2010 Season Preview: Optimist vs Pessimist

Optimist: Ready for another year of exciting basketball?

Pessimist: Ready to get another beating this year?

Optimist: What do you mean?

Pessimist: Well every year you make these wild predictions about the Knicks, and every year I kick your butt in.

Optimist: The last time we did this 2 years ago I predicted 43 wins, and the Knicks won 23, but that’s ancient history. I’ve learned from my mistakes, and feel confident about this year. Don’t you?

Pessimist: Um, never.

Optimist: Look at it from the bright side. Last year’s team won 32 games, and this team has a lot more going for it. The roster alone is deeper. Milicic, Hill, and Douglas are new additions, then add in a healthy Gallinari and a trimmed down Eddy Curry and you have to admit the team is a lot deeper, no?

Pessimist: Darko Milicic? He’s 24 and has been on 4 different teams already. Can anyone tell me what Jordan Hill does well? From what I saw this summer, he’s a power forward that’s shies from contact and likes to shoot hooks & jumpers. Douglas is a combo guard that shot 28.8% eFG in the summer league (including an arctic 9.1% from downtown). Gallo already has back problems, and a “trimmed down” Eddy Curry? Isn’t that like a suped up Ford Tempo?

Optimist: Easy there Pessy. Listen Darko will protect the paint. Hill will give some rebounding and outside shooting. Douglas can defend too and run the offense. Gallo is going to be the next Nowitzki. And Curry is going to score a ton in the paint. And anyway those 5 guys aren’t the core of the team, just some extra help. Lots of bench players in the league have faults.

Pessimist: Faults? The Knicks’ bench is like San Andreas. Which reminds me I have update my earthquake insurance.

Optimist: Earthquake insurance in New York City? With those kinds of prediction abilities, how do I lose to you every year? Anyway, the Knicks had lots of guys shuffling in & out last year. Crawford, Randolph, Collins, Roberson, Rose, Tim Thomas, and Jerome James, not to mention all the NBDL guys (Crawford, Sims, Nichols, Samb, and Sene). Certainly this year’s roster will be more stable.

Pessimist: Perhaps. But who is to say that Donnie won’t pull the trigger to shed some more contracts. Curry and Jeffries will be gone if Walsh receives a half decent deal (at least you’d hope so). And the Knicks don’t have a draft pick to sweeten the pot, so they’ll have to throw someone in like Chandler, Gallo, or Hill.

Optimist: Wait a second, you’re saying getting rid of Curry or Jeffries would be a bad thing? Let’s just see how things pan out before dumping on Walsh. Donnie has been pretty shrewd with deals so far.

Pessimist: Like Balkman & Von Wafer?

Optimist: No like getting rid of Randolph & Crawford. You have to admit he’s been good with regards to shedding contracts & having a long term plan.

Pessimist: How about not getting the #5 pick for Jeffries & Chandler? And not sending Jeffries and Nate to Sacramento?

Optimist: Those are just rumors. Nobody really believes those.

Pessimist: *aheam*

Optimist: OK almost nobody.

Pessimist: I think the knock on Walsh is whether he’s a good evaluator of talent. Say what you will about Balkman, but there’s no doubt that Von Wafer could have helped this team last year. The Knicks were starving for a shooting guard last year, had Wafer on their summer league team, and the next thing you know Wafer was starting for the Rockets. This year the team still needs a shooting guard, they had Morris Almond on their summer league team, and … need I say more?

Optimist: C’mon, you’re killing Walsh for Balkman, Wafer, and Almond? I’m not too concerned with the end of bench guys. D’Antoni isn’t likely to play them anyway.

Pessimist: What about Jordan Hill? He didn’t look all that great in summer, and I don’t see him breaking the rotation this year.

Optimist: That just shows how deep the team is. See you’re making my point for me. Anyway, Let’s move on to the offense. You have to admit that the Knicks will be better on offense this season. It’s the second year of D’Antoni’s offense so the players will be more acclimated to the system…

Pessimist: … Got any proof that players do better in the same offense?

Optimist: No, but it sounds right. Add in a full season from Gallinari. The guy hit 44% from three and 96% from the line. Give him more than 400 minutes and scoring will increase.

Pessimist: That’s the teenager with the bad back, right?

Optimist: Actually he’s 21 now.

Pessimist: You know Crawford played almost the same amount of minutes last year as a Knick, and hit 46% of his threes? Anyone can put up eye-catching numbers in limited minutes.

Optimist: He’s still young, and it’s realistic to think he’ll improve as he matures. The offense will improve this year?

Pessimist: And the defense?

Optimist: Darko Milicic, Jordan Hill, Toney Douglas are all defensive players …

Pessimist: First off none of those players are likely to see a lot of minutes. Curry, if he ever gets in shape, could push Darko for time so the Knicks can showcase him. And both of them will keep Jordan Hill on the bench. Toney Douglas will likely see time, but not if he’s shooting 20%. You have to admit the defense will be just as bad as last year.

