New York 86 Denver 95

Since I’m away on a trip, I didn’t get to see this game. Although I got to watch a competitive game last night between the Celts & Raps, I’m curious if anyone can tell me what happened to the Knicks?

From the box score it’s pretty obvious how the Knicks lost. The Nuggets shot at a higher percent (47% – 40% eFG%), turned the ball over less (16% – 21% TO Ratio), and repeatedly got to the foul line (.32 – .21 FT Ratio). The Knicks beat them on the boards (35% – 21%), but that’s nowhere near enough to overcome those odds. What is not explained in the AP release or the box score is Larry Brown’s substitutions. I’m curious why Eddy Curry, Quentin Richardson, and Trevor Ariza only played 20 minutes.

It’s not hard to imagine why Curry hit the pine. Marcus Camby is a quick and athletic center and I’m guessing that Curry would have had trouble keeping up with him on the defensive end. With Carmelo having a big scoring night, I can make the same excuse for Q-Rich, given his defensive reputation. However I’m at a loss why Ariza only played 7 minutes. Matt Barnes was unavailable due to injury, which would leave Trevor as the Knicks’ best defender at the small forward spot.

Instead it looked as if Brown wanted to go big. He gave his power forwards and centers a combined 128 minutes, which means than over the half the game the Knicks had three big men on the court. So my question to KnickerBlogger.Net readers is why in a close game (New York would start the 4th only down by 10 points) would their two best small forwards be largely unavailable?

New York 100 Boston 114

Sorry folks I don’t have time for a full analysis tonight. Tonight the Knicks played 4 good quarters of basketball, but the game went 5. Here are some nuggets to chew on:

  • Throughout the game, you could tell that the Knicks defense looked improved. Even guys like Marbury showed improvement.
  • It’s nice to have a front court that isn’t shorter than the other team’s.
  • No Lee. No Frye. No Butler.
  • The Knicks were awful on the glass. Curry couldn’t even get a missed Celtic free throw late in the game.
  • The lineup down the stretch was: Marbury, Crawford, Barnes, Davis, Curry.
  • Barnes was covering Pierce.
  • Barnes had a nice alleyoop in the 4th (from Jamal).
  • Q-Rich and Barnes did the 4th quarter offensive/defensive switch, but only once.
  • I haven’t looked at the box score yet, but my thinking right now is that rebounding & turnovers did them in.

Looking at the 2005 NBA Draft (Part III)

[This entry is brought to you by Knickerblogger.net’s Director of College Scouting, Dave Crockett. As always, I can be reached at dcrockett17@yahoo.com]

In part two I evaluated the NBA draft for Eastern Conference teams based on their strategy, either best player available or need/fit. Now, let?s take a look at the Western Conference teams. To review briefly, I will review each team?s draft based on its apparent strategy and categorize it as ?Accept,? ?Revise and resubmit,? or ?Reject.? Players are listed by overall selection number, name, height (with shoes), wingspan (if available), weight (lbs.), position, and school.

Western Conference

Dallas Mavericks

* No selections in this draft

Denver Nuggets

* Strategy: Need/fit

* Review: Revise and Resubmit (minor changes)

20. Julius Hodge (6-7, 7-0-1/2, 202.2#), G, N. Carolina State

27. Linas Kleiza (6-8, NA, 235#), F, Missouri?

35. Ricky Sanchez (6-11, NA, 215#), SF, IMG Academy JC (FL) ?

55. Axel Herville (6-9, NA, 230#), PF, Spain

? Denver acquired the rights to F Linas Klieza (the 27th overall selection) and F Ricky Sanchez (the 35th overall selection) for the rights to G Jarrett Jack (the 22nd overall selection).

