2007 Knicks Preseason Roster Crunch – Pt. 2

According to the Daily News, Fred Jones may have earned himself a roster spot.

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/basketball/knicks/2007/10/16/2007-10-16_knicks_fred_jones_likely_to_send_allan_h.html

It sounds impossible but Jones already may have pulled it off. Last week, Isiah Thomas provided an unsolicited status report on Jones when he said, “Don’t plan on him going anywhere anytime soon.”

Thomas made the comment Friday, the day Allan Houston reported to training camp. Houston and Demetris Nichols, the aforementioned draft pick from Syracuse, are both trying to make a roster that already includes the maximum 15 guaranteed contracts. For weeks, it was generally assumed that Jones, portrayed as a throw-in in the Zach Randolph trade, would be the odd man out.

But Jones’ relationship with Thomas goes back to their Indiana Pacer days and there is something to be said for being an “Isiah guy.” Just ask Knicks VP of basketball operations Glen Grunwald or assistant coaches Brendan Suhr and Mark Aguirre.

“He gave me my shot,” Jones said following yesterday’s practice in Greenburgh. “Leaving Portland was a little difficult for me because that’s my home city. But it eased the pain knowing I was coming to a familiar situation.”

Thomas sees the 6-4 Jones as a defensive stopper who can play either shooting guard or small forward. Of course, the Knicks envisioned Jared Jeffries as a defensive specialist last season but that never panned out. In order for the 6-2 Jones to crack the rotation he would cost somebody – Jeffries, Quentin Richardson, Nate Robinson – minutes. But on a team that struggled to defend on the perimeter, Jones could find a spot.

“He’s a tough defender,” Thomas said. “In this league you have to be able to stop people.”

“When I came into this league I probably wasn’t the greatest defender,” said Jones, who spent last season with the Raptors and Trail Blazers. “I knew that was my calling card to get on the floor. I take pride in that now. That’s something I’m looking forward to bringing to this team.”

Additionally the Knicks cut Roderick Wilmont. So the roster is so far:

Very likely (10)

No Player Pos Ht Wt Born College Yrs
32 Renaldo Balkman F 6-8 208 Jul. 14, 1984 South Carolina 1
11 Jamal Crawford G 6-5 200 Mar. 20, 1980 Michigan 7
34 Eddy Curry C 6-11 285 Dec. 5, 1982 Thornwood HS (IL) 6
42 David Lee F 6-9 240 Apr. 29, 1983 Florida 2
3 Stephon Marbury G 6-2 205 Feb. 20, 1977 Georgia Tech 11
50 Zach Randolph F 6-9 260 Jul. 16, 1981 Michigan State 6
23 Quentin Richardson G/F 6-6 235 Apr. 13, 1980 DePaul 7
20 Jared Jeffries F 6-11 240 Nov. 25, 1981 Indiana 5
4 Nate Robinson G 5-9 180 31-May-84 Washington 2
25 Mardy Collins G 6-6 220 Aug. 4, 1984 Temple 1

Of course, if anyone isn’t going to make the team from this group, it will be the last 2. This leaves 5 spots open, 2 more roster spot and 3 inactive spots from the following players.

No Player Pos Ht Wt Born College Yrs
2 Fred Jones G 6-2 225 Mar. 11, 1979 Oregon 5
5 Randolph Morris C/F 6-11 260 Jan. 2, 1986 Kentucky 1
31 Malik Rose F 6-7 255 Nov. 23, 1974 Drexel 11
21 Wilson Chandler F 6-8 220 10-May-87 DePaul R
1 Jared Jordan G 6-2 190 Oct. 14, 1984 Marist 1
35 Demetris Nichols G/F 6-8 215 Sep. 4, 1984 Syracuse R
13 Jerome James C 7-1 285 Nov. 17, 1975 Florida A&M 8
? Allan Houston G 6-6 205 4/2/1971 Tennesse 13
6 Walker Russell, Jr. G 6-1 170 Oct. 6, 1982 Jacksonville State R