Optimist: It won’t be worse and is likely to be better. Will you admit the offense will be better than last year?

Pessimist: Of course not.

Optimist: Time to put your money where your mouth is – how many wins are the Knicks getting in 2010?

Pessimist: I’m skeptical of the improvements. Hill shot pretty bad in the summer, Douglas shot worse, and Milicic has shot pretty bad his whole career. Eddy Curry is a turnover machine who doesn’t rebound on the defensive end. There’s still no true shooting guard. Number 8 overall pick Jordan Hill can compete against Wilson Chandler to see who shoots less free throws. I’ll go with 32 wins again.

Optimist: The team has definitely improved. They’ll top last year’s total and then some. The additions to the roster will help D’Antoni mix & match and won’t leave the team helpless when the inevitable injuries occur. Better seasons from Gallinari & Curry will only help the team. Continuity with the coaching staff is a plus as well. I’ll go with 38 wins.

Pessimist: Next you’re going to tell me they’re going to make the playoffs.

Optimist: 8th seed, which will be good enough to attract that kid from Ohio!

The Knicks 2010 Over/Under

This year I decided to have some fun and invite some NBA writers to participate in a little soothsaying. I proposed some possible scenarios via Over/Under and asked them to look into their crystal-ball and divine the outcome to these events. This year I got a good mix of people including: Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus, J.E. Skeets of Ball Don’t Lie, Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty, Howard Beck of the New York Times, Tommy Dee from the Knicks Blog, NBA analyst Gabe Farkas, in addition to some of KnickerBlogger’s own writing staff (Robert “The Animal” Silverman, Thomas B., Owen, Michael Zannettis, Kevin McElroy, Brian Cronin, and myself).

The Youngsters

Gallo 3 point shooting percentage: 40%
My Pick: Under
Gallinari shot 44% last year, but due to the limited number of minutes he played this could be a fluke. Most of our participants see him faring well from behind the arc this year.

Gallo

Jordan Hill minutes played: 1100.5
My Pick: Under
For Hill to go over, he would only need to average 13.5 minutes a game, which doesn’t seem like much. However the Knicks have a lot of depth on the front court, and Hill has looked unimpressive in the preseason. If he starts racking up DNPs, it’s not likely he’ll make this number. Only Pelton, Ziller, and Farkas see him getting this much playing time this year.

Hill

Toney Douglas True Shooting Percentage: 50%
My Pick: Under
The league average for True Shooting Percentage is 54%, so this should be an easily attainable goal for most NBA players. Our panel was split, but leaned towards the under.

Douglas

Lottery Pick Centers

Darko Milicic total points on the season: Eddy Curry total points on the season
My Pick: Over
Once these two were among the hottest prospects in the draft, now they’re barely able to find court time on a 30-something win team. Darko scores much less per minute, but I guess that’s the point.

Darko and Curry. Two halves of a great center don’t make a whole.

— Mike Zannettis

Darko

UFOs (or I’ll Believe It When I See it)

Jared Jeffries 3 pointers attempted per 36 minutes: 1.5
My Pick: Over
Another split decision by the group. I decided to go with 3 pointers attempted, because that’ll mean a fundamental shift in the way Jeffries plays on offense. And D’Antoni does allow players to shoot threes, even if they can’t hit them.

I think Jared Jeffries will easily exceed 1.5 3 pointers attempted per 36 minutes–if he is healthy– in this offense. The better question is will he have more than 0.5 makes per 36 minutes. I don’t think he can do that without downloading a cheat code, and last I checked there is no slot for a Game Genie on JJ’s shooting hand.

— Thomas B.

Jeffries

(Smells Like) Team Spirit

Number of Knicks traded during the 2010 season: 0.5
My Pick: Under
Kevin Pelton is the lone dissenter. I wonder who’ll be gone?

Trade

Number of Wins From March 1 – April 14th: 9.5
My Pick: Under
The end of the schedule is just brutal.

I ran the numbers on the Knicks’ last 24 games based on SCHOENE’s projections for them and their opponents, factoring in home-court advantage. The final estimate? 9.6 wins. Nice job on the over/under, then.

–Kevin Pelton

Wins

Defensive efficiency: 110.8
My Pick: Under
This is the team’s mark from last year, so the question is technically whether the Knicks defense will improve. Again Pelton is the only one to break from the pack.

DE

Playoff Spots Earned: 0.5
My Pick: Under
Only 5 of 13 picked New York to make the playoffs. The measure of a true optimist.

