Vinny Del Stupido?

The third overtime will begin at the end of this commercial break. Up three after using up their final foul to give, the Bulls mysteriously fail to foul (in front of their own bench no less) Ray Allen as the clock ticked under 10 seconds. He breaks free and hits a contested three to tie the game.

No excuse to not foul in that situation. I don’t think that John Salmons (who was guarding Allen) was instructed to foul because the play happened right in front of the Bulls bench.

Chicago may yet win this thing in triple OT, but Del Negro may have just killed his team.

2009 Game Thread: Knicks at Kings

Via Thomas B.’s Week in Advance…

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

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

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

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

Knicks’ Week in Advance 12/8/08

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-Orlando Mock Draft, v. 1.0: The Lottery

2008 NBA Mock Draft

I’ll update the mock from time to time as the process unfolds but I wanted to get something up prior to Orlando and team workouts. This mock is less a prediction and more a record of what I would do as the GM of each team. Although I anticipate that trades will change the draft order, perhaps radically, my interest is in matching player and team. Therefore I keep the teams in their given draft order but highlight spots where I expect trades.

1. Chicago Derrick Rose, Memphis, PG

Rose is the best overall prospect in this draft. Although Beasley might fill an immediate need for scoring Rose creates scoring opportunities for teammates. And what really moves him ahead of Beasley for my money is his defensive value. I think he’s the 2nd best perimeter defender in this draft (behind Russell Westbrook).

2. Miami Michael Beasley, Kansas State, PF

Beasley is the best offensive talent in the draft. Although he seems more of a mid post than a low post player he gets to the line an impressive amount (.59 FTAs/FGA or 10 FTAs per pace-adjusted 40) and is a beast on the boards (14.6 rebs per pace-adjusted 40).* On the other hand, though I have seen Beasley play only infrequently, he seems like an indifferent defender. Perhaps no franchise is better than Miami though at getting indifferent defenders to exert effort on that end of the floor.

3. Minnesota O.J. Mayo, USC, G

This is obviously where the draft gets interesting. No consensus has emerged on who the 3rd best player in this draft is. Mayo could easily solidify this spot with stellar workouts despite his so-so freshman season. He is very strong, unselfish, and a good defender, all underappreciated aspects of his game that may serve him well in workouts and interviews. He’s also, I think, a better complement to Randy Foye than is Jerryd Bayless. Kevin McHale is close to Mayo’s now-former agent Bill Duffy and has scouted Mayo extensively.

4. Seattle Jerryd Bayless, Arizona, G

Seattle is likely to select whichever of the three top guards remains on the board. Bayless might be the perfect combo guard to complement Durant. Bayless plays well without the ball, shoots a high percentage (.61 TS), and lives at the free throw line (.59 FTA/FGA).

5. Memphis Brook Lopez, Stanford, C

I like Brook Lopez better than many, but I expect him to slide a bit based on workouts. He lacks elite athleticism and has pre-existing back problems, which make him a prime candidate for a slide. What he brings to the table are good footwork and hands. I think he projects to a more-than-competent-but-less-than-All-Star center that provides Chris Kaman-like production.

6. New York Russell Westbrook, UCLA, G

I doubt Westbrook goes off the board at #6. However, none of the remaining forwards (Gallinardi, Randolph, Love, or Greene) after Beasley strike me as having higher upside than Chandler or Lee. I suspect the new brass will try to package this pick with a bad contract (e.g., Randolph, Jeffries, Snacks) and flip it. The player I’d target in a trade down scenario is Westbrook, who has all-NBA defensive potential. If he had any PG skills he’d be a lock for the top ten. I fully expect his stock to rise once workouts start because his athleticism and motor are tailor-made for that process.

7. LA Clippers Kevin Love, UCLA, PF

Love is all over the place in terms of how he’s regarded. Certainly, the gushing about his outlet passing is a bit overdone by his supporters but the concerns about his athleticism are a bit overstated too. Lots of guy that are not cloud-piercing athletes play PF in the NBA. Love does not project to be a primary offensive option because his post offense doesn’t translates all that well, but his emerging mid-range jump shot, his excellent rebounding and interior passing absolutely do. Some teams will not place a premium on such a skill set but Love is perfect for LA, who may very well lose Elton Brand and/or Corey Maggette this off-season. He doesn’t need a lot of shots to provide value and they don’t need another guy who demands the ball.

8. Milwaukee Danilo Gallinari, Armani Jeans Milan, SF

Perhaps the most impressive thing I have seen about Gallinari is that he took free throws on 59% of his FGAs in just under 34 minutes per game. That’s 8 FTAs per pace-adjusted 40. For a teenager without otherworldly athleticism or size that is an impressive feat. Draftexpress compares him to Hedo Turkoglu.

9. Charlotte Anthony Randolph, LSU, F

Larry Brown isn’t going to play any rookie chosen at this spot anyway, so if Randolph is available at this point in the draft it seems wise to gamble on his upside. He has a lot of tools but doesn’t know how to play the game just yet. The best situation for him is one where he can sit and watch for a while (and keep Adam Morrison company).

10. New Jersey Donte Greene, Syracuse, F

I doubt Rod Thorn keeps this pick. He appears ready to blow up that roster. So, I see #10 and 21 packaged to get a player or to move up. Like Randolph, Greene is a high upside forward with size and skill but lacking experience.