Denver?s top priority is a (big) scoring guard, preferably one with good range. However, a reasonably deep free agent class coupled with veterans facing their impending release via the new ?amnesty? provision (e.g., Allan Houston and Michael Finley) in the CBA and the Nuggets could wind up with a quality 2nd tier free agent SG for their MLE, or perhaps even just part of it. Given this I generally like what Denver did in the draft. Hodge was asked to carry a lot of dead weight this season at N.C. State. He was asked to create offense for others and to score. Having so much asked of him affected his offense in my opinion. He is a better shooter than his final season indicated. He is a superb ball handler, a leader, very adept at getting others involved, and capable of putting a team on his skinny little shoulders at times as we saw against UConn in the NCAA tournament. Linas Kleiza has nice versatility. He?s tough, a physical rebounder with some range on his shot. However, I rated Wayne Simien and David Lee higher. Of course, the fact that Kleiza can develop overseas without costing the Nuggets any money may have played a role in his selection.

Golden State Warriors

* Strategy: Need/Best Player Available

* Review: Revise and resubmit (minor changes)

9. Ike Diogu (6-8, 7-3-1/2, 255.4#), PF, Arizona State

40. Monta Ellis (6-3-1/4, 6-2-3/4, 176.6#), G, Lanier HS (MS)

42. Chris Taft (6-9-1/2, 7-1-3/4, 261.0#), PF, Pittsburgh

It appears that Golden State was poised to take the best power forward available, whether Channing Frye, Villanueva, or Diogu. During the leadup to the draft it became more and more difficult to find people who think Diogu won?t be able to translate his game to the NBA. For all the talk about Diogu being undersized he measured only one-half inch shorter in shoes than Sean May and has a broader wingspan by more than two inches. Diogu will be able to play power forward in the league. What?s hard to miss about Diogu is that he takes the punishment and lives at the free throw line, where he?s a good free throw shooter. The downside of picking Diogu is that he scores from some of the same areas on the floor as Troy Murphy. Neither player can reasonably be switched to small forward so it is unlikely they can play together. In the second round they picked one-time lottery projection Chris Taft. While the tales of his attitude problems have been well chronicled from a pure basketball standpoint it was the tape measure as much as anything that did him in. He measured at less than 6-10, and there is little about his game to suggest he can move out on the floor at all.

Houston Rockets

* Strategy: Best player available/fit

* Review: Revise and resubmit (major changes)

24. Luther Head (6-3, 6-5-1/4, 178.8#), G, Illinois

This was a guy I?d hoped would fall to New York at #30. So I like Head. He played his ass off in Chicago. Though his ability to run the point has been called into question his defense and shooting are more than solid, which is really what matters to Houston since McGrady often dominates the ball. My problem with this pick is that the team has so little depth at small forward or power forward. McGrady is the only small forward currently under contract and Juwon Howard, who has been breaking down rapidly, is backed up by Clarence Weatherspoon and Vin Baker. Luther Head is somewhat similar to their other combo guards (Bob Sura and David Wesley). Houston may have rated Head higher on their draft board than Wayne Simien (probably because of Simien?s shoulder problems) but they may regret passing on him.

L.A. Clippers

* Strategy: Best player available

* Review: Reject

12. Yaroslav Korolev (6-9, NA, 215#), SF, Russia

32. Daniel Ewing (6-3, NA, 185#), PG, Duke

Back when the Dallas Mavs traded the draft rights to Robert ?Tractor? Traylor to Milwaukee for the rights to Dirk Nowitski I rated it as one of the most lopsided deals in NBA history. Of course at the time I thought Milwaukee was getting the better end of the deal. So I?ve learned not to overreact to such deals. This kid may turn out to be a player. But this pick was bogus; a classic case of bidding against yourself. Korolev stayed in the draft based solely on an early promise from the Clips. It?s safe to assume that the Clippers will once again be moribund next season, especially if Bobby Simmons walks. Korolev?s Russian team was not likely to play him much more next season, if at all. So in all likelihood he?d be on the board next season around the same spot, but after another piece to the puzzle had already been put in place for a year. I know the official story is that Mike Dunleavy fell in love with this kid but I smell Donald Sterling here. In round 2 the Clips were probably hoping that either Nate Robinson or Salim Stoudamire would fall to them. No such luck. Still, Ewing should be a solid role player/part time starter for them.

