Isiah Might Serve Up Another Gem In Butler

Last March I wrote an article titled Zeke?s Eye For The Draftee Guy which praised the Knicks GM on his ability to find talent in the draft. At the time it was based on his his only selection in New York where he stole Trevor Ariza in the second round, combined with his stellar record in Toronto where he drafted Damon Stoudamire, Marcus Camby, and Tracy McGrady. Since then he’s had three more picks with the Knicks. While the final verdict is still out on these rookies, they have been well received so far.

A few days before writing that article, Isiah Thomas had picked up two CBA players to fill out the Knicks roster. Again, I had an opinion to share about it.

Of the two, Butler is more likely to be a CBA success story ala John Starks or Anthony Mason… To think either of them is going to be part of the Knicks future in 2007 would be optimistic. However it?s the perfect type of low risk/high reward move where a GM can?t lose, but can win if he gets a serviceable player out of the deal.

Butler’s stats in the CBA showed that he excelled at scoring, rebounding, and blocking shots. After he signed with New York, he played sparingly in the NBA regular season seeing only 5 minutes of garbage time. So far this preseason, Butler has put up some interesting numbers. He’s averaged 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per 40 minutes. Those numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. Butler has only appeared in 5 games, he’s barely averaged 14 minutes a game, and preseason games don’t have the same level of competition as the regular season. But by combining his stats from preseason, the summer league and the CBA, a pattern emerges.

LEAGUE       OREB/40           TREB/40           BLK/40           PTS/40
'06 PRE       3.8              12.1              3.3              17.0
'05 SUM       4.0              11.8              1.6              11.8
'05 CBA       4.2              12.4              1.7              20.8

Although competition level and the minutes played have varied, Butler has been remarkably consistent in regards to his rebounding. He’s averaged close to 12 rebounds per 40 minutes, with about 4 of those coming on the offensive glass. Those numbers are almost identical to former Knick center Nazr Mohammed. In fact, between the three stops, Butler’s blocked shots, turnovers, and rebounds are comparable to Nazr’s. As I said in March, it would be a “win” if Isiah was able to get anything in return from picking up Butler from the CBA. But if Jackie turns into a player of Nazr’s caliber, Thomas will have accomplished a major feat and cemented his status as a young talent evaluator.

Right now, Butler is probably 4th on New York’s center depth chart behind Curry, James, and Frye, although his prospects of playing might not be as bleak. Jerome James has had only one season where he has missed less than 17 games. Meanwhile Frye might see most of his time at power forward, and Curry’s health will be an eternal question mark. It’s possible that Larry Brown might have to rely on Jackie Butler if the Knicks big men gets bitten by the injury bug. While it’s unsure if Brown will turn to Butler other than out of emergency, one thing is clear. When Jackie Butler steps onto the court, he will be a force under the boards.

Isiah Currys No Favor With Fans

Isiah Thomas reminds me of Felix Unger. The Odd Couple character’s downfall was that he couldn’t leave well enough alone. Nearly every episode had Unger ruining his life because his compulsive nature forced him to go too far. Last night, Isiah traded for the Bulls’ disgruntled center Eddy Curry. Chicago had been looking to move Curry since he pulled his Redd Foxx act during last year’s playoffs. Thomas traded away the Knicks young power forward Mike Sweetney along with Tim Thomas and garbage time specialist Jermaine Jackson along with two picks, which have yet to be disclosed.

The only way to like this deal is if physique is your only criteria on building a basketball team. Of the two, Sweetney is the one more likely to be confused as a Sumo wrestler. But for those who’ve watched their fair share of Knick games last year, Sweetney used his body in the paint to his advantage, tossing opponents like, well, a sumo wrestler. An excellent rebounder, he used his size, reach, and footwork to pull down rebound after rebound, often tipping them to himself when fighting against taller opponents. On the offensive end, when he received the ball under the hoop, there often seemed to be only two options: an easy field goal or a trip to the foul line.

However going into next year with the third year player as the starting forward wasn’t good enough for Isiah. Thomas insists on building the team in his “younger and more athletic” mold. Curry certainly fits that bill, just like outgoing Tim Thomas did. However it’s arguable whether or not Eddy is the better player on the court.

