Diagnosing Patient Frye: What Ails Our Sophomore Slumper?

Healthy, Wealthy, and Young: The Birth of A New Era
Standing 6?11?, being only 23 years-old, and with a promising rookie campaign under his belt, Channing Frye seemed destined to finally fill the gaping productivity hole at the Knicks? power forward position. The Knicks haven?t employed a tall, talented four since the glory days of Charles Oakley. Having suffered through a platoon of the short (Anthony Mason, Larry Johnson), the short and useless (Othella Harrington, Clarence Weatherspoon, Malik Rose, Maurice Taylor), and the short but perennially out of shape (Mike Sweetney), Knicks fans envisioned a bright future of crisp pick-and-rolls, a smooth jumper, and a reasonable defensive presence.

The average Knick fan was in love with Frye, but those fluent in statistical analysis were downright infatuated with him. Frye produced a very healthy rookie PER (18.12) ranking him second in his class, superior to the more heralded big men drafted ahead of him?Andrew Bogut, Marvin Williams, and Charlie Villanueva. The PER was promising in general, but also healthy in its components. Frye?s skill set was broad, which is an underrated quality and a strong indicator of future growth. He created shots, hit the ones he did, kept his turnovers in check, and rebounded well. Frye averaged 20 points per 40 minutes and it?s not hard to see why: he could shoot with range, was developing a low-post game, and hit his free throws. He?s a young big man who could score, and those don?t grow on trees. In all, the only blight on his record was a dismal Curry-esque assist ratio.

It wasn?t youth and inexperience that stood in Frye?s way. His major obstacles were his coach and his health. In his relentless effort to sabotage the Knicks? season, ?Coach? Larry Brown decided to bury Frye behind the inferior, older, shorter, and ultimately unemployment-bound Maurice Taylor. When Frye was finally able to wrestle himself some playing time, he sprained his knee and missed the last month of the season. In the off-season Larry Brown was replaced with the man who drafted Frye, while the months off provided time to heal. Knicks fans indulged high, and arguably, merited hopes that Frye would continue to improve and squeeze the Knicks into the playoffs of a historically weak conference.

We have thus far been grossly disappointed. To label Frye a disaster two-thirds through his sophomore campaign is painfully appropriate. Far from being a fringe All-Star candidate, Frye is posting a paltry 11.74 PER, and having trouble justifying a rotation slot, much less a starting job. Frye’s drop of -6.38 PER is downright ridiculous. We had no reason to believe Frye?s production would plummet, since none of Frye?s metrics were outliers to suggest a regression to the mean.

Paging Dr. Stats
There?s nothing about Frye’s rookie statistics that suggest ?luck? instead of ?skill.? Frye does nearly everything well (except pass), instead of one or two things spectacularly. In other words, he?s more Elton Brand than Kyle Korver. But Frye?s game is ailing badly. What?s the diagnosis?

Examining Frye?s performance record, reveals that for the most part Frye 2.0 is the same player as Frye 1.0. His turnover rate this season is not only healthy, but slightly improved. His usage rate is down slightly, but nothing alarming. His assist ratio is as small as ever, no change there (and unfortunately no improvement). We run into the first problem with a decreased rebound rate. A downtick that?s bad but not dramatic. However Frye?s main malady is his outright implosion in True Shooting Percentage. Frye went from a better than league average 54.1% to an atrociously bad 47.1%. That?s not a decline, that?s a crash.

There are three components that factor into TS%: 3-pt FGs, 2-pt FGs, and Free Throws. Frye doesn’t take threes, and his free throw percentage is even better this year, so it’s easy to say that his drop in FG% from .477 to .438 is the culprit. At first glance, Frye seems to be losing his shooting touch.

But let’s hold on there, because what FT% doesn’t show is his rate of attempts. Last year Frye shot 5.8 free throws per 40 minutes. This year he’s down to 2.3, which is down a staggering 60%! Frye went from taking a free throw for every two field goals, to shooting one for every four. Essentially, Frye has eliminated free throws from his offensive repertoire. Frye can shoot the rock, but relying on a mid-range jumper for the majority of your shots is career suicide. Take the master of the mid-range, Richard Hamilton. What keeps his offensive numbers up are his prodigious rate of free throw attempts, not just the accuracy of his shot. Ironically, the same plight of all ?J? no drive, is what made Frye?s predecessor, Mo Taylor, such an inefficient offensive player. After calling for Frye to replace Taylor, like a nightmare we?ve just watched the former turn into the latter.