L.A. Lakers

* Strategy: Best player available

* Review: Revise and resubmit (major changes)

10. Andrew Bynum (7-0, NA, 300#), C, St. Joeseph?s HS (NJ)

37. Rony Turiaf (6-9-1/4, 7-1-1/2, 237.8#), PF, Gonzaga

39. Von Wafer (6-5, NA, 210#), SG, Florida State

I?m in the clear minority of people who felt like the Lakers, when forced to choose between Shaq and Kobe, had to keep Kobe and trade the Big Aristotle. However, I never liked the deal they made for Shaq. They created a glut of small forwards bigger than the one on Team USA this summer. Kobe, Lamar Odom (even if disguised as a PF), Caron Butler, Devean George, Jumain Jones, Luke Walton, and Tony Bobbitt all play small forward. The Shaq trade influenced what the Lakers did in this draft. Instead of drafting a player to help them in the top ten they drafted a player to help someone else. I think Bynum?s days with the Lakers will be relatively short; maybe this summer, maybe trade deadline, next summer tops. He is the pretty bow to tie around a package that includes one or more of the small forwards for a point guard or center who can help them in the next 2 years. Turiaf should take Brian Grant?s place in the rotation once he is released. Wafer is a scorer to bring off the bench.

Memphis Grizzlies

* Strategy: Best player available/fit

* Review: Accept (with minor changes)

19. Hakim Warrick (6-8-1/2, 7-2, 215#), PF, Syracuse

Given the impending roster fluctuation in Memphis it?s hard to argue with West taking the ?best player.? The one real downside to Warrick is that he?s a ?tweener, which means he cannot play for every team. But Memphis features a number of ?tweeners, including G/F Shane Battier, G/F James Posey, SF/PF Brian Cardinal and PF/C Pau Gasol. So clearly that?s not a problem for Jerry West. The open floor style they favor also emphasizes Warrick?s athleticism. Also, much like with the slender Gasol I don?t think the Grizzlies will shy away from posting Warrick in certain matchups. The other potential direction West might have gone would have been for a point guard, like Jarrett Jack, given that Jason Williams and/or Earl Watson won?t be back. I know they like Antonio Burks but he?s still more of a combo guard.

Minnesota Timberwolves

* Strategy: Need/fit

* Review: Revise and resubmit (major changes)

14. Rashad McCants (6-4, 6-10-3/4, 201), SG, N. Carolina

47. Bracey Wright (6-2-1/2, 6-10, 186.8), G, Indiana

ESPN?s Jay Bilas, who is usually not a taker of pot-shots said, ?If I had a nickel for every time Rashad McCants really got down and guarded somebody I?d have a nickel.? Now that is being called out, and the sad part is that even Tar Heel fans must admit that this is true. McCants is a talented scorer who has been taken out of games (e.g., @ Wake Forest and vs. Illinois), as all scorers are occasionally, but I have yet to see him make a significant contribution with any other part of his game. I have a difficult time with this pick for Minnesota because McHale & Co. took a player whose sole contribution is his scoring over Granger and Wright who score and defend. McCants doesn?t rebound. He doesn?t handle the ball. He doesn?t pass. And prolonged exposure to defense appears to produce in him something similar to anaphylactic shock. The Wolves, facing the likely departure of Sprewell and great uncertainty about Fred Hoiberg’s health (good luck to The Mayor of Ames, Iowa), certainly need a wing player but they also need someone apart from Garnett who plays both ends. Bracey Wright is a nice fit considering that he is something of a shoot-first point guard with passing skills, similar to Sam Cassell.

New Orleans Hornets

* Strategy: Best player available/Need

* Review: Accept

4. Chris Paul (6-1, 6-4-1/4, 178#), PG, Wake Forest

33. Brandon Bass (6-7-1/4, 7-2-1/2, 246#), PF, LSU

Chris Paul was perhaps the most efficient offensive player in the nation this past season. He shot a high percentage (52.3% efg, 1.54 points per shot), created for teammates (2.4 to 1 assist to turnover), and lived at the free throw line (5.8 attempts per game @ 83%). There is little to be disappointed with in his sophomore season, well, other than socking Julius Hodge below the belt and getting bumped early in the NCAAs. (Wake simply didn?t play enough defense to make a deep run in the tournament. They were the classic upset-prone high-seed.) Paul was absolutely the right move for New Orleans. I like the selection of Brandon Bass in the second round too. Bass is a multi-talented player who simply wasn?t getting coached at LSU. Though he measures only 6-7 he has shoulders right out of the Karl Malone catalog, long arms, and an expanding game. This kid will always be a rebounder but has the potential to be much more, particularly on a team with steady point guard play that likes to run.