Name		FG%	PSA	USG	RBR	R/40	TO	PF	PER
Sweetney	52.2	1.16	17.6	16.8	11.5	2.7	5.6	16.6
E. Curry	52.9	1.13	21.2	11.8	8.5	3.3	5.1	15.8

They score at about the same rate, although Curry’s usage rate is higher. That could be because the offensively challenged Bulls leaned on Eddy, while the Knicks never featured Sweetney in the half court set. The turnover numbers and foul numbers are close enough to even out. However despite giving up 3 inches and 10 pounds, Sweetney’s rebounding numbers puts Curry to shame. Using John Hollinger’s rebounding rate, Sweetney ranked 20th last year in the league ahead of such luminaries as Yao Ming, Zach Randolph, Shawn Marion, and Elton Brand. In fact within the last year Isiah Thomas has traded two of the top 20, with Nazr Mohammed showing up at #11 on that list.

If Knick fans are looking for a silver lining on this deal, it won’t be Curry’s defense. While Chicago was one of the top defensive teams last season, the Knicks didn’t get the defensive stalwart of the Bulls frontcourt. According to 82games.com, the Bulls were 3.3 points worse with Curry on the floor, although he did keep opposing centers in check with a 13.3 oPER. Last year those numbers were 2.7 and 13.8. Dan Rosenbaum rated Curry as the 5th worst defensive center in the league while Matt from Bulls Blog, now over at BlogABull.com, said Curry won’t help the “Knicks’ awful help defense.

In fact in that column, which was written almost a year ago, Matt hit the nail on the head:

Another observation was laughing at the Knicks’ awful help defense. Curry won’t help there, but sometimes Isiah sees something shiny around the league and must have it. After my initial look at Sweetney (and I would really like to hear a Knicks’ fan’s perspective), I’m starting to hope that Isiah gets his man.

Isiah’s obsession with other team’s players has led him to acquire guys like Jamal Crawford, Jerome James, Tim Thomas, and now Curry. Jerome James came from a playoff team, but since he barely played, his contribution to their success was dubious. The 2004 Bulls won 23 games, and Isiah has 3 of their starters (including Antontio Davis)on his roster. Do these sound like the players you would be targeting if you were a GM?

The only positive is Curry’s arrival means the Knicks no longer have to worry about being undersized at the 5, but it comes at a heavy price. While I have no illusions that Sweetney would be enshrined in Springfield, he’ll be an above average starting power forward in this league. Additionally, the supposedly still rebuilding Knicks have given up some future considerations in the form of draft picks. Meanwhile, the Knicks will pay Curry $60M over 6 years. I usually don’t like to deal in hypotheticals, but it’s logical to assume the Knicks could have gotten Sweetney to sign for half that. Sweetney would have given the Knicks about the same amount of production (albeit at a different position) for half the price & New York wouldn’t have to worry if his heart will hold up under the Gotham media.

Isiah’s fault seems to be his inability to stay the course. One minute the Knicks are rebuilding, the next they’re spending $90M dollars for two centers with dubious histories. At the last trade deadline the Knicks were stock piling draft picks like a Central Park squirrel in fall, but now Isiah may have given away two for Curry.

Marbury is still an offensive force, while second rounder Trevor Ariza has flashed great potential. Nate Robinson dominated the summer league, and could be Isiah’s second steal in a row. Additionally, the Knicks have two more youngsters in Frye & Lee. Coach Larry Brown is one of the best in the business. If Isiah stopped there, New York would be in great shape to start the season. Instead, he’s bogged down the team with bad contracts. Eddy Curry, Quentin Richardson, Jamal Crawford, and Jerome James will reportedly cost the Knicks over $180M for the next 5-7 years. That will undoubtedly make the Knicks observers in free agency over that time. The worst part about it is that none of those players are worth it. None are locks to even make a single All Star Appearance. With the salary cap, it’s better to underpay for marginal talent than overpay for an average return. New York’s downfall will be Isiah’s inability to sign cheap talent and leave well enough alone.

KnickerBlogger Chat

Come here for the KnickerBlogger chat, Thursday September 8th, 6pm EST (3pm PST), where I will answer questions from my readers. Feel free to submit your questions by email.


I’m here & just about ready to go. I’ll post an answer every few minutes starting at 6pm. There is still time to get your questions in. Feel free to leave a url and/or location as well. :-)

Afterwards I’ll open up the comment section.