What?s funny is the attacking the basket inclination that has escaped Frye has downright possessed his best friend, David Lee. Lee leads the league in field goal percentage despite lacking any talent as a shooter. Dunks and lay ups are the highest percentage shot, an obvious fact that Lee embraces but Frye seems to have forgotten.

The case of the disappearing free throws extends to a bout of, “Where are the rebounds?” Frye’s rebounding numbers were unimpressive in college. Red flags were raised on draft day, but the Knicks insisted he’d be fine, and his first year in the NBA he was. His rookie rate of 14.2 was reasonable, putting him in line with the second-tiered rebounders at his position, like Andrew Bogut, Rasheed Wallace, and Chris Wilcox. It was nothing to write home about, but Frye was still an above-average performer. This year, his rate has declined to 12.3%, placing him in the unenviable company of Mark Blount and Mikki Moore, the former being infamous for his pathetic work ethic and the latter for his slight frame.

What went wrong? A rebound percentage is made of two components: Offensive and Defensive Rates. In fact, Frye’s defensive rebounding has improved this year, going from 5.9 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes to 6.2. On the other hand, his offensive rebounding is down by a third, from 3.5 per 40 minutes to 2.2. As his friend the Freshman-Sophomore Game MVP demonstrates, offensive rebounds are a function of activity around the basket. They don’t come to you, you go to them.

Looking closely at his numbers?both advanced and traditional?reveal the problem: Frye is not attacking the basket. It?s not that he can?t, it?s that he won?t.

Take Two of These and Call Me In the Morning
In a sense, Frye?s problems are good problems to have. He demonstrated in his rookie season a capacity to grab offensive rebounds and draw fouls, but for some reason he?s gone away from these aspects of his game. Frye is too young to suggest his talent has abandoned him. Rather it seems, he?s switched his strategy. This is a problem of habit not skill, and should be, if any basketball problems can be, correctable. If Frye is sick, he doesn?t need a doctor, he needs a psychologist.

It would seem to reason that if Frye rededicates himself to attacking the basket, his Free Throw rates, field goal percentage, and offensive rebounds will improve. Frye has the talent to drive to the basket, the question is will he embrace that style, reverse his collapse, and once again establish himself as one of the league’s best young forwards.

Michael Zannettis regularly posts on his website www.michaelzannettis.com He addresses topics as diverse as the culture of evolution, possession law, and communication theory. He lives in Astoria and has a fond childhood memory of when the NBA Finals were interrupted by a White Ford Bronco in a low-speed car chase.

Help Wanted

At the writing of this article, it has been 886 days since KnickerBlogger.Net’s conception. Although it started as a one man show, I’ve had a few guest bloggers along the way. Most notably is Dr. Dave Crockett who, despite my best efforts, stays around to give us exceptional insight on a host of topics. Including this one, my guests and I have written 382 articles give or take a few. That means KB.Net readers have gotten an average of 3 articles per week. Since I don’t normally write on weekends and there isn’t much to write about in the summer, the average during the NBA season is probably a tad higher. Over this span I’ve done my best to give hoops fans a bit of quality and quantity.

Unfortunately these days I don’t have the same free time as I did when I started, and I’d prefer for neither the quality nor quantity at this site to decline. So I’m opening the KnickerBlogger.Net human resources department to accept inquiries for writers.

The good news is that I’m not particular with the topics or style. You could cover the entire NBA, or give a basic post-recap of the Knicks games. You could be an X’s & O’s guy, or a stathead. Straight numbers guy, or knee-slapping funny. Or anywhere in between.

The bad news is that I’m not going to take just anyone. I’m looking for quality. I’m not asking for the next Hollinger, Dwyer, or Pelton, but whatever you have to offer I’d like to see you do it well with an attention to detail. If you just want to post something simple like the pre-Knick matchups statistically, make sure the formatting is the same every time. If you write an article, run it throught a spell checker & read it over a few times. Believe me readers can tell the difference when you rush through something and when you spend a few extra minutes on quality control.

