2009 Game Thread: Nets vs Knicks

[Back to the old blog style for the last game of the season. In case anyone is curious I’ll leave the forums up for now, because a few threads are still active.]

These two teams have nothing to play for, or more specifically nothing to win for. A Knick win combined with a Raptor loss would have the two teams tied at 32 wins, meaning a coin flip would determine which team picks 8th in the draft. As for the Nets, a win could move them from a potential 10th overall pick to 14th, depending on if Charlotte and Indiana both lose (and of course another coin flip).

If sticking it to their cross-tunnel rivals with a loss wouldn’t be enough, New York has 4 young players that they should be giving maximum playing time to: Chris Sims, Mouhamed Sene, Joe Crawford, and newly signed Chris Hunter. If the 4 don’t get a combined 80 minutes and the Knicks win, Mike D’Antoni will lose a half a letter grade in his KnickerBlogger year end evaluation.

Knicks Should Concede Season

New York’s Wednesday’s loss against the Nets was especially tough. The team had gone on a mini-3 game win streak before dropping one to powerhouse Cleveland, and beating the Nets at home would have helped them get back on the playoff track. Instead they suffered a disheartening 115-89 defeat. At halftime the Knicks were only down by 11, but New Jersey expanded the lead slowly over the third quarter and the game slipped away from the Knicks. With under 4 minutes remaining and the win out of his grasp, Coach D’Antoni conceded the victory and brought in reserves Samb, Wilcox, and Nichols.

Looking at the standings New York is 3 games out of the 8th seed with 15 to play. But they would also have to leapfrog 4 other teams to accomplish that goal. Exactly one month ago New York’s chances to make the playoffs were 8.9%, but today it stands at a only 1.7%. Just to give a visual of how small those odds are, if we round them up to 2% the Knicks chances of making the playoffs it looks like this:

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Unfortunately the Knicks’ standings in the lottery haven’t improved much either. Back in February their chances of getting the overall pick was 1.3%, and today Basketball-Reference has them at 1.4%. While the playoff push was the right thing for D’Antoni to do, it seems that the time to get the 8th seed has come and gone. Much like the Nets game, the Knicks should concede the rest of the season and use the remaining 15 games to prepare for next year. One way is to allow Nate Robinson to be the starting point guard (which may have already occurred). Another is to give minutes to Wilcox, Curry (if healthy), Samb, and Nichols in order to better understand how they may help the team. For Wilcox and Curry getting court time might allow them to gain D’Antoni’s trust. For the latter two, getting minutes would help the front office determine if they are worthy of a roster spot.

And in the interim, playing the reserves would increase New York’s standings in the June draft. While the only team that they might realistically pass is Indiana (who is 1 game away from the Knicks), it’s just as important for New York to not allow any of the teams ahead of them to improve their draft day position. The Bucks, Bobcats, and Nets are all within 2 games of the Knicks. From any perspective the worst scenario would be New York passing all those teams in the standings without making the playoffs. If D’Antoni shifts his main focus from winning individual games to developing the end of his bench, New York would probably avoid such a undesirable fate.

Seven Seconds or Mess: Webisode 14

I napped through most of last night’s game against the Hornets and woke up some time late third quarter and had this message from Mike in my inbox:

Are you watching this. Are the Knicks just switching on every pick (esp. with Jeffries)?

I’ve seen the Knicks do this when the opposition tries to establish the post but last night was different. There was a switch on practically every screen. In the video I said it’s possibly because the Knicks are terrible at getting over picks and it burns them often (Jarrett Jack’s layup around Lee to go up by 3 most recently). It’s not how a team would normally play defense but it’s helped the team’s interior D tremendously.

Pay attention to Wilson Chandler, as well. He is really committed to providing weakside help. I thought Jeffries would fill that role but having him clog passing lanes in the high post as Chandler roams has really grown on me.

Game Thread: Knicks vs. Nets

Always fun when the two New York area teams collide. The Nets are the surprise team so far in the NBA by most folks estimation, led by the stellar play of Devin Harris and the resurgence of Vince Carter. Should be an interesting matchup, although the Nets haven’t played since the 6th and the Knicks are going back-to-back.

Here are Thomas B’s thoughts from his Week in Advance.

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

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.

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.

Curry To Go

With the Knicks finally poised for considerable salary cap space in 2010-11, the LeBron James countdown has officially begun. More than a year and a half before it’s possible, New York is already salivating at the chance to welcome James to the fold. But it’s no foregone conclusion that The King will join the Knicks. James says championship contention is his top priority, and we should take his word for it. If that’s the case, the Knicks have a long way to go to before they can secure James. Building a championship level supporting cast will be a difficult journey. And it’s one that must begin with the trade of Eddy Curry.