Aaron (whereabouts unknown): Here is my question: Do you agree with all of the flack Isiah is getting about being the only GM who could screw up “the Alan Houston rule” and not use it to let go of Alan Houston? Is there really any chance for AH to return this season and be productive? thanks.

KB: AAron those are two questions. :-)

I’ll answer the second one first. No way in hell. I freely admit I’m not Will Carroll, but Houston had surgery 821 days ago and he’s still not healed? I talked about this topic nearly a year ago, and it seems that with this type of operation it’s either hit or miss. I think Allan’s was a miss.

As for your first question, right now Isiah is a lightning rod for any writer looking for a cheap joke. With the Knicks able to outspend every other team, anything short of a Finals apperance will allow these guys to continue mocking him. Every writer wanted this team gutted, but I would bet dollars to doughnuts that half those people would rip the GM that would have the grapes to do such a thing in this city.


Vadim (Russia): Hello. Excuse me for bad English. I’m from Russia – press-atashe of team “Spartak” (Vladivostok). My question – why on page http://www.knickerblogger.net/stats/jh_ALL_PER.htm is not present Andrei Kirilenko and other players from Utah?

KB: Hello Vadim! Andrei Kirilenko doesn’t appear on the page because he didn’t have enough games to qualify. According to the NBA you have to have at least 70 games or 1400 minutes to qualify in scoring, and that’s what I use for PER. That’s also why Utah’s second leading PER-er, CarlosBoozer (51 games), doesn’t appear as well. The first Jazz to appear is Okur with a PER just under 19.


Benny (TN): Hey. I must admit that I am somewhat flummoxed personnel-wise by another busy summer in Knickville. Can you please draft a projected 8-man and 10-man rotation, and for extra credit give some guesses on what stats each player will put up. For the double-bonus round you could even speculate on team defensive statistics, but I know it may be too early to guess on those.

KB: Marbury, Richardson, Sweetney, Ariza, James, Rose, Robinson, and Crawford. Jamal Crawford and Tim Thomas will quickly find the address to Brown’s doghouse. Thomas for his hyelophobic habits, and Crawford for his poor shot selection. I think Nate will leap over Jamal with his disruption on defense, and Brown’s desire to move Marbury to the 2. To fill out the 10 man rotation, I’ll take Taylor & Frye, if for nothing else that the Knicks will need depth at the 4 & 5.

For the double bonus, it’s way too early to guess. So I’ll say the Knicks finish 15th on defense, with full immunity for having to live up to the prediction.


Mel (Somewhere, Idanoe): What kind of seasons do you expect from the younger knicks players (Ariza, Sweetney, Fyre, Nate Robinson David Lee and Jackie Butler) under Larry Brown who has garnered a reputation for not liking young players much.

KB: Mel, I really think the youngins with talent (Sweetney, Ariza, Robinson) will thrive under Brown. Coaches, like Brown – who improve every team they touch, get the most out of what the roster has to offer. While Brown’s life with newbies is a topic for a further study, if he is going to succeed in New York he’ll have to make to make do with the Knicks’ younger players. As for Frye, Lee, and Butler, it’s just that I haven’t seen them play enough to have a serious opinion about them. I watched a little summer ball, and let’s just say they didn’t do anything to get my hopes up.


Kelly Dwyer (CNNSI): Why did the Knicks draft John Thomas in 1997 when they could have had Serge Zwikker?

KB: That one keeps me up late at nights.


Terence (UK) : KB, what do you think the likelihood of Allan Houston retiring is? Also, do you think that Isiah is likely to let Penny and TT’s contracts expire? Or will he go and trade for more payroll? In this era, looking at most of the successful teams, their payroll is quite low, it goes to show that you don’t need massive salaries to have a successful team. If the Knicks get those players off the books, their payroll doesn’t look so bad, it frees up financial flexibility doesn’t it? I’m a Marbury fan, but I think it might make sense to break up his contract, trade him for a couple of decent guys, get the flexibility, what do you think?

KB: No chance. No. Maybe. Not really. That could work.

First I don’t think Allan Houston will retire this year. He’s determined to play, even if it means playing a handful of games, and then wearing a suit for the rest of the season.