Let’s assume Jones is in. Also let’s assume that Isiah won’t cut Chandler or Morris. Walker Russell’s father works for the Knicks, so he’s probably there due to nepotism and little else. So there remains only 2 spots left for Rose, James, Nichols, Jordan, and Houston. Isiah has to make a tough(?) decision on whether or not to buy out his veterans (Rose/James) or cut his rookies (Nichols/Jordan). He could possibly hold onto Jordan by sending him overseas, but he still has to decide between Nichols or one of his vets. And even after all that, Isiah has to decide who will stay on the active roster, and who (if anyone) he might send to the
NBDL.

Mavericks, Raptors Stave Off The Grim Reaper

Down 3 games to 1, both the Dallas Mavericks and the Toronto Raptors won last night to force a game 6 in each of their respective series. The similarity didn’t end there. Both teams took double digit first quarter leads, only to lose them down the stretch. Dallas had to rally from a 9 point deficit with only 3 minutes to go, while Toronto had to curtail a Vince Carter drive & kick-out three pointer to Nachbar with a 2 point lead in the final possession.

Both teams are led by their big men, who have had trouble. Toronto’s Chris Bosh has had trouble scoring on Jason Collins, and has been in foul trouble most of the series. In game 5, Bosh picked up his second foul only 7 minutes into the game, and was on the floor for a total of 24 minutes. Meanwhile Nowitzki was ridiculed publicly by his coach for not being aggressive enough against the undersized Warriors. Dirk seemed to shy away from the ball in the second half of game 5 until the final minutes.

Normally I’m not big on the NBA’s first round, but these two series combined with the splendid Rockets-Jazz matchup have made the first round quite fascinating.

2007 Playoff Predictions: Round 1

[UPDATE: http://myespn.go.com/blogs/truehoop/0-23-101/Introducing-TrueHoop-s-2007-Stat-Geek-Smackdown.html
and
http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs2007/news/story?page=Smackdown07]

I was asked by Henry Abbott of TrueHoop to join an NBA playoff prediction contest against other number crunching analysts. I figure I have a head up on the competition, being that I used to run the blogger’s bracket. Nonetheless I took to the task seriously, using as much information as possible. Not only do I take into account numbers from my own stat page, but I also looked back at 16 years of playoff data to come up with my predictions. And wherever needed, I asked my 7 day old daughter to assist (yes yours truly became a father last weekend — and like a true Knick fan, KB2.0 already hates the Nets).

This was my submission to Henry, so I apologize if it appears elsewhere and you accidentally read it twice. Wish me luck as I go against some of the NBA’s best statistical gurus.

Dallas in 4
The Warriors have 2 main strengths: forcing turnovers and good shooting. Unfortunately for them, those strengths don’t match up well against the Mavericks. Dallas is good at keeping the ball and holding their opponents to a low field goal percentage. Nellie’s poor rebounding team will be their undoing, as the Mavs are the most well rounded rebounding playoff team in the West.

Phoenix in 6
While it’s possible that Kobe Bryant will have a scoring explosion, the Lakers are awful on defense. And guess which team lead the NBA in offensive efficiency? Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%), which adjusts for three point shots, is the best measure of a team’s shooting prowess. And Phoenix’s 55.1% eFG is 3 points higher than the NBA’s second best shooting team. Despite the disparity, the Suns energetic offense and the Kobe-Raja matchup should make this one of the most entertaining series.

San Antonio in 6
The Spurs have the league’s best point differential in the league. This is important because point differential corresponds better in year to year winning than wins and losses. So if you’re a Spurs fan, this bodes well for next year’s performance as well. Why haven’t I given any analysis for this series? There have been 11 non-strike playoff seasons since a #1 or a #2 seed lost in the first round. Even if it were going to happen this year, this isn’t the series anyway.