Fortunately there is more good news: blogging is a enjoyable experience. Writing articles on a regular basis enhances your writing skills. I’ve used techniques that I’ve learned from writing on KnickerBlogger.Net in everything from work emails to holiday cards. Furthermore, becoming a blogger puts you in a community of NBA professionals. Since starting my blog I’ve been in contact with online columnists, newspaper columnists, NBA consultants, agents, book authors, editors, and all sorts of people who live & breathe hoops.

But most importantly, blogging is fun! Writing an article is much different than participating on a message board or even leaving a comment on a blog. An article makes your opinion the center topic, whereas on a message board you’re usually fighting for attention among different ideas. Additionally it’s a fantastic feeling when someone responds positively to your writing, because it means that your point of view has become validated by others.

All in all I’m enjoying blogging greatly, and I hope that I’ll be able to share that joy with a few more people this coming season. If you’re interested in writing or think you have something to offer for our little corner of the internet, send me an email with a little description of how you’d like to contribute. I’m looking forward to making this year the best at KnickerBlogger.Net.

Round 2 Odds & A Quickie

Before I get to the odds, during the Spurs-Mavs game today the announcers were talking about the Suns-Clippers series. Dufus-philosopher Bill Walton’s two sentence analysis of the Suns-Clippers series went something to the effect of Phoenix “has found it’s offense” and mentioned the name of “Barbosa, Diaw, & Nash”. That prompted me to do 2 things. The first was to seek out my local bookmaker and consider putting every spare cent I have on the Clippers. (Luckily for Ms. KnickerBlogger, I’m not a gambler).

The second was to officially proclaim Shawn Marion as the NBA’s most underrated player. According to my stat page, he’s 9th overall in PER, two places ahead of his teammate-MVP. Yet Steve Nash wins back-to-back MVP awards while Marion gets a single 5th place vote. “The Matrix” averaged 18 points on 47% shooting (eFG), 9.4 rebounds, 1.9 steals, and 0.9 blocks in the first round of the playoffs. He had double digit points in every game, 20 points or more in 4 games (and scored 19 in another), and 3 double-doubles. And poor Shawn is forgotten on national tv.

Funny thing is, if I were forced to pick an upset it would be the Suns. Just because it took them 6.5 games to dispense with the Lakers, while the Clippers bounced out the Nuggets in 5 despite “earning” the road field advantage. However according to the odds based on the season’s records, it’s the Heat and Spurs that are most likely to be upset. Prior to creating the below chart, I wouldn’t have thought the Spurs or Heat to be vulnerable.

San Antonio has won 2 of the last 3 championships and finished this year with the best record in the West, so you wouldn’t imagine them to be in trouble in the second round. However this odd playoff format has pitted them against the second best team in the West. The winner of this series should have an easier time in the next round, against an inferior opponent. Meanwhile a 59 game season from Shaq left the Heat with “only” a .634 winning percentage, close to the Nets .598. So maybe New Jersey doesn’t have as good a chance as the chart below would indicate. On the other hand, if Dwayne Wade takes another hard tumble or any part of Shaq acts up, then the Nets will have a good chance to advance to the East Conference Finals. So in a way, maybe the regular season takes into account the Heat’s fragility, and hence is a true representation of New Jersey’s odds.

  One Game Home Game 5 Game 7 Game 5 Games (modified for home field) 7 Games (modified for home field)
Spurs 54.8% 64.5% 58.9% 60.4% 61.2% 63.0%
Pistons 69.4% 77.3% 82.9% 86.6% 83.6% 87.3%
Heat 53.8% 63.6% 57.1% 58.3% 59.4% 61.0%
Suns 59.0% 68.4% 66.5% 69.1% 68.3% 71.1%

What They’re Saying About the Knicks 11/08/05

The NY Sun’s John Hollinger:

First, Trevor Ariza has to replace Matt Barnes as the starting small forward.While Barnes is a better on-ball defender, he is just killing them offensively by shooting 40% and averaging a meager 6.7 points per game. Opponents don’t even bother guarding him, because he’s so ineffective from outside, and he lacks Ariza’s energy around the rim. Besides, Ariza is no defensive slouch; he’s averaging over two steals a game. (Barnes does, however, hold an unequivocal advantage in hairgel consumption. His ‘do has more lard than the fry station at Wendy’s.)

