The game wasn’t as close as the final score indicates. New York led the whole fourth quarter and was up by 9 with under 4 minutes to go. It didn’t start off that way. The Knicks trailed the Bobcats until Nate Robinson exploded for 24 first half points. Zach Randolph ended up with 25 points on 15 shots. Chandler had another poor shooting night (6-14 for 18 points), but handed out some Ill-Will with 3 blocks. Wilson now has 60% of the team’s blocks, which underscores the team’s need for shotblocking in the frontcourt. Meanwhile, Quentin Richardson stunk up the Garden. Richardson hit only 1 of 9 shots, many of which were wide open shots from downtown. He also had 6 turnovers.
If guard is the Knicks’ most plentiful position, then small forward is their least. Let’s take a look at these two players:
From these stats Player A is obviously superior. And that’s who the Knicks thought they were getting when they traded for Quentin Richardson. Player B is the player they actually got. (A is Richardson’s averages pre-New York, B is his averages in a Knick uniform). Despite a clear decline in play, Richardson will be the Knicks defacto starter at small forward, a position he’s had for the last 3 years. It’s painfully obvious that Richardson’s career has taken a downturn due to injuries. SI.com has a list of his injuries over the last two seasons: head, right ankle, flu, right knee tendon, back surgery, sprained right elbow, back spasms, and hamstring strain. We can only hope that Q-Rich takes his flu shot this year.
Richardson has a couple of positives. He has a familiarity with D’Antoni due to playing under him in 2005, and he exerts energy on the defensive end. How effective those two make him are another story. Quentin can hit the three (career 35.2% 3P%) and rebound (6.4 REB/36), but he has been a substandard scorer. Last year he was woefully inefficient (TS%: 44.4%, eFG%: 42.1%) and averaged a pitiful 8.1 points per game off of 8.5 shot attempts. The team would be better off playing him 20 minutes off the bench instead of the 28.3 minutes per game he averaged last year. Without a major turnaround in scoring efficiency, he’s bench material.
Unfortunately Richardson will more likely get the lion’s share of the minutes at small forward, because the Knicks don’t have many other options. The main reserve is 21 year old Wilson Chandler. A late first round pick, Chandler is an athletic 6-8 swingman. As billed by the “Ill Will” tatooes on his arms, Chandler is a good defender. He can contribute in a variety of ways: blocks, steals, rebounds, three point shots, and points. On the negative side of the ledger, Chandler is an inefficient scorer (TS: 48.0%, eFG% 45.7%) who isn’t shy about taking a shot.
There are lots of players similar to Chandler, under 21 year old forwards with poor shooting percentages, with varying results. For every Donyell Marshall, Trevor Ariza, and Al Harrington there seems to be a Lamond Murray, Sylvester Gray, or Yi Jianlian to match (for Net fans change that last name to Samaki Walker). At this point it’s unclear which path Chandler is on.
Wilson Chandler may be too young for a starting role, but if the Knicks went out to a nightclub, Danilo Gallinari would be waiting outside for someone to pass him Wilson Chandler’s driver’s license. [Warning from the KnickerBlogger.Net legal dept. – using someone else’s id to enter a nightclub is illegal, immoral, and more likely to have your night end in a White Castle than someone else’s bed.] Gallinari won’t be of legal American drinking age until next August. Additionally he’ll be adjusting to an entirely different country, game, and diet. (Sorry Gallo – you won’t have freshly made hand cut pasta on the road.)
Lamentably, there isn’t much to say about Gallinari’s game that wouldn’t be conjecture. He hurt his back in summer league and is just starting to practice with the team. Since D’Antoni said he didn’t want Gallinari to play in the D-League, it’s probable that Danilo will sit on the end of the bench for most of the year. Gallinari’s future will be at power forward, but considering he hasn’t grown into his body yet, his injury, and the Knicks lack of depth at the three, small forward is probably where he’ll get the bulk of his minutes. When Richardson eventually misses a big chunk of time, don’t be surprised to see Gallinari’s name get called in the second quarter of games.
