Mock Three

Since last we talked mock draft the Lakers dispatched with the Orlando Magic and the off-season has kicked into full gear. I was out of town on business and have thus pretty much missed basketball from the past week or so. I suppose that’s fortunate in some ways.

I hope the third version of this mock is less impacted by the rumors, smokescreens, subterfuges, and misinformation that normally clouds my mocks this time of year. My gut tells me that this draft will be the 2006 draft (Bargnani, Aldridge, Morrison were the top 3) of 2009. There will be tons of busts, but a smart front office will be able to find good players late.

Onto the picks…
2009 Mock Draft, 3.0

1. Clippers – Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma
Nothing to see here. Moving right along.

2. Grizzlies – Ricky Rubio, PG, Spain
Poor Grizz. This isn’t the draft to have the #2 pick. I still say they’re looking to move this pick to someone who wants Rubio.

3. Thunder – Hasheem Thabeet, C, UConn
I don’t think Thabeet is a top three talent but this draft couldn’t have worked out any better for him. He’ll be an excellent defender and he can run the floor a bit. The Thunder don’t need another guy who needs the ball to be effective.

4. Kings – James Harden, G, Arizona State
I’m guessing the Kings just go best player available regardless of position. I think they wouldn’t mind getting out from under this pick.

5. Wizards – Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona
Hill will provide some rebounding and a big that runs the floor.

6. Timberwolves – Tyreke Evans, G, Memphis
It’s hard to know what Minny will do with a new management team and a lot of picks. Nothing they do would surprise. The 6-10 area just seems about when Evans should go off the board.

7. Warriors – Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy
The Warriors want no part of Jamal Crawford and don’t think Ellis can run the point. Jennings seems like the right fit for this group.

8. Knicks – Stephen Curry, G, Davidson
I just don’t know that there will be a big man available Walsh will like more than Curry. I suspect that a big man is probably the only real competition for Curry.

9. Raptors – Jrue Holiday, G, UCLA
Ultimately, defense, ball-handling, and floor vision will keep him in the league but Holiday is one of the biggest question marks in the draft.

10. Bucks – DeJuan Blair, PF, Pittsburgh
If Milwaukee takes Blair they’ll be putting together a nice little frontcourt.

11. Nets – Demar DeRozan, SF, USC
Lottery pick least likely to live up to expectations. What does he do?

12. Bobcats – Austin Daye, F/C, Gonzaga
I love this kid’s game and maturity but he may not be a player until he’s on his second contract (after he’s filled out a bit). He’s thinner than Anthony Randolph. Just let that roll around in your head for a bit.

13. Pacers – Ty Lawson, PG, UNC
I won’t be surprised to see him go higher in this draft. The way people dismiss his production doesn’t make sense to me. It’s not like Carolina does anything particularly unorthodox. They just play a fast pace.

14. Suns – Jonny Flynn, PG, Syracuse
Flynn is a pure point guard, yet I’m not crazy about his decision making.

15. Pistons – Earl Clark, F, Louisville
I hate his offense but Clark’s a very capable defender.

16. Bulls – Gerald Henderson, G, Duke
The Bulls have claimed that their top off-season priority is to re-sign Gordon. Mmm. Yeah.

17. 76ers – Chase Budinger, G/F, Arizona
Budinger is a nice fit for that roster, especially as a decision-maker should they lose Andre Miller.

18. Timberwolves – B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State
Given Al Jefferson’s health, this would be a decent gamble on size and provide some depth.

19. Hawks – Sam Young, F, Pittsburgh
Young would be a nice fit on Atlanta; a tough guy who can defend both forwards and hit an outside shot.

20. Jazz – Tyler Hansborough, PF, UNC
Hansborough is good value at this point in the draft. He’s going to rebound and run the floor and he’s developing a faceup jumper.

21. Hornets – Jeff Teague, G, Wake Forest
Teague would bring a bit of what Jannero Pargo did, for better or worse.

22. Mavericks – Terrance Williams, G/F, Louisville
Should Williams fall this far he’d be exactly what the doctor ordered Dallas: perimeter defense and depth.

23. Kings – Eric Maynor, PG, VCU

24. Trailblazers – James Johnson, F, Wake Forest
Portland could really use someone that can score in the post–at least a little bit.