The NY Daily News’ Frank Isola:

“If you look at every team, the guys that play are going to be happy and the guys that don’t play are going to be unhappy,” Brown said. “There’s an excuse jar that I’ve had for my whole life: ‘I don’t know what my role is.’ ‘Just let me play my game.’ I got 100 of those things.

“The bottom line is we don’t have a rotation, we don’t know who can play. So it’s going to take time. Eventually we’re going to have an eight- or nine-man rotation and we’ll probably have nine happy guys and five that are unhappy.”

Father Knickerbocker:

The Portland TrailBlazers have been linked to the Knicks recently for various reasons. There?s the trade rumors that sometimes pop up with the names Darius Miles and Ruben Patterson and then there?s also the family factor with Stephon Marbury and younger cousin Sebastian Telfair.

Knicksonline

Crawford & Ariza need to start, according to (82games). Our team is better when they are on the floor. Funny how the youth, if given more time- with n8, JC, ariza, frye and Mo are ridiculously better than the starters.

And a first, a message board poster admitting he was wrong:

Admitting I was wrong about Channing Frye

Well I knocked the drafting of Channing at 8 with superior talents (IMO) like G. Green and D. Granger left on the board, I thought that Channing had not proven his worth in college, and that he was too soft. I know it’s early but he has already shown nme some things I was never sure he would. He isn’t half as soft as he was in college, he has some post moves, and as we all knew he could hit the mid range J all day. He attacks the boards much harder than I thoguht he did. He is a ocmpletely different player than the one that sutied up for the University of Arizona last year, that Frye didn’t want to dominate..this Frye does. I was wrong, Isiah was right. If anyone else watched him in college tell me if you’ve noted the same aggressiveness/body language/attitude changes. He’s always had the talent..he’s just seemed a bit too tentaive.

And I saved the best for last, Real GM’s Christopher Reina:

Starting Jamal Crawford in his stead will give real responsibility to a talented player that could use it and would surely cherish it. The bode of confidence would spark his play that needs a spark as he has become the lost man during the initial LB days.

The most important reason to bring Marbury off the bench is that it would make him a Ben Gordon super-sub and resuscitate his career from the brink.

All’s Well That Ends Well

Just a short time ago things looked bleak for the NBA. The two most intriguing teams, Phoenix and Miami, were eliminated from the playoffs. The 2005 NBA Finals were to feature two defensive stalwarts, the Pistons and the Spurs. While these teams are the best at preventing other teams from scoring, the New York Sun’s Martin Johnson pointed out that this type of matchup is lost to the average viewer. (And questioned why defensive guru-turned tv analyst Hubie Brown doesn’t explain the finer points of the game while on the air). In fact my visiting father-in-law, who is not a sports fan, said that he doesn’t understand how a team could prevent the other from scoring.

To give those that wanted the Suns or Heat in the Finals something more to whine about, the first two games of the series were possibly the most lopsided in history. As if things weren’t dark enough, the shaddow of a work-stoppage hung over the league. When the player’s union head Billy Hunter resorted to the race card, it seemed inevitable that the lockout would cancel free agency and the summer leagues.

However something funny happened on the way to the Palace. The Pistons came roaring back, destroying the Spurs in Detroit, to tie the series. Game five was a classic, with everything a fan could have asked for. Arguably the game’s best player, Tim Duncan, couldn’t overcome his weakness and missed several free throws down the stretch. The Pistons, who led with time running down in overtime, seemed poised to go up 3-2 in the series, an improbable thought given the first two games. What was even less possible was that Robert Horry would score 21 points in the 4th & 5th quarters, the 21st sealing the victory for San Antonio.

If game 5 wasn’t enough to make the sun shine on the NBA, the players and owners agreed on a deal well over a week before the deadline. On the other hand the NHL has gone 281 days since their CBA expired, without any resolution. Facing elimination, the Pistons won a gritty game 6, forcing a final match. I can’t remember the last time I was this excited to watch a game 7 that didn’t include my team. Unfortunately, for my mental well being, I’m not allowed to speak of the last Finals that went 7 games, but the one before that was decided by 3 points despite the Lakers being up by 15 to start the 4th. While an exciting start to the series could have made things more dramatic, the season is certainly ending well.