All in all the Knicks don’t have a lot of options at small forward. Going into the season two of their three potential SFs are battling injuries: Chandler and Gallinari. Additionally Jared Jeffries (who isn’t listed here because D’Antoni plays him in the frontcourt) who could play SF is also injured. Patrick Ewing Jr., who at the time of this writing has a chance of making the roster, has played only 24 preseason minutes. Even if Junior makes the team, it’s possible he’ll start the season in the D-League. D’Antoni will use a three guard rotation at times, but if Richardson and Chandler both get hurt at the same time he’ll have some interesting decisions to make.
If it really is true — that little things that win games are more valued in Europe — then that confirms just about every negative stereotype of American basketball development. And it fits perfectly with the message from just about every new-breed statistical expert: That scoring is overvalued here, at the expense of other things that are hugely important but less obvious.
It would make the most sense to start Marbury at shooting guard, replacing the struggling Jamal Crawford, who was 1 of 6 for four points. Or he could conceivably replace Quentin Richardson in a three-guard offense. D’Antoni has started a Chris Duhon-Crawford backcourt through the first five preseason games and feels it may be time to experiment with just two exhibition games left.
During the Knicks offseason, there has been a lot of conjecture on who will be in the starting lineup. Marbury’s continued presence makes him a threat to Chris Duhon at the shooting guard spot. Should Duhon have an awful preseason it’s possible that he could lose his job to Marbury or even Robinson. There have been questions surrounding the front court, with Lee, Randolph, Curry, and Jeffries being discussed as starting options. Due to the injuries to Curry and Jeffries, it appears that Lee and Randolph will be the starters. This has been strengthened by the pair’s strong play in the preseason.
Meanwhile it was just assumed that the small forward spot would be handed to Quentin Richardson. Although he was coming off a poor year, Quentin’s familiarity with D’Antoni’s offense made him the front runner to start. Two of Richardson’s competitors for the swingman spot were eliminated when Jeffries was injured and Balkman was traded. The only SFs left on the roster were Wilson Chandler and second round pick Patrick Ewing Jr. Chandler is just old enough to buy a beer legally, and Ewing is already on his third team before he’s played a single game.
However the stats show that Richardson isn’t the best candidate for the the position. Looking at Q-Rich’s career, it appears that his production has been erratic and diminishing over the last few years. His yearly PER has been 16.5, 17.4, 12.5, 15.1, 13.6, 9.6, 14.3, and 8.5. It seems that Quentin was a productive player in his first 4 years, but has been a poor player over the last 4 years. The big question mark concerning Richardson has always been his health, and it seems obvious that injuries have reduced him to a below average player.
Luckily for Knick fans, greenhorn Wilson Chandler may be ready. Three games isn’t much to go on, especially preseason ones, but so far Wilson Chandler is outplaying Richardson on a per-minute basis.
It’s uncertain what Chandler will do in his second season if given extended minutes. His rate stats weren’t bad in limited minutes last year, but his shooting percentages were low (48 TS%, 46% eFG). Unfortunately it’s pretty clear what Richardson will give the Knicks. As I said earlier three games isn’t much to judge a player. But given that Richardson is a veteran coming off 4 poor years, and is the only player on the Knicks familiar with D’Antoni’s offense, you’d expect better in preseason. At worst the rebuilding Knicks should give Chandler a majority of the minutes, and use the opportunity to gauge his development.
So far D’Antoni doesn’t seem to be afraid to make changes. He’s installed Duhon as the starting PG, and toyed around with Jared Jeffries at the 5 spot. Curry isn’t likely to regain his starting spot either. D’Antoni has spoken highly of Chandler, so it’s possible that he may make the switch. If he doesn’t then Chandler may get his chance eventually. During his tenure as a Knick, Richardson has missed an average of 26 games a year. Given New York’s low depth at SF, it’s likely that Chandler will be starting at some point this season.