Phoenix Suns

* Strategy: Clear cap space

* Review: Accept (with minor changes)

54. Dijon Thompson (6-8, 6-9-3/4, 195.8#), G/F, UCLA?

Cash??

? Phoenix acquired F Kurt Thomas and G/F Dijon Thompson (the 54th overall selection) from the New York Knicks for G/F Quentin Richardson and G Nate Robinson (the 21st overall selection).

?? Phoenix traded the rights to C Marcin Gortat (the 57th overall selection) to the Orlando Magic for cash.

Phoenix?s primary interest was in getting Kurt Thomas and clearing cap space to re-sign Joe Johnson and Steven Hunter. Dijon Thompson is a talented offensive player, especially in the mid-range area. He?s not such a threat from long range (which makes me wonder why everyone lists him as a guard when he played the SF almost exclusively at UCLA). Even if Phoenix does re-sign Joe Johnson the team would be remiss if it did not explore other options at the backup point guard.

Portland Trailblazers

* Strategy: Best player available/need

* Review: Revise and resubmit

6. Martell Webster (6-7-1/2, 6-11, 229.6#), SG, Seattle Prep HS (WA)

22. Jarrett Jack (6-3-1/2, 6-7-1/2, 197.6#), PG, Georgia Tech?

? Portland acquired the rights to G Jarrett Jack (the 22nd overall selection) from the Denver Nuggets for the rights to F Linas Klieza (the 27th overall selection) and F Ricky Sanchez (the 35th overall selection).

Webster and Gerald Green will always be linked as the last ?pre-age restriction? class. The two will always be compared to each other, even apart from the other high schoolers chosen in this draft; a bit like LeBron and Carmello but rarely LeBron and Dwyane Wade. Unlike Green Webster is a big (i.e., chunky) kid. I don?t know that he?s in NBA caliber condition but he is thick. I like the trade for Jack, who can play some shooting guard, and really helps shore up the defense.

Sacramento Kings

* Strategy: Need/fit

* Review: Accept

23. Francisco Garcia (6-7, 6-10-3/4, 189.6#), SG, Louisville

Garcia won?t help the Kings get key stops but he will add depth and another shooter. Make no mistake about it though the window has closed on that group. They?re 7th or 8th seed material for the foreseeable future. If they?re smart they?ll begin moving pieces (e.g., Brad Miller) that they can get value for now.

San Antonio Spurs

* Strategy: Clear cap space

* Review: Accept

28. Ian Mahinmi (6-10, NA, 230#), PF, France

You have to give the Spurs the benefit of the doubt when it comes to international talent. They scout overseas more extensively than any other team. The Spurs don?t really need anything out of this draft so it hardly surprises that they would pick a player who can be stashed overseas to develop. Most of their key players are in their primes and locked up long-term. So in one sense there?s no sense in paying first round scratch to a kid who is not going to contribute in the foreseeable future when they could use that money to keep Horry and/or Glen Robinson. Mahinmi is only 18 and it may be 2-3 seasons before he is ready to play in the NBA.

Seattle Supersonics

* Strategy: Best player available

* Review: Revise and resubmit (with minor changes)

25. Johan Petro (7-1, NA, 250), C, France

38. Mikael Gelabale (6-7, NA, 210), SF, France

Seattle went big and young in last year?s draft, taking Robert Swift. They follow it up with the athletic Petro from France. He is said to be very athletic, a skilled shot-blocker, but raw. Seattle could lose both Jerome James (especially if Nate McMillan does not return) and Vitale Potapenko, robbing them of their size. It seems unlikely that either Swift or Petro is ready to contribute in the upcoming season should Seattle?s current centers walk. Nonetheless, given what was available (primarily power forwards) and persistent rumors that the team is unhappy with Swift?s progress Seattle likely made lemonade out of lemons. Much like Damien Wilkins last year, Gelabale is an athlete who?ll probably be invited to summer league. While it appears Seattle is poised to re-sign Ray Allen the odds of re-signing Antonio Daniels seem a bit lower. Seattle might have considered using that second round pick to take a flyer on a backup point guard (e.g., Alex Acker or John Gilchrist)