Second I don’t think I could put money down on Isiah letting both contracts expire. If he does trade one, my bet would be Penny Hardaway.

Third the Knicks are so far over the cap that letting those guys go won’t free anything up. Letting Penny & Tim Thomas’ contracts expire would be like taking a bucket of water out of the Hudson River. Of course if they get more long term contracts in exchange of these guys it will obviously hurt the team in the future.

Finally, I’m sure there are many ways of righting this ship, and some of them contain trading Stephon Marbury. It’s not that the move on it’s own that would work, but if you decide to undertake such an endeavor you have to go all the way with it and gut the team. If you rebuild like that you might get a LeBron James or Kevin Garnett to fall to you in the draft, or you could end up like the Bulls and spend half a decade rebuilding before you make the playoffs. Of course with Larry Brown in the picture, stripping the team is not the way to go.


Kurt (Forum Blue & Gold) : If the current New York Knicks were a band/muscian, which one would they be?

KB: Hmm… Last year’s group was young, and started off relatively well. However they weren’t very good, nor did they last very long. So my vote would be Hanson (yes I had this shirt for a time – but no that’s not me).

This year’s gang will have a more interesting cast of characters, but that might be the most entertaining aspect of them. I’d say they’re like the 2005 version of the Pixies. Frank Black would be the musician that most reminds me of Larry Brown. Brown changes his teams every few years, and Frank Black can’t decide if he wants to be in a band, have a band accompany him, or go solo. The Pixies frontman has one more on Larry, in that’s he changed his name enough times to make Diddy jealous. While the Pixies were one of my favorite bands of all time, I still have some reservations about them making future albums. Just like I have reservations about the future of this team.


Dogan (Netherlands): I love the KnickerBlogger Stats Page, keep up the good work, but it would be great if there would be a playoffs stats page too (especially PER). What it the reason for its absence?

KB: First thanks for the compliment!

Second, well I had a little problem with my old web host & parted ways. Unfortunately in the divorce they took all my files. I’ve put the playoff page back up from what I had cached on my hard drive. Let me know if you find anything terribly wrong.

http://www.knickerblogger.net/stats/2005pla/

Oh and since this is my third international questioner – a shot goes out to all the homies that are reading this page from far away, and a special shot out to all those struggling to read this in another language. You guys are hard core basketball fans!


And a quintet from Gabe F. (NY, NYC): : Which position is the most glaring weakness in the Knicks roster, and which is their most useable strength?

KB: The Knicks’ weakness is easily the same weakness they’ve had for the last few years, center. Jerome James couldn’t crack 17 minutes a game in center starved Seattle, and the reviews on Frye are mixed at best. As for their strength, that’s a tough one.

GF: What do you think are the most viable short-term (ie, for this year: playing uptempo, focusing on defense, lots of pick-and-roll, high post, etc) and long-term (ie, 5 years down the line: going for cap relief, start from scratch, who to build around) strategies for the Knicks?

KB: Short term, defense has to be the priority. The Knicks were nearly last in the league on D, and that has to change under Larry Brown. As for long term, with how the team is now the best strategy would be to build on their youth, aim to eventually get under the cap, and hope a big star will want to make an average team great under the big lights of New York.


GF: Can Jerome James be written off as a bust right away? What kind of expectations should Knicks fans have for him?

KB: Plenty of people have already tabbed him a bust. Anyone that thinks he’ll give us more than a handful of blocks, a couple of jogs back on defense, and less than a couple of turnovers is going to be dissappointed. The Garden faithful should look at his career numbers, and set their expectations accordingly. If James plays 24 minutes a night, hustles, and doesn’t pass the ball to Spike Lee more than twice a game, then New Yorkers should give him a hearty ovation every night.


GF: Is Q-Rich better suited in the Knicks offensive schemes as a long-range gunner, or should the team try to leverage his post-up abilities?

KB: I’m never one for having teams abandon their offense to take advantage of a mismatch. In other words, if your PG is posting the other team’s because Boykins is in the game, you’re going away from how you normally operate to score.

However, it will depend on what the Knicks need. If Sweetney and Taylor are manning the post, Ariza is cutting down the baseline, and Marbury is living in the lane, then Q-Rich should see plenty of opportunities on the perimeter. If Sweetney is forced to play mop-up again, Crawford is on the outside jacking them up, and Ariza still hasn’t developed his jumper, then Q-Rich should see some time near the paint.