Although the season is still a month away, the Knicks preseason is almost upon us. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind until the season begins.
The Bubble Boys
With 18 players on the roster, there are definitely some players on the bubble. Let’s assume that Chandler, Crawford, Curry, Duhon, Gallinari, Jeffries, Lee, Marbury, Randolph, Richardson, and Robinson make the team. Jeffries will start the season on the injured list, and let’s assume Gallinari joins him (or ends up in the D-League). That leaves 3 spots on the 12 man roster, and 1 spot on the innactive roster for Collins, Ewing Jr., Grunfeld, Houston, James, Roberson, and Rose. If my math is correct, three of those players are going to be cut.
Of the veterans Rose is likely to make the team outright, and reports have Jerome James playing a lot in practice. With Walsh’s comments about his dislike of buying out players, it’s likely the team will play James or force him to retire due to injury. Mardy Collins’ can defend but do little else, and with Duhon on the roster the Knicks already have a perimeter defender. Meanwhile Allan Houston is pretending he’s 34 years old again, but unfortunately he was out of the league at that point of his career.
Of the youngsters, Roberson’s preseason play earned himself a guaranteed contract. With the trade of Balkman and the injuries to Jeffries and Gallinari, the Knicks are thin at small forward. This could be good news for Ewing Jr. However both players are far from a guaranteed spot, and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if both were cut. Dan Grunfeld could probably beat his dad in a one on one game, but probably not anyone else on the roster.
With a new regime, it’s hard to guess what the Knicks will do. My guess is that Rose, James, Roberson, and Ewing Jr. make the cut. They can stash Roberson or Ewing Jr. in the D-League or leave them inactive. But if the Knicks wanted to go young, they might jettison James/Rose for Collins. Or maybe they see the team too offensively heavy at guard (Crawford, Marbury, Robinson) and not enough defense (Duhon) and keep Collins instead of Roberson. Or they might want a smaller lineup and leave Ewing off in lieu of one of the guards. Definitely something Knick fans want to keep track of during the preseason.
The Starting Lineup
It’s obvious that Jamal Crawford will be the starting SG, and you have to think that Quentin Richardson’s familiarity with D’Antoni’s system gives him the edge at SF over the inexperienced Wilson Chandler. At point guard, the team has signed Chris Duhon and coach D’Antoni has been playing him exclusively as the first team point guard. However the Knicks have refused to buy out Stephon Marbury, and the Knicks starting PG of the last four and a half years is still on the roster. For Marbury to get his starting job he just needs to impress his new coach and win over his teammates that he’s alienated over the last few seasons. And President Ahmadinejad might join B’nai B’rith International.
As for the frontcourt, most likely the Knicks will start Zach Randolph, even if only to keep his trade value high. D’Antoni was experimenting with Jared Jeffries at center before Jeffries’ broke his leg, so it looks as if that spot is open for competition.
Ever since Mike D’Antoni was announced as the Knicks’ head coach, pundits have wondered out loud how Eddy Curry would handle the physicality of an up-tempo offense. Curry has been unable to practice due to an illness so you wonder if he’ll get enough practice to be ready by the start of the season. Most likely the Knicks will turn to David Lee to play alongside Randolph.
There’s no question that D’Antoni’s offense was successful in Phoenix. The Suns finished either first or second in offensive efficiency in the years he was coach. But the question remains how the 7 second offense will work in New York. D’Antoni won’t have a single All Star to work with, where he had three with the Suns (including a two time MVP). Additionally the Knicks’ offense hasn’t been very good. They’ve only been above average on offense twice since 2000. This makes sense because the Knick offense has been stuck in the 90s with isolations and post scoring emphasis. It’ll be particularly interesting to see how Randolph, Crawford, Curry, and even Marbury responds. The preseason might shed some light on how D’Antoni’s offense will work with average players.