Utah Jazz

* Strategy: Need/fit

* Review: Revise and resubmit (with minor changes)

3. Deron Williams (6-2-3/4, 6-6-1/4, 202.4#), PG, Illinois

34. C.J. Miles (6-6, NA, 207), SG, Skyline HS (TX)

51. Robert Whaley (6-9, 7-2, 269.4#), C, Walsh

I love Deron Williams, particularly in Jerry Sloan?s system. He?s the right player for what they do. He also plays defense, which will allow him to stay on the floor for Sloan. (Defense is something Chris Paul doesn?t do; at least not yet.) However, I?m not in love with anything Utah did in the second round. Bad teams have to make second round picks pay dividends. C.J. Miles apparently never hired an agent and may honor his letter of intent to attend Texas; much like Vashon Lenard went through the draft but stayed in school years ago. If Utah was going to take a flyer on a high school kid why not take Andray Blatche, the 6-11 high school kid from CT at 34 then Dijon Thompson from UCLA at 51? Robert Whaley played his tail off in Chicago but seems more of a priority free agent.

A Defensive Trend

In case you aren’t a regular reader of my blog, I’ve been following a distressing trend since the Knicks’ season started. So far defense has been a big issue for New York. The Knicks have allowed their opponents the second highest FG% in the league. However field goal percentage is a bit flawed, and I like to use something more meaningful called eFG% (sometimes called aFG%).

If you want to know exactly how to figure out effective shooting percentage (eFG%), I did a little write up at the end of this article. It’s more accurate than FG%, because eFG% takes into account the extra point a three pointer brings. Peja Stojakovic connected on 48% of his shots last year, but since he hit a lot of threes (with great accuracy I might add), his eFG% of 57% better represents his shooting ability. Good enough for second best in the NBA. Players that don’t hit any treys have the same eFG% as their FG%. Shaq had a FG% of 58%, but since he doesn’t attempt any shots from beyond the arc (thank goodness), his eFG% is also 58%. Effective FG% is gaining mainstream popularity, and you can find it on ESPN’s stat page or 82games.com.

Getting back to the Knicks’ woes, their opponents have been shooting the lights out with a 52.6% eFG%. That’s a whooping 12% better than the league average (47.1%). Only the Hawks & Nuggets are worse, while teams like the Hornets, Bulls, and Sixers rank just above the Knicks. Those aren’t a group of teams you want to be associated with defensively. Right now when teams are facing the Knicks, they’re getting a better look at the rim than the Tidy Bowl Man.

It’s fair to say that 5 games is too small a sample size to make a huge deal over. However consider this: not once this season have the Knicks’ held their opponent’s eFG% under the league average. Three of their opponents shot over 50%, with the Celtics a shade under 60%. When teams that were below average shooters last year (Clippers & Sixers) are having good shooting nights against New York, it’s time to raise the red flag.

What’s interesting is last year the Knicks contested shots very well, allowing an eFG% of only 46.1%. So what happened in a year? The roster overhaul could be the answer as the Knicks no longer have defensive minded players like Deke, Frank Williams, Shanderson and Charlie Ward. Easily 4 of the Knick starters are not thought of as above average defenders, and the 5th, Kurt Thomas, is not a shot blocking big man. Actually the entire roster is void of either a shot blocker or a “defensive stopper”.

This defensive weakness coincides with another Knick sore spot, depth at center. Nazr Mohammed is poor on the defensive end, and isn’t reliable on a day-to-day basis. Against the Clippers he only played 12 minutes, because he forced himself to the bench with constant foul trouble. His strength is on the offensive end of the court, as witnessed by his 11 offensive rebound effort against the Pacers. The Knicks would benefit by having a center that could disrupt the other team’s offense, a ying to Mohammed’s yang. Marbury, Crawford, and whoever is the PF (Thomas or Sweetney) are good enough offensively to carry a millstone at center. The Knicks won’t be able to get a guy like Theo Ratliff without giving up something big in return, but there are cheaper alternatives out there. Shot blocking machine Dan Gadzuric is loosing minutes to Zaza “Gabor” Pachulia, and would have a cheaper price tag considering Milwaukee’s depth at center.