Quite honestly, if he can do both, then the Knicks should take advantage based on opponent. I like flexibility up to the point where it won’t hurt you. If one isn’t working then he should concentrate on the other aspects of his game.


GF: Did Isiah Thomas make a mistake by releasing Jerome Williams under the amnesty clause, rather than Allan Houston? What are the benefits and drawbacks to each choice?

KB: Again, I’m not going to pretend that I’m Dan T. Rosenbaum. My understanding is that they saved more money with Williams. However I think that Williams would have contributed more to the team than Houston. On the other hand if the Knicks keep Houston, Dolan is on good terms with his golfing buddy.


That’s it – The comment section is opened. Thanks for all those who submitted questions!

Defensive About Brown

I don’t like to dwell too much on rumors, because if I jumped on every scenario that Peter Vecsey has envisioned, I wouldn’t have much time to write about things that actually happen. However with the Knicks tending an official offer to Larry Brown making it a real possibility that he’ll be the New York coach in 2006, now might be an appropriate time to look at what he could mean to this city.

So far the reviews have been mixed at best. Some people think that the unselfish ABA assist leader from ’68-’70 might clash with the Knicks’ star trying to convince Marbury to shoot less, or that the Knicks roster is too far from contention. Even Pro Basketball Prospectus author John Hollinger is against the move, noting that hiring Brown is antithetical to the Knicks’ rebuilding philosophy. No one pays a coach $10M to babysit the tykes while Jerome James does a 21st century revival of Marv Throneberry. In fact it’s Hollinger’s opinion that surprises me the most. Not only is one of the part time jobs of the voluminous author to cover the Knicks for the New York Sun, but John also coined the term “Larry Brown Effect” in the ’03 Prospectus. The LBE showed that Larry Brown (pre-Detroit) has improved his teams by an average of 11.2 wins in his first season.

While Hollinger looked at Brown’s overall effect on his clubs, I wanted to look deeper into those teams. So I split his accomplishments up between offensive & defensive rankings, and I looked at the teams in the first and second year of Brown.

Year    Team    Y1O     Y1D     Y2O     Y2D
2003    DET     -4      2       -3      1
1998    PHI     1       6       1       21
1994    IND     -6      13      -3      16
1993    LAC     2       5       5       -2
1989    SAS     -13     9       -5      19
1982    NJN     0       13      2       15
1975    DEN     7       3       7       2
1973    CAR     4       8       7       5
        SUM     -9.0    59.0    11.0    77.0
        AVG     -1.1    7.4     1.4     9.6
        MEAN    0.5     7.0     1.5     10.0

By the chart above, teams that Brown coached improved an average of 7.4 rankings on defense in their first year, and 9.6 in the second. On the offensive end, they showed little to no improvement. In other words Larry Brown is a defensive wizard. Which is why I would be thrilled to have him as coach of the Knicks.

When Herb Williams took over the head coaching responsibility in January, one of the things I said I would keep an eye on is how the Knicks fared on offense and defense for the rest of the season. At the time they ranked 17th and 24th respectively, and unfortunately they showed little to no improvement by the end of the year. On offense the Knicks finished 16th, but on defense they dropped three spots to 27th.

It was New York’s defense, or lack thereof that irked me. Even 5 games into last season, it was clear that the Knicks needed an upgrade. Isiah Thomas’ roster seemed to have players who lacked effort or ability on the defensive end, including his two prize guards: Marbury and Crawford. Stephon’s defensive liabilities were so bad that only a few weeks later it prompted guest-blogger David Crockett to write that Marbury should be traded because he created “easy scoring opportunities for opponents, putting his teammates in a terrible bind.” He added “at this point in Marbury?s career it seems unlikely that he is going to devote himself more fully to defense for more than a quarter here or there… How can the team construct a title contender with Marbury as its focal player?”

As for Crawford, in April I had an email-versation with John Hollinger that went like this.

KB: “I’m not sold on Crawford. Combine the awful defense with the chuck at all costs offense, and 2011 seems a far away. Both would have to change for Craw to be a useful starter, and I’m not high on those odds.”