Although watching [some of the] pre-season games is enough to make one fondly recall even the dark days of Bob Thornton, Jammin’ James Bailey, Ron Cavenall and Chris McNealy, I (gulp) think these ‘Bockers are going to surprise. I’ve got no stat-based or even vaguely logical reason to believe so other than the fact that the conventional wisdom seems to be that this year’s Knicks model is gonna stink real bad. Maybe it’s my nature as a contrarian, but to me, “Conventional Wisdom”‘s as much of an oxymoron as “Jumbo Shrimp” or “Military Intelligence”. I.e. since the ESPN gang/the beat writers are all in agreement, I’m going to go the other way.

In short, playoffs or bust, baybee!

— Robert Silverman

Playoffs

The Free Agents

Number of additional games Nate Robinson plays as a Knick in his career: 82.5
My Pick: Over
To go over, Nate would have to resign with the Knicks. The Magic 8-Ball says “Outlook not so good.”
Nate

David Lee’s Annual Salary in 2011: $7.5M
My Pick: Under
Lots of people went over, but perhaps this is a trick question. He can still average nearly $10M with a 10% raise over 6 years starting at $7.5M. Of course not every contract increases that way, but it’s possible.

Whether or not you agree with it, Lee is a HOT commodity.

— Gabe Farkas

Lee

TrueHoop Network 2009-10 Season Preview: New York Knicks

CROWD SAYS/BLOGGER SAYS
The consensus win total prediction of the TrueHoop Network bloggers and my own prediction.

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 32-50
CROWD SAYS: 31-51
BLOGGER PREDICTION: 35-47

YES WE CAN!
The sun is out. The seas have parted. The basketball gods are shining upon us!

If I’m allowed to be optimistic, 2010 could be New York’s return to winning. Last year the team suffered from roster instability and a lack of depth. As the front office transitioned away from the Isiah era, 23 different players donned Knick uniforms. With Lee and Robinson signing one year deals, this season should see improved continuity as the core of the team returns with some reinforcements. Newly acquired Darko Milicic, a slimmed down Eddy Curry, a healthy Danilo Gallinari, the 8th overall pick Jordan Hill, and rookie Toney Douglas will give Coach D’Antoni some more options with his rotation.

This year the offense should improve, especially if Gallinari plays more in his sophomore season. Gallo shot extremely well as a 20 year old rookie, and if his first year stats are indicative of his skill level, he’ll thrive in D’Antoni’s offense. Meanwhile Eddy Curry has always been able to score, but his Achilles Heel on offense has been turnovers. D’Antoni’s offensive scheme should use Curry in screens and off the ball more, as opposed to solely dumping the ball to him in the post. This should cut down on his turnovers while getting him the ball near the hoop more often, an area where Curry thrives. Defense will still be a weakness this upcoming season, but with the additions of Milicic, Hill, and Douglas the Knicks could see a modest improvement.

Looking at the changes since last year, the Knicks have strengthened their roster, should improve their offense, and will remain about the same on defense. Hence it makes sense for the team to improve on their 32 win total of 2009. How much will be seen, but if the stars align in New York, it’s possible that they will end their drought of 8 consecutive winless seasons.

NO YOU WON’T
A rousing dissent from a rival blogger.

The Knicks suck because they mortgaged their future on a pipe dream that hinges upon the rapid development of Wilson Chandler ans some guy that Italians call the Rooster.
— Jared Wade, Eight Points, Nine Seconds

ALL A TWITTER
A 140-character insight into the soul of the team.

nate_robinson

“In the locker room sit n next to ill will chandler, try n to give him tips on how to stop mr. D.Wade aka Flash, good luck will kick a$$ !!!”
5:05 PM Apr 12th from TinyTwitter

Nate Robinson giving teammate Wilson Chandler defensive tips, right before the Heat’s Dwyane Wade scores 55 points on the Knicks.

ON THE RECORD
Single best quote concerning the team during the last 12 months.

“Are they ******* kidding me? Are they ******* kidding me?”

Coach Mike D’Antoni during the opening day laugher win against Miami while Knick fans cheered “We Want Steph!” In a single televised lip-read gesture D’Antoni showed, in a very New York-esque manner, that the inmates no longer ran the asylum.

The 2008-09 Almanac
Some key stats from last season.

Offense: 17th
Defense: 23rd
Pace: 2nd

Team Factor Strength(s): Free Throws Allowed (7th) Team Factor
Weakness(es): Shooting Allowed (28th), Free Throws (28th), Offensive
Rebounding (27th)

Don’t expect the Knicks to lead the league in offensive rebounding anytime soon. Over the last 5 years, D’Antoni coached teams have finished in the bottom half in offensive rebounding percentage. Thrice his Suns finished last or second to last, and last year’s Knicks were 27th.

YEAR - TEAM - RANK
2005 - PHO  - 22nd
2006 - PHO  - 30th
2007 - PHO  - 29th
2008 - PHO  - 29th
2009 - NYK  - 27th

THE PLAY
Down a single point with 9.2 seconds to play in a must-win game. What’s the play?