One final thought, eFG% isn’t a complete measure of defense, but is a vital component. Dean Oliver, standing on the shoulders of great basketball minds like the legendary Dean Smith, discovered that shooting at a higher percentage than your opponent is the best single factor that correlates with winning. The founder of the Journal of Basketball Studies states that out shooting your opponent is more important than out rebounding them, getting to the free throw line more often, or winning the turnover edge. The Knicks early season only seems to confirm this, because the better shooting team has won every single game. Hopefully the Knicks can break this trend either by acquiring some good defenders, running better defensive schemes, or just giving a better effort on the court with the current personnel.



A little bit about eFG%

Traditional FG% is calculated by:

(FGM)/FGA

Field Goals Made is simply the number of 2 pointers made (2PM) plus the number of 3 pointers made (3PM). So rewriting the equation becomes:

(2PM + 3PM)/FGA

It’s clear to see that FG% assumes that 3 point shots are equal to their 2 point counterparts. Taking into account the points gained by making a trey, (3/2=1.5) eFG% is simple to understand when you put it’s equations next to FG%’s:

FG% = (2PM + 3PM) / FGA
eFG% = (2PM + 1.5*3PM) / FGA

eFG% gives 3 pointers made an extra 50% bonus because the points scored on a 3 pointer is 50% greater. A simpler way to write eFG% is:

eFG% = (FGM + 3PM/2)/FGA.

Back to top.

Open Feedback To ESPN Stats

[FOLLOWUP: Apparently the entire email was too big to send using their form, so instead I requested that ESPN read it off my site. Unfortunately I think my chances of them reading it has decreased greatly.]

ESPN.com created a feedback form for their NBA stat coverage department. So, I sent them this letter:


To Whom It May Concern:

First I would like to thank you for putting a feedback form on your web page. Since you’re asking for opinions, I’ve noticed that the baseball stat page on ESPN has a advanced statistics while basketball lags sorely behind. The only “advanced” statistic I can find is aFG% and PPS. There are some easy ones you could use that would be beneficial to all NBA fans.

You could start with possessions. A stat heavily used by every serious NBA author from Dean Oliver to John Hollinger (and I believe created by or used by Dean Smith?). Possessions are important because some teams run a fast paced offense thereby giving them (and their opponent) more chances to score. This makes points per game less important because a team might be scoring a lot of points in a game, but only because they are taking more chances (think early 90s “run at all costs” Nuggets). Possessions are easily calculated using stats you already have in your database.

Poss = FGA + TO – OReb +.4*FTA

Of course another stat that would go hand in hand with this is pPTS or points per 100 possessions. It’s simply PTS*100/Poss. Last year, according to my calculations Indiana had the 8th best offense, however due to their turtle slow pace they scored few points per game. There is no doubt that Indiana was a good offensive team last year, but you wouldn’t have thought so due if you only looked at ESPN’s PTS/G which ranked them at a lowly 21st!

Rebounding is not affected by possessions, since you already wisely use REB%. However turnovers should be measured by possessions as well: TO/Poss (turnovers per 100 possessions). The last team stat I will request is FTM/FGA. This shows a team’s ability to get to the foul line score. There is a correlation between winning and the following four factors of basketball: shooting, turnovers, offensive rebounding, and scoring from the free throw line. Shooting and rebounding are already covered on your web page (aFG% & OREB%), while the other two (TO/Poss & FTM/FGA) are simple equations that could be added to cover all 4 major aspects.

On the individual level, I would start at John Hollinger’s PER, a great measure of a player’s offensive contribution. You only need to pickup a copy of Basketball Forecast to get the equation (but being in the stat business I assume you already own a copy, right? ;-) Of course why stop there when you can also keep track of Dean Oliver’s excellent stats: Floor percentage, scoring possessions, etc.