Houston in 7
These complementary teams should have a close series that goes 6 or 7 games. Utah’s main weakness is sending opponents to the free throw line (30th in FT/FG), but that’s a weakness that Houston won’t exploit on offense (26th in FT/FG). Meanwhile the Rockets have the 3rd best defensive efficiency, but they are evenly matched by the league’s 3rd best offensive efficiency. Instead the game will be won on the other end of the floor, where the Rockets average offense (14th) faces off against a sub par Jazz defense (19th).

Detroit in 4
The Pistons do one thing better than anyone else in the league: keep the ball. Detroit is first in the NBA in turnovers per possession. Unfortunately for Mickey Mouse and his neighbors, Orlando is the NBA’s worst team in holding onto the ball. Detroit won all 4 games during the regular season (with the turnover advantage in 3 of those 4), and I see the same thing happening in the playoffs.

Cleveland in 5
With Arenas and Butler injured, you can put the Wizards on the hibachi.

Toronto in 6
This series will be a litmus test for the term “playoff experience.” The Nets trio of Kidd, Jefferson, and Carter has appeared in 184 post season games in their career. Meanwhile Toronto’s sextet of Bosh, Parker, Ford, Bargnani, Garbajosa, and Peterson has only played in 18. But clich?s aside, the Raptors are clearly the better team here. Finally Canada gets justice for Vince Carter dogging it in his final season up north.

Miami in 6
Everything statistically points to Chicago over Miami. The Bulls have a fantastic point differential, and Miami is one Dwayne Wade crash to the floor from dipping their toes in the sand. But the Bulls point differential is misleading (in my opinion) due to an inordinate amount of blow out victories. And Miami’s injury filled regular season may not be a true example of their strength. Here’s a stat that pushed me over the edge: Shaq’s team has beaten a better team in 5 of the last 6 playoffs.

Knicks 92 Raptors 74

Here I was all ready to sit and scout the Knicks. I had a good time slot on my PVR (PC used as a TIVO) and set the game up to tape. I had a good idea of a study I wanted to do concerning Eddy Curry (which I’ll save for another day). And I actually had some free time, something that’s rarer than all of the above.

Unfortunately for me, Eddy Curry failed to co-operate with the deal. Easy Eddy decided to put in a half day’s work, which I can only assume he did in order to catch some March Madness on a hidden am radio under his chair. Curry played for only 16 minutes, and was a non-factor with 5 points and 1 rebound.

With all that could have gone wrong, I guess I couldn’t have asked for more in terms of the Knicks game. After suffering through another Knick let down Friday night (and I use the term suffering lightly since I was treated to a night at one of the Garden’s luxury suites), I was thrilled with the result of today’s game. Without their outstanding rebounder David Lee, their rejuvenated small forward Quentin Richardson, and their only guard that knows how to get the ball into the post Jamal Crawford, the Knicks blew out the Raptors 92-74.

Marbury and Frye led the Knicks in scoring with 21 and 20 points respectively, but it was the play of Renaldo Balkman that surged New York past their division rivals. Balkman stuffed the stat sheet with 15 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 3 steals. He shot a perfect 7 of 7 and had a bevy of dunks, some in transistion and others off of missed shots. Not only is Renaldo pleasing to the statistical eye, but he is a firecracker on the court. On defense Balkman is a fine shot blocker. He had one block in the post and his other was behind the three point line. Balkman also seems to have a good eye for the ball, and isn’t afraid to dive after a fumble. Balkman excels in transition; he’s quick up the court, can handle the ball, and is especially strong in finishing around the hoop.

With the absence of Lee, it was thought that Frye would pick up some of the slack. While Channing has stepped into the starting lineup and had back to back 20 point games, he doesn’t bring Lee’s hyalophilia or energy. But these are Balkman’s strengths. So maybe Isiah would do well to get Balkman in the game more often in Lee’s stead. Although it’s unlikely that Balkman will play like this every night, he’s a low risk player. Renaldo isn’t likely to demand the ball or take a cluster of careless shots. And when Balkman is on, he can lead the Knicks to victory.