniform by his inability to fight through a pick. Others will think about his 52 point game against the Heat.

It was unlikely that Crawford was going to be a part of the Knicks’ future. His $10M in 2011 was probably more an impediment to getting a superstar in New York than a bonus. Shooting guards that score and don’t defend aren’t too hard to find. Certainly you can get one for under $10M a season. Jamal didn’t fit the mold of a D’Antoni player. He liked to hold the ball, a cardinal sin in the seven second offense. And he wasn’t a great spot-up shooter, another requisite for a D’Antoni guard.

For most of his career he has been the #1 or #2 scoring option on his team, and his career record is 168-375 (31%). Crawford is the NBA’s version of baseball’s innings eater. A player who can provide scoring for a mediocre club, but not someone you’d want to use as a major cog on a championship team.