It seems that during Isiah’s tenure the Knicks youngsters has been stuck behind veterans. Just about every draftee over the last 5 years has had to struggle to earn playing time: David Lee, Wilson Chandler, Renaldo Balkman, Nate Robinson, Randolph Morris, Mardy Collins, Trevor Ariza, Mike Sweetney, and Frank Williams. And it’s not as if New York has had a winning team in that time span.
If the Knicks are rebuilding then it makes sense for the kids to get a lot of run, especially in preseason. Most likely David Lee will win a starting spot, so he should be getting plenty of playing time. I’ll be curious how much playing time Robinson, Chandler, and Collins get, and how they perform inside the Knick offense. It’ll also be nice to get a look at Roberson, Ewing, and Gallinari to gauge their strengths against stronger NBA competition. That is if all these players are on the roster (and in Gallinari’s case healthy).
Oct. 8 Toronto Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ONT 7:00 p.m.
Oct. 10 Philadelphia Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, PA 7:00 p.m.
Oct. 14 Philadelphia Madison Square Garden, New York, NY 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 17 Boston TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, MA 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 20 New Jersey IZOD Center, East Rutherford, NJ 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 21 Boston Madison Square Garden, New York, NY 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 24 New Jersey Madison Square Garden, New York, NY 7:30 p.m.
He was downright awful in the first half. I went back to the play-by-play and compiled his stats at the half: 0-4, 3 TO, 1-1 REB, 3 PF, 1 AST, 0 BLK, 0 STL, 0 PTS
He had 2 turnovers and a foul in his first 3 minutes. He had two shots where he was forcing the action – wild up-and-unders that fooled no one. Gallo he didn’t really show any tenacity outside of the offense. There were a few occasions I felt he gave up on a ball that he might have dove for, and he didn’t do anything spectacular on defense. He made a couple of rookie mistakes, one being the cardinal sin of defense: fouling a player on a fast break and allowing him to make the shot.
Danilo showed positive signs in the second half, and ended with a decent line: 5-11, 4 TO, 4-2 REB, 5 PF, 2 AST, 1 BLK, 0 STL, 14 PTS
He gained confidence with a two handed dunk, and showed an accurate jumpshot. I have to give him credit for going to the hoop a couple of times as well. It’s hard to make assumptions of a player by one half of a summer league game, but I don’t think Gallo is going to be a regular contributor this year. And I’m fine with that, since the team drafted him for the future, not the present. There was enough to like about him, like how he came back from a dreadful first half. He showed ability and confidence. I think it’s going to take him a year before he learns the nuances of the NBA.
Speaking of learning the nuances of the NBA, Wilson Chandler seems to have developed significantly from last year. Not only did he lead the team in scoring (11-21, 2 TO, 26 points) but he was seemingly omnipresent. Chandler had 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. When on the floor with Balkman the pair made the Knicks tough defensively, especially on the interior. They had a combined 4 blocks, about the number Zach Randolph would get in about 2 months. “Ill-Will” was certainly the Knicks best player on Monday.
Balkman was his usual self, with not much change from last year. As always Balkman was great in pushing the ball up in transition, converted a few baskets around the rim, and played excellent defense. It didn’t bother me that he didn’t attempt a jump shot; what bothered me is that he didn’t make either of his free throws. Balkman would be fine without a mid-range game, but if he can’t hit free throws it really hurts his game.
The guy that I would cut in a second had a pretty good game yesterday. Unlike Balkman, Collins hit 8 of his 9 free throw attempts. And while I don’t expect him to go from 60% to 89% from the charity stripe, it’s nice to know that he probably has improved that aspect of his game. (Maybe he can show Balkman his technique.) Collins also hit his only three point attempt. Mardy’s game in the half court consisted of driving into the paint and trying to make things happen. It was a nice improvement, and if he can hit his free throws, an occasional three, and do a better job running the offense, there might be room on this team for him.