Gleeman’s iPod Shuffle

The first blog I ever came across was Aaron Gleeman’s Baseball Blog. I’ve been a regular for at least 2 years, but to this day I’m not sure how I ran across his page. Most likely I found it either through Rob Neyer’s message board (when he was still free & the board more or less fanboy free) or baseballprimer (when you didn’t have to register).

Aaron’s blog is not only one of the longest running sports blogs, but very likely the best. He’s working on many different side projects from Insiderbaseball.com to Rotoworld.com to his own coalition of bloggers at the Hardball Times, and probably a few that I’m missing. Aaron is so well known that even his name has become part of the vernacular. Gleeman-length refers to an article that’s extraordinarily long.

Just yesterday A.G. wrote a column called the The iPod Shuffle

…I thought it might be kind of interesting to put my (generic) iPod on shuffle and see what the first, I don’t know, let’s say 40 songs are that come up.

Keep in mind now that this sort of exercise can really only lead to you guys mocking me for my musical taste (or lack of), so it takes some guts to do it. Music is one of those things where you’re bound to say you like a song that someone else thinks is complete crap. And I also fully admit to liking a wide variety of complete crap.

Also, I realize 99% of you couldn’t care less, but oh well …

So here is my wide variety of complete crap:

1 Firehose Epoxy, For Example
2 Lauryn Hill Final Hour
3 Pixies Wave Of Mutilation
4 Depeche Mode Master And Servant
5 TMBG Shoehorn With Teeth
6 Dead Milkmen Big Lizard
7 REM 9
8 Dead Milkmen Rastabilly
9 The 2 Tone Collection Ylang Ylang
10 U2 The Ocean
11 Smoking Popes Pretty Pathetic
12 Belle & Sebastian Mary Jo
13 U2 A Sort Of Homecoming
14 Belle & Sebastian Roy Walker
15 Barcelona 1980
16 Galaxie 500 Decomposing Trees
17 Sundays So Much
18 TMBG Chess Piece Face
19 Elvis Costello Man Out Of Time
20 The Whole Fantastic World Under Red Umbrellas
21 REM So. Central Rain
22 TMBG Hotel Detective
23 Beatles Mother Nature’s Sun
24 Dead Milkmen (Theme From) Blood Orgy Of the Atomic Fern
25 Pavement Hit The Plane Down
26 Barcelona The Power Of Jen
27 Less Than Jake She’s Gonna Break Soon
28 Firehose Makin’ the Freeway
29 Pavement Stereo
30 Paul Simon Hearts & Bones
31 Elvis Costello What’s So Funny Bout Peace Love & Understandin
32 Dead Milkmen Serrated Edge
33 Ween She Fucks Me
34 REM Pretty Persuasion
35 Pavement AT&T
36 Weezer Glorious Day
37 Lauryn Hill Superstar
38 RHCP Suck My Kiss
39 TMBG My Evil Twin
40 Belle & Sebastian Dear Catastrophe Waitress
41* Ocean Blue It Never Just Might
42 B-52s There’s a Moon In the Sky
43 Rx Bandits Babylon
44 Apples In Stereo Go
45 Skankin’ Pickle Toothless & Grey
46 Planet Smashers It’s Over
47 Modest Mouse Dog Paddle
48 Who See me, Feel Me
49 Sonic Youth Screaming Skull
50 Beautiful South Woman In the Wall

Since my iPOD is filled with every album from about 5-10 bands, the randomizer isn’t a true cross section of what I listen to. Quite honestly I don’t listen to those bands as often, they’re just a safety blanket on my iPOD. After I was done with the top 40, I forwarded through until I got 10 songs by artists that weren’t in the original list to give a wider view. If you can’t tell, I’m heavily influenced by 80s/90s/00s new wave/modern rock/college radio or whatever they call it these days. I have the feeling I’ll have the most songs that aren’t on any of the other bloggers that decided to participate in Aaron’s game.

Notables:
#1 fIREHOSE – If you can stand bad punk singing and love the bass, you should own fIREHOSE.

#6 Dead Milkmen – The Sex Pistols had the attitude, the Dead Kennedys were anarchists, the Ramones were cool, but no one could combine punk and witty sarcasm like DM. The most under-appreciated band of all time. 8 original albums (plus live albums & compilations) and they’re only remembered for Punk Rock Girl?