Needing a single point the Knicks should go with a Duhon/Lee pick & roll, while spreading the floor with Gallinari, Harrington and Robinson. Although Duhon struggles to score in the paint, forcing him towards the basket isn’t an ideal defensive approach. Lee is too efficient around the hoop to leave alone (and superb at scoring with contact) so teams would have to consider doubling him. Duhon is excellent at finding the open man should a defensive breakdown occur. And if anything goes wrong, plan B would be to give the ball to Nate (or Harrington) and allow them to improvise.

THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE
The fan favorite the crowd will be chanting for to see some action.

Unlike last year, the Knicks should have plenty of depth in the front court. Lee, Harrington, Curry and Milicic will see the lion’s share of minutes. Add D’Antoni’s penchant for small ball, and it’s hard to see a lot of minutes for #8 pick Jordan Hill.

IF YOU’RE WATCHING THE BOTTOM LINE, YOU’RE WATCHING THIS
The single biggest spreadsheet issue hanging over the team.

For New York, the 2010 season doesn’t matter as much as the summer following it. Donnie Walsh has to balance between making the team competitive to lure a major free agent and having the cap space to sign one or more stars. A major question he needs to answer is: Can the team afford to keep David Lee and Nate Robinson long term? Losing either or both without compensation would be a tough pill to swallow for a team without a first round pick that is looking to be competitive.

TEAM BLOGGERS SAY WINS*

Bret Lagree | Hoopinion

“The Hawks have not built, nor do they appear to be building, a championship contender. … Joe Johnson is poised to be a free agent in the summer of 2010. Johnson is not a franchise player, yet he’s the Hawks’ best player.”

45

Zach Lowe | CelticsHub

“It seems reasonable to say anything short of an 18th championship would be a disappointment.”

58

Brett Hainline | Queen City Hoops

“Great defense + equally bad offense = average. With an improving division around them, that equation does not get them their first playoff berth. But at least they won’t suck.”

36

Matt McHale | By the Horns

“During the offseason, the Bulls lost free agent Ben Gordon, whom many people considered the team’s best or second-best player (after Derrick Rose). Memo to Chicago fans: Don’t sweat it. Seriously. Gordon will be replaced by John Salmons, who not only gave the Bulls almost as many points per game (18.3 versus 20.7) but was slightly more efficient in how he scored them.”

43

John Krolik | Cavs the Blog

“After last season’s playoff heartbreak, Danny Ferry has changed up the equation … However, Shaq could disrupt the delicate offensive and defensive chemistry the Cavaliers rode to 66 wins and the conference finals, despite the fact he will be the best player LeBron has ever played with if he continues to play like he did last season. The big question for the Cavs this seasons whether they overreacted to two clutch 3s by Rashard Lewis, or made the risk they needed to take to finally get LeBron a ring.”

61

Rob Mahoney | The Two Man Game

“’Rebuilding’ teams seek financial flexibility and the acquisition of young, productive assets. Quality squads amass veteran talent, no matter the cost, in pursuit of a title. Defying all logic, the Mavs have simultaneously moved in both directions.”

50

Jeremy Wagner | Roundball Mining Company

“The only players still on the roster who exceeded expectations in 2008-09 were Nene and Birdman. It is reasonable to expect every member of the Nuggets, other than thirty-something Chauncey Billups, to improve.”

53

Dan Feldman | PistonPowered

“However the minutes shake out between Chris Wilcox, Kwame Brown and Ben Wallace, they won’t be as good as Rasheed Wallace. But Sheed wasn’t that great last year. He looked old and disinterested, so the drop here won’t be too steep.”

36

Rasheed Malek |Warriors World

“Under the ownership of Chris Cohan, the Warriors have made the playoffs exactly one time and have gone through numerous coaches, players and executives. Going into this season, Larry Riley is the man in charge taking over for Chris Mullin.”

28

Anup Shah and Brody Rollins | Rockets Buzz

“The speed revolution has overtaken some of basketball’s peers, most notably football … Is basketball headed in the same direction? [Aaron] Brooks provides an excellent case study. Beginning the year as the Rockets number one threat on offense with Ron Artest’s departure and injuries to Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, Brooks will have every opportunity to prove that size really doesn’t matter.”

39

Jared Wade | Eight Points, Nine Seconds

“It’s hard to believe that anything short of the postseason will remove the dark cloud over Conseco. … Ultimately, it will come down to one thing: [Mike Jr.] Dunleavy’s knee.”