Roberson was the surprise of the game. The 6-2 guard scored 22 points on 19 shots, but didn’t have a single assist. He reminded me a bit of Nate Robinson, minus the rebounding, passing, and childish demeanor. Roberson had two stints in the NBA for Memphis and Golden State, and his per minute stats show the same thing: decent scoring no passing. His efficiency (53.2 ts% and 52.6% efg) was good and his 1.5stl/36 was better than average. Quentin Richardson praised Anthony during the telecast saying the youngster was playing very well in practice. While a team could do much worse at the end of their bench, I’m not sure where he fits in on the Knicks’ roster. They have enough shoot first players at this point. On the other hand Roberson clearly has NBA talent, and the team roster might be very different in another year or two.
Free agent season is here, along with daydreams about 2010, when LeBron James might pack a suitcase and head for Broadway. Is it realistic to think we can cut a deal? By 2010, assuming they fill out the roster with mininum-salary bench players, the Knicks need to trim about $18 million worth of payroll, to offer a free-agent even a dollar more than the mid-level. To offer a “star” contract – call it $15 million a year – requires cuts of about $26 million. (to get there next year, it’s more like $36 million). If LeBron has his sights set on the biggest offer, bar-none, we’ll need to clear even more space.
The simplest way to cut costs — but the hardest to accomplish – is trading big-salaried players for players with shorter (expiring) contracts. Dumping Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry could allow the Knicks to offer 2010 free agent deals worth almost $20 million. Trading Curry, Crawford and Jeffries (for shorter contracts) would do the same.
Another “opportunity” is to renounce our own free agents. On the rosters below, I included extensions for David Lee and Nate Robinson, and Renaldo Balkman in 2010. The salaries are just educated guesses, but we could probably “save” about $13 million by not re-signing Lee or Robinson. Combined with a Randolph trade, that would give the Knicks about $19 million in free-agent spending money. A more likely option is trading one or both for draft picks; the salary difference would still “save” $5-10 million. There’s also the option of selling off our 2009 pick. Aside from putting cash in Dolan’s pocket, it would save the team $2-3 million in cap room. If we’re pulling out all the stops, that’s something to consider.
The math involves a lot of estimates and guesswork. It also assumes that we don’t sign any new players between now and 2010. No mid-levels! No matter what, it will require several major moves to clear cap space by the summer of 2010, and the effort might not be worth it. Gutting the roster for a *chance* to sign LeBron or D-Wade looks a bit like an unshaven guy at the tables, at 4am, laying it all down on Black.
We’ll get a strong hint of Walsh’s thinking this summer. Does he sign David Lee to a big extension, or trade him?
- Zach Randolph 16,000,000
- Eddy Curry 10,500,423
- Jamal Crawford 9,360,000
- Quentin Richardson 8,700,000
- David Lee 8,000,000 (est)
- Jerome James 6,600,000
- Jared Jeffries 6,466,000
- Nate Robinson 5,000,000 (est)
- Danilo Gallinari 2,574,200
- 2009 1st rounder 2,400,000 (est #7)
- Renaldo Balkman 2,112,417
- Wilson Chandler 1,255,440
total: $78,968,480 + 3 roster-fillers
projected cap: 60,000,000
- Zach Randolph $17,333,333
- Eddy Curry 11,276,863
- Jamal Crawford 10,080,000
- David Lee 8,000,000 (est)
- Jared Jeffries 6,883,800
- Nate Robinson 5,000,000 (est)
- Renaldo Balkman 3,027,000 (cap hold)
- Wilson Chandler 2,130,482
- Danilo Gallinari 2,753,800
- 2009 1st rounder 2,600,000 (est #7)
total: $69,085,278 + 5 roster-fillers
projected cap 62,000,000
- David Lee 8,000,000 (est)
- Nate Robinson 5,000,000 (est)
- Renaldo Balkman 4,000,000 (est)
- Wilson Chandler 5,000,000 (est)
- Danilo Gallinari 3,491,820
- 2009 1st rounder 2,800,000 (est #7)
- 2011 1st rounder 1,700,000 (est #15)
total: $29,991,820 + 8 roster-fillers
*all numbers from ShamSports