JH: “Reasonable people can disagree on Crawford. I just think a stronger coach could whip him into shape and help smooth all those rough edges. We won’t know until or unless the Knicks hire one.”

Enter Larry Brown, stage left. Even though it was half of a hopeless season, Herb Williams’ inability to get the Knicks to play any defense left me doubtful that he would be the right guy to get the job done. Not only could Brown get Marbury and Crawford to shut down down the conga-line to the hoop, but he might be able to affect the rest of the roster as well. With the right training, Trevor Ariza could become a defensive stopped in the mold of Tayshaun Prince. Isiah’s new acquisition, the burly and foul prone Jerome James, might be able to stay in the game for more than 20 minutes a night with a little guidance. The Knicks have a rookie Channing Frye that, if his summer league 10 foul game is any indication, needs a little help in becoming their future center. And he can’t mishandle Mike Sweetney any worse than his predecessors.

Brown is exactly what the organization needs. The Knicks need someone that can get this young team to play defense. What better for this franchise to remind New Yorkers of its’ past than to become a defensive minded squad? Fans can be reminded of the Camby-LJ-Sprewell era, the Ewing-Oakley-Starks era, or the Reed-Jackson-DeBusschere era depending on their age. Notice that behind each one of those teams was a strong coach: Van Gundy, Riley, or Holzman.

Even if Brown stays for two or three years and the team only is good enough to go a round or two in the playoffs, the franchise should be better off because most of the players are in a position in their career where they can improve. It’s possible that the lessons the players learn under Brown can stay with them for the rest of their career. As for the aftermath, the proof is in Brown’s last few stops (we’ll throw out the Clippers, since we’re only concerned with legitimate NBA franchises). No one is predicting that Detroit will cease to be an Eastern powerhouse because Brown is no longer patrolling the sidelines. Indiana arguably was better after Brown left in 1997. Last I checked the Spurs have done pretty well for themselves since 1992. Only Philadelphia is the worse for wear, but in Larry’s last year their top guys included Keith Van Horn, Eric Snow, and Derrick Coleman. It was inevitible that they were going to crash sooner or later. As for the Knicks, the odds look good to me with Brown at the helm. Even if it’s only to temporarily right the ship.

[Edited after a full night’s sleep.]

Swift, Brown, and Fun With Logos

SWIFT

Stromile Swift just signed with the Houston Rockets for the mid level exception. Swift is 4 years younger than Jerome James, and has a career Player Efficiency Rating that is 5.6 points higher. James has a higher block rate and better shooting percentage, and that’s it. Swift is better in every other category including half the foul rate. I’m not going to say that Isiah could have signed him, because Swift might have preferred Houston over New York. But how did the two end up with the same salary? You’d at least think that somehow the Knicks could have gotten a better deal. That’s like buying a Big Mac & finding out a Jackson Hole 7oz burger is the same price.

BROWN
Hearing about Larry Brown and the Pistons, did any New Yorkers have flashbacks to Bill Parcels? I’m not going to say that Brown would solve all of New York’s problems, but I will say that Parcels did turn around the Jets. If it wasn’t for him, I’m convinced the Jets would rival the Arizona Cardinals for futility in the NFL.

PISTONS LOGO

So the Detroit Pistons have designed a “new” logo:

As you can see it looks almost exactly like their old logo. Is someone going to tell me that people prefer a logo that:
* is simple
* uses primary colors instead of pastels
* doesn’t have a horse
* doesn’t have automobile exhausts
* doesn’t have flames coming out of the above mentioned horse and exhausts
* has legible text instead of oddly angled 3d fonts

My theory is that they had this logo for years, but since it looked so much like their old logo, they needed something garish in-between. And I’m sure the owners of the Pistons are upset that everyone who bought a jersey, hat, t-shirt, bobblehead doll, beer cozy, etc. may feel the need to rid themselves of the old item & purchase a brand new one.

Four Players That Need More Time

In today’s article, I’ll identify 4 guys who were productive last year, but didn’t see enough minutes from their team. All of them are big men, and two have been playing well for two or more seasons now.