32

Kevin Arnovitz | ClipperBlog

“[Blake] Griffin and [Eric] Gordon may not be saviors, but they’re something. Griffin’s skills and his tenacious work ethic (the guy runs up sand dunes in his free time) will be a boon to a team desperate for cultural overhaul. Gordon offers an enticing combination of spot-up shooting and forays into the paint. He finished third in true shooting percentage among starting off guards in his rookie campaign, something that can only help a team that ranked dead last in offensive efficiency last season.”

32

Kurt Helin | Forum Blue and Gold

“God, is it good to be hated again.”

64

Chip Crain | 3 Shades of Blue

“The 2009-10 version of the Grizzlies have put together a starting five where every player scored 30 points or more in a game last year. The oldest starter is only 28 years old (Zach Randolph) and the youngest won’t turn 22 until after the start of the season (O.J. Mayo). They are young, talented and hungry for success. So why do most people focus on the two players not on a rookie contract this season?”

20

Matthew Bunch | Hot Hot Hoops

“38.6 minutes. 30.2 points. 49.1 percent shooting. Five rebounds. 7.5 assists. 2.2 steals. 1.3 blocks. That’s what [Dwyane] Wade averaged last season. You’re going to keep that guy out of the playoffs? Good luck.”

44

Jeremy Schmidt | Bucksketball

“If the Bucks get anything out of their three small forwards, if they can keep [Andrew] Bogut and [Michael] Redd healthy and if they get a season worthy of the number ten selection out of Brandon Jennings at the point, the playoffs will be within reach. But that’s a lot of ifs.”

29

Patrick Hodgdon | Howlin’ T-Wolf

“”Ever since his arrival, David Kahn has had seemingly one mission, other than to look like the smartest guy in the room at every turn, and that is to get as much cap space for next summer as he possibly can. … The obvious question lies in whether or not the Wolves will actually be able to lure one of the better free agent players to come to Minnesota.”

23

Mark Ginocchio and Sebastian Priuti | Nets are Scorching

“Lingering doubts about Brooklyn could spoil any change the Nets have of landing a top free agent next summer.”

29

Niall Doherty and Ryan Schwan | Hornets247

“Enter Emeka Okafor. He’s a near match to a healthy Chandler, is more durable, and doesn’t look like he’s having muscle spasms when making a post move.”

47

Mike Kurylo | Knickerblogger

“2010 could be New York’s return to winning.”

31

Royce Young | Daily Thunder

“The Thunder may not win more than half their games, but with over half the roster unable to get an alcoholic beverage still, steady improvement and progression is the name of the game.”

34

Zach McCann | Orlando Magic Daily

“Take away either Hedo Turkoglu or Courtney Lee and the Magic aren’t getting to face the Lakers in the Finals. No way. But does that mean the Magic were wrong to let them go? Were the Magic foolish to allow a borderline All-Star and a possible future All-Star leave the team when both clearly wanted to stay in Orlando? Absolutely not. I believe the Magic are an entirely better team than they were four months ago.”

59

Carey R. Smith | Philadunkia

“The travesty of a deal that Billy King gave to Samuel Dalembert remains easily one of the worst contracts in NBA history. Hopefully this season Dalembert, his inflated self-worth and his contract will be dealt for a couple of expiring contracts and some much-needed cap space.”

39

Michael Schwartz | Valley of the Suns

“Two years ago the Suns were chic championship picks. Last year, the Suns were (accurately) thought to be a fringe playoff team. This year there are almost no expectations outside of their locker room. … There will be no mistaking what the Suns are this season: a lightning-speed team that will score points in bunches and likely give them up almost as quickly while struggling badly on the boards. But they will once again be the most exciting team in basketball.”

46

Max Handelman | Beyond Bowie

“The Blazers effectively bumbled their way to a 54-win season despite a mediocre performance from Greg Oden, the loss of Martell Webster for the season, and at times starting three rookies. This team is only getting better, kids.”

53

Zach Harper | Cowbell Kingdom

“Enter Tyreke Evans — a bulldozer-sized menace who will test the strength of every team’s defense at its entry point. He immediately creates matchup problems against teams with traditional point guards and will look to have a similar impact as fellow Memphis alum, Derrick Rose.”

22

Timothy Varner | 48 Minutes of Hell

During the Celtics heyday, Red Auerbach boasted a winning percentage of .719. In the modern era, Pat Riley’s Showtime Lakers played to the tune of .733. Phil Jackson’s Jordan Bulls dominated the 90s with an otherworldly percentage of .771. Jackson’s three-peat Lakers? .735. In his 12 seasons with San Antonio, Gregg Popovich, whose cynical disdain for the regular season runs more than skin deep, has, nevertheless, posted a winning percentage of .707. That’s the company the Spurs keep. What should we expect this season? 58 wins and a run at the title. Same as every other year.”

55

RaptorsRepublic

“How is a rookie(ish) head coach going to integrate nine new players into a new system with two new assistant coaches?”