25. Thunder – Darren Collison, PG, UCLA
He’ll be a quality backup point in the league.

26. Bulls – Nick Calathes, F, Florida (Greece)
Somebody is going to select Calathes and hold onto his rights. Presumably it will be a team with multiple first rounders that has difficulty moving a late pick. Any number of these late picks may be guys already overseas who can be stashed away.

27. Grizzlies – Wayne Ellington, G, UNC
Right now he’s a one dimensional shooter with a long windup, but worth a late first round gamble.

28. Timberwolves – Omri Casspi, F, Tel Aviv
I’d be stunned if Minny keeps all its picks, but if it does I figure they’ll select Calathes or a player they can stash overseas.

29. Lakers – Marcus Thornton, G, LSU
Thornton is a potent offensive player and a solid rebounding guard who is better in short spurts because of his questionable shot selection.

30. Cavaliers – DeMarre Carroll, F, Missouri
I’m going out on a limb and saying that Mizzou’s version of the “Junk Yard Dog” works his way into the late first round. Carroll has Anderson Varajao’s energy as a combo forward. He’s really improved his jump shot. He has a high basketball IQ, and is a very good passer as well.

Just Say No to Douby

According to the New York Daily News, the Knicks are going to give Quincy Douby a chance to make the team. As a college prospect Douby intrigued me. During his last year at Rutgers Douby scored efficiently, averaging 24.9 pts/36 with a 55.6% eFG and a TS% of 60.1%. His steals (1.8 stl/36) and rebounds (4.2 reb/36) were enough for a guard who was primarily a scorer. The Knicks didn’t get a chance to draft Douby that year because Sacramento took him 19th, one pick before New York selected Renaldo Balkman.

However Douby’s NBA career never took off. In three seasons, the Kings only played him thirty minutes or more in a game five times. Needless to say, he was unable to crack the rotation. It’s hard to fault Sacramento, since Douby’s stats have been disappointing. For a player who was an efficient scorer in college, he hasn’t been able to adjust to the NBA level. Douby’s career scoring is weak (13.7 pts/36, 47.6% TS%, 44.1% eFG) for a player that doesn’t offer much else but scoring (9.3 PER). What’s most disappointing is Douby’s sub-par three point percentage (30.6%), despite his high attempt rate (5.1 3pa/36).

If Douby, a Brooklyn native who played at Rutgers, looks good in this tryout, New York could sign him to a contract. Unfortunately this would be the same mistake they made in preseason with Anthony Roberson, which backfired on the team. Even when the Knicks were in dire need of another guard, Roberson wasn’t deemed good enough to earn playing time. He was finally dealt to Chicago in the Hughes deal, for nothing else than to give the Knicks another chance at filling his spot on the roster.

Ironically Douby has a lot in common with the person he may replace. Roberson and Douby are only a year apart in age, and both players have struggled to earn playing time in the NBA. Both are scoring guards who don’t offer much else. However a look at the stats show Roberson to be the superior player. This should send red flags to the team. If Roberson was wasting a roster spot then why would they sign Douby who has been outperformed by Roberson on the NBA level?

  Player  G    MP  FGA 3PA  3P% FTA  FT% TRB AST STL TOV  PTS  PER  TS% eFG%
   Douby 136 1462 13.5 5.1 .306 2.0 .890 3.6 2.0 1.2 2.0 13.7  9.3 .476 .441
Roberson  59  568 15.1 8.6 .368 0.6 .900 2.7 2.2 1.5 1.5 16.0 11.6 .522 .513

In the near future the Knicks are aiming to sign one or two big free agents, and to accomplish that goal they are going to have to be frugal with their money. So far the media has concentrated on Lee, Robinson, and Duhon as the linchpin to the Knicks free agency success. While this may be true, the team will still need to fill the rest of their roster cheaply. Identifying bargain NBA players like Von Wafer, Matt Barnes, and Ime Udoka could mean the difference between having a great team in 2010, and one that is still a few mid-level free agents away from competing for a title.