If you’re still reading, I’ll pitch two more ideas to you. One is keeping track of charges. Some players are very good at taking charges which creates a lot of turnovers. Shouldn’t they get some credit for this? Finally why not keep track of the game using the Possession Scoring System? All you would need would be 2 or 3 interns at every home court to do this for a whole season. Actually if they had access to the games taped on video only 1 or 2 would suffice. Dean describes the notation in detail in his book “Basketball on Paper” (which you also own, right?) and can also be read online at: http://www.powerbasketball.com/theywin2.html.

Thanks for taking the time to read this & I hope to hear your response.
Mike
KnickerBlogger.NET

An Interview With John Hollinger

Recently the 2004-2005 edition of the “Pro Basketball Forecast” (formerly Prospectus) hit the bookstores, and it’s clear that John Hollinger’s work keeps getting better and better. Whether you’re a fantasy basketball GM, a hardcore hoops head, or just a casual fan, there’s something for everyone. Hollinger keeps readers interested with funny anecdotes in between the hard hitting analysis and his unabashed criticism. There are gems on every page, like when Hollinger jokes about little used 2001 draft pick Primoz Brezec being thrilled about having “front row NBA seats,” or when he declares Etan Thomas as the “NBA’s best dreadlocked big man.”

In the first edition Hollinger introduced us to a new stat, PER, which has become the de-facto standard of measuring an offensive player’s performance. Not only is he able to express a player’s ability in one single number, but Hollinger is able to quantify a player’s ability to rebound, pass, score, and turn the ball over in a way that makes more sense than traditional statistics. If you’re still unsure about buying “Pro Basketball Forecast”, go to the book store, turn to page 90 & read Hollinger’s take on Bimbo Coles. You’ll be laughing all the way to the cashier. If you have never followed basketball closely before, with one purchase, you’ll know everything about every team and their players for the upcoming season.

Luckily, John took some time outside of his busy schedule of writing for Sports Illustrated, the New York Sun, alleyoop.com, and of course next year’s Pro Basketball Forecast to do an interview with yours truly. [Hyperlinks added by me.]

Writing a Book

Do you use co-authors & how much of the book is written by you?
I write all of it.

How long does it take?
Well, the nice thing about an annual is that it can’t take more than a year. In all seriousness, I start writing bits and pieces before the season even starts, but probably 80% of the book is written in a furious blitz after the season ends

What is the process of writing a book of this magnitude?
There’s essentially two parts. During the seamy the most important thing is making the effort to see all the teams and players multiple times so you really get a feel for what they’re doing — even the guys who hardly play. Once it ends I’m pulling together all the final stats and writing most of my player and team comments. Then in July I have to make adjustments for the draft and as many free agent moves as I can accommodate before it goes to the publisher.

This Year’s Prospectus/Forecast

Why the name change from Prospectus to Forecast?
It basically had to do with a licensing agreement my publisher had to use the Prospectus name for their basketball and football books, which expired. So we had to call it something else this year.

What are some of the things that separates this year’s version from previous years?
I made a lot of progress in terms of coming up with new tools to help predict performance. I projected each player’s stats (at least, each important
player’s) for the coming season and that’s a tool I’m continuing to refine. I also came up with some metrics to help evaluate which players in Europe can be of assistance in the NBA.

In last year’s edition regarding defense, you said you weren’t on the tip of the iceberg, but rather “the tip of the tip.” How much of the iceberg can we see in the 2004 version?
Much more. I did some work to evaluate individual defense and provided a “Defensive PER” for every player for the past season.

Even though you acknowledge the offseason moves in the team descriptions, you have the players listed under the teams they played for last year. Why not list players like Shaq, McGrady, and Crawford under their new teams?
Because we can’t get every change in before the publishing deadline — for instance, Kenny Anderson and Jon Barry signed with the Hawks well afterward. So if we try to do it that way we’ll just end up confusing everyone.

Your book has gotten bigger and bigger each year.

'02 - 285 pg
'03 - 307 pg
'04 - 314 pg

For next year’s edition, should I take the over/under on 330 pages?
Well, the seven-page increase this year can entirely be blamed on the Bobcats, so I’d expect it to hold steady around 315.