41

Spencer Ryan Hall | Salt City Hoops

“With young Wesley Matthews providing the good luck charm, Boozer in a contract year, Deron Williams with a chip on his shoulder, and a new longer-haired version of Andrei Kirilenko the Jazz have no reason to be anything other than beastly this season. And I mean that in a good way. Every prediction from the Jazz camp, however, comes with the ominous caveat ‘If we can stay healthy.'”

46

Kyle Weidie | Truth About It

“Flip Saunders has never gotten a team ‘there.’ That worn out cliché always runs rampant, plaguing almost every coach who hasn’t won … until they win. Red Auerbach (647), Larry Brown (1,900), and Dick Motta (738) all took their lumps before winning a championship (games coached before title season). Don’t be surprised when what you think is impossible becomes a reality. … 2010 is the Chinese Year of the Tiger. Factor in Gilbert Arenas’ stomach tattoo and the fact that the Wizards play their home games in D.C.’s Chinatown, and all the cards are in place.”

42

* As predicted by a consensus of all TrueHoop Network bloggers.

Hill Fails To Impress (& Knick Tidbits)

Knick fans that hoped the 2009 #8 pick would pay immediate dividends are going to be disappointed. Mike D’Antoni said Jordan Hill “got a ways to go” with regards to being NBA ready. A quote like this would be expected if New York grabbed a teenager from Europe like Ricky Rubio or Brandon Jennings. But Jordan Hill is 22, and spent 3 years in Arizona. Shouldn’t he be ready to contribute to the NBA now?

Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the Knicks recent power forward draftees. Channing Frye, like Hill, was 22 year old #8 overall pick from Arizona and managed an 18.1 PER in 1500+ minutes his first season. David Lee, taken in the same draft, had a 15.4 PER in 1100+ minutes that same year. The 9th overall pick in 2003, Mike Sweetney, was buried on the IR due to incompetent management. But he still was able to perform on an NBA level with a 17.2 PER his first season. Even Nene Hillario who was traded by the Knicks on draft day put up a PER of 15.4 in 2200+ minutes as a 20 year old rookie for Denver.

Hill’s defenders say he started playing basketball late, and that he’s still learning the game. But 2010 is a win now year, with the Knicks not owning their own pick in the upcoming draft. And Walsh didn’t really seem interested in spending money this summer to improve his team, even on his own players. The only trade they made this summer was for a backup center in Darko Milicic. So with no other avenues to improve the team now why would the Knicks take a player who was a project? Surely there was someone that was more ready to contribute this season (Blair seems the part, and Lawson had a nice preseason). Perhaps Walsh didn’t mind taking someone unpolished, but then he should have aimed for someone that was younger or had a bigger upside.

It sounds rough to be critical of a rookie before the season even starts. I can understand Hill not making the rotation, especially with the veterans ahead of him. But I would have liked to hear the coaching staff speak more positively of him. Maybe something along the lines of “he’s good, but he’s going to have to wait his turn.” Perhaps a better showing in either summer league or the preseason would allow me to look past his current state. I’m sure Hill will get some minutes at some point this year, and I can only hope that he can get some positive reviews for his on the court play.

Other News:

  • You can throw away any chance of Eddy Curry getting into the rotation early in the season to increase his trade value. Curry talked about his offseason conditioning publicly on Twitter, then hurt his foot in the first practice. Although it was initially thought that the injury wasn’t serious and he’d be back quickly, Eddy didn’t play in a single preseason game. The team has told Curry to not come back until he reaches a certain weight, implying that his summer regimen wasn’t as advertised. Curry threw away his 2009 season, and so far he’s on pace to do the same in 2010.
  • Not only are Eddy Curry and Jordan Hill out of the rotation, but it seems that Larry Hughes didn’t make the cut either. Hughes probably didn’t expect this to occur (he started 57 of 68 games in 2008, and 20 of 55 last year), and it’ll be interesting to see how he responds. Although the Knicks could afford to let someone like Stephon Marbury hang in the wind (especially considering Marbury’s actions after the team let him go), the front office and coaching staff could lose serious face if this situation gets that ugly.

    From a simple perspective it seems that Hughes was beaten out by Toney Douglas (and perhaps Danilo Gallinari) who are likely to eat the bulk of his minutes along with Nate Robinson. But it’s more likely that this is just coach D’Antoni going with his youngsters.

  • Looks like the Knicks have a new end of bench guy, for now. Marcus Landry replaces Joe Crawford (and Chris Hunter) as the Knicks rotate in a new 12th man yet again. Sorry if I’m indifferent on this signing, but New York seems to grab these guys and tend to never use them in a meaningful way. The best analogy I can come up with it my 2 year old who’ll snatch a toy the minute another child becomes interested in it, not really play with it, and then casually discard it when the next shiny thing comes along.
  • Knicks 2010 Season Preview Part 4

    [Part 1 is here.]
    [Part 2 is here.]
    [Part 3 is here.]