11. Indiana Eric Gordon, Indiana, SG

I think Gordon’s skill set translates best to running teams. He is not a Nate Robinson combo guard that can run the point passably. He is more like Ben Gordon (i.e., strictly an undersized SG). Gordon is a shooter that unfortunately shot poorly in the second half of the season (coinciding with the Kelvin Sampson furor). I see him as one of the bigger gambles among the players that appear destined for the lottery. For its part, Indiana’s entire backcourt situation is unstable. So I would not be surprised to see Indiana move down and perhaps target a point guard (e.g., Augustin, Chalmers).

12. Sacramento Darrell Arthur, Kansas, PF

Sacramento has a gaggle of part-time post players (i.e., Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Mikki Moore, Kenny Thomas, Spencer Hawes, Shelden Williams, John Salmons, and Ron Artest). So Darrell Arthur would fill a clear need and is a much better prospect than any of the available centers. He is a solidly built PF who can post up and step out to shoot the mid-range jumper. He can become overly reliant on that jumper as evidenced by a low number of fouls drawn (.29 FTA/FGA). Though talented, he is a bit of a gamble because he disappears for stretches but is probably worth a look late in the lottery for a team desperate for youth in the frontcourt.

13. Portland Chase Budinger, Arizona, SG/SF

Budinger is an uber-athletic wing that definitely should have stayed in school. He runs the floor, plays without the ball, and shoots well but appears to lack the aggressive makeup typical of focal offensive players. He seems more like a late bloomer who will develop into an excellent complementary scorer, much like former University of Arizona and Spurs great Sean Elliot. Budinger doesn’t defend yet, but should work out well enough to get into the fringes of the lottery or just outside.

14. Golden St. Joe Alexander, W. Virgina, SF/PF

Alexander is something of a ‘tweener with an excellent mid-range game and jump out of the gym athleticism. He would work well in Nellie’s fun-and-run system.

Next: The rest of the first round

* Stats from player profiles at Draftexpress.com

Why The 2008 Knicks Can’t Win (Some Plays Count)

The other day I was on the train and overheard two Knick fans talking about the state of the team. The first man asked the other what was wrong with the team to which the second replied: “Isiah has to go. They have a good team on paper.” It seems that there’s the idea floating around Knick-nation that with a coaching change and a few tweaks the Knicks could have a good team. However, watching last Wednesday’s loss to the depleted Kings gave me a clear picture of why the Knicks just can’t win with this current roster. In reality it was just two Kings that helped sort things out: Brad Miller and John Salmons.

One one possession (4:28 1Q) Miller is on the left blocks being fronted by David Lee. Salmons has the ball, lofts it over Lee to Miller, and Brad has an unobstructed path to the hoop for an easy two points. After Lee fronts Miller, someone is supposed to give backside help. On this play Eddy Curry is on the weak side, but he’s oblivious to what’s happening with the ball. Curry is engrossed in covering the ever dangerous Mikki Moore on the weak side. Miller’s layup exposed two weaknesses – Lee’s inability to play better man to man defense and Eddy Curry’s lack of awareness on defense.

In the second quarter at the 5:51 mark, the Kings bring the ball up on offense. Brad Miller is on the far side behind the three point line while Garcia and Moore play the high pick & roll. Lee is defending Moore and helps double on the pick & roll. Garcia passes the ball to Miller who is standing behind the three point line. Even though Miller is able to hit from downtown, Curry gives him space is and is about 2 feet from the paint. Despite Curry playing Miller deep, Miller is able to dribble right past him. Lee, recovering from the high screen, comes over to help, but can only offer token resistance by putting up his arms. Miller scores an easy two points over David Lee. Again Curry and Lee have revealed their weaknesses on defense. This time Curry shows his inability to stay with his man on the perimeter (something I’ve mentioned often here) and Lee is unable to provide assistance in the form of shot blocking.

In this game, John Salmons scored a lifetime high of 32 points. Reading over the play-by-play Salmon had 6 baskets recorded as “Driving Layup”. Watching the game it felt like it was 30 baskets. I could have analyzed any of his layups, but I chose to review his first – 40 seconds into the game. At the top of the key, Miller passes the ball to Salmons who is at the free throw line extended. Miller sets a pick on Salmons’ defender (Jeffries). Miller’s man, Eddy Curry is supposed to help, but again he’s unaware of what’s happening and fails to react to the pick & roll. Salmons goes right past Curry unhindered. Zach Randolph watches the play unfold and moves in front of the restricted area in preparation for Salmons’ approach. Yet Salmons drives right past Randolph for the easy layup. A series of mistakes on this possession lead to an easy bucket: Curry’s inability to read the screen, his failure to slow down Salmons’ drive so that Jeffries can recover, and Randolph’s futile help under the basket.

These plays expose a fundamental flaw with the current Knicks team: the lack of interior defense. It’s no secret that nearly every player on New York is a bad defender, but good defense usually begins from the inside. There’s a reason that bigmen who are offensively limited but can prevent scoring can have long careers. Players like Eddy Curry, Zach Randolph, and David Lee aren’t strong defenders so they need a defensive minded compliment in the frontcourt. In Curry’s only winning season, he was flanked by a few strong defenders: Tyson Chandler, Antonio Davis, and Andres Nocioni. In Randolph’s only winning season, he was coupled with Rasheed Wallace, Arvadys Sabonis, and Dale Davis.

Instead of a frontcourt pairing of an offensive player with a defensive player, the Knicks have two poor defensive big men on the court at nearly all times. And this has been a recipe for disaster. New York is dead last in the league in defensive efficiency, and there isn’t a coach in the world that could make the current rotation average defensively. Without the addition of a defensive frontcourt player to the rotation, New York will remain a bad defensive team. The Knicks aren’t a good team on paper, they’re just plain bad on defense.