Why should the casual fan buy this year’s book?
Because it has a lot of information you can’t find anywhere else, and critiques of the players that most announcers and beat writers don’t have the freedom to unleash.

All About John

Any chance that you’ll do reporting on a more frequent basis (either for SI or your blog alleyoop.com)?
Well, I write two columns a week for the New York Sun, so since you’re in the Big Apple that’s a big fat yes.
Otherwise, I’ll be doing a weekly piece for SI.com.

Other than your own, what are some of your favorite basketball books?
Terry Pluto’s Loose Balls is the gold standard, classic story telling mixed with some insights into a league not that many people saw. I enjoyed Sacred Hoops by Phil Jackson as well, although I’ve yet to read his new book. And, getting really old school, the Wooden-Sharman Method by John Wooden and Bill Sharman is still on my bookshelf.

When you step on the court, which NBA player’s game does your style most resemble?
LOL … I guess I’d be somewhere between Nick Van Exel and a lefthanded Jon Barry. Lots of 3s, no conscience, not much defense.

Guessing on the Knicks:

By the end of the year, who will be the Knicks’ starting PF?
Mike Sweetney, if they know what they’re doing.

There are currently 4 players on the roster left from the pre-Isaiah era (Houston, Anderson, Sweetney & Thomas). What will that number be by playoff time?
I’ll say two. Thomas will be in the Western Conference and Anderson will be in the Eastern hemisphere.

Nazr Mohammed over or under 5.8PF/48mins (his average last year)?
I’ll say over. He got to play some power forward with the Hawks last year but won’t have that luxury as a Knick.

True or False, the Knicks will end up in the second round of the playoffs this year?
False. The Knicks will be No. 5 behind Indiana, Detroit, Washington and Miami.

East Coast vs West Coast

[Note: No rappers were hurt in the writing of this blog.]

If you’re a long time reader, you already know I picked the East to win it all. In fact I was the only one out of the 8 participants in my playoff bracket contest to choose an East team. At the time I didn’t do a whole lot of analysis to see if the top East team is really as good as their left coast counterparts. So the question I have for this entry is: Does the East have a chance to win the NBA Championship?

First let’s look at the top East teams: Indiana, Detroit, & NJ. What I did is look at how they fared against all the West playoff teams. This way I can see if there is some kind of disparity between the top teams in the East & West. Let’s start with defending Eastern champs, and my current least favorite team, the Nets. New Jersey was pitiful against the West’s best (no rhyme intended), going 5-11. The Nets were 3-5 at home, and 2-6 on the road. They were swept (2 games series) by the Spurs, Grizzlies, Lakers, and Mavs, and raised the broom once against Denver. One excuse could be that the Nets had a lot of injuries during the regular season. However this isn’t enough evidence to overturn 5 years of Western dominance in this case. At this point the Nets don’t look like a contender. You would only need the Nets to be .500 or better, since they are playing against the best, not the whole league.

Let’s look at the team that will play (and hopefully beat) the Nets, the Detroit Pistons. Detroit did fairly well against the Pacifickers (no that didn’t pass my spellchecker), with a repsectable 8-8. The were swept by two of the better teams, the Spurs and the T-Wolves. However they did a little dusting (2-0) against the weaker Memphis & the Nuggets. At home they were an encouraging 6-2, but were reversibly bad on the road at 2-6.

As for my hopefuls (now that the boys in orange & blue are hitting the links), the Pacers did very well at 9-7. They were 6-2 at home, and a little better that the other two Eastern hopefuls 3-5 on the road. They didn’t beat the Kings in their two games, but swept Dallas and Denver. That’s right if you were paying attention, the Nuggets got swept by all 3 of these teams.

Not coincidentally, all three of the Eastern teams are very good defensively, with only the Spurs (#1) being better. Unfortunately only the Pacers have an offense ranking in the top half (#8). This is encouraging for fans that want to see a close Finals. I really think it will be an evenly fought contest this year, and if the Pacers do make it, I think they have a very good chance of winning the championship.