    Eddy Curry – Center/Big Contract

    What the Stats Say
    There are two Eddy Curry stats that Knick fans seem to care about right now:
    1. $11,276,863 – Curry’s toxic 2010-2011 cap number, an amount which is to the summer of 2010 what a sudden, violent intestinal problem is to a date: impossible to cure, impossible to ignore, and sure to leave you alone at the end of the evening, dreaming of what might have been.
    2. 318 pounds – Curry’s reported weight, 40 pounds less than it was at its peak last season and about 40 pounds higher than needs to be for him to effectively guard an athletic center.
    But all jokes and criticism aside (if I have to), we shouldn’t forget that Curry is really, really good at exactly one thing: scoring. From inside 6 feet. When fed the ball in perfect position. Until he gets tired. Or into foul trouble.

    What My Gut Says
    “He’ll get shots,” say those in the know. Since objective #1 for the Knicks from this moment until the trade deadline will be to move Curry for an expiring contract, it only makes sense for D’Antoni to put him five feet from the hoop, paint a target on his chest, and tell Chris Duhon to throw the ball at it until the trade partners come a-calling. I suppose that this plan is fine, since the 2009-2010 Knicks season is a dress rehearsal with stand-ins in place of the long-awaited leading actors.

    Curry had such an awful 2008-09, both personally and professionally, that it is impossible not to root for a career renaissance, even apart from our more selfish desire to see him enhance his trade value. But it is far more likely that Curry is who we think he is. If he can stay on the court, we can expect the usual pairing of good per-minute scoring statistics with dreadful rebounding, shot-blocking, and turnover numbers.

    Darko Milicic – Center

    What the Stats Say

    Much has been made of Darko’s capacity to upgrade the Knicks defensive interior. The hype may be legitimate, if only because the odds are generally in favor of any alteration to something as bad as the Knicks shot-blocking last season. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s look at NBA centers’ offensive stats when guarded by the three Knicks who played significant minutes at the 5 last year:

    Opponent Counterpart 48-Minute Production (At Center)

    Player FGA eFG% FTA iFG Reb Ast T/O Blk PF Pts PER*
    Milicic 14.7 0.576 5.2 51% 12.7 2.1 2.2 2.5 5.4 20.5 21.7
    Harrington 14.2 0.482 6.4 63% 12.8 2.2 3.1 1.8 5.1 17.6 15.4
    Lee 15.8 0.525 5.4 57% 14.7 2.4 3.2 2.5 4.9 20.5 19.7

    Positional data isn’t perfect and I didn’t see enough of the Grizzlies last year to know if there’s a legitimate explanation for a guy developing a reputation as a plus defender while allowing an all-star caliber PER and an off-the-charts eFG% to opposing centers. I’m willing to hear out anyone who has such an explanation. But until I do – I mean, wow. Those numbers bum me out.

    What My Gut Says
    My immediate, and continued, response to the Darko Milicic acquisition is two words long: “Why not?” He’s a more formidable body in the middle than either Harrington or Lee and should keep up with D’Antoni-ball far more ably than Curry. The distribution of minutes among Knicks taller than 6’9″ remains TBD, but Darko is the rare Knick who doesn’t replicate the skill set of anyone else on the team. That alone is reason enough for constrained optimism – the minutes that he is on the court will look different from the minutes that he isn’t, and we’ve all become well acquainted with what the “isn’t” looks like.

    Jared Jeffries – Center?/Forward?/Guard?

    What the Stats Say
    As with Eddy Curry, dollars and cents come up more frequently than points and rebounds when Knicks fans discuss Jared Jeffries. Of the two albatrosses on the Knicks payroll, Jeffries is taken to be by far the easier to move, which is probably accurate given his smaller contract and purportedly broader skill set. But it should be noted that, if Jared Jeffries is indeed a useful basketball player, the statistic capable of demonstrating that usefulness remains hidden. To wit, the following is a list of the 5 worst PERs among players who have played 10,000 minutes since the beginning of the 2002-03 season, Jeffries’ first in the NBA:

    Rk Player Years G MP TRB/36 PTS/36 STL/36 BLK/36 FG% 3P% FT% PER
    1 J. Collins 03-09 495 11995 6.5 6.2 0.9 0.9 0.409 0.185 0.639 7.0
    2 B. Bowen 03-09 571 16992 3.6 7.7 0.9 0.4 0.425 0.408 0.575 8.1
    3 T. Hassell 03-09 514 12935 3.9 7.9 0.6 0.6 0.453 0.271 0.767 8.2
    4 J. Jeffries 03-09 440 10105 6.9 8.3 1.1 0.7 0.432 0.242 0.576 9.8
    5 C. Robinson 03-07 364 10178 4.4 11.5 1 1 0.396 0.349 0.665 10.5

    Critics will immediately point to Bowen’s inclusion on this list as evidence that PER massively undervalues defensive stoppers, which it undeniably does. And in the last two years, the Knicks have allowed between 2 and 3 fewer points per 100 possessions with Jeffries on the court than without him – a considerable improvement. But Bruce Bowen he is not, and Jeffries’ inclusion on this list underscores what we already know – that outside of very specific matchups, his total lack of offensive value likely cancels out whatever benefit his defense provides.