2009 Game Preview: Knicks @ Thunder

A slight change to the Knicks’ Week in Advance that you have come to depend upon.  Instead of the weekly article, I will provide a preview/game thread as often as I can.  This will give you up to date info on the match ups rather than week old data.  This also gives me more air time on the site so it’s a win-win for us all.

 

New York won the first of two meetings against Oklahoma City 116-106 at MSG on November 14, 2008.  New York prevailed due to a large edge in 3 point field goals made (7 vs. 1) and free throws made (29-40 vs. 17-24).

 

TEAM

POSS

EFF

eFG

TO

OREB%

FT/FG

New York Knicks-Offense

98.5

105.5

49.7

15.9

23.6

20.7

Rank

1

20

12

20

28

28

Oklahoma City Thunder-Defense

94.7

108.8

51.4

15.8

26.8

24.4

Rank

5

19

25

13

14

17

New York Knicks-Defense

98.5

109.1

51.9

15

27

19.7

Rank

1

22

28

23

16

4

Oklahoma City Thunder-Offense

94.7

97.6

44.8

16.9

25.7

22.9

Rank

5

30

30

25

22

18.5

 

 

What to watch for: Defense.  While Oklahoma City comes into this game with a 4-30 record, the match up against New York could be favorable for them.  What little success Oklahoma City has enjoyed this season came against poor defensive teams.  Oklahoma City earned wins against the Raptors, Grizzlies, Timber wolves, and Warriors who are 23rd, 21st, 26th, and 30th in defensive efficiency respectively.  New York is 22nd in defensive efficiency so that put us within Oklahoma City’s reach.  The Knicks need a strong defensive effort to win tonight.  Furthermore, Oklahoma City is last in offensive efficiency (97.6) and eFG% (44.8) so a strong defensive effort should be an effective win strategy.  The Knicks played with a good deal of defensive energy against the Celtics but we need to see that energy on a consistent basis.  Speaking of consistency…

 

What to watch for 2: Wilson Chandler.  Much has been made of Chandler’s recent productivity so it will be nice to see if he sticks with what worked for him against Boston (getting to the line, drives to the basket, good shot selection) or if he reverts to his old form (too many 3 pointers and long jumpers).  Chandler-and the rest of the team- needs to make a conscience effort to get in the paint.  Oklahoma City lacks a player that can block shots and stay on the court for more than 15 minutes.  This should cue New York to drive early and often.

 

What to watch for 3:  High Pick and Roll.  I have not watched many of New York’s recent games (thank you very much RCN cable for not carrying NBA TV) but it seems that I haven’t heard much about the high pick and roll lately.  If New York has gone away from that play, I think this would be a good game to bring it back.  Oklahoma City’s corps of centers (Sene, Petro, Swift, and Collison) is largely inexperienced, ineffective, and foul prone.  Because Lee and Duhon run the pick and roll effectively, it would be nice if they brought that back against Oklahoma City’s slow front line.

 

 

 

 

 

Prediction Time

My guess is that the Knicks won’t win more than 28 games. It’s not that I think the team hasn’t improved. I think Duhon pushing Marbury to the bench gives them depth at guard. With Duhon & Collins the Knicks have two able perimeter defenders – something they haven’t had since perhaps Sprewell & Ward. Maybe even Ward & Harper, since Latrell spent most of his time at small forward.

I think replacing Curry in the starting lineup with David Lee is a considerable improvement. Lee is not only a better player, but a Lee/Randolph front court compliments D’Antoni’s coaching style. Since both are able rebounders, there should be more fast break opportunities. And Lee can play off the ball more with Randolph than Curry would. Also I think Chandler will eventually supplant Richardson at small forward eventually, and that will help the team as well.

I think Mike D’Antoni is a good coach. In fact I think he’s the best coach this team has had since Van Gundy. Many thought D’Antoni preferred veterans over newbies, and the Knick prospects would suffer. Yet it seems many of the youngsters are favored by D’Antoni (Robinson, Chandler, Lee, and even Gallinari). He has a coherent structure for the offense. For the first time in years I feel that the Knicks are actually drawing up plays during timeouts instead of taking everyone’s dinner orders.

So why all the negativity? (If you can call a 5 game improvement negativity.) First is that the East has improved drastically. Jermaine O’Neal makes the Raptors better. Elton Brand makes the Sixers better. Beasley and a full season from Wade & Marion make the Heat better. Mo Williams might make the Cavs better.