Dan Gadzuric

By definition, the league average for John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is 15. Last year despite only playing 22 minutes per game, Gadzuric managed a PER of 18.5. The next person on the list was Michael Redd. Ironically Redd just received a 6 year $90M+ contract from the Bucks, while Gadzuric will play for the same 6 years, but for $54M less. Doesn’t seem fair does it? Just the other day, the APBRmetric board was discussing this very topic. That is that teams tend to overpay for guys with good pts/g, and that if a Moneyball type executive wanted to exploit the NBA, this would be good place to start.

If given a fair chance, he could easily step in & start for 20 teams in the NBA. Maybe even 25 teams. While I have no delusions that Gadzuric would be an All Star, it seems a waste in a league where centers are at a premium. Just looking back over the last few years of free agency, mediocre 7 footers like Foyle, Dampier, and Olowokandi have received big deals for little production. Meanwhile, Dan has posted a PER above 17 for two straight years. An athletic player, he can hit the glass at both ends of the court, block shots, and come up with a steal. Gadzuric shoots at or above 50%, and has cut back on his fouls to a level where he could easily play 30-35 minutes a game. With the arrival of #1 overall pick Bogut, the Bucks may not need Dan more than the 22 minutes a game that they gave him last year. It’s a shame, because given quality minutes, this guy could really shine.

Al Jefferson

Just go to a Celtics forum, and mention the words “trade” and “Jefferson” in the same sentence. You might see some replies like:

heff: “blasphemy!”
Big Al: “Jefferson is basically the only untouchable player on the team right now”
Jahwei: “Another reminder. Kids, don’t do drugs.”

Well you get the picture. Despite 2005 being Jefferson’s first year in the league, and receiving only 15 minutes a game, he still put up a PER of 16.6. Oh and remember this kid can’t kick back with a beer after the game until January, unless David Stern decides to play the Celtics home opener in Tijuana. As most youngling that enter the league, Jefferson was prone to turnovers and fouls. Considering that he can work on those numbers, he’ll be an asset for the Celtics next year. Jefferson is a fine rebounder, and ranked 19th in John Hollinger’s rebounding rate last year (with the above mentioned Gadzuric being 2nd). Doc Rivers was critical of Jefferson’s defense last year, which limited his minutes. If Al can hustle during preseason and get on his coach’s good side, Rivers might loosen the apron strings and be pleasantly surprised with the results he gets.

Mike Sweetney

How much longer will Mike be on these lists? Do I have to show up in the Garden with a “Free Mike Sweetney” sign? The guy had a 17.2 PER in his first year, despite spending the first few weeks on the IR behind such NBA luminaries like Clarence Weatherspoon and Othella Harrington. Still the Knicks only played him in 11 minutes per game. The year after Sweetney posts a 16.4 PER, despite playing against taller opponents at the five. Still the Knicks limit his minutes to under 20, whether or not he’s performing well.

Even this summer, with the Knicks trading Kurt Thomas, Sweetney’s hold on the PF position is tenuous. He’s been rumored to be traded for everyone from Antoine Walker to Kwame Brown. In last year’s Basketball Forecast, John Hollinger wrote “a good way to judge if the Knicks know what they’re doing is to see how long it takes for Sweetney to take Kurt Thomas’ job.” For this year’s book, Hollinger would be smart to copy & paste the same quote in, because a year later the Knicks still might not have figured out what they have. New York still has a glut of PFs, and it’s possible that Herb trots out Malik Rose, Jerome Williams, and Maurice Taylor often enough to limit Sweetney’s minutes again. However if given the chance to play 30 minutes a night, Big Mike will be a nice sleeper for those in fantasy basketball leagues that are looking for a double-double power forward.

Nick Collison

In 2003, just three picks after New York nabbed Mike Sweetney, the SuperSonics drafted Collison. Unfortunately the pick didn’t pay immediate dividends for Seattle, as Collison missed the season with surgery on both shoulders. Last year he rebounded back from his injuries, and had a PER of 15.0.

Collison took advantage of the Sonics open offense, and shot nearly 54%. Add to that an ability to draw contact, where he had a true shooting percentage of 57%, the same as Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard. Another reason to like Collison is that he upped his game during the playoffs. During the season he scored at a rate of 15.9 pts/48 minutes, but during the playoffs that average went up to 20.3. Getting more playing time next year shouldn’t be an issue for Nick. Seattle lost center Jerome James, and you never know what’s going to happen with volatile Danny Fortson.