    What My Gut Says
    Jared Jeffries is a good athlete, a hard worker, and a versatile defender. He is also a very poor jump shooter with an astonishingly high turnover rate (14th of 152 players with 10,000 minutes since his rookie year) for a player who rarely attacks the basket or gets assists. He is the kind of player that you want on the end of your bench to play 5-10 minutes a few games a year when particularly unusual matchups present themselves. He is not the kind of player to whom 5-year, $30 million contracts should be given by teams who already wallow in salary cap hell. Isiah is dead – long live Isiah.

    2009 David Lee Pre-Camp Interview

    2009-interview-david-lee

    I sat down with David Lee for about 3 minutes and 12 seconds, and he was kind enough to answer my questions.

    Mike Kurylo: It’s no secret that you’ve been taking a lot more jumpers as your career has progressed, and it’s been reported that you work a lot on it in the off season. What exactly do you do in the off season to work on it? Are you working on it alone?

    David Lee: I work with a lot of our coaches. Our assistant coaches have taken a special interest in continuing to improve my jumper, and I think it’s at the point now that mechanically it’s where it needs to be. Now it’s just the matter of getting used to shooting it in the game with confidence. That’s a big thing, plenty of shooters have that mentality.

    Mike Kurylo: Was there a certain aspect of your jumper that you had to correct? Something that you worked on a lot?

    David Lee: Yeah, when I got here – mechanically it wasn’t a sound shot. At times my elbow would come out or something like that. At different times I was [mechanically unsound]. But now it’s at the point that it’s just staying on balance and just shooting through the ball.

    Mike Kurylo: It seems that you have a much more diverse offensive game these days, but you still have that label of being a blue collar guy. Do you think that [label] is a bit unfair at this point in your career?

    David Lee: No it’s not unfair, but I think in this system it’s defined that I’m going to work a lot out of the pick & roll and be asked to finish inside and hit 15 foot jumpshots. Also last year I was at the top of the key a lot making plays for other guys. And that’s something you’re going to see a lot more this year – is me handling the ball more and making more plays. That’s something that I enjoy doing and I think that I can help us and be a lot more diverse on offense this year.

    Mike Kurylo: How do you feel going 1-1 against someone? Are you pretty confidant…

    David Lee: Well that’s something that in the NBA that just takes a little bit of experience. Some guys come into the NBA used to doing that and I didn’t do a lot of that in college. So I picked that up the last couple of years and I’m happy to have gotten better at it. I feel real comfortable now isolated with my back to the basket or facing up.

    Mike Kurylo: One last question, what can you do [to improve your] defense? How can you practice that?

    David Lee: Well the biggest thing is to get better. I’m going to do a lot more this year at working on scouting reports. A lot of times I’m guarding guys that are 50 lbs heavier & 5 inches [taller] so really I have to use what I know about them and their [tendencies], and just try to have them play to their weaknesses. Because you’re not going to stop guys like the Dwight Howards of the NBA, you have to keep them from really hurting your team.

    Mike Kurylo: Sorry one more question, there’s a lot more front court depth this year especially at center, do you think you’ll be playing a lot more PF this year along those guys?

    David Lee: I don’t know about a lot more, but I think I’ll get more time at the PF. Hopefully Darko [Milicic] and Eddy [Curry] can give us a boost there as well as Jordan Hill and I’ll be able to play power forward and get some much needed rest from the 5.

    Who Will Make the Knicks in 2010?

    With not much else Knick related going on, my mind has wandered to the end of the bench. It goes without saying that last year’s team wasn’t very deep. However this year Eddy Curry could see a role in D’Antoni’s rotation, as well as summer acquisition Darko Milicic. Danilo Gallinari will likely see more than the 400 injury filled minutes of last year. Add rookies Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas to the mix, and the Knicks have a much deeper roster this year.

    But still there are a few spots up for grabs at the end of the bench. Currently Joe Crawford and Chris Hunter are officially on the roster, but it’s possible that they won’t still be on the team by opening day. If they are replaced, they could be removed in favor of one of New York’s summer league participants. Morris Almond and Nikoloz Tskitishvili played well in the summer, but the Knicks also had their eye on Blake Ahearn and Mouhamed Sene.

    So who do you think will contribute the most to the Knicks in 2010?

    {democracy:34}