The Knicks will be expected to lure a second superstar to play sidekick to James. According to current salary commitments, the Knicks will have enough room under the cap to offer two free agents the max if they don’t re-up their current core of young players–Nate Robinson, David Lee–and pick up the team options on Wilson Chandler ($2.1M) and Danilo Gallinari ($3.3M). To keep their youngsters, and still sign two max FA’s, the Knicks must unload Eddy Curry’s contract ($11.2M) without taking on 2010-2011 dollars.

Curry has his flaws, but due mostly (or exclusively, really) to his scoring talents, he’s still an above average center in a league that starts Udonis Haslem, Zaza Pachulia, and Robert Swift at the pivot. Curry’s not playing right now, so a trade is highly unlikely. But we can dream of the day the Knicks’ league-leading pace will artificially inflate his per game numbers. Better yet, we can speculate on how exactly to get rid of him.

Mr. Curry to the Courtesy Phone
For the sake of argument, I’m assuming that teams that would want a player like Curry are in need of: (a) bench/low post scoring; (b) big man depth; (c) are playoff bound in 2008-09; (d) and won’t have cap space in 2010 anyway.

Also, for the sake of argument, I’m assuming that the Knicks are literally willing to give Curry away. If I were Donnie Walsh, I’d trade Curry for a sack of potatoes, as long as the tubers’ contract expired on July 1st, 2010. Of course, the Knicks could get lucky and find a team that’s willing to trade an unprotected first round pick for Curry, but for that to happen, they’d probably have to trade Isiah Thomas to the Clippers first.

None of the following deals are likely, but to prevent the absurd, I’ve omitted possible trades to teams like Chicago and Milwaukee that may need a player with Eddy Curry’s skill set, but don’t want Eddy Curry.

CHARLOTTE Nazr Mohammed & Adam Morrison for Eddy Curry
Off-court, Charlotte would prefer to unload Gerald Wallace’s contract. On-court, they need a center to move Emeka Okafor back to his more natural power forward position. Okafor’s defense can cover for Curry’s lapses, and vice versa. They’d be great platoon partners.

Charlotte won‘t make the playoffs this year, but they are looking to reorganize their team. Various rumors suggest they’re ready to give up on Morrison, and could use Curry’s scoring instead. The salaries match, but Nazr has 2010 money on the books, so the Knicks would only save about $4 million. The Knicks would decline Morrison’s option and renounce his rights.

With Nazr for Curry, they’d have an easier salary to unload in the off-season, and that $4 million in savings can help off-set the salary commitment for their 2009 first round draft pick.

NEW ORLEARNS Mike James & Hilton Armstrong for Eddy Curry
The Hornets are getting absolutely nothing out of James and Armstrong, with the former losing his rotation spot to Devin Brown and the latter doing his best impression of a lamp-post fifteen minutes a game. With front court depth a major issue heading into the post-season, the Hornets could jettison two players who don’t contribute for a third big man who can provide scoring punch when Tyson Chandler or David West take their breathers.

Curry has always been an embarrassingly bad rebounder, so it may come as a surprise that he could actually help the Hornets in that regard. Believe it or not, his career rebound rate is slightly superior to Armstrong’s. And Curry would do it while scoring twice as much. We focus on Curry’s flaws so often, we often forget how many teams play total stiffs just by virtue of them being the tallest guy in the gym.

The Hornets are playoff bound and will need some help to get past the Lakers. Curry doesn’t come cheap, but one wonders if they’d be willing to roll the dice with the man-child, picking him up to provide the front-court depth and second-team scoring they so desperately need.

DENVER Steven Hunter and Chucky Atkins for Eddy Curry
Like the Hornets, the Nuggets can trade two players who have spent most of the year in business suits for a productive big man. Considering they’ve played Renaldo Balkman at the pivot, they could use a center that puts the ball in the basket.

Hunter and Atkins come to the Knicks for blatant salary implications, while Denver gets another scorer. In fact, with Denver’s trade exemptions, they could acquire Curry without giving anything more than a 2nd round draft pick in return. But considering that Denver is reluctant to pay the luxury tax, the Knick could do them the favor of taking back some monetary flotsam in return.

Playing the Field
There are other deals that make less sense. Would Dallas trade Jerry Stackhouse and Antoine Wright for Curry? It would help their bench scoring, but eat up their 2010 salary cap flexibility. Maybe Atlanta could unload two unproductive point guards in Speedy Claxton and Acie Law for Curry. Washington could trade the Knicks two centers who don’t even play: Etan Thomas and Darius Songalia. But stuck in the Eastern Conference basement, and with a pair of intriguing, young bigs, would they bother? Would Sacramento shuffle about salaries, getting Shareef-Abdur Rahim and Mikki Moore off the books for Curry?

Knicks fans are dreaming of bringing James to New York in 2010. But unless the Knicks can unload Curry’s contract before then, it’s unlikely they’ll be in position to assemble the championship-level supporting cast James demands. Considering the cost of Curry, the Knicks will have to get creative to clear him in time for what could be a very special summer.