My second cause for concern is the roster makeup. It’s thought that Zach Randolph will be moved at the deadline. Let’s just assume that the Knicks move him for a lesser player. Who takes his place in the lineup? The guy they traded for? Well by definition that player should be worse. (Who would take on contract & give up a better player?) If not then maybe Eddy Curry? Or Jared Jeffries? Or Gallinari? None of these will translate into more wins this season.

And who is to say that the Knicks don’t move Lee, Chandler, or Robinson? The team is rebuilding, and it’s hard to say what the roster will look like in March. Even without any changes, the team is paper thin at small forward. The depth chart is two deep: Chandler and Richardson. If one or both get hurt the Knicks will struggle.

So with all that in mind, I’ll stick with 28 wins for the Knicks in 2009. However it doesn’t matter to me how many wins the team gets. This year the team will be more fun to watch. Already it seems that the younger players like Lee, Robinson, and Chandler are going to get more minutes.


Some other predictions from around the league.

Hollinger: 28 wins

Ball Don’t Lie: 23 wins

Yahoo/Accuscore: 25 wins

Straight Bangin: 30 wins

Posting & Toasting: 36 wins

UPDATED: Basketball Prospectus: 24

Knicks Add to Front Office Staff

According to the NY Times:

John Gabriel, a former N.B.A. executive of the year with the Orlando Magic, has joined the Knicks’ revamped front office and will assume a major role in rebuilding the roster after seven straight losing seasons.

Donnie Walsh, the team president, appointed Gabriel as the director of pro scouting and free agency, a newly created position. Gabriel’s primary duty will be evaluating current N.B.A. players, with an eye toward future trades and free-agent signings.

Gabriel is well versed in the art of rebuilding. He was the Magic’s general manager from 1996 to 2004, a period in which the franchise lost Shaquille O’Neal to free agency and traded Penny Hardaway, but restocked by obtaining Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady.

Gabriel was named executive of the year in 1999-2000 after orchestrating 37 transactions that netted nine first-round draft picks and created the salary-cap space to sign Hill and McGrady.

After being fired in March 2004, Gabriel joined the front office of the Portland Trail Blazers, who have undergone a transformation that the Knicks surely hope to emulate. Once saddled with a bloated payroll and a roster of bad actors, the Blazers are now one of the most promising young teams in the league.

Also joining the Knicks’ front office is Misho Ostarcevic, who will be the director of player personnel. Ostarcevic was Walsh’s international scout with the Pacers.

Gabriel and Ostarcevic were hired earlier this month, although the team did not announce the moves. Walsh was not available for comment Wednesday.

You can see John Gabriel’s transactions as the Orlando GM at Hoopshype. Looking at his record, he seems to be average. His first two drafts were busts (Brian Evans 27th and Johnny Taylor 17th). But he grabbed arguably the best player in the 2000 draft (Mike Miller) and found Zaza Pachulia in the 2nd round in 2002. The trio of firsts in 1998 didn’t fare well (Michael Doleac, Keon Clark, and Matt Harpring) but there wasn’t much else in that draft (Rasho Nesterovic and Al Harrington would have been better choices as were Rashard Lewis & Cuttino Mobley however the latter two were taken in the second round).

Gabriel was keen enough to trade for Ben Wallace, but Wallace was shipped to Detroit in the Grant Hill trade. Hard to argue with that without putting on your hindsight glasses. Gabriel best move was grabbing Tracy McGrady from the Raptors for a first round pick. Looking through his transactions it seems Gabriel weakness was finding a stable center. He drafted Michael Doleac, Curtis Borchardt, Keon Clark, and Steven Hunter in the first round, but none were good enough to become starters. The Magic used veteran defensive minded journeymen bigs like Bo Outlaw, John Amaechi, and Horace Grant in the post-Shaq era.

After leaving Orlando, Gabriel did work with the Portland Trailblazers. This is a good sign not only because Portland has done a good job in building a strong roster, but their GM Kevin Pritchard is said to be statistical minded. It’s hard to gauge whether or not Gabriel has an understanding of statistical analysis. He did trade for Ben Wallace, but that may have been luck (considering he traded Wallace a year later). Gabriel did also acquire Hill and McGrady, two players who score highly by statistical measures, although both were known superstars at the time.