#10 By #2, my top 5 bands, of which I own nearly every album (and of course which take up considerable space on my iPOD) show up. I’m guessing they take up 1/3-1/2 of my iPOD. In no particular order: REM, U2, TMBG, the Pixies, and the Dead Milkmen.

#11 Smoking Popes – Saw a video of theirs on Much Music in college. The only had 3 albums, and then the lead singer decided to do Christian Rock. Reason #581 on why I try to keep my theistic/political views out of my blog. There is no reason to narrow my audience to anything other than the main focus.

#15 Barcelona – They caught my eye by writing a song about the Commodore 64, which is what I use to run the stat page. Just imagine if New Order were computer nerds. I saw them live twice, and they put on a great show & the keyboardist was really nice. No longer together.

#20 Whole Fantastic World – Mark my words, they’re going to be big. Probably the best “find” I’ve had in the last 5 years. Thank you WOXY.

#27 Less Than Jake – LTJ is the recess peanut butter cup of punk & ska. Not crazy about the last few albums, but Hello Rockview is one of my favorite albums both in song content and CD layout.

#33 Ween – Great song title that the randomizer picked, very appropriate for Ween. I wonder how my Google ranking will increase with this one. Welcome pr0n searchers!

And now for open season on KnickerBlogger’s musical tastes in the comments section…

Knicks Improvement From An Unlikely Source

Whether or not you cared for Isiah’s trade deadline moves, there is one thing that everyone agreed on. Trading Nazr Mohammed for two undersized forwards would make the Knicks worse down the stretch. It was the equivalent of running up the white flag on the 2005 season. However, a funny thing happened as teams made their way to the Garden. The Knicks have sent three straight opponents home with losses.

While all three of their opponents are still in the playoff hunt, none would be considered great teams. In addition, each team was missing a player due to trade or injury. Indiana was without injured Jamal Tinsley, Philly was without newly acquired Chris Webber, and the Lakers, based on a Jack Haley report, were still waiting for Carlos Boozer to report.

The best player Isiah acquired was Malik Rose, an undersized power forward known for his defense & rebounding. However neither attribute led them to victory in the three games. Other than the Pacer game, the Knicks didn’t hold any of their opponents under the league average shooting percentage nor did they outrebound them. However the Knicks have received a boost on the offensive end, with an effective shooting percentage of 50% or greater in each game. That mark is so good, if they did that on the year the Knicks would rank 5th, just above sharp shooting Sacramento.

OPP     OPP      NYK    OPP      NYK 
TEAM eFG% eFG% oREB% oREB%

PHI 49.4% 56.8% 29.5% 27.8%
IND 44.5% 50.0% 13.9% 30.8%
LAL 51.2% 54.0% 30.4% 21.7%

Instead of getting this resurgence from one of their newcomers, New York’s offense received a shot in the arm from one of their forgotten players: Tim Thomas. Back in November, I wrote an overly exuberant and hasty entry titled “Welcome Back Tim Thomas.” But by January Thomas was still in a funk, only firing at 45.2% (eFG) well below his career mark of 49.5%. During the last three games Thomas has been en fuego, averaging 24.3 points per game. Since January Thomas’ shooting has gone up 2.5% and now stands at 47.7%.

I’ll wait until the offseason before I declare Thomas cured a second time. All year long Thomas has suffered from one malady or another. From the preseason tragedies, including two deaths in the family and a sick mother, to the recent spat of injuries, Thomas has had it rough. Should the Knicks small forward recover his stroke, it would be a bittersweet pill for Knick fans to swallow. While it’s great that Thomas is making himself useful, his revival might mean less minutes for wunderkind and fan favorite Trevor Ariza. With New Yorkers having little to look forward to until the lottery, many will wonder where Tiny Tim was during their 4-18 start to 2005.

It’s certainly possible that the Knicks might show improvement down the stretch. Malik Rose has already made a positive contribution in just a few minutes, and Mike Sweetney unleashed move after move on the helpless Laker frontcourt. (It just wouldn’t be a KnickerBlogger post without a positive line about Sweet-N-Low.) However with only 25 games to go, New York would have to play as good as the Pistons (64%) just to make even. Just because the Knicks playoff hopes has already set sail, it doesn’t mean they can’t improve on a woeful season.


Stay tuned for tomorrow, when Part 2 of Kevin Pelton’s fantastic analysis of Steve Nash’s MVP candidacy will continue.