Booo?

Before the draft started, ESPN broadcasted videos of the potential draftees. When Danilo Gallinari was shown on the big screen, the MSG crowd erupted in a chorus of boos. An hour later the Knicks would draft Danilo Gallinari. Of course Knick fans greeted him with a second chorus of boos.

The dislike of Gallinari isn’t from anything the youngster has done. In fact most fans have never seen him play. Most Knicks fans knowledge of Gallinari is limited to what’s been reported about him and a few clips on YouTube. It’s safe to say that a majority of naysayers have never watched him play a single game. So why all the hate?

There are two simple reasons. The first is how the media has portrayed Gallinari. Leading up to the draft I read a lot of articles speculating on the Knicks’ pick. Most, if not all, depicted Danilo as an unathletic player who had family ties to Knick coach Mike D’Antoni. Vittorio Gallinari roomed with D’Antoni’s when the pair played in Italy. Although it was never mentioned specifically, the implication was that Gallinari wasn’t worth the 6th overall pick and only was on the Knicks radar due to nepotism.

But the reality is that Gallinari was thought to be a lottery pick even before D’Antoni was hired to coach New York. That Gallinari’s father played professionally should be a positive attribute. Children of athletes usually have the advantage of both genetics and round the clock coaching. Additionally Danilo’s high free throw rate shows him to be athletic enough to get to the rim.

The second reason is the failure of International picks over the last few years. Recent picks like Marco Belinelli, Yi Jianlian, Andrea Bargnani, Saer Sene, Oleksiy Pecherov, Yaroslav Korolev, Johan Petro haven’t exactly set the league on fire. And the Knicks have an especially bad track record with foreigners. Maciej Lampe barely survived in the NBA past his 21st birthday, and Frederick Weis is still the team’s biggest draft day blunder. The last Euro taken as high as Gallinari was his countryman Bargnani who went first overall to the Raptors 2 years ago. Bargnani has been such a failure, that the team traded its first rounder this year to replace him.

However Gallinari’s age 19 European season is superior to Bargnani’s. For instance Bargnani was a reserve (13.1MPG), while Gallinari was a starter (33.3MPG). Per 40 minutes Danilo scored more points (20.2 to 17.8), turned the ball over less (2.0 to 2.4), committed fewer fouls (3.1 to 6.2), and went to the foul line more often (7.6 to 4.1). He also shot better from downtown (38.1 to 35.2) and from the free throw line (83.5% to 59.5%). Even by Bargnani’s second season in Lega A, he still didn’t play as many minutes (23.5MPG) as Gallinari did as a 19 year old.

As with all draft picks, Gallinari may or may not have a fruitful NBA career. And like most draft picks it may take a season or two before we know which path he’s on. Considering his age and the Knicks depth at F (Richardson, Jeffries, Balkman, Chandler, Lee, Randolph, Rose) Danilo may start the season in the D-League. Luckily, Gallinari’s pedigree and statistical superiority to Bargnani should result in a brighter future.

Pre-Draft Trades Ahoy!

With the draft approaching, it looks like teams are making moves. The Charlotte Bobcats acquired the #20 pick from the Nuggets. In return Denver will receive a future protected first round pick, and they also save some cap space this year (by not being forced to sign their draft pick). Similarly the Hornets traded their first round pick to Portland for cash. Grabbing the #27 pick gives the Blazers 5 picks this year, at least for now.

But the biggest trade of the pre-draft (for now) was made between Toronto and Indiana. The Pacers send their All Star Center Jermaine O’Neal for the #17 pick, T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, and another player that makes about $4M (Anthony Parker?). This trades marks two teams heading in different directions. The Raptors are looking to build around their star player Chris Bosh, and Jermaine O’Neal should make Toronto a better defensive team. If nothing else he’ll give the Raps an upgrade from the 1600+ minutes they got last year from Nesterovic and cut into the 1600+ minutes they gave to Bargnani. Meanwhile the Pacers finally decide to go full force into rebuild mode, and will compete for a lottery pick in 2009.